Veterans Benefits Counseling And Claims Services

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Accredited veterans service officers are the key to good service and are supposed to be experts at helping veterans get the benefits they deserve — county, state, or federal.

NOTE:  As a matter of policy, because we believe there is a need for face-to-face service at times and especially during the first interview for a claim, we do not list organizations who do not provide veterans claims officers to the Lehigh Valley on this page.

State  Veterans Service Officers

Little known, the Office of Veterans Affairs (OVA) from the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provides a few accredited service officers of its own. In fact, OVA now certifies most county directors of veterans affairs for accreditation by the Department of Veterans Affairs; and its state service officers actually represent them at the Philadelphia VA Regional Office, where your claim goes.

These state-employed, veterans service officers tend to be hole up at the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh VA Regional Offices and Ft. Indiantown Gap (OVA is part of the National Guard establishment there).  They no longer provide a service officer twice a month to the Allentown VA Clinic.  As a result, State Service Officers are generally of little use to you as an individual, unless your organization happens to request they come to Lehigh Valley as part of their new mobile outreach van service started in 2013, a service originally intended for more remote areas where other service officers are unable tread.  Many parts of the Lehigh Valley fit this criterion.  If interested in scheduling an outreach van, contact Tom Yadlosky, tel: 717-861-8905 or use its website to apply.

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County Veterans Service Officers &
County Directors of Veterans Affairs

Most county directors of veterans affairs are now accredited service officers and the state’s county codes require each county to have one county director.  Fortunately, in Lehigh and Northampton Counties, these are fulltime positions.  Actually, Lehigh County has additional, accredited veterans service officers who are accredited.   Do not use service officers unaccredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Always ask. These below are accredited:

  • Lehigh County –  Thomas Applebach, tel: 610-782-3295; his assistants Vi Hertzog (nee Wagner) and Lynn Weimer are also accredited.  Also appear at Allentown Outpatient Clinic on Friday mornings.
  • Northampton County – Freddie Ramirez, tel: 610-829-4877 (new number replacing 601-559-3199). 
  • For additional information and to locate other county directors of veterans affairs, click here.

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Veterans Organizations’ Service Officers (VSO)

Veterans Service Organizations play an important role as advocates; and especially when a problem with a government agency exists.

Below are accredited Veterans Service Officers who come into the Lehigh and Northampton counties and serve veterans regardless of whether or not they belong to the service officers’ organizations. There is no requirement by law to join a service organization to receive service officer assistance.

It is best to call first to ensure the service officer will be there.  Most appear by 9 a.m. and leave by 2 or 3 p.m.  Some will take appointments.  All accept walk-ins.

  • AMVETS:  Jose L(ouis) Monterrosa, tel: 717-865-9982 on Wednesdays.
  • DAV (Disabled Amerian Veterans):  No longer sends a service officer to the clinics in our area.
  • Miltary Order of the Purple Heart:  William Jones, tel: 215-381-3064, is at the Allentown Outpatient Clinic on first and third Thursdays of the month.
  • VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars):  Luis Ybarra, tel: 570-821-2535/ 2506, is at Allentown Outpatient Clinic on second and fourth Mondays and Thursdays of the month and at the Bangor (Northampton) Clinic on second and fourth Wednesdays of the month.
  • The American Legion:  The American Legion in Pennsylvania typically provides a broader outreach into the communities through using local legislative offices.  Unlike most other organizations, it is willing to schedule appointments.  For those who work this is more than a convenience.  Like the VFW, their service officers work out of the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center.  Any one of these three accredited service officers may be at the sites useful to our Lehigh Valley area (shown below):  Jeff Saunders, Gina Svoboda and Dan Fells.  Their telephone number is  570-821-2525.  (Editor’s Note: The names provided are not service officers but schedulers.)
Am Legion Service Officer Outreach Locations 23Jun2016

Click on image to enlarge.

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Veterans Benefit Counselor (VBC)

The servicing Philadelphia VA Regional Office provides a near-equivalent service to that performed by county directors and veterans service officers for benefits counseling and filing of claims at the Allentown Clinic, if you desire to use the VA directly instead of an “advocate organization” — which we consider a better option for most.  Call first.

  • Al Pritchard (until recently a VFW accredited service officer), Veterans Benefits Administration VBC, tel: 570-821-2504 (tel: 610-776-4315 when at the Allentown Outpatient Clinic) on every Tuesday.

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Checking on Your Claim’s Status

In addition to occasionally calling your claims service officer or the VA by phone, you can now check on your claim’s status for yourself using eBenefits, or you can use fill out a question form on the VA’s website (Inquiry Information and Routing System).  Click here for more information and to do either.

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Self-Help Guides

Nothing replaces a current, competent, accredited veterans service officer for filing a claim. Studies show that one is more likely to succeed and draw higher compensation using one. However, understanding the system better does not hurt. TurboTaps provides a handbook as do some others.  See Transition and Benefits Knowledge 101.

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Last Updated: 30 July 2017 (Update on new VA Benefits Counselor)

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