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".


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.