About 100 Legionnaires from across America will converge in the nation's capital Feb. 23 to participate in Department Service Officers School. The four-day event trains the Legion's professional service officers in a variety of topics - from VA disability claims to issues that face women veterans.
"For the first time, this year's DSO School had dedicated a significant portion of the training to issues that are important to women veterans," said Barry Searle, director of the Legion's Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Division. He said the new training focus reflected The American Legion's determination to be a resource for all veterans.
"As the casualty assistance officer at Andrews Air Force Base, I carried men and women with terrible wounds off those planesm," he said. "So we've got to make sure our department service officers are equipped to handle the needs of women who have served our country, as well."
The discussion on women veterans issues will include comments by two VA experts: Betty Mosely-Brown, associate director of the Center for Women Veterans; and Christine Alford, assistance director of the Compensation and Pension Service.
The DSOs will learn about the difficulties that women veterans face when filing their disability claims through the VA system; they will also learn how to handle such claims in a sensitive manner.
"The importance of well-trained, professional service officers in negotiating the disability claims process can't be underestimated," said Steve Smithson, principal deputy director for the VA & R Division. "The VA system can be very difficult for the average person to understand and navigate.
"The American Legion places a high priority on providing the best possible training to their professional service officers, making sure they can provide veterans with the very best help when they're out in the field. DSOs will also get training in third-party billing for medical expenses, so they can properly investigate the claims of veterans who believe they have been improperly billed."
Over the course of four days, service officers will be trained on the best procedures and practices to follow in assisting veterans with a variety of needs. Their sessions will include speakers from VA, DoD, the National Veterans Legal Services Program and several experts from The American Legion.