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Full disclosure, I am not much into drinking. It’s never really been a hobby of mine. I remember celebrating pretty heavily when I turned 21, then revisiting some nachos I had consumed earlier that evening, and not too much after that. I am now nine years removed from that day and I can’t really recall any other time in which I was intoxicated. Honestly I saw a lot of cautionary tales growing up that have really stuck with me. Also, I simply can’t stand the taste of most forms of alcohol. Before we get too far along, I want to make it clear that this is not the judgment express. I am flawed. If I were brave enough to post a full body photo of myself you would quickly see that my vice is food. Overeating can be as dangerous as consuming too much alcohol. The reason I am bringing the subject of alcohol up is a recent hashtag search I did on twitter. This led me down a rabbit hole to some pretty interesting numbers.
For anyone who does not know, a hashtag is something used on Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites to link common stories. For instances, if I tweet about JJ Watt, and I want other Houston Texans fans to see what I have typed, I will use the hashtag “#WeAreTexans.” (Even though I am from West Virginia, I cheer for the Texans. It’s a complicated story.) When it comes to social media posts regarding this blog, I will use the hashtag #Veterans. Obviously I want Veterans to read this blog, so this is a great way to spread the word. Today I needed some inspiration for a new blog. I had to get through a bunch of posts in which people were using the hashtag for politics, but then came across post with a photo. The photo grabbed my attention because it was from a recent national brewing corporation that used a returning Vet in a recent campaign. The tweet mentioned that returning combat Veterans are at a higher risk of binge drinking than their civilian counter parts. This post led me to an interesting blog that analyzed alcohol manufactures using Veterans in their marketing campaigns and brought up the topic of responsibility in advertising. An interesting topic and something that I had not thought of before. I would love to expand on this thought, but that is not what this blog is about. This blog however led me to a study in which alcohol consumption rates of returning Vets were compared to that of civilians, and the numbers were somewhat surprising.
Now, I need to point out that recent information on this subject tends to be a little scarce. Most of the info I found on this subject pointed to a survey conducted in 2008. Even though this information is about 6 years old, I doubt if things have improved that much. Honestly the opposite is most likely. So, according to this study, Combat Veterans were 31 percent more likely to have started binge drinking than those not exposed to combat. Six percent of returning combat Veterans started a new habit of heavy weekly drinking and 5 percent developed a drinking-related problem.
I just realized that it has taken a long time to get to the heart of this blog post. I’m not here to say that drinking is bad. If you are an adult and don’t know the negative effects of heavy alcohol consumption then you must have some prime real estate under a rock. However, as an individual who talks to about 150-200 new Veterans every month, I know that alcohol consumption among Veterans is an issue. I have also experienced this first hand with some Veterans I know personally. It’s not really something we can ignore.
Too often the Veterans I speak to daily feel isolated. They have returned home from combat to a bunch of people who can’t relate to what they have been through. If you are dealing with PTSD, or a TBI, then family life and a full time job can be overwhelming. It makes sense that so many Veterans use alcohol as a coping mechanism or as a way to self-medicate. I have talked to so many Vets who use it as a way to escape. There are alternatives out there. There are groups for Veterans returning from recent conflicts that help address the issues facing younger Veterans and offer an alternative to traditional service organizations.
The first organization is one that was established just a few years ago and is quite impressive. They are called the Steel City Vets, and I have personally had the pleasure of working with them in the past. The group as a whole does so much in the Western PA area that I wish I could personally join. They are involved in community projects, organize social gatherings and even do such fun things as golf tournaments and even have famous Veterans and civilian guest speakers. They also attend sporting events like Pittsburgh Steelers games, but I think our Veterans deserve better than that. Football humor aside, the Steel City Vets is a group that I have experienced first-hand, and I highly recommend them for any Veteran who may be living in the western PA area. In fact, they have a great golf tournament coming up on August 10th which would be a great introduction to the group and their members.
Another group that I have worked with quite a bit more is the Veterans Corps at West Virginia University at Parkersburg. This happens to be the school in which I attended while pursuing my undergraduate degrees. In my tenure with the firm I have worked with them for many projects, including our Walk4Vets. This Veterans group is open to student Veterans, and much like the Steel City Vets, they focus on keeping Vets engaged in community activities/outreach, team building trips, and social gatherings. The Veterans corps had some fun activities recently. They had a day at the gun range that also involved a hike and a picnic, and a white water rafting trip just a few weeks ago. I was invited to go on the trip but had to decline because of my fear of death. In the spring they had a great fundraising and a supply drive for our local homeless Veterans.
When I was in high school, and more recently in college, I personally found myself lost at times. It was not until I found a group of individuals with similar experiences that I could relate to that I started finding meaning in what I was doing. In no way am I comparing anything in my life to serving in the military or being in combat. However, I think relating to others who know what you have been through is universal. Groups like these can be very beneficial for transitioning back to civilian life. At the end of the day I want Veterans to know there are several options out there to socialize with other Vets.
If you would like more information about service connecting for alcoholism, or would like to discuss your VA disability claim, give us a call. 1-877-526-3457. Also, if you happen to be part of a group like the ones listed above, please share the information in the comments section.
I honestly love watching The Daily Show with John Stewart. I have watched it since I was a young kid and can’t sleep now without my daily dose of political satire. I have to admit that it’s odd to hear The Daily Show discusssomething I work with every day on their program. Over the past several months John Stewart and crew have looked into the issues facing the VA in an honest and humorous way. While I enjoy watching Stewart make jokes about what I do, this really means the problems are actually quite worse than we may realize. The problem is that if programs like The Daily Show are covering the VA backlog, then it is a mainstream issue, and thus pretty bad. So, you have to ask, who is looking out for you?
Some may say that I am a chronic pessimist, but I have been working with VA Disability claims for more than three years now. I have watched this problem get steadily worse over the past 36 months. I honestly don’t see an end in sight. VA disability was a mess already, but in recent months things have become far worse. The backlog is still an issue, and there are even reports surfacing that some information about the reduction is not true. Further, unless you have taken residence under a rock, you know that the VA healthcare system is a mess. What is a Veteran to do?
It’s always good to have help. Though I work for a law firm, and have 3 years’ experience working with VA Disability Compensation, I personally would not feel comfortable filing a claim on my own. The disability process is so complex and frustrating that I would not be able to keep up with the paperwork alone. Further, the process as whole is convoluted. If you look at the VA timeline you will see that the steps don’t make sense. For instance, when you are denied the first time you file a Notice of Disagreement. When you are denied the second time you file VA form 9. Now, these two things are very different, but one would think that they are the same because they are both appeals. Having an attorney, like the ones at Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law, can help guide you through the VA process. We are also able to find mistakes that may be made by the VA through our comprehensive review process.
It’s a shame our nations veterans have to go through so much to get the VA Disability benefits they deserve. We are happy to speak to any Veteran about their case and offer a free case evaluation. Call us toll free at 1-877-526-3457. You can also fill out this form so that we may call you.
Last night I was watching one of my favorite TV Dramas, Nashville, and something made me think. This usually happens because of their blatant product placement from companies like Chevrolet, or Subway, but this time it was actually because of the plot of the show. In this episode all of the singers get together to perform at Ft. Campbell in Tennessee. They were performing for a group soldiers who were deploying to Afghanistan. This actually made me think of a conversation I had with a Veteran that day. In the show, some of the soldiers were going to serve overseas while others weren't. After showing this, the program quickly went back to its standard formula of having characters make huge personality changes that will alter who they are…only to go back to their old ways a week later. The scene showing soldiers leaving while others stay behind is what made me think though.
The Veteran I was talking with yesterday served in the 80’s. He never left the country. When he was discharged he was told by someone that he couldn't file for benefits. The reason he was told this is that he didn't serve overseas, and thus he never filed. Well, this is not true, and this Veteran, who has a great claim for PTSD, really missed out on what could have been 20 plus years of benefits. This was a result of him trusting some random person who didn't know anything about VA disability.
The saddest thing about this story is that it’s not the first time I’ve heard it. Just like the plot of any Penny Marshall film, it’s all too familiar.
One of the reasons so many older Veterans are misinformed about VA Disability is that the information wasn't out there when they were discharged. We represent Veterans who served as far back as World War II and the Korean War. The internet wasn’t a thing back then. If we are going to be honest, most people today get their information from social media; that wasn't around until the late 90’s. It was not really used by older Americans until the mid-2000s. It’s still very new compared to when these Veterans were discharged. Though traditional websites have been around for at least 20 years, information about VA disability wasn't the first topic discussed online.
Even though such fun and exciting websites as Myspace haven’t been around for that long, the printed word has, and it wasn’t necessarily utilized well. The VA isn’t the type of organization that goes out of their way to let you know what you can file for. Information about VA Disability benefits has been somewhat scarce until recently. Even traditional media outlets chose not to discuss the issues with the VA until the past few years.
The biggest issue however for most Veterans is that they get their information from the wrong sources. Taking the advice of a friend or loved one, in our experience, is traditionally the wrong way to get your information. The Veteran I mentioned earlier got his info from another Veteran. That information turned out to be completely wrong. Chances are the Veteran he was talking with also received the wrong info too. This occurs too often.
As I was writing this blog today I overheard the supervisor of our VA department tell another Veteran that the information he got from his buddy was completely wrong. He too was misinformed by someone who didn’t know the law. We understand that you are more likely to trust someone else served…it’s only natural. However, when you think about how much false information is out there, it makes sense that most of what one hears via word of mouth is false.
At the end of the day I really want Veterans to have the best and most accurate information possible. I’ve been writing this blog for close to three years now. I’ve dedicated a lot of my free time to it and believe it is one of the most accurate sources out there. I work in a VA law firm 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year. I am around this information constantly, and I am surrounded by people with a lot more experience than I have. We are passionate about helping Veterans. I encourage all Veterans to find reputable sources when it comes to VA disability. In no way am I saying that my blog is the only place for accurate info. There are others out there too, it just takes some searching. I am lucky in the fact that I can walk 10 steps and talk to an attorney who has practiced VA law for close to a decade, or pick up the phone and talk to a different attorney who used to work as a lawyer for the VA.
If you have questions about your VA claim, or would simply like to know more about what we can do to help you with your disability, call me today. 1-877-526-3457. If you are reading this and can’t talk right now, fill this from out, and I’ll call you at a time that works better for you.
*As soon as I hit the "submit" button to publish this blog today I received a call from a Veteran who was misinformed. He was told that he could not pursue legal action against a VA hospital. I explained to him that it is indeed possible. This is just a further example of all of the false information out there.
I like to be blunt as well as very honest in my everyday interaction with people. It’s what people love and fear about me. The reason I am this way is far too long and complicated to discuss in this blog. However, I find that it is very effective when communicating with Veterans regarding their VA disability claims. Generally, the Veterans I speak to want to be communicated with honestly about their cases.They have often lost trust with the VA, and just want to be told honestly what to expect. If we can’t help a client get service connected, I prefer to let them know right away rather then throw it all at the wall and see what sticks. Not all representatives are like that.
My ability to be blunt really applies to the VA backlog. Granted, a lot of people are paying attention to the VA right now, and so many people want you to believe that clearing up the backlog will change everything, but that is not likely going to happen. Just because your claim is no longer in a “backlog” doesn’t mean you are getting approved. It simply means that they made a decision. If you have to appeal your decision, request a hearing, or even go to the Court of Veterans Appeals, you are still in for a long wait. This backlog isn't necessarily going away so much as it is moving.
Now, I am not here to blast the VA. Despite recent reports of some very disheartening practices, I believe they are mostly great people, many of which are former Veterans themselves. I just want to make it clear that no matter how many times the backlog is reported on CNN, or my personal favorite, The Daily Show, most Veterans still have a long wait ahead of them. This is especially evident with our Veterans who live in Kentucky, Ohio and North Carolina. I selected these three states as we work with them quite a bit. Simply put, it’s still taking them a while to release decisions. Those decisions that are coming out are not always favorable.
There are a lot people in the media trying to spin this story in either direction. All media is based on ratings. The better the story the higher ratings are, and the more they profit. I hate to quote The Hunger Games, but you have to “remember who the real enemy is.” In other words, be careful who you trust. We work with the VA every day, and we know what to expect. We represent a lot of Veterans and want what is best for them.
If you would like to know more about what we can do for your claim, or to discuss your VA disability claim, give me a call today for a free consultation. Our toll free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t make it to a phone right now, fill this form out and I’ll call you.
You may be aware of some recent news regarding a VA Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. If you are not aware of what is happening, we will cover that later on. Though we are based in West Virginia, we actually have a lot of clients in Arizona. Our thoughts are with all of the Veterans who are affected by this story, and those who are now concerned about receiving quality healthcare. While our firm mainly corresponds with VA Regional Offices, we do have to request medical records from VA Medical Facilities, including the one in Phoenix Arizona. We want to shed as much light on this as possible for our Veterans in Arizona, and will try to keep you up to date as these moves forward.
So, what’s going on? Last week the folks over at CNN reported that the Phoenix VA Medical Center had a “Secret Wait List” for those seeking treatment. On this list Veterans would have to wait for months to receive treatment, and at least 40 Veterans who were on this list died while awaiting treatment. CNN also reports as many as 1600 Veterans were actually on the list. Why a secret list you ask? According to Dr. Sam Foote, a former VA doctor, "The scheme was deliberately put in place to avoid the VA's own internal rules." He went on to tell CNN that the VA requires its hospitals to provide care to patients in a timely manner, typically within 14 to 30 days. According to Foote, the Phoenix VA was involved in shredding evidence to hide the long list of veterans waiting for appointments and care.
How did CNN find out about the list? According to the article, CNN obtained emails from individuals in the facility, including management, who were aware of the list, and who were even defending the practice.
What happens now? Well, there will be a lot of investigations going on to find out the validity of the accusations. President Obama was quoted on Monday as saying that he takes these allegations “very seriously.” Further, he stated: “I believe that if somebody has served our nation then they have to get the benefits and services that they have earned, and my budgets have consistently reflected that,” Obama said. “That’s why we've resourced the Veterans Affairs office more in terms of increases than any other department or agency in my government.”
Politics aside, this is a very serious issue for the VA. I work with Veterans every day, and I know their view of the VA as a whole is not great anyway. Regardless of what happens, the VA may very well lose the trust of more Veterans.
What is the VA saying? Well, they are addressing the issue the best they can. The following is excerpt from their press release: “The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) cares deeply for every Veteran we are privileged to serve, and we are committed to delivering the highest quality care. We take any allegations about patient care or employee misconduct very seriously, which is why the Department invited the independent VA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to complete a comprehensive review at the Phoenix VA Health Care System as quickly as possible. VA also sent a team of clinical experts to Phoenix to review appointment scheduling procedures at that facility and the existence of any delays in care.” You can read the full release here.
What should you do? No matter what, you need to continue to seek treatment. Regardless if you attempting to get service connected, or if you are just in need of medical care, seeking treatment is beneficial. Keep up to date with this story by following reputable news sources. CNN will obviously be covering this story a lot as they are the ones who broke the news, but the Washington Post, Associated Press, and other traditional news outlets will have up to date information. If you go to the Phoenix VA for treatment, continue to go there. The VA has sent a team to review scheduling, and as their press release states above, they are reviewing the scheduling process.
If you would like to know more about what we can do to help you get service connected for a VA Disability Claim, give us a call for a free consultation: 1-877-526-3457. If you'd rather I call you, fill out this form now.
Toyotas are boring cars. This is so much of an issue for the auto manufacture that they are trying desperately to make you believe driving a Toyota Camry can be fun. (Evidence is provided in the form of a commercial posted below.) It’s not. It’s simply not a fun car to drive. Toyota should settle down though. People don’t buy Carmys because they are fun; they buy them because they are reliable. You can buy a Camry, put gas in it, and never really have to worry about the car until you sell it a few years later. Some individuals believe that if they hire a VA Disability Attorney they can simply let their case go, and wait for a decision to come back in a few months. Think of your VA claim like buying a classic Mercedes: it will break down, it needs constant maintenance, and there is a good chance it’s going to get recalled a few times. Just like not taking your car in for service will result in a breakdown, failure to communicate with your VA Disability Attorney can result in a loss of your case. Let us pop the hood on this subject and see why effective communication is important for your Veterans Claim.
When you hire an attorney like Jan Dils Attorneys at Law, you won’t have to worry a lot about your case. We take care of submitting evidence, filing appeals, reviewing medical records, representing you at hearings and so much more. We are efficient, effective, and good at what we do. However, we have to deal with the VA. The Department of Veterans Affairs, like my former Dodge Neon, is not a well-oiled machine. Occasionally, things come up in these cases in which client input is required. This can range anywhere from needing to know where you sought treatment most recently, to rescheduling a hearing because of a conflict. In these situations, quick effective communication is key for our success.
It’s not always panic situations like hearing cancellations though. If you served even one day in the military, you know they love paperwork. However, the VA loves it even more. Whenever you receive a VCAA there is a good chance that you will need to fill out a form, or survey. We review all VCAA’s on behalf of our clients, but if they are asking for something like a buddy statement, there is no way we can fill that out on your behalf. This is one of the situations in which our ability to contact you is imperative. Something like a buddy statement can be the piece of evidence that gets you service connected for PTSD, a back injury, etc.
Here are some tips for keeping an open line of communication with your attorney:
- Give your attorney updated phone numbers
- Notify your attorney of an address change
- Respond to mail correspondence
- Return phone calls
- Be proactive about your case
- Make use of email
- If you no longer have access to a phone, let us know
- Use Social Media if you can’t call during regular operating hours
If you have questions about your claim, or would like to know what we can do to help you get service connected, give me a call today for a free consultation. Reach me toll free at 1-877-526-3457. If you’d rather I call you, fill out this form now.
In a perfect world Mustangs would get 40 mpg, Jennifer Lawrence would win every Oscar, and the New England Patriots would finish last in the AFC East every year. In my perfect world Veterans would automatically get VA Disability Compensation when they apply. However, our world is much more bureaucratic than that. Just like Ms. Lawrence getting snubbed for the “Best Supporting Actress” category, you’re going to have to go through a lot of disappointment to get what you deserve. One aspect Veterans have to go through is a Compensation and Pension Exam, which we will be discussing today. Here are 7 things you need to know about C&P Exams:
- THEY ARE MANDATORY: If there is one thing that I would like to remind all Veterans of is the importance of attending a C&P Exam. I have seen far too many Vets get denied because they simply didn’t attend their exam. Find any way possible to attend this exam.
- You will likely have more than one: Not only will you have an exam for each condition you file for, but once the appeals process starts, you will likely have to go back again for the same condition. Often times Veterans have to have a C&P at every step in the process.
- You’re probably going to be upset after the exam. We work with Veterans all of the time, and we have been doing this for a while, so we know what happens at the exams. Frequently we hear stories from our clients about how the doctor was rude, didn’t fully examine them, or was just plain not interested in what you have to say. Not all VA examiners are like this, but some are, and that is why we are here. Because…
- We can get you an Independent Exam to combat what the VA says. We have a network of doctors set up that can independently evaluate you and give their honest medical opinion regarding your claims. This is in turn submitted to the VA to support your claim.
- You may not even be there: On occasion your exam will simply consist of a doctor reviewing your files. This is often referred to as a “chart review.” While it is not always an ideal situation, it does not mean that you will get denied. Sometimes in person exams are not necessary.
- It may not be at the VA: it’s possible to have a C&P exam at a non-VA location. For instance, the Winston Salem VA will occasionally contract their exams out to an organization called QTC. These are treated just like a regular C&P except they are just performed elsewhere.
- You may not even know about the exam: I’ve spoken to Veterans who have received notices in the mail to attend an exam a week after the appointment. If this occurs, or if you can’t attend on the date assigned, you can make arrangements to reschedule your exam.
After reading this list you may be thinking that C&P exams are difficult and confusing. You’re not wrong in that thought process. However, if you go to your exam, and don’t hold back on the honesty, you’re exam will be just fine. If it’s not, we are here for you. If you would like to know more about what we can do for you, or to discuss your claim, give me a call. 1-877-526-3457. You also have the option of filling out this form so that I may call you.
I often get asked by friends what it’s like working at Jan Dils Attorneys at Law, and I can honestly say that it’s pretty great. However, while my coworkers are awesome, they like to remind me of my increasing age. This comes up a lot when I reference television shows from the past. One such show that I referenced recently was the classic coming of age comedy, “Seinfeld.” Sadly, this show debuted before some of my coworkers were born, and when I quoted the episode in which George double dips his potato chip at a party, few of my coworkers knew what I was referencing.
You might be wondering why I was talking about this episode of “Seinfeld” at work, and how it is relevant to Veterans Disability. Just like George double dipping his chip at the social gathering in the TV show, a Veteran can inadvertently “double dip” when it comes to VA Disability Compensation too. Double dipping is of course a slang phrase used to describe getting paid twice by the government for a single disability.
We see this a lot in our older Veterans. A lot of the individuals I talk to think that they can get paid for both disability compensation and VA pension. While it is true, that you can qualify for both, the VA will take away from one to give you the other. For instance, if you were granted pension 10 years ago, but then were granted a service connected disability at 70% last year, the VA will start paying you whichever one is more. Since 70% service connection is more than pension, the VA will pay you the service connected disability benefit because pension is offset by the amount of money you are receiving for service connection.
That’s not the only way one can double dip though. I get calls all of the time from Veterans who wish to service connect for something that they are getting workers compensation for already. For instance, I see this often on back claims. When a Veteran calls our office stating that they want to pursue a service connected claim for his or her back, I will ask: “Have you ever filed a workers c
ompensation claim on your back?” If they answer yes, then I have to inform them they will get denied. Why? The reason is actually quite simple. The VA needs to know that your disability came from your time in service. So if you state that you hurt your back while on the job, then we are led to believe that it didn't occur while serving.
Something I hear a lot is that a Veteran hurt his back while serving, but did not file a claim for it, and did not seek treatment for it prior to filing a workers compensation claim. Once again, the VA will see that there is no evidence of this disability occurring while in service, and deny your claim.
I realize that I often sound like a broken record, but seeking treatment is the key to any VA disability claim. When it comes to a physical disability especially, the earlier you seek treatment, the better it is for your claim. If you would like to know more about what are firm can do for you, or if you would like a free phone consultation, give me a call at 1-877-526-3457. Fill out this form if you would rather I give you call.
Alyssa is a case manager for our Veterans in the office. I hear her speak to clients about different aspects of the VA Disability process every day. As a result of our close proximity in the office, her conversations often spark ideas for blogs. She claims that she is my blogging muse, and that is not too far from the truth. Recently Alyssa came to me with a question that I could not answer. I did what I always do when I don’t know the answer to something…I blog about it.
The question Alyssa asked was something I had not thought of before. She asked if a Veteran who served during Vietnam in the Air Force would be eligible for Agent Orange presumptive conditions. She stated that the Veteran in question never landed in country, but rather flew through the airspace.
Honestly, my first thought was that he would be eligible because I was under the impression that the airspace above the country is also considered a part of the areas affected by Agent Orange. I didn’t just come to this conclusion by guessing, but rather applying what I knew about Gulf War Illness to Agent Orange. The airspace above each country listed for GWI is considered part of the area affected. I simply applied what I knew about GWI to Agent Orange…and I was wrong.
This was the first time I had ever been wrong about anything in my life, so I was a little perplexed. Kris, our C-file reviewer explained that a Veteran must be "boots on ground" in order to be eligible for Agent Orange. Truthfully, this is one of the first things we learn at this firm when we are hired on for VA disability compensation. However, I forgot one of the most basic rules. Kris is right. The airspace above Vietnam is not considered an area that is eligible for Agent Orange presumptive conditions. Certain water ways are affected as well, but that will be discussed in a different blog down the road.
On a personal note, it is a little strange to me that airspace is eligible for GWI, but not Agent Orange. Granted, I don’t make the rules, and I am not in charge of the VA, so my opinion on this subject is not really going to make them change the ways things are done.
Unfortunately, the Veteran in question was not able to get service connection for his VA Disability Compensation. I always say all VA cases are different. With this in mind, give me a call to see if you qualify for VA Disability compensation. Our toll free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you’d rather I call you, fill out this form.
Holidays are not my thing. I buy too much candy throughout the year to enjoy Halloween, I’ve been on Santa’s bad list for years, and I still can’t figure out Guy Fox day. However, the one holiday I have really come to love over the past few years is Veterans Day. It would be easy to be cynical and think that the guy who writes the VA Disability Blog is pandering when he says that Veterans Day is his favorite holiday, but I don’t pander. Over the past three years I have come to love Veterans Day, and the following will explain why.
In 2011 I started with Jan Dils Attorneys at Law, and I had no idea what to expect. I started working with our VA department, and shortly after that I started managing our social media platforms as well. That quickly turned into writing this blog, and now lots of people read this every month. It was not always that simple though. When Veterans Day 2011 approached I was still new at the social media game, and eagerly looking for content. I came up with an idea that I thought was going to be small at first, but turned into something much larger. I asked everyone in the firm to submit pictures of Veterans who had an impact on their lives. The response was overwhelming, and by the end of the day I was posting multiple pictures and stories every hour. As a rookie in this field I decided that Veterans Day was also a great time to launch our new Veterans Disability Blog. This was a ton of work, and Veterans Day 2011 was exhausting, but worth it. We had the most traffic to our Facebook page that day, and the new blog was a success. Best of all, I got to pay tribute to a couple of Veterans who mean the world to me, and that truly made Veterans Day 2011 special…but it also made me want to do even more for 2012.
Veterans Day 2012 was to be even better than the year prior. Our VA department decided to host an awesome Veterans Day cookout that year. We set up a tent in our parking lot and grilled hamburgers and hot dogs for the community. We allowed Veterans to eat free. The night before the cookout had me doubting the event though. I had just purchased a new car, and was really excited to prep for the cookout. I drove to Sam’s Club and bought all of the supplies we needed for the next day. My Chevy Malibu was loaded with food. I decided to stop by a local fast food drive through to pick up something to eat for the evening. As I was sitting in line, the truck in front of me shifted to reverse, and backed into my car. I was more than a little upset. I was afraid that this was going to set the tone for the next day and that our cookout was going to be a disaster. I was wrong. The cookout was a huge success, we raised a lot of money for our Veterans foundation, and we even included videos for our tribute. All in all 2012 was a great event, but it left me wanting more.
I can say that Veterans Day 2013 is what made me really appreciate the holiday, and realize what it really means. As Veterans Day 2013 approached, I was really put in control of our festivities for the first time. I had a bunch of help from my coworkers, but I had a lot of internal pressure to make this year’s event even more special. For one, we were going to announce the return of our Walk4Vets at the Veterans Day cookout. We also were naming our new benefactor that day, plus, the Monday after, I was going to participate in the Parkersburg Veterans Day Parade. This time I decided to get some help with the shopping. Eric Hillyard, our human resources director volunteered to help me get supplies. I later stated that he came in “like a wrecking ball,” but in a good way, and really made a huge difference in the preparation of the event. Eric also had an SUV and that made transportation a lot easier. The cookout was different this time. I was doing radio interviews, I was interviewed by the local newspaper, and I even took a moment or two to stop, take it all in, and really enjoy the day.
The Monday after the cookout actually was Veterans Day 2013. Myself, and my coworker Jess represented the firm at the Veterans Day parade. We did not have a float, so we caught a ride with the West Virginia University at Parkersburg Veterans Corps. This was great because their group was selected as the benefactor for the Walk4Vets the following year.
I want to take a second to speak about why this group is so great. They are led by a young Veteran named Shawn Healy. I got to know Shawn shortly before Veterans Day 2013. He is truly one of the most dynamic people I have ever met. Shawn is currently serving in the West Virginia Army National Guard and has been deployed to Iraq. Shawn is a full time student as well as the schools Veteran's Advisor. He is very passionate about helping his fellow Veterans, which is by the huge difference he has made with the Veterans Corps. The group as whole has taken on a lot of projects, including granting children of Veterans wishes, and most recently, a supply drive to help local homeless Veterans. They are dedicated to making the lives of Veterans better. Not only do I feel as if our partnership with this group will last a while, but I know we will make the have a great impact on the community. The things to come are going to be epic.
As the parade started, I decided not to ride in Shawn’s truck, but rather run alongside “secret service style,” to hand out copies of our Veterans Disability Book. From this I realized that I was really out of shape. However, as we set off I remember being overcome with the ambiance of the parade. We were near the end of the line, and we were just in front of the one of the local high school marching bands. As there drum line started, I remember thinking that this was a lot like that scene from “The Hunger Games,” except my clothes did not burst into flames. Anyway, it was incredible how many people came out to this event. When I started walking I decided to run up to Veterans standing in the crowd and give them a book and then thanked them for their service. In just a few blocks I met Veterans from World War II, Vietnam, and Desert Storm. As the parade drew to a close we approached the Parkersburg City Park. I must admit that I was impressed by the size of the crowd. We halted for a few moments to allow for congestion to clear. At that time I was able to take everything in completely. It was awesome to see that many people celebrating Veterans. It was then that I realized how great this day really is for our Vets. I get to interact with Veterans every day, I see how great they are on a regular basis, but for one day in November everyone sees what I see. Best of all our Veterans-for the most part-get to be the focus of the day. It’s something great to witness.
I always say there is no better feeling than working with Veterans, and I truly mean that. To me, supporting Veterans is more than just clicking like on a Facebook post, or wearing red, white and blue. It is my career, and one of my passions.
Veterans Day 2014 is still 7 months away. The month before is the return of our Walk4Vets, and I can’t wait. September 13th can’t come soon enough. As for our Veterans Day festivities, I have a lot in store for that too. If you would like to learn more about our Walk4Vets, give me a call: 1-877-526-3457, or click here.