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The cost of the Vietnam War is painfully represented by a Vietnam Memorial that lists the names of more than 58,000 Americans who died overseas. However, the wall does not document any of the estimated 2.8 million US vets who were exposed to poisonous chemicals while serving and later died; sadly, we continue to lose these Veterans at an exponential rate.
When I was serving as a veterans service officer, I found that a vast majority of our Vietnam-era brethren were so negatively impacted by the war and the treatment they received during and after their service that they wanted nothing more to do with the military or VA upon their separation. However, now that many Veterans from that era are becoming sick and facing their own mortality due to their exposure to Agent Orange, they now are begrudgingly beginning to explore what benefits are available to them and their family. If this describes you, then this book is an important tool in addressing those concerns.
My name is Rick Blair, and I served nearly 27 years in the US Air Force and then another 10 years in my “second career” as a veterans service officer (VSO). Now for my third and hopefully final “career”, I plan on taking it easy and writing books to continue my advocacy for Veterans, because the knowledge I gained during those 10 years as a VSO, I believe, is far too important NOT to continue sharing with other disabled veterans.
As a VSO, I spent four years advocating for veterans' benefits at the St. Petersburg VA regional office, another four and a half years working with patients at the James H. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa, and then the last year and a half providing community-based advocacy for our veterans in and around Sumter County, Florida. As a result of this experience, I not only became familiar with VA law and the VA disability claims and appeals processes, I learned the procedural matrices the decision makers (raters, decision review officers, and judges) utilize to adjudicate disability claims. I discovered that by approaching the veterans benefits process from the perspective of what could be granted instead of focusing on what would be denied, I could help veterans become victors instead of victims.
This is the second book in the My VA Benefits series. Much of this information is available on the VA’s website, but in my opinion, it is not well organized, which makes it extremely difficult to connect the dots. I purposely formatted this book in a way that I hope you find logical and consistent so you can determine which information is specifically relevant and which information you can skim through.
So whether you are seeking information on what is available to you as a Vietnam veteran or you are looking to file a formal claim for VA disability due to Agent Orange exposure, the information in this book is vital to ensuring you have the knowledge necessary to win the veteran benefits you deserve!