Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs) were created to help Veterans and their families, or their survivors. Many of these organizations focus on assisting Veterans as they make the transition from active duty to civilian life. Many of these organizations offer veterans a variety of services, including VA disability benefits claims assistance, education and job training, resume writing services, financial grants, opportunities to participate in community service projects, and more. In most cases, these services are free! Many of the VSOs have state and local branches, which makes them easy to visit in-person.
Getting Started with a VSO
It is very important to find an accredited VSO or an accredited representative. Only recognized, accredited organizations and individuals can legally represent a veteran, dependent, or survivor before the VA. Non-recognized organizations and individuals can provide information, but cannot be representatives. A few well-known, nationally accredited VSOs include The American Legion, DAV (Disabled American Veterans), NCOA (Non Commissioned Officers Association), VFW (Veteran of Foreign Wars), and VVA (Vietnam Veterans of America).
An accredited representative is an individual who has undergone a formal application and training process, and is recognized by the VA as being capable of assisting claimants with their affairs before the VA. Most accredited representatives work for VSOs.
You can find an accredited representative or VSO organizations by going to eBenefits. The VA Office of General Counsel also maintains a list of VA-recognized organizations and VA-accredited individuals that are authorized to assist in the preparation, presentation and prosecution of VA benefit claims. You can search by location to find a VSO near you using either site:
What Services Does an Accredited VSO Offer?
Most importantly, VSOs exist so veterans are never alone when trying to navigate their VA claims; helping them to receive their full benefits. The best part about using a VSO is access to the combined expertise on staff. VSO service officers have vast experience in VA claims. They have seen thousands of cases and know the in’s and out’s of the VA system. If these organizations can’t help you, they can certainly put you into contact with someone who can.
VSOs can help you understand and apply for VA benefits, like:
- Financial support (monthly payments)
- Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment (VR&E)
- Home loans
- Life insurance
- Health care
- Burial benefits
They can also help you with:
- Gathering supporting documents (like a doctor’s report or medical test results)
- Filing a claim or appeal on your behalf
- Providing added support, like helping with transportation to medical appointments or emergency funds
Are VSO Services Really Free?
Getting help with veterans benefits isn’t difficult; and it’s a wonder more veterans don’t take advantage of these organizations! VSOs (compared to an individual claims representative or attorney) generally offer their services for free. In general, no individual or organization may charge you a fee to help you file your initial application for benefits. If you have questions about a VSO you are considering working with, or suggestions on free services near you, reach out to SAVI today.