“There are myriad different considerations and potential obstacles when pursuing benefits through the Department of Veteran Affairs,” said Paul Chandler, Fannin County Veteran Services Officer (VSO). “Do not attempt the claims process on your own. Contact a certified or accredited Veteran Services Officer in your county for assistance or a Texas Veterans Commission Claims Advisor. We are available to help the claimant navigate these oftentimes complicated processes.”
Assisting veterans, their dependents and family members in determining what benefits they may be eligible for and helping them pursue those benefits is priority for Fannin County Veteran Services. Among services provided are consultation, pursuit of disability and pension claims, survivors’ benefits, burial and memorial benefits and formal responses of disagreement including appeals. Further, Chandler helps with referrals to non-VA agencies that may provide more appropriate solutions for certain needs.
Officed at the Sam Rayburn Memorial Veterans Center in Bonham, the Fannin County Veteran Services Office is active in its region. It partners closely with Texoma Council of Governments (TCOG), specifically its Aging and Disabilities Resource Center of Texoma; the Texoma Community Center and nearby Grayson College.
In addition to being his county’s VSO, Chandler, a Marine Corps veteran, serves his community as part of the treatment team of the North Texas Regional Veterans Treatment Court, works with Grayson College Veteran Advisory Committee and the Sam Rayburn Memorial Veterans Center’s Veterans Experience Committee.
Being connected with his community brings veterans to his office. Chandler recalled how the operations director of the Sam Rayburn Memorial Veterans Center directed a veteran he met fishing to the Fannin VSO.
“The veteran had been carrying a crushing amount of emotional baggage due to a series of incidents, one in particular that occurred during his combat tour in Vietnam. He was unable to maintain gainful employment due to his very serious post-traumatic stress disorder. After decades of trying to manage this on his own, it had finally taken its toll on him personally and professionally. Additionally, his wife had been battling cancer and unable to work. They had accumulated hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical debt. They were exhausted. Frighteningly, he had given serious consideration to self-harm,” said Chandler.
Things changed for the better for the veteran, after visiting the Fannin County VSO.
“He came in to see me. We aggressively pursued claims on his behalf, and while doing so, he finally embraced the idea of pursuing mental health care,” said Chandler. “He is now participating in counseling right here at the Bonham VAMC. He can’t speak highly enough of his mental health providers and staff. He is also now service connected at 100%. He and his wife are no longer living in fear of losing their home, those precious things that they’ve spent a lifetime collecting together or wondering where their next meal will come from. He looks fantastic!”
Chandler advises those filing claims to research filing responsibilities as well as potential benefits and actively overseeing the process.
“Filing a claim with the Department of Veteran Affairs is a formal, serious process, and this process requires responsible and serious oversight. I explain to my clients that each claim is a project that requires dedicated project management. I am available and eager to provide guidance, consultation, and direction based on my knowledge, skills, and experience. However, each claimant must be vigorously involved in the process to the extent that they are able.”
Pictured is Paul Chandler, Fannin County VSO.