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LECANTO — With 21,300 veterans in Citrus County, county veterans service officer Chuck Fettes has his plate full and his days filled with helping vets file claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
To make things easier for everyone, Fettes has recently published “A Guide To Obtaining Veterans Administration Compensation Benefits,” available now through Amazon.com.
“People who come in to the office basically ask the same questions, and this came about to make my job easier as well as helping them better,” Fettes said.
He said the majority of what he does is help veterans with service-related disabilities file their claims to receive compensation benefits.
“The goal of the VA is to complete a claim in 125 days, but the system is overwhelmed,” he said. “This book cuts down the delay. They can go through it and look up their diseases and conditions they have and know what forms and paperwork they need.”
He said he put lots of tips and “tricks” in the book to help veterans. For example, he said if a veteran calls the VA and says he or she is intending to file a claim for a service-connected disability, that establishes an “effective date.”
“You have a year to file after that,” he said. “So, if you get a $1,200-a-month award, that’s a year’s worth of back benefits — as long as you haven’t gone past a year.”
He added that the most important thing is to have all the necessary paperwork, from a DD 214 military discharge form to medical records.
“You have to have a doctor’s statement supporting what you claim,” he said. “Those are called NEXUS statements, and I give a couple of examples of them in the book.”
He said most veterans can follow the information he offers and successfully file their own claims. There are exceptions, he said, especially for those with ALS and even diabetes.
“Diabetes is progressive, so if you have diabetes now, tomorrow you may have neuropathy and the next day a renal condition or heart condition,” he said.
He identifies conditions in the guidebook that are tricky and difficult to tackle alone.
Ten percent of the proceeds from book sales go to Operation Welcome Home, 10 percent to the Citrus County Veterans Foundation and the rest to produce the next volume.
“VA rules change all the time,” Fettes said. “They’re making things a little bit harder, but we deal with whatever the VA does.”
Call Chuck Fettes at 352-527-5918 or email Charles. Fettes@bocc.citrus.fl.us.
Contact Chronicle reporter Nancy Kennedy at 352-564-2927 or firstname.lastname@example.org.