DAV claims expert providing free claims service at the VA and DAV co-hosted National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic

DAV National Area Supervisor and Marine Corps veteran Carmen McGinnis will provide free benefits assistance during the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic.

A Marine Corps veteran and professional benefits advocate is returning to the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic to help participants access the benefits they earned in uniform.

Co-hosted by DAV and the VA in the scenic mountains of Snowmass, Colo., the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic is an adaptive sporting event where severely ill and injured veterans can challenge themselves through winter sports such as skiing or sled hockey. Veterans rediscover abilities, regain strength and courage and test the limits of what they believe to be possible.

Carmen McGinnis is a national service officer based out of the Denver VA Regional Office and will be at the event April 3 to 5 answering veterans’ questions about disability claims and other earned benefits.

Claims assistance is DAV’s primary service for veterans. DAV represented more than 250,000 claims for benefits in 2017 alone, helping veterans receive more than $4.3 billion in retroactive and annual benefits. McGinnis, an expert who leads DAV’s efforts for the region, helped 15 claimants last year at the clinic.

McGinnis says that she understands firsthand the challenges veterans face navigating an often complicated benefits process. She enjoys helping fellow veterans overcome obstacles in the claims process. She added that it is personally rewarding, as well.

“As a veteran, you get out and sometimes you feel like you can’t connect with anyone,” said McGinnis. “I find that I am at home with DAV because it gives me a sense of purpose and I feel very fortunate to be able to change lives. I have a direct influence on the quality of life of our claimants, every single day.”

McGinnis made an appointment to enlist the day after her 17th birthday.

“So many people told me I either wouldn’t do it or couldn’t do it and that made me more determined to prove them wrong,” McGinnis said of her choice to join the Marine Corps. She wanted to follow in the footsteps of her uncle who served as a door gunner in Vietnam.

The afternoon of September 11, 2001, McGinnis made her way to the recruiter’s office, undeterred by the devastating events that occurred that morning. On that historic day, she committed herself to what has become a lifelong dedication to service.

McGinnis served as a radar repairman with ballistic missile defense, deploying to southwest Afghanistan in 2004. She was then accepted to the competitive Marine Security Guard School, subsequently serving as a security guard at the American embassies in Paris, France; Colombo, Sri Lanka and the U.S. Consulate in Munich, Germany. She was assigned to special details in 12 countries to assist the Secret Service in protecting classified material during VIP travel.

However, an injury from Afghanistan impacted her work as a Marine Security Guard and it played a major role in McGinnis’ choice to separate from the Marine Corps in 2008 after six years of honorable service.

Yet she still felt compelled to continue serving, and McGinnis began working at DAV as a claims specialist in 2011, and has been helping her fellow veterans ever since.

“I feel that I’ve survived what I’ve survived for a reason: to learn that my real strength comes from helping others,” McGinnis told White House staff during an interview in 2017. “I absolutely love that I get to wake up every day and help change people’s lives. Not many people can say that.”

Not attending the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic? You can still get complimentary assistance with your claim. Find the nearest national service office here: https://www.dav.org/veterans/find-your-local-office.