About 150 Legionnaires from across the country will attend The American Legion's Department Service Officer (DSO) School in Washington, March 19-21, to receive training that will help them file benefits claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and provide other services to America's veterans.
"With so many changes to case law and regulations over the course of a year, it's inherent for us to provide proper training to our department service officers and other accredited representatives, in order to better serve the veterans and dependents seeking benefits from VA," said Zachary Hearn, deputy director for benefits in the Legion's Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Division.
Since the Legion's service officers do more than assist with claims, this year's DSO School will feature expert training from several agencies that do not work directly with veterans benefits. Service officers may help veterans get employment, or help homeless veterans get shelter, Hearn said.
The DSO School will include a presentation from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to talk about how veterans can be protected from a variety of financial scams. VA will offer training on its eBenefits online system for veterans.
Representatives from the Department of Justice will go over provisions of the Radiation Exposure and Compensation Act, passed for veterans exposed to radiation from above-ground atomic testing that took place in America during the 1950s and 1960s.
American Legion DSO schools are held twice a year, one in the nation's capital (just before the Washington Conference) and another in Indianapolis, usually in August.
Hearn said the DSO schools "are critical to the Legion's training program. Service officers are professionals, and professionals need to have continuous training. The world of veterans law and regulations, and procedures that VA is utilizing – these can change rapidly, and if you're not keeping up with those changes, you could potentially be harming veterans. And that's not the idea behind a service officer."
Besides DSOs, county service officers and other accredited Legion representatives will be attending the school next week.