DAV Skill Gets Quick Rating for Veteran
Indianapolis National Service Office Assistant Supervisor Donald Inns, left, visits Charles Welch and his wife, Jean, right, as the Vietnam veteran recovers at an Indiana nursing home.
As Vietnam veteran Charles Welch lay in a hospital bed recovering from a massive stroke and neurosurgery, he urgently asked to notify Indianapolis National Service Office Assistant Supervisor Donald Inns of his condition and tell him to take care of the veterans he had referred to DAV.
With his left side paralyzed by the stroke and unable to clearly speak, Welch struggled for a week to write a message to his wife, Jean, to call DAV. Then Welch’s daughter, Kristina Welch Sandrick, recognized he was writing “DAV.”
“He kept putting Donald Inns name on the dry-erase board,” said Welch’s wife, Jean. “It was hard to read at first, and we finally realized what he was telling us.”
“I had introduced Inns to many other veterans who needed claims help,” Welch explained. “After I suffered the stroke, I was very insistent that Jean get in touch with him. I kept trying to tell her to call Don.
“My concern was not about me,” he added. “It’s the mission of DAV to help veterans, but I couldn’t assist at this point.” The 64-year-old Navy veteran and member of Chapter 2 in Bedford, Ind., had used DAV claims representation in 2008 for Agent Orange-related service connection for Type II diabetes, with secondary disabilities, and was thoroughly impressed with DAV’s services.
“After that, I routinely brought others to DAV because they needed service for their claims,” said Welch. “You have brother and sister veterans who need help, and I did my best by directing them to Don and the Indianapolis office staff. These are deserving veterans who needed DAV’s skills.”
Welch spoke to Inns on Jan. 8 about a dependency and indemnity compensation claim for a 26-year-old widow of an Afghanistan War veteran. Two days later, he was stricken by the stroke, which was so damaging that doctors recommended the family say their farewells. Intervention with successful neurosurgery saved his life.
“Mr. Welch had no way of knowing that he would be in need of our services so soon after his experience in 2008,” Inns said. “He had escorted the young widow to my office and was discussing a potential fundraiser for DAV when we last spoke. He was always there for others; DAV would be there in his hour of need.”
Inns promptly turned to new VA tools to expedite his claim. First submitting an informal fully developed claim (FDC) to obtain the earliest possible effective date, he then instructed the family to begin gathering the necessary paperwork from hospitals and physicians linking the stroke to Welch’s service-connected disabilities. “We worked closely with Mrs. Welch to obtain copies of the private medical records and guided her on seeking a favorable medical opinion,” said Inns.
He said the evidence was received and evaluated Jan. 24, and he submitted the formal FDC Jan. 31. The award for total disability came Feb. 22. “As of Feb. 25, the Indianapolis VA regional office had 21,479 claims pending,” said Inns. “The average wait for claims pending was 301 days. The average to complete a claim was 342 days. But of the 722 FDCs pending, the average wait was 80 days. Once Mr. Welch’s FDC was received, it was rated properly in 22 days.”
“DAV worked very closely with the VA to develop the FDC process,” said Washington Headquarters Executive Director Barry Jesinoski. “The results in this case show how the new system works at its best. I’m confident that this system will continue to work well for veterans who can meet the requirements.”
“Our National Service Officers provided their professional skills and experience advising the VA during the development of the FDC process,” said National Service Director Garry Augustine. “Their skills and hands-on training have proven that some claims can be decided quickly and accurately. Getting it right the first time is the key to obtaining benefits earned by our veterans. It can save veterans a lot of worry.”
Welch realized after his surgery that he was not in a VA facility and worried about the cost of his care. “He thought that the VA would not cover his stay or recovery,” said daughter Kristina. “During a visit to the nursing home, Inns explained that since he wasn’t well enough to transfer to a VA facility, his medical and rehabilitation costs would be covered by VA. Dad wrote ‘You’re a great man, Don’ and relieved and exhausted, he fell asleep.”
“Obtaining the new disability rating has meant that I can get good care for Chuck,” said Jean. “I’ve driven 3,000 miles while he’s being cared for at the nursing home, and it has helped pay for the gas.
“Don Inns has been very helpful and very caring,” she added. “He has many veterans to care for, and he has a lot of responsibilities. I can’t praise him enough for his personal care.”
“I came to DAV to turn my avocation into my vocation, and my passion into my profession,” said Inns. “It is what I was called to do. Successfully and swiftly resolving cases such as Mr. Welch’s is what keeps me motivated and moving forward.”
Undergoing daily care and physical rehabilitation, Welch can now speak clearly. His love and concern for the veterans he brought to DAV continues to be a focus of his attention. “I feel they are very fortunate to have DAV helping them.”
“I’ve never seen people work so hard for veterans,” Welch said. “My claim was approved very quickly. Don told Jean what paperwork the VA needed, and the claim flew through.
“DAV is a great organization working for veterans who are ill and injured,” he said. “Veterans are very fortunate to have DAV.”
“Clearly, the quick intervention and professional case work provided by DAV greatly reduced the review time of this claim,” said Jesinoski. “Three weeks with an accurate decision is an achievement.”
“We’re delighted to learn that the FDC process is working well and meeting our expectations,” said Augustine. “We wanted this plan to work and to succeed in reducing the claims backlog. When claims of this magnitude can be decided quickly, we know we and the VA have accomplished a milestone.”