Stephen Kelley, of Fenton, Mo., a veteran of the Vietnam and Gulf Wars, always suspected there was something odd about the disability rating he received from the VA. To get answers to his questions, he attended a St. Louis Chapter 1 meeting and met National Service Office Assistant Supervisor Andrew Edwards, who took time to answer all of Kelley’s questions after the meeting.
“While we were talking, there was something about the claim rating that didn’t add up. Something clicked in my mind that it wasn’t what it was supposed to be,” Edwards said. “I checked for his records the next day, only to find that his file had been retired and sent to the National Records Management Center.”
A records request confirmed Edwards’ suspicions.
“It was immediately obvious that VA had made a clear and unmistakable error when it decided his claim in 2003,” Edwards said. “DAV pointed out the error to VA regional office claims officials the same day.”
The VA had increased Kelley’s rating to total disability in April 2003, but denied special monthly compensation because his other disabilities totaled 50 percent. Denied
the special monthly compensation, Kelley could not receive the benefits he needed for being homebound.
In making its decision, the VA had omitted a serviceconnected disability rating that was awarded in 1999. “VA amended the record to reflect the correct evaluation supporting the clear and unmistakable error, which meant that Kelley should have received special monthly compensation beginning in 2000,” Edwards said. “This means that he will receive retroactive benefits from 2000.
“It was amazing how quickly the VA acted on Kelley’s case,” said Edwards. “The entire process, from my first meeting with him on April 4 to his notification on April 12 awarding him the entitlement of special monthly compensation, took only a week, thanks to the great work by the St. Louis VA regional office.”
“The superb action by everyone involved corrected an error that had denied this veteran his rightful and earned benefits,” said National Service Director Jim Marszelek. “DAV was his devoted advocate and his trusted representative throughout the process. It is what our service is all about.”
“Mr. Kelley couldn’t thank DAV enough for all our dedicated work,” said Edwards. “You get great satisfaction knowing you’ve helped a veteran receive the benefits they are entitled to. Getting his earned benefits is part of the fabric of our organization, and this is always going to be my way of life.”
“The quick resolution of this veteran’s case was the result of the combined efforts of DAV, the VA and the Records Management Center,” said National Adjutant Marc Burgess. “It shows that working together in harmony and with all due consideration for the veteran can equate to resolution in a very short time. But it takes our National Service Officers to get the ball rolling.”
“It’s also an example of DAV’s comprehensive training program that gives our NSOs the knowledge and skills to successfully pursue a just decision in a claim,” said Washington Headquarters Executive Director Garry Augustine. “As veterans helping veterans, DAV works relentlessly toward a goal of doing the right thing for veterans.”
“I am thankful that I was at the St. Louis Chapter meeting to meet Mr. Kelley,” said Edwards. “We’re always ready to talk to veterans and to help them. It pays to give veterans the time they deserve and to review their files to see what has happened in the past. It is part of our mission of service to do our best for them.”