Department Service Office
Indiana is home to some of the best service officers in the nation. Accredited American Legion service officers are specially trained to provide expert assistance, free of charge, to veterans and their families.
While the majority of a service officer’s work involves application for VA disability benefits, these compassionate professionals also provide information, referrals and resources on education, employment and business, death benefits and other important topics.
Service Officer Resources
Department Service Office
575 N. Pennsylvania St. Room 325,
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Phone: (317) 916-3605
Fax: (317) 916-3406
Our department service office caseload assignments are divided by the first letter of the veteran’s last name as shown below. Also as show below, our service officers’ duty assignments differ each day.
Veterans needing to contact their assigned service officer should call the office at 317-916-3605 shortly after 7:30 AM on their service officer’s call days. We will then place the caller’s name on a call-back list for receiving a returned call at a given time the same day. Veterans working with county veterans’ service officers are encouraged to call their county veterans service office first and then call our office only if the county veterans’ service officer cannot answer the concern or inquiry.
So we may keep our phone lines open for veterans needing advice concerning their claims and/or appeals, we encourage veterans to contact the VA toll free phone line at 1-800-827-1000 for simple claim or appeal status inquires.
This is necessary due to the large number of veterans we serve throughout the state, and our efforts to keep local county veterans service officers involved and informed with the processing of claims for veterans within their counties.
Department Service Office Staff
Office Visits by Appointment Only: Please call
317-916-3605 for an appointment before visiting the office.
B through E, and S
Client Call Days – Mondays and Wednesday
Client Appointment Days – Thursdays
Prehearing Conferences and Casework Days – Friday
Casework Days – Tuesdays
A, F through I, and R @ W
Client Call Days – Tuesdays and Thursdays
Client Appointment Days – Wednesdays
Prehearing Conferences and Casework Days – Monday
Casework Day – Fridays
J through O
Client Call Days – Monday and Wednesday
Client Appointment Days – Tuesday
Prehearing Conference and Casework Days – Friday
Casework Days – Thursdays
P, Q, T, U, V, X, Y, Z
Client Call Days – Tuesdays and Thursdays (T call day now moved from Mondays and Wednesdays to Tuesday and Thursdays)
Client Appointment Days – Mondays
Prehearing Conference/Casework Days – Wednesdays
Casework Days – Fridays
Supervision and Management, Outreach, Public and Organization Communications, Training, Special and/or Security Level Claims, County Veterans Service Officer Calls,
Budgeting, Planning, and Special Projects
The American Legion Department of Indiana Veterans Service Office employees a staff of seven full time employees responsible for ensuring veterans received their earned benefits. The following are a few examples of benefits won that veterans might not have otherwise received if not for our department service office staff.
Department Veterans Service Office May Business Hours: The department service office will be closed for Memorial Day on, Monday, May 29th. The office is otherwise open each Monday through Friday from 7:30 AM until 4:00 PM during the month of May. Appointments are necessary for client visits. You may contact the department service office by calling our direct number of 317-916-3605; calling a long distance toll free number of 1-888-723-7999, extension 1; faxing us at 317-916-3406; or by using the following e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Local Veterans Service Issues:
Legion Day: The American Legion, Department of Indiana Legion Day will take place on Sunday, September 10, 2017 from 10:00 AM until 4:00 PM at the Department Headquarters, 5440 Herbert Lord Road, Indianapolis, Indiana. The event will include kid friendly games; putt-putt golf; chili cook-off; horseshoes; a variety of soft drinks; and a 9/11 patriot observance. In addition, The American Legion Veterans Service Office will offer veterans benefits information, and VA claims filing and representation services. Legionnaires are encouraged to bring the whole family for a cost free day of fun and information.
Post Service Officers Attend Service Officer Training Seminar: American Legion department service officers conducted a training seminar for post service officers immediately following the department convention on Sunday, July 16, 2017. Those present received information to help post members and other veterans within their local communities better understand veterans benefits as well as where, when and how to apply for those benefits. These dedicated volunteers help further the goals of The American Legion by selflessly giving their time in service to other veterans, their dependents and survivors. Their efforts will allow many more veterans to lean about life changing benefits. Hats off to the following post service officers and post representatives for attending the seminar:
Joseph Fuller, Post 4; Rick Baum, Post 79; Richard Jones, Post 150; Jesse R. Booker, Post 148; Turner Nolan, Post 18; Sue Hunt, Post 42, and Luther H. Nixon, Post 354.
Veterans Services at the Department Fall Conference: The American Legion Department Fall Conference will take place at the Marriott Hotel, 7202 East 21st Street, Indianapolis, Indiana on Saturday, October 7. Department Service Officers will staff the veterans’ services and benefits information table in the lobby. During the Veterans Assistance Meeting, Bill Pease, Health Insurance Coordinator with ASPIN Health Services, will discuss how ASPIN offers free health insurance navigation services. The American Legion Department of Indiana General Hospital, Indiana Veterans Home, Veterans Employment, Homeless Veterans, and Nursing Home committees will also discuss their areas of veterans’ services. American Legion members may attend these free informative events.
Service Office Updates
National Veterans Service Issues:
VA Mental Health Care Now Available for Veterans with Other Than Honorable Discharges: Veterans having other-than-honorable (OTH) discharges are not normally eligible for VA health care services. Due to the high suicide rate for veterans, VA will now allow some veterans with OTH discharges access to emergency mental health stabilization care. Effective July 5, all Veterans Health Administration (VHA) medical centers began offering emergency stabilization care for former service members who present at the facility with an emergent mental health need thought related to military service. Under this initiative, former service members with an OTH administrative discharge may receive care for their mental health emergency for an initial period of up to 90 days, that can include inpatient, residential or outpatient care. VA can provide this care at the VA emergency room, a VA Vet Center, or through the veterans’ crisis line. This service is limited to 90 days unless VA determines the mental health condition is the result of a service–related injury. Not all former service persons will receive care, however; this initiative still bars individuals with a dismissal, dishonorable discharge, or bad conduct discharge from a general court-martial. After the veteran begins receiving services, VA will conduct an administrative review of the discharge for VA benefits purposes. If VA holds the discharge as a continued bar for services, VA will bill for services rendered. (See VA Fact Sheet, June 2017)
VA Agrees to Pay Many Previously Denied Emergency Medical Expense Claims: In a congressional hearing on Wednesday, June 14, 2017, VA Secretary David Shulkin announced that VA would "voluntarily withdraw" its appeal in the legal case, Staab v. Shulkin, that required VA to reimburse veterans the costs of receiving private emergency medical care when VA facilities were not reasonably available. Also on Wednesday, June 14, 2017, Secretary Shulkin announced that the VA has drafted a regulation to authorize payment for Staab related claims, and has sent the regulation to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Draft regulations must clear OMB and be published in the Federal Register before VA can begin reimbursements. VA estimates that this process could take at least 9 months. Veterans having VA claims or appeals pending for reimbursement or payment of private medical expenses incurred in a medical emergency anytime since the “Emergency Care Fairness Act” was passed in 2009, could eventually receive payment.
Other veterans should refile and ask the VA Medical Center to reconsider their claims based upon the ruling in Staab v. Shulkin and the VA Secretary’s June 14, 2017 decision to accept that decision and withdraw VA’s appeal;
(1) The veteran had been enrolled in the VA healthcare system,
(2) The veteran received VA healthcare services within two years of having a medical emergency requiring private healthcare service, and
(3) Since 2009, VA had previously denied the veteran’s claim for payment of those expenses due to part of the bill being paid by a third party.
General Motors (GM) Military Discount Program: GM will provide eligible military members substantial discounts on the purchase of new Chevrolet, Buick and GMC vehicles. Eligible military members include active duty members, reservists, National Guard members, veterans within one year of their discharge date, and military retirees – including their spouses – of the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, Corps and Cost Guard. Those interested may sign in or register at: gmmilitarydiscount.com/americanlegion then select “Get Authorization Number” from the program menu and follow the prompts, the print your authorization number and take it to your participating GM Dealer, along with a copy of your current Leave and Earrings Statement (LES), Retiree Account Statement, or your discharge papers (e.g. DD Form 214).
Veterans Online Shopping Benefit: The Department of Defense will soon grant on line exchange shopping privileges to veterans of the United States Armed Forces. You may go to vetveritfy.org and submit a verification form to check your eligibility. Learn more at: shopmyexchange.com/veterans.
The American Legion Department of Indiana Veterans Service Office consists of a staff of seven full-time employees responsible for ensuring veterans receive their earned benefits. The following are a few examples of benefits won that veterans might not have otherwise received if not for our department service office staff.
Department Veterans Service Office October Business Hours: The department service office will be open Monday through Friday from 7:30 AM until 4:00 PM during the month of October including Columbus Day. We can take calls only on Columbus Day, however, since the office is located in the federal building and the federal building is closed to the public on Columbus Day. Appointments are necessary for client visits. You may contact the department service office by calling our direct number of 317-916-3605; calling a long distance toll free number of 1-888-723-7999, extension 1; faxing us at 317-916-3406; or by using the following e-mail address: email@example.com.
Local Veterans Service Issues:
Indianapolis Veterans Day Observance: A Veterans Day Observance will take place in Indianapolis on Saturday, November 11, 2017. It will begin with a musical prelude on the north side of the Indiana War Memorial at 10:30 AM. A memorial service will take place at 11:00 AM. A nearby parade will start at 12:00 Noon with more than 80 unites are expected to march.
Veterans Services at the Department Fall Conference: The American Legion Department Fall Conference will take place at the Marriott Hotel, 7202 East 21st Street, Indianapolis, Indiana on Saturday, October 7. Department Service Officers will staff the veterans’ services and benefits information table in the lobby. During the Veterans Assistance Meeting, Bill Pease, Health Insurance Coordinator with ASPIN Health Services, will discuss how ASPIN offers free health insurance navigation services. The American Legion Department of Indiana General Hospital, Indiana Veterans Home, Veterans Employment, Homeless Veterans, and Nursing Home committees will also discuss their areas of veterans’ services. American Legion
members may attend these free informative events.
National Veterans Service Issues:
VA Benefits Delivery at Discharge Program Change: VA plans to redesign the Benefits Delivery at Discharge program to enable service members to receive disability benefit decisions the day after their discharge. The redesigned program went into effect on October 1st. VA states the changes to the Benefits Delivery at Discharge program will increase VA’s ability to conduct exams, review medical evidence, and process ratings prior to a service member’s release from active duty. VA states in most cases, this will allow VA to provide benefits decisions the day after discharge. Service member’s using the program can submit their claim from 90 to 180 days prior to discharge from active duty. Previously, the submission time was 60 to 180 days before discharge. VA states the extra time is needed to ensure medical exams can be conducted and evaluated, and claims rated prior to separation. To participate, the service member must be available to attend the VA examination(s) for 45 days from the date of claim submission. VA will, however, eliminate the Quick Start program that had allowed service members to submit their claims up until one day before active duty discharge. Claims submitted 89 days or less prior to discharge will be processed as either fully developed or traditional claims, and decisions will not be provided for several months following the service member’s service discharge.
Veterans participating in the new Benefits a Delivery Discharge program should still assign a service organization, such as, The American Legion as their claims representative.
VA Rating Policy Change for Assigning at Least a 10% Rating for Service Connected Painful Joint: VA regulations require VA to assign at least the “minimal compensable evaluation” (usually 10%) when a veteran is found to have a service connected disability causing joint pain. For instance; VA can grant compensation ratings for limitation of flexion or extension or instability caused by a service connected knee disability, or assign at least the minimal compensable rating if there is pain on motion but the limitation of motion or instability is not significate enough to warrant compensation based upon rules within the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities. For years, VA required “objective” evidence of painful motion before granting at least the minimal compensable disability rating for the joint. A recent change in VA policy, however, will now allow VA to grant at least the minimal compensable rating even when there is only “subjective evidence” of painful motion. Veterans currently having a 0% service connected rating for disability of a joint should therefore consider applying for a higher compensation rating if they experience joint pain on motion.
Good Cause for Missing Scheduled VA Compensation Examination: VA will often schedule original compensation examinations for original claims or periodic compensation reevaluation examinations. VA will not always reschedule those examinations if the veteran fails to report without “good cause.” VA’s operations manual (M21-1) instructs VA employees to accept as good cause any reason “other than failure to receive notice of the examination.” We find this instruction very concerning since it’s not uncommon for schedulers to send notices to the wrong address or simply fail to mail the notification letter. We have therefore asked The American Legion National Headquarters VA&R staff to discuss this issue with VA Central office Officials.
As it stands now, VA’s operations manual specifically states: Do not reschedule the examination if the claimant:
We definitely do not encourage anyone to lie. If, however, the veteran did not report for a schedule compensation examination because notice was not received, the veteran might want to think about another reason he or she did not report even if the “notice to report” had been receive. [May be they were sick that day or did not have adequate transportation.] VA’s operations manual also notes “documentation is generally not required to demonstrate good cause.”
VA May Provide a Second Auto Grant if First Vehicle Lost in a Natural Disaster: VA will provide veterans an auto grant (currently $20,577.18) when they have a service connected loss or loss of use of an extremity. This is normally a one-time benefit. Public Law 112-154, however, provides that veterans who have previously purchased a vehicle using an automobile grant and suffered a loss of that vehicle due to a natural disaster, such as Hurricane Harvey, Irma, or Maria may qualify for a 2nd automobile allowance under this statute.
Veterans Crisis Line: Veterans who are in crisis or having thoughts of suicide, and those who know a veteran in crisis, can call the Veterans Crisis Line for confidential support 24 hours a day any day of the year. The number is 800-273-8255 and press 1, or you can chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat, or send a text to 838255.
Veterans May Receive Free Flu Vaccinations at Walgreens Pharmacies: The Department of Veterans Affairs has teamed up with Walgreens Pharmacies nationwide to allow all veterans who are currently enrolled in the VA healthcare system to be able walk into any of the over 8000 Walgreens nationally (and the Duane Reade pharmacies in the New York metropolitan area) to receive a vaccination at no cost. Vaccinations will be available through March 31, 2018. Veterans wishing to receive the no cost vaccination simply need to present a Veterans Identification Card and a photo ID, at any participating Walgreens to receive the vaccination. The Group ID is: VAFLU. Walgreens will also transmit flu vaccination information securely to VA where it becomes part of the patient’s electronic medical record.
Highlights of Benefits Won
Q: Describe the general mission of the Indiana Legion Veterans Service Office
A: We find that if not for the service organizations, and specifically the work we do in here, a lot of veterans wouldn’t even know about the benefits that their entitled to in the first place, let alone how to file for those benefits. We provide representation and claims filing assistance for veterans. We can help them with their paperwork, get their claim started, and give them some advice as to how to best win that claim. We follow the claim as it goes through the VA system. We work closely with VA. If we see they’ve made an error or have an issue, we address that immediately to best serve our clients, our veterans.
Q: Why file a claim? What benefits are available to me?
A: Filing a claim really opens up a lot of doors. If you’re service connected for a disability of 10 percent or more, VA health care services are available to you. You basically gain free medical coverage for just about anything. It opens the door to property tax exemption for wartime era veterans. And, if a veteran has as little as a zero percent service connected disability rating, they can get their children state paid tuition to state supported universities in Indiana. Filing a claim really opens a lot of doors to other benefits for our veterans.
Q: What can a veteran expect when filing a claim with The American Legion?
A: We first talk with the veteran to find out what it is they want to claim. We then advise them on the best evidence to gather to best win their claim. Lately, it’s been taking VA roughly four months to reach a decision on an initial application. As close as we work with VA, we will see the decision before the veteran does in most cases. We’ll send the veteran correspondence asking if they are satisfied with the VA’s decision or if they’d like to move forward with the claims process. If they do, we’ll take it from there.
Q: What happens if a benefit claim is denied by VA?
A: A lot of times, when a veteran files a claim on their own, and the VA denies it, the veteran will just accept it. In my case, the government told me what my rating was and I just accepted it. It wasn’t until later on that I discovered I was entitled to a much higher rating. That’s when I really started to become involved with the service organizations. Studies show that veterans that file their claims through a service organization receive up to 50 to 60 percent more than those that file on their own.
We work with veterans to gather as much paperwork and evidence necessary for VA to approve their claims. But, if a claim is denied, we will guide the veteran through the appeals process. If the veteran is dissatisfied with the VA’s decision then we help with the appeal process. We’ll help the veteran during hearings and, if necessary, we’ll take written briefs on the veteran’s behalf go to the Board of Veterans Appeals in Washington D.C.
Q: What advantages do veterans gain by filing VA claims through The American Legion
A: Our service officers are knowledgeable, experienced veterans. We work closely with the VA, in fact we share a hallway. If there is an issue or a mistake on a claim at this VA regional office, we can walk down the hall and talk to the adjudicator, the decision maker, the director, the assistant director, the service center manager, etc. We meet with those officials every month and we have a good working relationship. We work together for the benefit of veterans.
We also ensure our veterans get the medical benefits their entitled to at VA. We work the education systems and benefits, we cooperate with Work One and VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment services. We really try to provide a full service and be knowledgeable about any benefits that veterans maybe entitled to help them file.
Q: What advice would you give to a veteran new to the claims process?
A: First thing a veteran needs to do is find a qualified veteran service officer and file with them. Please don’t file a claim on your own. It’s easy to make a lot of mistakes. The American Legion, Department of Indiana Service Office will file your claim for free regardless of whether you’re a member or not. We’re here to help you avoid mistakes and avoid years of going through the appeals process. We encourage veterans to come in and work with one of our service officers and use our expertise. We can offer advice and inside information on how to best file, the type of evidence required, how to word their statements, etc.
Q: What improvements are being made to expedite the VA claims process?
A: When I first started as a service officer, it was before computers. I can remember typewriters on the desks. We’ve been making the gradual change from paper filings to filing digitally. In the past, we’d have case files several inches thick with paperwork. Today, we have what’s called the Veterans Benefits Management System which allows us to scan in all documentation and reference a veteran across the country to see what information VS has on that individual. This simplifies and organizes the claims process for our veterans now more than ever. For a long time it took VA around two and a half years before they made an initial decision. Lately, VA has been really great about making these decisions in a timely matter. It now takes around four months.
Q: Anything to add?
A: We have a lot of hard working volunteers out there in communities across the state. Each American Legion post has a service officer. These officers can guide you with any questions and help you find the right outlets to file your claim.
So, gather as much paperwork as you have available to you regarding your claim. Be sure to bring your DD214. If you’re being discharged from service try to get copies of all of your service medical records. If it’s been a long time since you’ve been out of service, and you’re filing for something that occurred while you were actively serving, be sure to bring your civilian medical records.
It’s a privilege doing this work, and I really feel that if you asked anyone else in this office they would tell you the same thing. We really enjoy the work of helping veterans. Our veterans deserve it and they can use all the help they can get. Thank you.
About John Hickey
Shortly after high school, John was drafted as an infantryman in the U. S. Army and deployed to Vietnam. Roughly six months into his combat tour, he was shot twice and redeployed to the United States where he finished his two year active duty obligation at Fort Knox, Kentucky. John returned to school under VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation program and obtain and undergraduate degree in paralegal technology while working as veteran service officer. With more than 30 years’ experience, John is one of the nation’s top veterans service officers (VS0)s. He and this team of highly qualified experienced VSOs truly care about their mission; providing service to service members and veterans.