Peter Gaytan, American Legion Washington executive director, addressed service officers attending the Department Service Officer School in Washington, D.C. Photo by Noel St. John

Learning and sharing

More than 120 American Legion department service officers from around the country are in the nation’s capital this week for training.

Department Service Officers School began Feb. 22 and will continue through Feb. 24. During the three days, DSOs are receiving both large-group and breakout session training. The DSOs are broken into three tracks of training: beginners, intermediate and advanced.

Topics include special issues in evaluating traumatic brain injury, Persian Gulf War presumptive, medical legal advocacy, claims development and the Military Evaluation Physical/Physical Evaluations Board.

During Wednesday’s opening session, Peter Gaytan, executive director of the Legion’s Washington Office, praised DSOs for the work they do and how it benefits the organization.

"You give us clout in D.C. through the work you do," Gaytan said. "You bring validity to what we do. You help veterans by giving them access to the benefits they’ve earned. That hasn’t changed since 1919, when The American Legion was formed.

"You hold that pillar of the organization through what you do every day."

Gaytan also urged the DSOs to provide a give and take while going through the school. "The most valuable part of being together here is in the sharing of information between each of you," he said. "Share trends in claims. Share your demographic information. Share your challenges. Maybe by doing so, you can help someone else who faces the same challenge down the road."