We are recognizing Billy Prater as the volunteer of the week.

Billy has been the Veterans Corner and VFW Chaplain since we started helping local veterans and surviving spouses. We depend on him to open each Thursday morning with a prayer for all of those who served in the military and their families. Billy served honorably in the Air Force for more than 20 years, where he always performed his duties no matter the location or the job.

Thursday morning there were 154 veterans and surviving spouses who were assisted with their claims for VA benefits. Of the total number, there were 18 widows who needed help with their claims for DIC or pension benefits. The DIC benefit may be payable if the veteran died from a service-connected disability or one that is presumptive to their military service. Pension is based on the amount of income that a widow receives and when her husband served in the military. Shirley and her helpers are able to answer most questions that have anything to do with VA surviving spouse’s benefits. Shirley can be reached at 361-9322.

There were seven veterans who received the 100 percent rating for their service-connected disabilities. The men and women who retired from the military and received a 100 percent VA rating will be eligible to receive their retirement and full VA compensation. The VA regulations have changed for the better in the past few years for our military retirees. Oklahoma also offers several benefits for those rated at 50 percent and above.

There were 19 veterans who filed their first claim for VA benefits at the Goldsby Community Center Thursday morning. These were men and women who ranged in age from their early 20s up to 80 plus years of age. Volunteers used the new VA claims formed on nearly every veteran who we assisted. With the new application forms, their applications for compensation or pension should be processed in under 120 days instead of the one year or more that it requires in the current system. I will let you know how soon we receive decisions from VA using these new forms.

I would like to encourage all veterans and surviving who have Internet service to visit benefits.va.gov/transformation to learn more about the new Fully Developed Claims. After reading their information, log on to ebenefits.va.gov to set up an account. With this system in place, the veteran or surviving spouse will be able to keep up with the progress that the VA makes in making a decision on your claim.

The benevolence fund was used last week to assist veterans and surviving spouses with rent, food items, utilities and medical testing. Treasurer Jerry Baxter continues to keep us in the black in the finance department. Some weeks we are cutting it close on the expenses exceeding the donations, but with Jerry staying on top of our finances we will continue to assist those who are in the most distress financially. If you need to contact Jerry he can be reached at 833-0773.

Johnny Rhoades of Noble laid 50 new bricks along the Walk of Honor at the Goldsby Memorial last Friday. For those of you who have not purchased your brick to be laid along the Walk of Honor leading up to the Veteran Memorials, see Harold Harvell or one of his helpers JD Kinard or Riley Phillips.

Sid Smith has food boxes prepared each Thursday for anyone who needs this assistance. Sid has been doing this job since we started the benevolence fund and we do appreciate his knowledge and ability to provide this service to Veterans Corner.

We have three transportation vans that are used to transport veterans to their VA appointments. Clayton Lee of Dibble can be reached at 684-8860. Other drivers are Howard Martin of Norman, he drives the wheelchair accessible van, and can be reached at 227-3239, Robert Root of Norman can be reached at 919-3008.

For all of your questions and assistance about veterans benefits, we are at the Goldsby Community Center each Thursday. The doors open at 7 a.m. and sign in sheets are available at 5:30 a.m. Please be there early for us to help you with your claim.

You may send donations to Veterans Corner, P.O. Box 704, Washington, OK 73093.

You can call me at 550-8806 or email kdgraham@windstream.net.

Semper Fi.

Dale K. Graham is service officer for VFW Post 4890.

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