Veterans service speeds up benefits

Veteran Mick Sullivan, right, meets with Josh Rondini, left, and Matt Persons outside the Disabled American Veterans’ Mobile Service Office on Monday, June 24, 2013, during the mobile office’s stop at the Clark County DAV on Mechanicsburg Road. Bill Lackey/Staff
Veteran Mick Sullivan, right, meets with Josh Rondini, left, and Matt Persons outside the Disabled American Veterans’ Mobile Service Office on Monday, June 24, 2013, during the mobile office’s stop at the Clark County DAV on Mechanicsburg Road. Bill Lackey/Staff

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

By the Numbers

100 — Disabled American Veterans offices in the U.S.

260 — National service officers to assist with claims

878 — Cities and towns visited by mobile offices last year

108,000 — Miles traveled by mobile offices

Unmatched Coverage

The Springfield News-Sun provides in-depth coverage of veterans issues, including on the Springfield Veterans Affairs clinic and millions in bonuses available for military members who served in the Gulf War and War on Terror.

The Disabled American Veterans mobile service unit came to Springfield on Monday for the first time to assist veterans with benefits claims, and many of them came hoping to speed up the application process.

Veteran Charles Northern was one of them as he sought to accelerate an appeal he’s filed for benefits.

“(It’s important) for the public to be aware of the hassle veterans need to go through to receive benefits,” Northern said.

Last year the DAV vehicle carrying national service officers to provide free assistance with claims traveled more than 108,000 miles, visited 878 cities and interviewed more than 17,000 veterans. The service aims to reach veterans in their communities and answer their questions about health, employment, education and other benefits.

In Springfield on Monday, the Disabled American Veterans had assisted more than 25 veterans by early afternoon when the vehicle stopped at the local chapter’s office on Mechanicsburg Road. Within the first hour, five veterans showed up to talk to the mobile service officers.

“We help get them focused on what the VA is looking for,” said Matthew Persons, DAV mobile service officer.

The mobile service office is a non-profit organization designed to provide free, easy access for disabled veterans by visiting them in their communities and rural areas. Veterans simply show up and fill out an application.

The Clark County Disabled American Veterans Chapter 13 received a letter in the winter about the mobile service, and chapter adjutant Gary Heironimus said it was important to him to bring it here.

“If you’re a veteran and think you don’t deserve this or don’t qualify, you need to go talk to somebody,” said Heironimus. “There’s always places to go.”

After filling out an application, local veterans had the opportunity to speak with a mobile service officer inside the RV parked in front of the local chapter office. Inside the vehicle, the officers sat with each of the veterans to discuss options and answer any questions.

Several of the veterans who attended Monday said filing for claims and benefits requires a lot of paperwork and is a slow process.

The VA has been struggling with a backlog of benefits claims in recent years. About 600,000 claims for illness or injury received in active military service have been pending more than 125 days.

Heironimus, who is medically retired from the Air National Guard, said he has been waiting two years since he has filed his claim. He hopes the DAV can speed up the process and reduce the paperwork.

Some veterans came to the DAV on Monday seeking advice.

“Any advice you can get is great,” said Richard Jacks, a veteran of the U.S. Army.

There are 100 Disabled American Veterans’ offices throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico and 260 service officers, as of 2012.

The organization’s main Ohio office is located in Cleveland. The group is currently accepting new members.

“Any time that you have an organization of veterans reaching out to other veterans is a positive thing,” said Mike McKinney of the Ohio Department of Veterans Services.

Many of the veterans were unaware of the mobile service vehicle until a recent Springfield News-Sun article was published.

To spread the word, Heironimus went to VFWs and American Legions around Clark County.

“I felt it was important to get the word out,” Heironimus said.