Two disabled Greenwood veterans are working to build awareness of disability benefits in a neighboring community.
And, if needed, they want to revive the Columbus Disabled American Veterans Chapter 31, which disbanded in 2006 due to declining participation.
“A lot of the veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan don’t know much about the DAV,” said Dan Westfall, adjutant of DAV Chapter 60 in Greenwood.
That chapter now serves Bartholomew County, which has about 700 disabled veterans, according to Virgil Tim Kappes, junior vice commander of the Greenwood chapter.
Westfall and Kappes said some of the other military service organizations do not provide the disability-related help that the DAV does.
Getting full military-related disability benefits sometimes takes considerable time and strong advocacy from a DAV chapter, the two said. Kappes waited eight years for benefits for various illnesses related to his exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.
Westfall waited more than 30 years for his benefits.
“I believe that veterans helping veterans is the only way people are going to get the help they need,” Kappes said.
Reviving a chapter in Columbus and gauging sufficient interest to sustain a group would take more than a year, according to Westfall and Kappes. So, for now, they want to act as liaisons for the disabled returning home.
“You can get into a lot of red tape if you’re not careful,” Kappes said.
Columbus resident Paul Meier, 69, who served in Vietnam, struggled through red tape for 35 years before he got benefits due to him related to his diabetes. That came in 2000.
“You just learn to keep knocking on the door to get things you need,” Meier said.
Columbus resident Rick Caldwell is the commander of Amvets Post 509 here and also first vice commander of Amvets of Indiana.
He said he would guess that other military organizations such as the American Legion, Amvets and the Veterans of Foreign Wars “have picked up the ball” to help local veterans with their needs.
He said he participated infrequently in the DAV chapter here.
“Getting the required participation is the problem,” Caldwell said, highlighting regulations that a DAV chapter must have 10 active members.
“There are a lot of criteria that must be met other than people showing up.”