As a recent medical retiree, Maj. Heri Marrero is thankful he sought the free services of the Wounded Warrior Project to help him navigate the complicated, time-consuming and often frustrating process of filing benefit claims.
Marrero, who served 25 years in the military, and was stationed at Fort Stewart, took part in a benefits services day for injured veterans transitioning from active duty to their new normal in the civilian world.
Assistance was offered from Monday through Thursday on the base, attracting more than 350 military personnel.
“I recommend these people (the Wounded Warrior Project) 100 percent for VA claims,” Marrero said. “Lawyers can be very expensive … this is free.”
Julio Quinones, a field representative for the Wounded Warrior Project added, “The idea is to get our brothers and sisters the best VA benefits they are entitled to. Like he (Marrero) mentioned, it’s a free service. They have already paid the price (through their military service).”
Working closely with each agency, the benefits service team walks injured veterans, family members, and caregivers through every step of the transition process, ensuring claims are filed and processed correctly – the first time.
“I had 20 (medical) conditions,” Marrero said. “And I was recognized for 90 percent of them,” thanks to the Wounded Warrior Project assistance.
Senior service officer Jack Johnson, from the Wounded Warrior Project, Tampa office, was on hand to help, stressing the importance of active-duty personnel to file early and accurately for best results.
“It’s important to guide them through the paperwork now before they get out,” Johnson said. “It’s harder when they are out.”
Marrero said he first attempted to process the claims on his own and found it “frustrating” because the VA rep he met with didn’t go over his medical records in full. “They relied on what you bring,” he said. The Wounded Warrior Project team makes sure the veteran’s paperwork is complete.
“They were connecting the dots before I submitted the claim,” Marrero said.
Johnson said the program’s success rate for getting veterans what they deserve is high -- about 91 percent of medical issues were approved by the VA in 2017, amounting to $85.4 million in benefits.
“We make sure all boxes are checked before sending it,” Johnson said. “If the case is not good enough to be approved, we don’t file.”
He added, “Several of us have worked at the VA and know what they want.”
According to the organization:
* Wounded Warrior Project has conducted briefings to more than 350 service members from the Fort Stewart Warrior Transition Battalion, Welcome Center, Soldier For Life Transition Assistance Program, Soldier and Family Assistance Center, and other installation locations.
* From the benefits briefings, Wounded Warrior Project has conducted more than 50 one-on-one, VA benefits interviews and registered more than 30 warriors with the organization.
* Unlike traditional models of veterans’ services, the benefits services program takes a comprehensive approach to the claims process. Staff works individually with injured veterans to understand their unique needs, provide information and education on the claims process, advise them of benefits options, file benefits claims, help to obtain necessary evidence, and stay connected with them through the life cycle of the claim.
If you missed the sessions, don’t worry. Wounded Warrior Project will be conducting quarterly benefits briefings for service members at Fort Stewart.