An accredited national service officer is now available to assist the approximately 2,800 veterans, including 600 women, in Bryan County with applying for benefits they may be entitled to receive.
Retired U.S. Army Maj. Paul Conley has completed hours of training to receive the accreditation and is certified with the Veterans Administration, Disabled Veterans of America and Vietnam Veterans of America. His office at 123 S. Second Ave. in Durant and is open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday.
Conley said most of the veterans seeking benefits now are Vietnam veterans who served over 40 years ago and are now having diseases associated with the chemical Agent Orange used in the defoliation of forests and jungle canopy during the war.
“Many of our veterans don’t seek benefits because they have no idea they are eligible do to all the changes in legislation since they were discharged many years ago,” said Conley. “These are benefits they have earned, and we are here to help them understand and apply if they are eligible.”
A recent change in benefits for Oklahoma veterans is a law making those who served during peacetime eligible for the same state benefits as those who served during wartime. Those benefits will include giving them the same status when applying for nursing-home assistance at the seven veteran homes in the state. They would also be eligible for tax-free status on sales and property tax if they were 100 percent disabled.
While most of the county’s veterans are from the Vietnam War, there are still a few World War II and Korean War veterans who have applied for benefits, including three for radiation exposure from related work on the atom bomb.
“Widows of veterans should also know they may be eligible for benefits when their spouse dies,” said Conley. “It their spouse was receiving benefits from retirement or disability they should check to see they could qualify to receive any benefits.”
Conley can be reached at (580) 380-1278 or email at Cptpaul@gmail.com.