Benefits advocates deliver on DAV’s promise

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Jim Marszalek photo
Jim Marszalek, National Service Director

Despite the challenges we faced, our national service officers and other DAV benefits advocates adapted and overcame throughout the pandemic to ensure veterans and their families received assistance—and they continue to do an incredible job meeting the needs of our clients.

Early in 2020, when nationwide shutdowns included VA regional offices, DAV was quick to respond by starting a main voice over internet toll-free phone number. Working in a new capacity, these benefits advocates answered the calls from across the country from wherever they were working.

They used internet phone technology to connect with people seeking assistance without any disruptions and often leveraged their own personal technology when offices closed, rising to meet the challenges of remote work.

Our commitment to disabled veterans and their families never wavered, thanks to our many teams of dedicated service officers. I’m proud to recognize the work they’ve continued to do.

DAV’s Rhode Island office supervisor Mike Zibrida stepped up, leading by example when offices closed. He set the tone for how DAV connected with people seeking assistance—even when we couldn’t meet with veterans face to face. Zibrida took it as a personal goal to ensure a human voice, not a recording, greeted as many callers as possible. Our benefits advocates showed they could work remotely when required to do so without a lag in service. And Kevin Noel, the assistant supervisor in Pittsburgh, also deserves recognition for doing a fine job making and taking a heavy volume of calls.

Since April 2020, there have been 287,385 veterans and their family members assisted using the 100 voice over internet phone lines. This has been a truly difficult time, and while our service officers have been back in the office for several months, the situation has been—and continues to be—evolving, which requires teamwork, innovation and flexibility.

Another example of our benefits advocates adjusting on the fly was the creation of a portal that streamlined the process so that all field offices could process requests more quickly for COVID-19 unemployment relief. The COVID-19 Unemployment Relief Fund, established in April 2020, provided financial aid to service-connected disabled veterans who lost employment or income in the wake of the virus’s outbreak. From April 2020 to April 2021, over $2.1 million in COVID-19 unemployment relief was distributed to disabled veterans in need.

DAV’s dedicated professional benefits advocates know how to be flexible. They have found new ways to stay in touch with veterans and their families in their times of need. No matter what the future holds or how veterans need change, I am confident in our team’s ability to rise to the challenge.