Having gone through this process myself, I can emphatically say that yes, events to help Veterans in filling their claims for disability and pensions both need and should happen. When I arrived at the Warrior Transition Unit in Fort Knox after my deployment to Afghanistan, and once the decision had been made that I was no longer physically able to continue serving as an Officer in the Army, I spent the next 15 months filing all the paperwork necessary for me to receive my disability benefits. One of the advantages of a WTU is that everything you need is right there for you, including all the people to help you manage and navigate the process. Even with all the necessary resources being within blocks of each other, and essential personal making sure you get the appointments you need with all the paperwork being filed out correctly, this entire endeavor took me 15 months to get through.
A lot of Soldiers once they arrive to a WTU all they want to do is get home. They all say the same thing; I’ll take care of this when I get home. The problem with that is, once they get home there is no one there to help them. Filling for disability falls squarely on them. All the appointments, all the follow ups, all the counseling, keeping track of all the endless amounts of paperwork, everything is their responsibility. So needless to say, a lot goes into trying to retain the Soldiers to stay in the WTU where they have the help to successfully file for, get approved for, and receive their disability. But a lot of guys don’t care so they go home, become overwhelmed by just how immense this process is, and never see it through. There was an Officer who I had befriended during my time in the WTU, he had gotten there one day before I did in August 2012.
He left not even two months after he arrived there because, just like with so many other Soldiers, he was going to get home, get comfortable, get back to work, and then start filing for disability. I was finally discharged from the Army in November 2013 with 80% disability and a set amount I was going to receive monthly from both the Army and VA. I just happened to talk with this Officer earlier this year, and he told me he was still at least a full year away from having his claim filed. So nearly four years later, he still hasn’t finished the process yet. So until there is a better system in place to help all service members run the gauntlet of getting their claims filed, an event is a terrific idea that will go a long way in helping those people who are trying to tackle this herculean effort alone. Besides, anything positive the VA does to actually “help” a Veteran gets a YEA vote in my book.