As American veterans return from service, there are organizations in place to help them adjust to civilian life.
They all do great things, but there is one in particular that focuses its attention on those injured in the line of duty.
For nearly 100 years, the Disabled American Veterans organization, also known as the DAV, has helped veterans get the benefits they’ve earned.
Mick Schmidt is the Department Commander for the Department of Maryland and says that the DAV is simply Veterans helping Veterans.
Typically when someone is injured in active duty they seek help immediately but for those ailments that show up later in life, the DAV is here to help veterans navigate the paperwork needed to file a claim.
Schmidt says the paperwork can sometimes be hard to understand.
“It's easy to make a mistake. Not that the VA’s going to be punitive, but it causes the process to stop, has to be shipped back, corrected and resubmitted, so if we do it initially, it usually goes straight through without that.”
The growing membership of the DAV often comes from veterans that have been helped by the organization.
Tommie Lee Hawkins joined the DAV as a way to continue to serve after retirement and after getting help with back injuries, two knee replacements, and two battles with cancer all service related injuries.
Hawkins served 29 years in the Navy and says he just wanted to continue helping veterans.
"After I retired, when we had the Iraq war, I tried to go back in, I wanted to go serve aboard the USS new jersey and they called me back and said well Mr. Hawkins, we don’t need you, so I was disappointed,” said Hawkins.
Hawkins now serves as the treasurer for the Disabled American Veterans organization, and the transportation coordinator for the state of Maryland, helping veterans get to and from medical appointments. While he has those veterans aboard his van, he makes sure to ask them if they know about the DAV.
“I’m constantly asking them, do you have service-connected disabilities? If so, now I point them to the service officers that are in our chapter and they will provide assistance with those people and their claims.”
The DAV has a proven track record for helping veterans and their families get the benefits they’ve earned. They aim to help one million veterans every year, that's 2739 veterans a day.