New in 2018: DAV provided free benefits assistance at National Disabled Veterans TEE Tournament

Last month, the National Disabled Veterans TEE (Training, Exposure, Experience) Tournament in Iowa marked 25 years of serving veterans through adaptive sports. But there was one new feature added to the event this year—DAV benefits advocate Robert Peterson was onsite to aid veterans access to benefits earned in uniform.

“DAV has long offered claims assistance at the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, another adaptive sporting event co-hosted with VA,” explained National Voluntary Services Director John Kleindienst. “We just came onboard as the co-host for the TEE Tournament last year, and bringing our renowned claims service was an important addition to veteran participants.”

The TEE Tournament provides legally blind and eligible disabled veterans an opportunity to develop new skills and strengthen their self-esteem through adaptive golf and other rehabilitative activities—all which demonstrate visual or physical disabilities aren’t obstacles to an active, rewarding life. Nearly 250 veterans participated in the event.

Peterson served in the Army from 1987 to 1997, and joined DAV following his honorable discharge. He is a national service officer based out of the Des Moines, Iowa VA Regional Office and spent three days at the event answering veterans’ questions about disability claims and other earned benefits.

One of those veterans was Terri Clark, a visually impaired veteran from Rockford, Ill. She has made the trek to Iowa for the TEE Tournament six times and enjoys golfing, but horseback riding is her favorite therapeutic activity each year.

“I also enjoy the atmosphere and meeting new people,” explained Clark. “And I learn about the different technologies for blind veterans, and I learn how and where to get help.”

Peterson was able to assist Clark in refiling a claim. While serving in the Army, Clark had to undergo what she thought would be a standard procedure to relieve carpal tunnel pain. A mistake with the surgery resulted in her being medevaced home from Germany five years later. Bone had to be shaved from her hip to supplement her ulna, resulting in issues walking. Clark said that as time goes on, the pain has only increased, and the mobility and strength in her dominant hand has decreased.

“I was telling Rob, it’s not something that happened yesterday, it’s a continuous pain I deal with every day,” said Clark.

After meeting with Clark and understanding her needs, Peterson secured power of attorney and submitted a claim on her behalf.

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. Peterson, who leads DAV’s efforts in Iowa, has supported veterans as a claims specialist for over 20 years.

“I know how important it is to know there is someone who cares about them and is always willing to help,” said Peterson. “A lot of the veterans I met with at the TEE Tournament had been working on their claim alone for years. I was honored to lessen their burden and help them.”

Clark agrees that navigating the claims system is not easy.

“It’s very overwhelming,” said Clark, who explained difficulty with the claims process is compounded by dealing with life after injury. “You get depressed because it’s inhibited your way of life. I can’t do the things I used to do.”

Like all DAV national service officers, Peterson is a disabled veteran and has been through the claims process himself.

“I enjoy helping others, especially when I know what they are going through from past experiences of my own,” said Peterson. “It’s important veterans know that no matter where they are located, DAV is standing by to help.”

Clark said she was grateful for Peterson’s assistance, and showed her support for her fellow veterans.

“I want to be a DAV member.”

Veterans don’t have to join DAV or be at an adaptive sports event to receive no-cost assistance with their claim. Find your nearest national service office at