Legion holds first virtual training for service officers
Courtney VanZanten poses for a portrait at her desk where she works as a Service Officer in Madison, S.D. on Tuesday, October 1st, 2019. Photo by Ryan Young

Legion holds first virtual training for service officers

Nearly 230 Legionnaires attended The American Legion's first virtual Department Service Officer (DSO) School in August. The training, held virtually from Aug. 5 to 31 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, allowed Legionnaires to attend the specialized training without concerns over travel and lodging costs.

Lucas Bruner, the assistant DSO for Washington state, was able to attend the school for the first time.

“A lot of what we do is planning with veterans and how to approach their claims,” he said. “This training was invaluable to how we approach this. The DSO program is run and operated by lawyers that have deep understanding of the claims and benefits process. The best part about the training was learning the insights and legal knowledge, and also how to apply that towards what we do.”

DSO schools provide professional accredited American Legion representatives at the regional office, county and state levels with specialized training on issues affecting veterans and their families nationwide. These service officers are specially trained to provide expert VA claims and benefits assistance, free of charge, to any veterans and their families.

Bruner also noted the challenges brought on by the pandemic. “The difficult part comes from the fact that our jobs are very hands-on and COVID has taken that approach to real-life situations and made it more complicated.”

With safety measures in place, American Legion DSOs are continuing to push forward in providing assistance to veterans. The Department of Washington has seen steep increases in the number of veterans seeking claims and benefits assistance since the pandemic began. Bruner said the process continues to run smoothly.

“Everybody who comes to our office is screened before they even come in,” he said. “Once we’re in the office, we have our own standard operating procedure that includes masks and shields in front of our desks. It gives us that little bit of added protection.

“Veterans are finding our information through the outreaches that we've done on Facebook and other social media platforms. We’re one of the few organizations in the state that are still open to assist veterans.”

To find an accredited American Legion service officer in your area, please visit online at www.legion.org/serviceofficers.