Good News For Local Veterans

AVCO Scores Additional Benefits and New Service Bureaus

McCail Smith Jr is a retired U.S. Navy veteran who suffered PTSD as a result of injuries incurred during active duty in the Vietnam conflict. As a result of his injuries, the VA granted him partial disability benefits.

After the Iraq War, the Bush administration implemented a program making it easier for veterans to receive full benefits for PTSD.

This fundamental change did NOT, however, provide an “ex post facto” clause to include veterans who had served in conflicts prior to the Iraq engagement.

Therefore, Mr Smith Jr was left  to survive on the fractional benefits originally granted to him by the VA, as were thousands of vets like him.

He considered this unfair and unacceptable, and spent the next 27 years traveling back and forth to various VA institutions, where he appealed to department heads and directors to ascertain information as to what prerequisites a veteran needed to meet in order to be granted full benefits.

He worked diligently to determine what a veteran could do to upgrade his benefit package to include full benefits where applicable, and possibly even retroactive compensation.

What type of verification did a vet need to provide to validate his claim?

What forms did he have to apply for, then complete and return, and to what department(s) should they be addressed?

How long would he have to wait to learn the outcome of his appeal?

Were benefits available to expatriates? To their families? …and more.

His efforts eventually paid off for him, and he has been generously sharing the knowledge of his experience.

He established Post 001 of the American Veterans Coalition of San Diego as his first base of operations, and that institution has been instrumental in providing service to its more than 100 members, in addition to non-members.

One benefit it provides is educating vets on how to apply for and fill out the numerous forms the VA requires to initiate the process of re-evaluating benefit packages.

Another advantage AVCO offers is determining the availability of benefits for veterans’ spouses and offspring, including funding for funeral services, housing and travel expenses.

When McCail opened Post 002 in Ensenada, he offered the same services via FMP (the VA’s Foreign Medical Program), and researched the possibility of having medical services provided locally.

If implemented, this would be a monumental benefit to veterans living here who have previously had to travel back and forth to VA hospitals in the States to receive the treatment and care they need.

Some of these veterans are in such critically disabled conditions that the travel itself is painfully traumatic, unnecessarily time-consuming and expensive.

One of McCail’s first major successes at Post 002 in Ensenada was finding an agreeable partner in Dr Susarrey, Director of CardioMed Hospital here, who is amenable to treating patients locally and billing the VA directly for services provided.

McCail’s long-time relationships with department heads and directors of several of the hospitals and administrative offices of the VA have ensured that any obstacles standing in the way of that becoming a reality will be resolved.

Recently, AVCO Post 003 was opened in Rosarito. It is growing slowly but steadily, and its location provides the distinct advantage of having direct contact with another veterans’ service there, operated by Hector Lopez, and that service is providing assistance to deported veterans of various branches of the U.S. military.

Lopez’s primary concern is the welfare and possible repatriation of those deported service members. McCail’s involvement with Lopez is  ensuring that they will receive the same benefits as other expats, to which they are entitled under the law.

August 26th was the official meeting of the United Veterans Coalition (a VA-sanctioned entity), held at the Balboa Park (San Diego) Veterans Museum.

During that meeting, three key figures were in attendance: The Director of the La Jolla VA Hospital (Dr Smith – no relation to McCail); the Director of the Regional Office for VA Benefits (Patrick Prieb); and the Director of the VA National Cemetery (Rex Hearns).

McCail has been working with all three of these officials during his quest for justice for veterans, and he was in attendance at that function.

Here is what was accomplished during that monthly meeting:

Prieb acquiesced to McCail’s request for benefits to be provided to deported veterans, who are required to meet one or more of the following criteria to be eligible: Be 75 years of age or older; be terminally ill; be homeless and/or indigent; or have a pending claim that has aged beyond 125 days without resolution.

Prieb determined that at least 95% of the deported vets represented directly by McCail through Lopez did fit into that category and were, therefore, eligible for benefits!

Also, Dr Smith approved McCail’s request to establish a local support group exclusively for veterans with serious cases of PTSD, and that that group would be officially recognized by the VA and, one of the highly-regarded VA Staff Psychologists (Dr Yuliana Gallegos) volunteered to periodically travel to Ensenada with select members of her staff to offer psychological counseling to veterans attending AVCO’s newly established group. This generous service will have no cost to the VA (and therefore, no impact on U.S. taxpayers)!

Another recent development that is cause for celebration is that two new AVCO posts are slated to open in other states: Texas and Louisiana!

Finally, McCail is planning a tour of Mexico, targeting cities hosting large numbers of U.S. veterans. He will introduce his methods and his mission, and hopefully make the services of AVCO available to expat veterans wherever they live.

AVCO’s website will be up and running by the end of this month, and will be a means for vets to expedite their appeals to the VA.

Veterans seeking guidance should contact the organization via:

U.S. phone: (619) 400.3615

In Mexico   : (646) 244.8431

Email: avcohq@yahoo.com

David Beyer

Author: David Beyer

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