Helping our Homeless Veterans

By Tito A. Cortez

We work closely with the Homeless Veterans Emergency Housing Facility at 10 Kirk Avenue known to many of us as the Kirk House in San Jose, California.  And we were lucky because after 2 years, we were able to help our First Homeless Veteran received a 100% disability rating.  

Additionally, with the help of our Brother Kevin Martin, a Veteran Homeless Peer Counselor with VA Palo Alto Health Care System and Menlo Park, our caseloads have, over the last three months, catapulted to over 90 homeless Veteran brothers and sisters coming to VSSA to apply for service connected disability compensation claim.  Thank you, Kevin.  Brother, this is your mission.

When we were serving, we made a promise to never let anyone of our brothers and sisters left behind especially during war.  The same should be true now that our brothers and sisters are Veterans.   

And we are highly thankful of our brothers and sisters in Monterey County, Fort Ord, California, for continuing to help our Homeless Brothers and Sisters by sponsoring their 3rd Annual Stand Down to be held in August 19, 2016 to August 21, 2016. If you can spare a little bit of time, please go to or call Marlene at 831-883-8387 x 238. 

We are also very excited of Ms. Marion Moses, Director of the County Veterans Service Office of Santa Clara County in announcing before the Veterans Voices of Santa Clara County that she and her office will be sponsoring a Stand Down for our Homeless Veterans in Santa Clara County and Silicon Valley in the near future.  Thank you, Ms. Moses for caring and sponsoring a Stand Down in Santa Clara County.

Why Wear a Veteran Hat

By Tito A. Cortez

Veterans, my brothers, and sisters, often wonder why I always wear my Veteran hat.  

My brother Don, who is a Vietnam War Disabled Veteran with the United States Navy, told me he doesn't want to wear any Veteran hat because he doesn't want to be recognized as a Veteran.  My other brother George, on the other hand, who is a peace-time Veteran, doesn't wear his Veteran hat because as he said, "I didn't do nothing."

The biggest generation ever to fight the War, our WWII Veterans. love to wear their hat.  My Filipino WW II Veteran brother said he loves wearing his Veteran hat because as he stated, "I am proud to have fought for our freedom."

Well, I love wearing my Vietnam War Veteran Hat because I am proud of having served our country and I am not ashamed of having served in Vietnam with the United States Army. 

In fact, I'm not ashamed to tell my brothers and sisters that as unpopular as it was,  I volunteered and joined the Army during the Vietnam War.  And to show you how proud I am, I  own over 20 Vietnam Veteran hats I have collected over the years.  

According to the VA Profile of Veterans: 2014, there are 19,386,589 (231,986,987 non-Veterans) Veterans, who served in our Armed Forces.  Wouldn't it be awesome, when at any given day, at any given time, you meet an individual who is wearing a WWII Veteran Hat, Korean War Hat, Vietnam War Hat, US Army, US Navy, USMC, Coast Guard, Air Force, Iraq Veteran, Afghanistan Veteran, Gulf War Veteran etc...

Imagine, we will be visible and wouldn't it be nice to know there are many of us who were willing to sacrifice our lives so others can enjoy our freedom.  

So, my brothers and sisters, the next time you are wearing a sports hat or a team hat or whatever, how about changing it to a Veteran's hat and be proud of what you are--a Veteran who was willing to sacrifice everything because what is the use of living without our freedom.  

But according to my brother, Frank, who is also a Vietnam War Disabled Veteran with the US Army, it is our choice as to whether or not we want to wear our Veteran hat.  After all, he said, "we served to preserve one of our most precious freedoms-- our freedom of choice".


Time Wasters...

By Tito A. Cortez

A Veteran who, while serving in Vietnam, as one therapist worker in writing this Veteran's Nexus letter,  served with the "First Cavaliers ... and the Rice Patties".  

Being a Vietnam War Disabled Veteran myself, and if you served at all, you can tell by now that he served with at least the First Cavalry Division, and in fact, engaged in some firefights, not in rice patties (hamburger anyone?) but in rice paddies.  

Or just by looking at this write up, you could also guess he could have served with the 101st Air Cavalry Division. This "Therapist's" writing resulted in this Veteran receiving a denial for his service connected disability claim for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Even though this Veteran didn't received an award for PTSD, he decided to remain with this agency with the hope of having different result the next time around.  The next time around was no different.  This Therapist, who claimed to be a Navy Combat Veteran having served aboard a Destroyer, wasted his time, the Veterans time (3 more years before rated) and most of all, wasted the VA times.  This Therapist works for the VA and he should know better.
Somehow through word of mouth, this Veteran found out about us. He came to see us on April 9, 2015.  What we found out was a highly decorated soldier and in his record, this Veteran served with Co. A., 101st Aviation Battalion,  101st Air Cavalry and later on to 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, not "First Cavaliers". When we looked at his record, he wasn't even diagnosed with PTSD even though this Therapist declared otherwise. 

As most us should know in order to be approved with service connected disability based on PTSD, the Veteran has to be diagnosed, preferably by a VA Psychiatrist not a "Therapist".  Additionally, the Veteran must complete a stressor validating the traumatic events he was claiming.  His previous claims contained neither of these.

So when this Vietnam War Veteran came to us, our first step is to arrange for him to have an appointment with a VA Psychiatrist and be diagnosed.  The next thing was to assist the Veteran in completing a Stressor and partner with him the rest of the way until his mission was completed.

He came to us on April 9, 2015, and by June 6, 2016, he received his 100% service connected disability compensation.  Even those who served with "First Cavaliers", sometimes when corrected could received what they richly deserved.  

Whatever the governmental slogan is in helping us, Veterans, to this "Cavaliers" VA staff, helping our veterans is a job, a career and money to pay the bills.  To us, on the other hand,  it is our mission.  We don't get paid to help others reach their mission.  We go with them and accompany them along the way until the mission is accomplished.

And we tried very hard not to be a time waster.

Another time waster...

wasting time.jpg

By Tito A Cortez

The other day, a Veteran came to us for help with his service connected disability compensation claim.  He initially filed a claim for several injuries. However, all of his claim were denied. As most of us know that when you received an award letter (claim denial), included is an attachment of a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) form for appeal.  The VA is telling you if you disagree with their decision, it is your right to appeal. 

Because this Veteran disagreed with the VA's denial, he completed this NOD form and appealed all of the VA's decision.   Subsequently he mailed this completed form to the VA. 

One of the denied claims he appealed was his claim for individual unemployability.

During our interview, we asked him if he is retired.  He responded by saying he is working full-time. We asked why he applied for individual unemployability and he said his friend told him he could.  And when the VA denied his claim for unemployability, once again, his friend also told him to file an appeal.  

Without smiling, we told him that unemployability claims are for those who are no longer working and who have attained a disability rating of one disability at a minimum of 60% or if more than two, a rating of at least 70%, one of which must be 40%.  Or if you don't have this rating, you could submit your claim to the Director, Compensation and Pension Service, for extra circular consideration. 
But the VA will not consider his individual unemployability claim because he is still yet to be rated.  You have to have a disability rating before you could claim individual unemployability. 

Sometimes in life, we need to use our common sense.  When asked if this Veteran can apply for unemployment benefits, he responded by saying no because he is working full time.  

What makes him think the VA will approved his unemployability claim while working full time and at the same time yet to be rated.

Do you think this Veteran has a chance for the Appeal Board to overturn his denied claim for unemployabilty?  If we use our common sense, we don't do something this stupid.  This Veteran had a long wait for nothing.

In the process, he wasted his time in applying, especially for unemployability because he is still working full-time.  This is one example of the many things a Veteran might do in applying without knowing what he is doing. 

In the process, he wasted valuable time from the VA because as each of us know, the VA must process each claim submitted by Veteran because the VA is mandated to process every Veteran's claim for compensation.  

We all could help the VA's backlog by knowing what we are doing, and if we don't know what we are doing, ask for help from someone who knows.

Applying without knowing could in the end become a tremendous time waster, wasting valuable time that could be devoted to a brother or sister Veteran who has a bona fide claim.  

VSSA and Service Disability Compensation

By Tito A. Cortez

VSSA was established in January 27, 2011 and is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a 501c3 Internal Revenue Code (IRC) charitable private nonprofit organization.  Staffed primarily by volunteers and with a primary mission of helping US Armed Forces Veterans and families in submitting their claim for service connected disability compensation, VSSA has helped over 1,200 clients resulting in over 120 of them receiving total disability rating of 100%.  In monetary terms, each of these 120 Disabled Veterans is receiving over $3,000 a month or $36,000 a year, tax free.  

Collectively, there are many more who are rated 90% and below, and if you translate those whom we have helped and now receiving compensation, you could readily see the impact on our Veterans family as well the impact on our local economy.  Nonetheless, VA compensations are truly life changing. 

The government always refers clients to each other.  Because we are not part of them, because we are nonprofit, VSSA will always be the last place to visit when Veterans are not satisfied of the help they received in completing their application for service connected disability compensation.  Time and again, many have tried other governmental places only to receive needed forms and were told to return when completed.   And some never returned.

At times, it seemed that public agencies only care to put Veterans info into their system for service statistics, symbolizing they helped a Veteran today.  They don't care about the results of their helping.  And not caring means much lip services were provided and in the process, not too many Veterans get the help they needed. 

Those who didn't get the help they needed sometimes find VSSA, a  small nonprofit agency, staffed by volunteers and yet currently managing over 1,200 clients.  With a governmental budget 70 times VSSA, our counterpart has a full time director, 5 case managers, several support staff and managing 2,500 clients.  Now, you can understand why we are the Equalizer.  We are the alternative.

What is compensation?  

A disability compensation is a monthly monetary benefit paid to Veterans who are determined by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to be disabled by an injury or illness that was incurred or aggravated during active military service.  These disabilities are considered to be service connected.  To be eligible for compensation, a Veteran must have been separated or discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. 

How can you qualify for a service disability compensation?  

First and foremost, you must have suffered an injury or injuries while serving in the military and you have documented medical evidence that in fact these injuries happened while you were serving and now they are becoming worse.  

If you claim to have suffered an injury while serving, you must still be diagnosed, preferably, by a VA Medical Doctor ensuring your injury is worse than ever. If you have recovered from your injury, you probably don't have a claim for service connected disability compensation. Should you file, your claim would probably be denied.