Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation (VA&R)
Since its inception, The American Legion has maintained an ongoing concern and commitment to veterans and their families. The Legion was instrumental in the creation of the U.S. Veterans Bureau, now known as the Department of Veterans Affairs, and has continued to be a watchdog and an advocate for veteran’s rights.
The American Legion’s Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation (VA&R) program provides a comprehensive network of American Legion Department Service Officers (see below) at the Department level to help veterans, their dependents and survivors apply for any Federal or state benefit to which they may be entitled. These are the individuals who should be consulted when any question arises regarding veterans’ benefits or claims for these benefits.
Department Service Officers
The American Legion, Department of Texas Service Officers are an important and vital link in The American Legion’s nationwide network of volunteer and professional Service Officers.
The American Legion offers a full range of assistance to veterans and their families through our Department Service Officers (DSO). located at the Waco Veterans Administration Regional Office (VARO) (254) 299-9960, and at the Houston VARO (713) 383-2755.
One of the primary roles of the DSO is to assist veterans in filing claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA). Membership in The American Legion is not a prerequisite for assistance from one of our DSO’s. The role and responsibilities of our Department Service Officers, in processing a claim through the DVA, are varied, complex, and must be accomplished in strict adherence to a myriad of regulations and procedures.
A Department Service Officer’s liaison and assistance through the DVA begins with assignment of Accredited Representative status to The American Legion. Upon recognition of such status by the DVA, authorized American Legion representatives in Texas and Washington, D.C. may be granted full access to all information in a veteran’s claim file as well as summarized computer data at designated VA facilities.
Virtually all development, correlation, evaluation and adjudication of Compensation & Pension (C&P) claims are accomplished at a VA Regional Office (DVARO). The two such Texas centers are at Houston and Waco, with an American Legion Department Service Officer located at each site. The Department Service Officer shepherds claims through the DVA and provides on-site representation through the entire processing cycle. The “average” processing time for completed claims at the two Texas VA Regional Offices generally runs from four to six weeks for burial or dependency claims, three to four months for “original” C&P claims, and nine to twelve months for Notice of Disagreement (NOD) claims.
Appeals which are not resolved at a Texas DVARO are forwarded to the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) in Washington, D.C. for disposition. The current estimate to complete a BVA appeal is 18 to 24 months, but may run as high as three years.
It is important that no material or evidence ever be submitted directly to the VA. Should a benefit/ claim be denied, the DSO should be contacted as soon as possible, before initiating an appeal or taking further action on the claim.
In addition to the primary duties outlined, the Department Service Officer in Texas regularly participates in workshops, seminars, and conferences to upgrade and enhance their skills. Department Service Officers are available to conduct VA&R workshops, symposiums, conferences, or seminars to members of The American Legion family. These sessions are usually done at District or Division conventions but such presentations could also be made at a Post or community meeting. For more information or further discussion please contact one of our Department Service Officers:HOUSTON VARO – (713) 383-2755
Edward Reyes: firstname.lastname@example.org Mike Lacy: email@example.com WACO VARO – (254) 299-9960 Ronald Peterson: firstname.lastname@example.org Allen Sharp: email@example.com