Dale K. Graham Veterans Foundation

Dale Graham speaks during the ribbon cutting ceremony Tuesday for the Dale K. Graham Veterans Foundation.

A crowd of more than 100 people, consisting of legislators, city and county officials as well as veterans and their families gathered Tuesday morning for the grand opening of a veteran service organization’s new home in Norman.

The Dale K. Graham Veterans Foundation has assisted over 25,000 veterans across all 77 counties in Oklahoma, 45 states and four foreign countries in the process of filing for claims such as VA disability from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

John Foti, CEO of Dale K. Graham Veterans Foundation, said as their outreach grew in recent years, so did their need for a larger facility than their prior office on Interstate Drive. That space is now open at 1233 W Lindsey St.

According to the organization’s website, many veterans need help submitting medical or other types of documentation that support the veteran’s request for service connection to a disability or an increased rating on a pre-existing service-related disability.

Foti said the old facility had 45 workstations to serve veterans. The new location has 120.

“We certainly need it,” Foti said.

Foti estimates there are about 330,000 veterans in Oklahoma and said more coming to the state means the need to reassess their resource allocation.

Graham has represented tens of thousands of veterans in the claims process and brought in hundreds of millions of dollars into the state through VA benefits, ultimately changing the lives of veterans and their families.

Foti said getting assistance with a claim is not as simple as going to the local VA hospital. The Department of Veteran Affairs is transitioning services online for claims submissions, he said.

“Our computer lab and this foundation goes a long way to ensure there are no barriers for veterans between them and the benefits,” Foti said. “You have to submit paperwork, and sometimes that can take months in order to process it, and this foundation helps veterans tackle some of those bureaucratic obstacles.”

Graham, a Vietnam War veteran, said he wants service members to feel like they’re taken care of when they return to domestic soil.

“I want them to feel like they came back home and they’re heroes, because that’s what they are,” Graham said.

Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond, a U.S. Air Force Veteran, said the new center is an example of how Oklahoma could be considered the number one state for veterans.

Norman Chamber of Commerce board member Matt Clouse said when he read the Dale K. Graham Foundation mission of “veterans helping veterans,” his daughter corrected him, stating “heroes helping heroes.”

Jeff Elkins covers business, living and community stories for The Transcript. Reach him at jelkins@normantranscript.com or at @JeffElkins12 on Twitter.

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