Veterans’ Corner: Advocating for Veterans: Moore County VSO Helps Navigate VA Claims

by Jim Pedersen, VSO & Director of Moore County Veterans Service Office

Over 10,000 veterans of all ages call Moore County home. Many of our county veterans live with military service-related disabilities that may qualify them for compensation from the Veterans Administration (VA). The Moore County Veterans Service Office in Carthage helps our county vets navigate the confusing, and often frustrating, VA system so they can take advantage of the benefits they earned through their military service. 

Moore County’s Veterans office is one of 93 such offices throughout the state. These local offices are not part of the Federal Veterans Administration, but are funded through county property taxes. Because the county office is independent of the VA, staff members cannot make any decisions on disability claims or determine monetary benefits or disability ratings, nor do they provide any medical services. Rather, the county office plays a unique role as an advocacy agency for veterans and their families.

Through face-to-face appointments, Moore County’s three full-time, nationally-accredited Veterans Service Officers (VSOs) help veterans identify disabling service-connected health conditions which may qualify them for VA benefits. The VSOs gather and organize needed information, complete the proper forms and file the claim directly with the appropriate VA department. VSOs follow each claim as it makes its way through the VA system, providing assistance and information throughout each step of the journey and advocating on the veteran’s behalf when there is a glitch in
the process.

Filing a VA claim is a lengthy process that can be frustrating and trying. Veterans can expect a waiting period of six months to a year after filing their initial claim before a decision is granted. Sometimes the wait is longer than a year, but providing all the necessary information and documentation when the claim is filed may help to shorten the wait time. Additionally, filing a claim through the Veterans Service Office can ensure that all the paperwork is complete, correct and filed in a timely manner, which can alleviate additional delays. 

Moore County’s Veterans Service Office files just under 3,000 claims for county veterans each fiscal year. During the first eight months of the current fiscal year, the office logged 1,700 claims, so it appears this year’s numbers are on track to meet or exceed recent years. The number of claims may increase as more Vietnam veterans who are experiencing issues due to Agent Orange exposure come forward to file claims under newly expanded eligibility regulations. 

All services are provided free of charge. In fact, federal law prohibits Veterans Service Organizations and other similar advocacy programs from charging for these services.

Listed below are some of the many services available through the Moore County Veterans Service Office:

  •  Filing veterans disability compensation claims including Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC) for Retired Military;
  •  Assisting surviving spouses and children with filing survivor’s benefit claims, obtaining death certificates and ordering VA grave markers and headstones;
  •  Filing non-service connected pension claims;
  •  Filing paperwork for Aid and Attendance
    home care assistance for homebound veterans
    and their spouses;
  •  Facilitating enrollment in the VA Medical
    System and filing paperwork for the CHAMPVA medical insurance for qualifying spouses and family members;
  •  Making referrals to local, state and national organizations that can assist veterans with
    specific needs not covered through the
    Veterans Administration;
  •  State Benefits and services including providing applications for a lifetime hunting and fishing license (50% or higher) and forms to get a veterans or disabled veterans license plate;
  •  Filing property tax reduction forms for veterans who have a 100 percent permanent and total VA disability rating.

If you are a veteran who needs information or wishes to file a claim, a family member inquiring about survivor benefits, or need a referral to a veterans service organization, the Moore County Veterans Service Office can help. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at their office in the Moore County Agricultural Center, 707 Pinehurst Avenue, Carthage. Walk-in service is available for property tax reduction forms, hunting and fishing license applications and automobile license applications. For all other services, appointments are necessary. For information or to schedule an appointment, call 910-947-3257. 

Jim Pedersen, director of the Moore County Veterans Service Office, is an accredited Veterans Service Officer and U.S. Marine Corps veteran. He holds a bachelor’s degree in management from UNC Pembroke and has been employed at the Moore County Veterans Service Office since 2011. Previously, he held positions at the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina and Situs Companies in Robbins.