From the Field Service Staff

 

Helping deserving veterans to secure the benefits they have earned through their service can be a daunting task. This is the case for even the strongest of heart and for the most competent of professionals.

The task is especially overwhelming to veterans and their families who are attempting to go it alone. Such was the experience of an Army veteran who fought in the Battle of the Bulge and in the Korean conflict.

"For several years, we were totally on our own and didn't at all know to whom or to where we should turn," said Margaret Fredmonski of Moosic, Pennsylvania, in a recent letter to BVA National Headquarters.

Margaret's late husband, Adam, was a former bus driver. Later in life he became legally blind over the span of approximately one year due to macular degeneration. He eventually sought additional disability compensation for an osteoarthritic condition connected to his military service.

"We would complete the paperwork and get the process started, only to be frustrated by repeated denials," said Margaret.

On the advice of a VA social worker, Margaret contacted a gentleman working out of a VA regional office in Philadelphia—a man she now calls a godsend. The man was then BVA Field Service Representative Ed Eckroth. Over a short period of time, Ed provided the assistance the Fredmonskis needed to increase the percentage of service-connected disability compensation he had earned as a result of his service.

"Ed not only helped us navigate the VA bureaucracy with his knowledge and competence of the system that approves or denies these disability claims, but he also became our advocate and our friend through his kindness and understanding."

At the time, Ed was one of seven BVA Field Service Representatives strategically placed throughout the United States. The Field Reps and several additional Volunteer National Service Officers (VNSOs), all blind, make themselves accessible to blinded veterans, helping them take the first steps in adjusting to blindness. They provide inspiration, encouragement, and practical help in working with VA claims and benefits, even when the claim might not be directly tied to blindness. They also serve as a link to some of the most relevant technological advances and to the practical use of the latest technology.

There is no fee for the services of BVA Field Reps and VNSOs, regardless of whether the blinded veteran seeking the help has ever joined the organization as a member.

Reprinted from a release distributed by North American Precis Syndicate. Highlights of recent work by the BVA Field Service staff will now be a permanent fixture in the Bulletin. As such, a name for this new column is in order. Please email your suggestions for a permanent headline to snelson@bva.org. The winning entry and its creator will be announced in the upcoming Winter issue.