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Vsos - What To Expect?


DblTap1

Question

Can anyone tell me what a VSO should be doing? Maybe a laymans rundown of what an introduction through performace should be like. It's difficult to tell good from bad when I have no idea of a standard.

Thank you

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  • HadIt.com Elder

VETERANS SERVICE OFFICER

Annual Salary Range: $28,212.00 - $39,480.00 Index No: 5380 Twice-A-Month Salary Range: $1,175.50 - $1,645.00 Pay Grade: A17 Areas of Interest : Social Service, Public Welfare, & Mental Health; College Graduates Exam Components: Rating of Education and Experience, 100%

DEFINITION

This is entry-level professional work advising veterans, military members, and/or dependents regarding veterans benefits, available assistance, claim procedures, beneficiary information, and eligibility status.

EXAMPLES OF WORK

Conducts interviews with veterans and dependents; reviews and evaluates background data and current medical and financial information to determine the veteran's potential eligibility for Federal and State veterans benefits and other related programs.

Develops and submits claims packages for veterans and dependents seeking disability, education, medical, and compensation-related benefits; completes claim forms and ensures proper certification of related documentation based upon the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) laws and regulations.

Assists with developing formal appeals of VA claims decisions.

Prepares, maintains, and monitors beneficiary's claim file to ensure continual receipt of VA benefits, prepares annual verification of VA pension eligibility, and reports medical expenses and other expenditures.

Consults with technical experts to determine specifics related to eligibility standards and application requirements for Federal and State veterans benefits.

Advises veterans and family members regarding non-veteran benefits for which they may be eligible such as Social Security, welfare, and vocational rehabilitation.

Serves as program and benefits representative in a designated geographical area; develops and/or presents informational speeches, benefits awareness fairs, programs, and problem-solving sessions to increase awareness of veterans benefits and programs.

Responds to veterans, dependents, and legislators regarding benefit questions.

Performs specialized informational and administrative tasks for applicants and residents of State veterans homes, private nursing homes, and patients in both VA and community hospitals.

Attends and participates in conferences and training programs.

Exercises independence with general administrative direction; work is reviewed through reports and quality review process.

Performs other related work as assigned.

KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS AND ABILITIES (KSAs)

Comprehensive knowledge of the application and appeal processes for veterans compensation-related programs and benefits.

Intermediate knowledge of Federal and State veteran-related laws and regulations.

Skill in interviewing, communicating, and interacting with individuals having a wide variety of backgrounds.

Ability to analyze and interpret military and medical records to establish entitlements to service-related benefits.

Ability to assist veterans and dependents to determine potential benefits based on law, policy, and regulation.

Ability to perform community outreach activities such as public speaking and participation in benefit fairs.

Ability to interpret and explain Federal and State benefits, programs, and legislation to interested groups and potential benefit recipients.

Ability to operate computer hardware and software including data entry, word processing, and spreadsheets.

Ability to establish and maintain effective working relationships with other employees, veterans, military personnel, dependents, organizations, and the general public.

Ability to exercise good judgment in appraising situations and independently make decisions.

Ability to communicate effectively.

EXPERIENCE AND EDUCATION

(The following requirements will determine merit system eligibility, experience and education ratings, and may be used to evaluate applicants for Missouri Uniform Classification and Pay System positions not requiring selection from merit registers. When practical and possible, the Division of Personnel will accept substitution of experience and education on a year-for-year basis.)

A Bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university with a minimum of 24 earned credit hours in one or a combination of the following: Business, Public, or Personnel Administration; Education; Healthcare Administration; or in the social or behavioral sciences; and possession of an honorable discharge from the military forces of the United States.

OR

Four or more years of technical experience working directly with military personnel or the public with responsibility for analyzing client information, applying relevant laws, rules, and/or procedures, and determining client eligibility for one or more of the following: employment service programs, vocational counseling services, public programs, personnel benefits, social services programs, and /or military or veterans benefits; and possession of a high school diploma or GED certificate; and possession of an honorable discharge from the military forces of the United States.

(Earned credit hours from an accredited college or university which included a minimum of 6 earned credit hours in one or a combination of the following: Business, Public, or Personnel Administration; Education; Healthcare Administration; or in the social or behavioral sciences may substitute on a year-for-year basis for the required experience at a rate of 30 earned credit hours for one year.)

Special Note: Military training may substitute for the required experience only when recognized on a transcript from an accredited college or university. When applicable, the stated terms of substitution of earned credit hours for required experience is applied.

(Revised 7/1/12)

this is what the state of Missouri says the job is, to be honest most of them don't do half of this, they do not call veterans or their wives back, exchange e amil etc most will not even give you a e mail address my experience with them is they were all worthless and it was all the veterans groups being a life member does not guarantee you better service if you can read regulations you can probably be your own VSO at least you have the most to gain or lose if it is not handled properly and the fact that it takes months and appeals takes years it can be a very aggravating process I was 7 years and 5 VSOs before I finally got a lawyer to handle my BVA appeal in July 2007 as soon as they allowed us to hire them for appeals at levels lower than the Court of Veteran Appeals I was into a case where the Regional office did not want to deal with the facts "human experimentation" so they just kept denying it ever happened and the VSOs kept telling me to drop it, I didn't and the people here helped me and I kept the appeals going and in the end I won it only took 9 years but it was the cardiac issues that I needed SC to ensure my spouse will have CHAMPVA and DIC when I pass there are some good VSOs out there I just have never met one myself

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Well thank you Test. A hell of an answer.

I have read many a webpage that reads "A VSO can.... And can...." but to date I've been wondering how to go about getting that type of service. Not wanting to offend anyone, I've never asked "How do I get on the website style plan".

The org that I have used has called me from their main office collocated with the local VA hospital. I say local, but that is 2 plus hours out. They had called to tell me that the local VSO had used the wrong form. Actually they said "What the heck am I supposed to do with this?" Then it was determined that the wrong form was used. Anyways, that has been the only call to me since I started about a year ago. Over all they are 0-3 for correct paperwork and info. As I am approaching the one year mark I have considered calling the local office however I know I'll just end up leaving a message with the person at the desk. If I shw up there the VSO will be gone.

What can be said? They are free help and probably volunteers... Although according to your post they do get paid. Or at least some do.

Thanks again for the reply.

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  • In Memoriam

I don't speak for anyone but myself, although many here have experienced the same conditions that I have.

After spending a couple of years with a VSO, I had found them lacking. They don't return calls and are usually gone before the claims are settled. Other members could add a million other misgivings from VSO's, but that isn't really necessary.

I have found that I must develop my own information for my claims. I got buddy letters in the form of affidavits that were notarized. I got my own private medical records from Kaiser Permanente after the VA to sent 1st, 2nd, and 3rd request with no response from the Private Dr.s. The VSO can file these evidence in your VA claim.

The VSO is a good clerk, for you, and that is about it. You can request that they send you a receipt for information that they have added to your claims file and they will send this receipt. It is always good to have a title to each piece of info to refer to in sending evidence. I have always heard that there are good and bad VSO's. I have my opinion based on my own experience.

The rest of the knowledge that you need for your claims must come from a site, such as Hadit, in order for you to understand what is going on.

To better understand the VSO problem just go to your local NSO or VSO office and look at the claims piled up to the ceiling. Just looking at the pile up could discourage even the most sincere and knowledgeable person.

You must become pro active in your claims. It takes a lot, but you can do this.

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Thank you Stretch.

I am torn between trying to do this myself and using the help of a VSO. My boots have the words "Toes in first" on the liner so I don't screw that up. I have a difficult time remembering things and keeping things in order. I have been off of AD for about three months. When I filed this BDD claim last SEP, needless to say I was quite upset when I learned that this 6 month BDD process was going to be more like 18 months because that is way outside my mental capacity.

I have thought of using counsel however I doubt they would take the case as there isn't any money in it for them to recover from. If the VA comp is probably only going to be a few hundered $ over what I am getting now from DoD then the entire pot at this time will only be $1,500-$2,000. I don't see any counsel wanting to get into this case for that little. Their only option would be to really drag it out so that they have a bigger pot to pull their split from. Dragging it out will not get the CRSC started any sooner nor the CRDP if that were to come through. Side note, I did submit for CRSC and it sounds like they have green lighted it but can't follow through because there is no VA offset yet.

Thanks again. Sorry for the ramble but I wanted to make sure the info is out there so a reader may be able to develop a better picture and maybe have an idea.

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DBltap

To "VSO or not VSO" you should ask yourself some serious questions:

1. Do you have the time to research stuff yourself? Are you good at that? Are you organized, such as do you have a file cabinet and a good file system to store documents you mail to the VA?

2. Can you "remind yourself" not to miss a deadline, such as one year to appeal? Can you afford postage to stuff you send to the VA, reminding you that you should send it certified mail return receipt requested.

IN short if you are a good internet researcher, a good organizer, have a good place to store documents, and are willing to put forth the time and effort in learning, then go ahead.

Someone like Berta probably has no need of a VSO.

However, there are many, many others who do not have a clue where to start, that should have a VSO. Some Vets dont even read well, much less have a computer with internet and knowledge how to use it.

The fact that you are on hadit, is a big plus in your favor. Hadit members will help you whether or not you have a VSO.

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  • HadIt.com Elder

DblTap1 - I've also found most VSO's to be entirely useless. The VSO's that have offices are usually salaried and can play golf, which is where many spend their time. I suggest you purchase a book entitled the Veterans Benefits Manual(VBM), published by LexisNexis - http://www.lexisnexis.com/store/catalog/booktemplate/productdetail.jsp?pageName=relatedProducts&prodId=12734

It sells for $140, is updated each yr and the new one (2012) should be available this month. It's worth every penny and if a claimant can't win their claim w/it, they probably didn't have a valid claim. (jmo) The VBM explains the process and has boilerplate letters for dealing w/claims. I know $140 sounds like a lot of money but believe me it's so worth it!!!!!

Good luck!

pr

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A VSO will help you fill out paper work and that is it. If you expect them to advocate for you, forget it.

the Legion might. The bottom line is they are all looking to see if you have an IMO to support your claim. If you do not, they are going to blow you off..

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  • HadIt.com Elder

If a lawyer can help you win your claim and you tell all your friends about this "great" lawyer who worked magic on your claim that is very good advertising. If there are just a few bucks involved then they probably won't write a 50 page brief for you. What they want is retro % without too much grief. I had to shop my CUE claim around even though there was potential many thousands of dollars in retro.

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  • HadIt.com Elder

Well it is a loaded question.

Do you want your VSO to discuss your claim with the RO.Perhaps since they have office space provided by the VA maybe they can do it over lunch, or at a RO sponsered VSO training,

Ever heard of Divide and Conquor?

Why are there so many different VSO organizations?

Stay away from them.

J

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Thanks for the replies everyone.

JBasser, I am at a loss. I am not sure how to answer your questions. I am not sure what the people do at the office located with the VA. I have never been there and I have not been to that VA since the mid 1990s. I only deal with the two offices near home about 2.5 hours from there. I'm sorry I couldn't help you.

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  • In Memoriam

Johns questions were rhetorical.

Everyone who has replied to this post has found out, through their own experience, what the VSO's are like. All of us have done hard work to win our claims. You can find out the same way we did by sticking with a VSO. My initial claim took 6 years, with over 3 years wasted on a VSO.

Unfortunately there are many of us that are in such a condition that it appears that we cannot do it ourselves. Sadly a person like this would have to take what ever the VSO says as the absolute truth. If a VSO has a conflict of interest it could be that his judgment is impaired, and that this impairment would not be in the Veterans favor.

You must dig in to the knowledge that is available here and anywhere else that may be helpful.

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I agree with Philip.

I have purchased the VBM every year since 1991.

Stretch is right- a VSO is a good 'clerk' if they keep copies of whatever you submit to VA and can support anything they sent too that VA said they never received.

Testvet's info is interesting. Think maybe the state reps might even make more then that.

Vet reps and VSOs, accredited with the VA are paid. Volunteer advocates, like the many people here at hadit ,are unpaid.

Since we are all claimants too, we can share a wealth of hands on VA claims experience as well as specific technical aspects to the claims process.

Broncovet, you are right. I certainly did have vet reps years ago but they were useless.

I won all my claims due to 3 specific reasons:

I studied the VBMs intently.as well as the regulations that applied to my claims.

I studied cardiology and neurology for one of my claims.Although I presented lay medical evidence, the VA had to award those claims (FTCA/1151) but I dont advise anyone else depending on lay medical evidence in most claims situations.

For one of my last claims, I obtained 3 IMOs.The research I had done for that claim was medically solid so I knew my investment of $4,000 for 2 of the IMOs would be easily absorbed by the retroactive amount of the eventual award.

Unfortunately these days it often takes a strong IMO to succeed in many claims.

My most recent claim involved a decision that was clearly erroneous and I really raised a ruckus.

Three weeks later I got the proper award letter and retro.

That claim included a CUE claim that I had pending for 7 years as well as an IHD AO claim regarding my deceased husband.

In August 2010 when I filed the IHD claim, I again laid out my medical evidence,gearing it solely to the IHD claim , laid out again the legal evidence for the CUE claim, and then took VA step by step as to any medical issues that established the basis for the CUE claim ( an SMC matter that involved the IHD and a CVA my husband had)

It ihas been miserable to have to keep repeating my issues and copying the evidence again and again for VA over the years but I dont regret doing that. I have at least 350-400 dollars worth of proof of Priority mail tracking slips accumulated over the past 17 years too. I dont regret that either.

Since VA got on to these documents very fast when I asked them to CUE the first erroneous and ridiculous decision, this past December,the proper award letter came soon after that.

I am quite sure there is not a single vet rep or VSO out there who would have used my approach. I found some of them seem scared to deal with VA ,when VA makes an obvious error.And every rep I had in the past insinuated right away that my claims would fail.

Salaried vet reps and VSOs have no monetary gain if a claim succeeds.They certainly are happy if a claim on their POA succeeds but then they often discourage the claimant from filing any more claims or questioning an award that could be wrong.

But a lot of my impetus comes from what my husband said to me the day he died.

I had promises to fulfill to him.

Even now ,I find his words that day have caused me to begin to prepare both a NOD on the award I got a few months ago as well as file a new Sec 1151 claim.

I hate to think about doing that,but every claim I ever filed ,or helped my husband with in his lifetime, has had some aspect that ,I hope, has helped others here over the years. My experience helped his best friend mere months after he died as I was familiar with the Section 1151 regs by then. His friend ,visiting me, didn't understand at all what I was concerned about when he described some surgery he had just had at the VAMC.. I typed the claim up fast, he signed it, copied it and mailed it and within months he went from 40% GSW to 100 % P & T SC plus SMC under 1151.

No IMO needed and no BS from the VA. It was obvious malpractice and they almost killed him.

But probably no rep would have even picked up on the 1151 basis .

DBLTAP1 Something you said here concerned me:

“As I am approaching the one year mark I have considered calling the local office “

Do you mean the NOD one year deadline?

I would never depend, in my opinion,for a vet rep to help prepare a NOD.

We have templates here to use and the NOD, as the first avenue of attack, should not be a long rendition but still, a strong statement as to why their decision was wrong, and usually by enclosing some pertinent evidence to prove why it was wrong.

VA is very adamant one the one year NOD deadline. If that is what you mean, how much time is left?

There is enough info at hadit for any veteran to prepare an adequate NOD themselves and,if you are willing toi be proactive and use the internet as a powerful tool, you are the BEST vet rep or VSO you will ever have.

Edited by Berta (see edit history)
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Well Berta. I love to see it when people "keep their promises". Especially when the promise was to someone who isnt here anymore and certainly wont be telling anyone that they did not keep their word. You have given your late hubby honor, by honoring the fullfillment by helping others.

You have helped many a Vet, including me.

A pastor once told the story of a man who died and went to what he thought was heaven. An angel showed up to show him his "new quarters".

On the way, they drove by a car. It was a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow..he recognized it. He knew these, in this min condition were worth more than 100,000 dollars. On the Rolls was a sign that said, "For sale, $300". Wow, he exclaimed. I want to buy that car! I even have the money in my wallet! The angel explained he had not seen nothing yet. They went a little farther and there was a mansion on 160 acres more beautiful than any he had ever seen. On it was a sign "For Sale, $500" He knew the mansion was worth millions. He sees many other bargains of things he would love to own at 1/100th of their value or less. He finally arrived at a tar paper shack, with a "for sale $1.00" on it. It had an old jalopy in the back that probably had not run for 30 years. He asked the angel to take him back to the mansion that he would like to purchase it. The angel said, Well, the money in your wallet is not accepted here. You see, the only money you can spend here is the money you you gave away and helped others with when you were on earth. He hung his head. He realized at last, he wasnt in heaven, he was in hell, as he had not given away more than a dolllar in his whole life.

And, for this, I say, thank you Berta.

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I used DAV early on. There was a local retired gentleman that was very good. So good people outside of the area asked for his help and when he gave it DAV said he had no business going outside of his area so he quit.

All of the VSOs in my state are in the same federal building the RO is. Isn't that special. The one VSO that does not have an office at the VAMC here? DAV.

I went to their office at the Federal building more than once. It was " who are you and what do you want".

I learned not to count on anyone but myself. I used the American Legion at the end to get information I could not get and they were very courteous and helpful. But they were also predisposed not to rock the boat with the RO.

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Expect the distinct sound of crickets chirping......beyond that, nothing a whole lot more. I have used an American Legion VSO out of the Houston VARO for about a year now, and have received nothing from the American Legion (other than my annual membership dues renewal notice for $35, and of course the monthly magazine that advertises comfortable shoes, cell phones with like 5 buttons and of course, polyester pants that can pull up to your chest) Of course, you don't have to actually join the AL to receive VSO assistance.

I kind of wondered about that until I learned that these VSO positions are funded with VA money, and from what I understand it's based on the numbers handled, and not necessarily success rates. So basically a 100 denied claims pays off more than 10 successful claims, and are a lot less work.

The only correspondance I have received from regarding the AL, was a VA letter advising me that the AL was named my power of attorney, which I had done on my visit to the Houston VARO.

Since that time, the VA cc's the AL on all correspondance to me, but I have never received a call from them, nor any information. I've had to file all my own documentation, and do all followups. I had tried multiple times to call them, and to be honest, when you can reach them, they can give you the same information as ePeggy, but without the hour long wait.

Of course, quite often you'll find that these VSO reps are gone to conferences, in meetings, on vacation, out sick, at lunch, away from the office, on another line, etc. And every time I talk to my rep, it's like I'm reintroducing myself all over again, even though I sat in his office over a year ago.

I have had a few suggestions from others to go to the DAV, or some other VSO. And I'm very tempted, but also tempted just to use the AL VSO as my call center until I get fed up, or until I reach some final conclusion to this roller coaster ride.

One other thing that I read, but have not confirmed is that VSO's have quite often "worked deals" on Veterans claims with the raters. In other words, they utilize their power of attorney over your life to trade off claims that you might have valid evidence for in an effort to reach some compromise with the VA so they don't have to pay out as much, and the VSO gets to close out another "successful" case.

The VSO's sell themselves as being useful to a Veteran because they are co-located in the VARO with the raters, etc., and that gives them an "in door" to accessing these mysterious beings to help a Veteran out on his/her claim. However, it looks like this may be a conflict of interest if there are deals being made over lunch, etc.

Of course, if you are into magazines advertising comfortable shoes and nipple pants, the American Legion is for you.

Mark

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If you paid for the membership, that is on you. no one has to have a membership for any of the VSO to be their service rep. that is the law.

Next you are wrong in saying that the "VA pays the VSO's" the VA does not pay any of the VSO's most of the legion and VFW VSO's are employed by the state they work in. The DAV, PVA and AM-VET are not. The DAV is not as good as it once was. they no longer have their school in CO. so their NSO's are not as good as the old ones. like John Richards.

Learn the facts before putting the wrong info out.

Expect the distinct sound of crickets chirping......beyond that, nothing a whole lot more. I have used an American Legion VSO out of the Houston VARO for about a year now, and have received nothing from the American Legion (other than my annual membership dues renewal notice for $35, and of course the monthly magazine that advertises comfortable shoes, cell phones with like 5 buttons and of course, polyester pants that can pull up to your chest) Of course, you don't have to actually join the AL to receive VSO assistance.

I kind of wondered about that until I learned that these VSO positions are funded with VA money, and from what I understand it's based on the numbers handled, and not necessarily success rates. So basically a 100 denied claims pays off more than 10 successful claims, and are a lot less work.

The only correspondance I have received from regarding the AL, was a VA letter advising me that the AL was named my power of attorney, which I had done on my visit to the Houston VARO.

Since that time, the VA cc's the AL on all correspondance to me, but I have never received a call from them, nor any information. I've had to file all my own documentation, and do all followups. I had tried multiple times to call them, and to be honest, when you can reach them, they can give you the same information as ePeggy, but without the hour long wait.

Of course, quite often you'll find that these VSO reps are gone to conferences, in meetings, on vacation, out sick, at lunch, away from the office, on another line, etc. And every time I talk to my rep, it's like I'm reintroducing myself all over again, even though I sat in his office over a year ago.

I have had a few suggestions from others to go to the DAV, or some other VSO. And I'm very tempted, but also tempted just to use the AL VSO as my call center until I get fed up, or until I reach some final conclusion to this roller coaster ride.

One other thing that I read, but have not confirmed is that VSO's have quite often "worked deals" on Veterans claims with the raters. In other words, they utilize their power of attorney over your life to trade off claims that you might have valid evidence for in an effort to reach some compromise with the VA so they don't have to pay out as much, and the VSO gets to close out another "successful" case.

The VSO's sell themselves as being useful to a Veteran because they are co-located in the VARO with the raters, etc., and that gives them an "in door" to accessing these mysterious beings to help a Veteran out on his/her claim. However, it looks like this may be a conflict of interest if there are deals being made over lunch, etc.

Of course, if you are into magazines advertising comfortable shoes and nipple pants, the American Legion is for you.

Mark

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I'm really just relating my own personal experience with the American Legion VSO located within a VARO. I could elaborate that our county VSO has alzeihmers, and could not help at all, but is really a nice guy that served his country back in the Korean War, but really can't help with claims or G.I. Bill information anymore though. He is funded by the county on a part-time basis. But I do know the difference between local, state and federal.

As I mentioned, I haven't used the DAV yet, and can't speak for them, or any other VSO, so I'm not knocking them. And I should have specified those American Legion VSO's working within the interior perimeter of a federally-owned facilty utilized by the Department of Veterans Affairs as a Regional Office to provide services to veterans of the American military branches. However, I could be wrong. I read that in a book published by a pretty reliable source, but I do need to do a little fact checking prior to affirming that the VA funds VSO's within a VARO (and by this I mean not just salary funding, but office space, telephone, Internet, and other M&O) at least to a certain extent. I also don't believe that a VSO working within a VA facility actually gets a government check from the VA, and don't believe I said that. (Wait, let me check......nope, I didn't)

But like I said, I could be wrong, and as always will definitely appreciate any insight or data that can show one way or the other, in an effort to understand the VA and these other VSO's.

Next, I agree that I paid for the membership, and have paid for multiple years. My own fault, and I probably will do it again next year. I do this for a few reasons:

1. I do appreciate the American Legion's efforts to lobby the federal government in the interest of Veterans and active duty service members;

2. Although they provide VSO services for free, I was raised in the country, and worked my whole life for everything I have ever had, just like my father, and his father before him. This is the first time that I ever applied for assistance, and probably should have 15 years or so ago, but held out like many Veterans do. However, even though I have filed a claim, and have asked the American Legion to help, and they still are really just a way to access my information without using Peggy, or ePeggy, there's a small piece of me that hates the idea of a free lunch. So, I am paying the $35 a year as a token to help keep things moving for them, and hopefully for me, and all of the other Veterans out there. (That's just my own personal conviction. I'm not knocking the free VSO services, and never would. It's just how I am.) I think I also stated that I knew that American Legion VSO services were free, and that I don't have to pay a membership fee. (Wait...let me check again......yep, I did.)

3. I just love magazines that advertise comfortable shoes. smile.png

And finally, as for Mr. John Richards, I have never had the good fortune to meet him, nor utilize his services, but am sure he's a great guy, and if the Good Lord shines on me, maybe he's available to help out a redneck country boy like me drive through the fog of the VA process.

Peace out,

Mark

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