At no time in my life did I feel as helpless as I did the day al-Qaeda planes ripped through the Twin Towers. As I watched those horrific events on TV for days after, I wondered, what I could do – a sick, 51-year-old veteran on Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) – to help my country.
Two years before, in May, 1999, I became disabled with Adult-Onset Still’s Disease (AOSD), a rare form of rheumatoid arthritis. My doctors told me I would never work again. But 9/11, and a phone call from a fellow veteran a few days later, changed my life completely.
The American Legion Post, where we both belonged, was looking for a volunteer Post Service Officer to advocate for veterans applying for disability benefits from the Veterans Administration (VA). He wanted to know if I was interested. At first I was worried that if I took this on I would worsen my illness. I thought long and hard and finally decided to give it a try.
I loved every minute of it. I became totally involved in learning all I could about what makes the VA tick. Before I knew it, I was volunteering as much as 50 hours a week, and feeling better than I had in years. Though Still’s Disease has no cure, it is treatable. I began to learn how to deal with it, and get past the pain.
In 2006, I decided to complete my veterans advocacy training through the National Veterans Legal Service Program (NVLSP) and become accredited. I wanted to work – not volunteer – for the American Legion. Social Security’s Ticket to Work program helped me find out if I could handle working full-time without losing benefits. I worked while I collected SSDI benefits for nine more months. I succeeded. In 2008, the American Legion hired me as a Department Service Officer.
I am thankful to the American Legion for giving me the chance to not only work again, but to also advocate for fellow veterans. And I am very appreciative of the time I spent there. However, my experience tells me that even though veterans service organizations, such as the American Legion, do their best to help disabled veterans get compensation from the VA, they also must deal with limited resources.
When I heard about Alpha, a private veterans disability advocacy group, I realized that I could not pass up joining the Alpha team. Here I am more effectively helping veterans in all 50 states get the benefits they are entitled to from the VA. I am also training new Alpha Advocates.
Veterans deserve the best representation they can get. I have the knowledge and passion to accomplish more for them at Alpha. Other than my wife and family, I can’t think of anything I care about more than being an Alpha Veterans Disability Advocate. – John
Note: All representation coordinated by Alpha is provided by our employees, the Advocates, who are accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). No private organization that trains and employs accredited agents has been legally recognized by the VA for the purposes of preparation, presentation, and prosecution of claims. This work must be done by the Advocates themselves and not organizations.