The Official Voice of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress

May/June 2006
Veterans Benefits Update

Strength Through Partnership


As an organization, VVA is always looking for ways to improve its programs and services while at the same time getting the biggest bang for its buck. An excellent method to accomplish this goal is through mutually beneficial agreements with other organizations. These agreements, cemented by memoranda of understanding (MOU), allow both organizations to share their expertise, services, and resources while reducing costs. For our members and other veterans, this means more resources and better services.

In some ways Vietnam veterans are in greater need of benefits assistance today than they were in previous years. The VA system is better than it was when Vietnam veterans returned home, but it is far from perfect. As Vietnam-era veterans age, many are beginning to notice, for the first time, health problems that are directly related to their military service. Others have had service-connected health problems for years but do not know VA benefits are available. Other veterans who already have been awarded service connection are realizing that their conditions are worsening with age. As large numbers of our members retire, they realize that VA healthcare is an absolute must. America’s new veterans also need help.

To address these needs, VVA recently entered into an MOU with United Spinal Association (USA). Some veterans may be familiar with this organization. It was previously affiliated with Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association. As a witness to some of the negotiations, I can say it was a pleasure to be involved. We had many strong and knowledgeable players participate from VVA and USA. VVA was represented by John Rowan, National President; Tom Corey, former National President; and Jerry Klein, Chair of the Veterans Benefits Committee. Among those involved from USA were Gerard Kelly, Executive Director; Paul Tobin, Deputy Executive Director; John Herrion, counsel; and Len Selfon, National Service Director and former VVA Director of Veterans Benefits.

Following the negotiations, an MOU was signed and the agreement was ratified without any objections during the January VVA Board of Directors meeting. Now that we have completed the necessary requirements, we have begun two large joint projects. The first is dually accrediting some VVA service representatives and USA national service officers. A qualified service representative is accredited by the General Council of the VA to handle claims against the VA for veterans and their families. Our VVA/USA dually accredited service representatives will be recognized by the VA to handle claims for both organizations. What this means for VVA members is that they soon will have additional service representatives from USA who will be able to help them. Thus far, we are seeking the accreditation of at least twelve USA service officers.

The select twelve are strategically located on the East Coast in regions where we need additional coverage. We expect to expand slowly to other regions of the country. The USA service officers are well trained and very experienced. Most are experts in spinal cord injuries. A few are also able to provide assistance with claims before the Social Security Administration and other federal agencies. We have been fortunate to obtain the services of twelve excellent service representatives at no cost to VVA. This has saved funds for some state councils and local chapters, because they did not need to pay to send candidates to service representative training or provide funding for additional and supporting resources.

Of great interest to our certified service representatives, VVA and USA also are undertaking a joint endeavor to create a website for our service representatives and service officers. This Herculean task is being undertaken by Carol Engle, VVA’s Director of IT, and myself in conjunction with Len Selfon and Michael Katsev, Director of IT for USA. Due to USA’s assistance, this project also has been started at no additional cost to VVA. USA’s assistance will allow us to have our forum operational much more quickly.

This website is titled “Continuing Veterans Benefits Education Forum—A Joint Project of Vietnam Veterans of America and United Spinal Association.” It will be available for use by VVA service representatives and USA service officers. Upon completion, this site will be an all-encompassing forum for education, information, and training needed to represent claimants properly before the VA. We will also be providing a talk list and flash e-mails, which will allow us to disseminate important updates. Although the forum is still in its infancy, we are very excited about its future and its positive impact on our members and their families.

Future joint endeavors with USA include dually accrediting additional service representatives and service officers, sharing office space, and working  jointly on basic and advanced training courses. To learn more, visit the USA website at


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