Contributing Writer
Robert Houston

Veterans are generally as concerned about their fellow vets as they are about themselves. This is a good and compassionate thing, but it can cost the veteran many benefits to which he is fully entitled. Greg Carlson, Director of the Veterans Service Agency, 610 W. Third Street in Jamestown, explained.

“A lot of times we see vets who tell us they don’t want to check on their benefits because they think that, if they receive the benefits, they’re taking something away from a fellow vet who needs it more.” 

That, Carlson said, “is one hundred percent not true. It’s a misconception that can hurt a veteran. Every vet is entitled to all the benefits for which they are eligible.”

If you’re a veteran, you should at least check out the potential benefits you might receive.

“I can’t put a number to how many vets I’ve seen who believe they are not qualified for property tax benefits, benefits for injuries, help for surviving spouses who require assistance with the tasks of daily living. There are so many different areas of help available.”

In short, Carlson said, “Finding out your benefits could change your life significantly.”

A Long List

Far too many veterans are not aware of the long list of benefits they may be entitled to receive from the Veterans Administration, Carlson said.

He and his staff can help vets learn what benefits they are eligible for and assist them with the paperwork necessary to file their claims.

“We take them through the full list, top to bottom,” he said, “and focus on what they might not be aware of but that they may need.”

The two most common areas of need are pensions and disability compensation. A third area in which the agency helps is with VA Health Care issues. In addition, there are many more benefits available.

But folks need to be aware that the Veterans Service Agency is not the Veterans Administration.

“We can’t just pull up your VA records. But we are accredited VA representatives. We can file claims on behalf of our veterans.”

To take advantage of the service, which is free, vets should call (716) 661-8255 to schedule an appointment. 

Best Way To File A Claim

“The best way to file a claim is through an accredited service officer, not an attorney and not an organization that charges a fee,” the agency director said. “We work full time, five days a week, helping veterans. That’s all we do. We know all the intricacies and requirements of making claims.”

There are other organizations and attorneys that file claims on behalf of veterans, Carlson said, but they are not accredited by the VA. However, there may be circumstances in which an attorney may be the right choice.

“You would want to use an attorney if you are going beyond a basic claim to the Board of Veteran Appeals in Washington, D.C.”

In that case, a judge there will hear your case.

Serving A Different Way:
Elks Give Free Dinner

Serving servicemen and women is a tradition with the Jamestown Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Number 263. It’s a tradition that will, this year, reach the century mark

“We believe we are the longest consecutive celebration in the country,” said Jim Murphy, a 40-year member of the Elks. 

It began on Armistice Day, November 11, 1919.

“The Ira Lou Spring American Legion Post Firing Squad showed up that morning at Third and Main streets downtown,” Murphy related. “They shot off a volley to celebrate the occasion.”

At that time, the Elks were meeting above a store on North Main Street.

“They heard the noise and wondered what the heck was going on,” Murphy said. After a squad member explained the situation, “the Elks said well, we’ll come out a celebrate with you.” 

With that accomplished, the squad was invited inside to share breakfast.

“They were served pancakes, sausage, and eggs,” Murphy said. As everyone was enjoyed to meal, he said, “one of the Legion guys said, kiddingly, let’s do this again next year, and that’s how our tradition was born. And pancakes, sausage, and eggs is what we still serve today.”

They Will Not Be Forgotten

The free-meal tradition follows an Elks motto: As long as there is a veteran, they will not be forgotten.

For a long time, the Order served about three hundred meals. But now, many World War II vets having died, that number is closer to a hundred seventy-five. Plus, Murphy said, other veterans organizations are now celebrating and offering services, where the BPOE used to be the only one doing it.

“This is absolutely a good thing for our vets,” Murphy said.

The free meal is for the veteran only. They do not need to show their  DD214 or other ID.

For veterans interested in attending the lunch time meal, it begins at 11:30 a.m. and runs to about 1 p.m. at the Elks building on Fourth Street in Jamestown.

Former Exalted Rulers of the BPOE, Abraham Rosenberg, left, who served in the Army, and Bob Finley, who served in the Air Force, stand before the American Flag and the flag at the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Post 263, in Jamestown.
Veterans Memorial Park in Jamestown honors the service and sacrifices of all veterans in all the wars America has fought.