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.
A through G, T, P through R and T
Client Call Days – Mondays and Wednesdays
Client Appointment Day – Tuesdays
Prehearing Conference and Casework Days – Thursdays and Friday
H through O, S, and U through Z
Client Call Days – Monday and Wednesdays
Client Appointment Day: Thursday
Prehearing Conference and Casework Days: Tuesday and Fridays
Supervision and Management, Outreach, Public and Organization Communications, Training, Special and/or Security Level Claims, County Veterans Service Officer Calls, Urgent Calls and Interviews, Budgeting, Planning, and Special Projects
Many post service officers volunteer much of their time assisting veterans within their local communities. American Legion posts may nominate their post service officer for an award by completing and returning a Post Service Officer Award nomination form to the American Legion Department Service Office by March 23rd of each year. Click button below to download the form.
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 December and January Business Hours: The Department Service Office will close for the for the holidays from Tuesday, December 24, 2019 through Wednesday, January 1, 2020. We will also close the office on Monday, January 20 for Martin Luther King Day. This office will otherwise remain open each Monday through Friday from 7:30 AM until 4:00 PM during the months of December and January. 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. Veterans, however, should first contact their local County Veterans Services Office (CVSO) for assistance. You may find your local County Veteran Service Office using the following link: https://www.in.gov/dva/2370.htm Our CVSO partners know they may call our office for help answering veterans’ inquiries if necessary. This process makes contacting qualified veterans service officers much easier.
Local Veterans Service Issues:
Indiana Legal Services: American Legion Veterans Service Officers provides free representation for administrative issues pertaining to VA claims and appeals, but we are not attorneys and cannot provide representation with legal issues. For legal assistance, veterans may want to contact Indiana Legal Services (ILS). ILS is a not-for-profit organization providing access to high quality legal services for non-criminal issues to low-income persons. ILS’ Military Assistance Project (MAP) is statewide and provides free civil legal advice and direct representation to non-incarcerated, low-income military members, veterans, and their dependents. Low income veterans needing legal representation with a civil issue may write to: Military Assistance Project, Indiana Legal Services, Inc., 151 North Delaware Street, Suite 1800, Indianapolis, Indiana 46204, or call 1-800-869-0212.
National Veterans Service Issues:
The Appeals Management Act (AMA) Changes the Intent File Rule: Before the February 19, 2019 effective date of the AMA, veterans could submit an “Intent to File” notice using a VA Form 21-0996, and then have one year to file a formal claim. If VA then grants the claim, VA would set the effective date for the start of benefits from the date VA received the Intent to File notice. Veterans can still do this if VA had not already denied service connection for the claimed issue, however, veterans attempting to reopen a previously denied claim for service connection can no longer use this Intent to File procedure. Veterans attempting to reopen a previously denied claim for service connection must now use a VA Form 20-0995 along with new evidence relevant to the reason VA previously denied the claim. If then granted, VA would set the effective date consistent with the date VA received the VA Form 20-0995 with new and relevant evidence.
Service Office Updates
Service-Connected Chronic Depression May Hasten Non-Service-Connected Cancer Deaths: Literature review supports the contention that an individual with cancer and chronic depression will have a more negative outcome than one who doesn't, due to factors which include a lower level of immune system capability. We can therefore often argue it’s likely as not (50% or greater probability) that a veteran’s service-connected depression can contributed to his or her non service-connected cancer death. This could help win service-connected death benefits (Dependency Indemnity Compensation) for surviving spouses of veterans who have died of non-service-connected cancers if those veterans were service connected for depression. Supporting internet articles can be found at:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4356432/ and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20085667 . Interested surviving spouses should contact a qualified County Veterans Service Officer or the American Legion Department Service Office for claims filing assistance.VA Benefits Cost of Living Increase: VA compensation and pension benefits received a 1.6% cost of living increase this year. The increase took effect on December 1, 2019 and will show on the compensation and pension benefit payments paid on or about January 1, 2020.
The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veteran Act of 2019 goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2020. On this date, the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) will begin deciding claims for disability compensation for Veterans who served in the offshore waters of the Republic of Vietnam between Jan. 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975, if they meet the eligibility criteria as provided in the law, i.e., verified service in the offshore waters and have a current diagnosis of a disease(s) as specified in section 3.309(e) of title 38 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
Veterans who served in the offshore waters of the Republic of Vietnam can apply for disability compensation. Survivors can also apply for the benefits for those deceased Veterans who served in the offshore waters of the Republic of Vietnam. In addition, Veterans who served in or near the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) from Sep. 1, 1967 to Aug. 31, 1971 can apply for disability compensation.
For new compensation claims, claimants can file using VA Form 21-526EZ and for new Dependency and Indemnity Compensation Claims, claimants should file on the VA Form 21P-534EZ. All previously denied claims should be filed as supplemental claims using VA Form 20-0995.
To determine eligibility, Veterans are encouraged to work with an accredited claims representative or the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) regional office to understand eligibility requirements before filing a claim. (source: Federal Department of Veterans Affairs (VA))
(The American Legion Department of Indiana Veterans Service Office employees a staff of six 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.)
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.