DAV expands services nationwide with Mobile Service Office program

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National Service Officer Michael Smith (second from left) is flanked by DAV Chapter 27, Pell City, Ala., members (from left) Dale Onstine, Roger Gilbert and Hubert Stapler.

DAV believes that all veterans should have access to the benefits they earned; that is why the organization’s Mobile Service Office (MSO) program treks thousands of miles each year to bring advocacy services directly to the men and women who need it most.

Since 2001, DAV’s MSO program has traveled throughout the country to small towns, rural communities and college campuses to counsel, assist and educate veterans and their families on the benefits they are eligible for through their service.

In 2016, the offices on wheels visited 845 sites, including 77 colleges and universities, including the University of South Florida, The Ohio State University, Western Nevada College and the University of Montana. The 10-vehicle fleet drove a combined 96,342 miles across the country, filing 11,479 claims along the way.

Supervisor Frank Budd and his team of service officers in Nashville traveled throughout rural Tennessee for three weeks last year, bringing DAV’s services to veterans who otherwise may not have received assistance. The nine other mobile offices do the same in other parts of the country.

“The MSO is what us veterans need in the field so we do not leave any veteran behind who may not be able to get into the main office,” said David Harris, a retired Army veteran who sought out the mobile office when Budd and his team arrived in Clarksville. “The NSO [National Service Officer] that assisted me was very knowledgeable and assisted me in the completion of my claim.”

“We bring advocacy directly to veterans,” said Budd, explaining that some veterans prefer the in-person engagement over communicating by telephone or online. Meeting with the veterans also provides the service officers an opportunity to ask for any other documentation required to file a successful claim.

Budd served in the infantry for two years before a medical discharge in 1997. Nearly 10 years later, the Marine Corps veteran joined DAV.

“When I was discharged, I was told, ‘You have your severance pay; now get on your way,’” explained Budd. “There was no TAP [Transition Assistance Program] then, and I was not aware of the benefits I had earned.”

National Service Officer Annie Byrd assists a veteran with a claim for VA benefits during a Mobile Service Office visit in Alabama.

He quickly became active in DAV Chapter 212 in New York and worked his way up the ranks to serve as commander. A year later he met now-National Employment Director Jeff Hall, who asked if he was eligible for vocational rehabilitation.

“The rest is history,” said Budd, who came aboard DAV in 2007 as a national service officer and now also serves as the DAV Department of Tennessee District 6 commander.

Since 1932, DAV has secured nearly $95.8 billion in retroactive and annual benefits for veterans, dependents and survivors through DAV’s service programs at the chapter, county, department, transition and national levels.

“Service officers like Frank going above and beyond to connect veterans with DAV services is what this program is all about,” said DAV National Service Director Jim Marszalek. “The Mobile Service Office program is just one way we are able to further our reach and help as many people as possible.”

Budd commented that one particular MSO visit stuck out in his mind.

“A World War II veteran came to see me. He could not hear at all and had never filed a claim. We filed one, and he was rated 100-percent service-connected disabled,” he said. “He had gone all these years and had no idea there was help until he received a letter from DAV telling him about the MSO.”

We have the ability to not only help veterans but also positively impact their home, life and dependents,” explained Budd. “We are changing their lives for the better.”

 

Learn More Online

DAV members who live in an area with an upcoming MSO visit should receive notification in the mail. The full schedule is also available online at dav.org/veterans/outreach-programs/mobile-service-office. Veterans do not have to be members of DAV to receive the assistance, which is offered at no cost or obligation.