HARLINGEN — You served, and now someone wants to serve you.
Too many veterans leave the military without applying for benefits, often because they’re unaware of those benefits.
The Disabled American Veterans Chapter 121 wants veterans to get those benefits. They include disability, pension for widows, assistance for burial, vocational training and caregiver services.
“We’re here to assist everyone we can,” said Fred Cavazos, one of two service officers at the DAV Chapter 121 at 6920 W. Expressway 83.
Veterans with any type of claim can go to the DAV where Cavazos and other volunteers — the DAV is a nonprofit organization — will help with all the paperwork. They can help veterans find their way through the sometimes confusing maze of Veterans
Affairs to apply for disability. If the VA denies a claim, DAV will help with the appeals process.
Cavazos, a veteran of both the Marine Corps and the U.S. Army, observed that some people are hesitant to apply for benefits.
“Some people think it’s a handout,” he said. “It’s not a handout. These are benefits you earned.”
He recalled a woman whose husband died while they still had a teenage daughter to support. He was the sole bread winner, so his death left her with no income. But he was also a veteran, and Cavazos helped her apply for benefits.
“When a veteran dies, there are two types of pensions available to the widow,” he said. “One of them is known as service connected and the other is non-service connected. Her husband died of non-service connected.”
Cavazos collected all the necessary paperwork including the death certificate and marriage license. He then submitted the application to the VA and got it approved.
“Now she gets a monthly stipend,” he said with satisfaction.
Linda Alvear, 57, remembers how Cavazos helped her mother with burial expenses for her father. He’d served four years in the U.S. Army. “He helped my mother get a little bit of money back from my dad’s burial when he died in 2006,” Alvear said. “He was very accommodating and very helpful in figuring out what paperwork had to be filled out. He was very generous and gave of his own time. He’s just a very kind-hearted person.”
Cavazos holds numerous certificates for taking courses related to veteran’s benefits, one of them being a Veterans Disability Benefits Course from William and Mary Law School. He said while there are DAV chapters throughout the country, many come to him from out of state because of his education and experience.
He urged veterans to apply for benefits as soon as they can. He used himself as an example.
“I left the military in ‘89,” he said. “I didn’t apply until 2010.”
SOME BENEFITS AVAILABLE TO VETERANS: DISABLED AMERICAN VETERANS CHAPTER 121
• VA Burial Benefits
• VA Survivors Pension
• Dependent Indemnity
• Aid in Attendance
• Caregivers 6920 W. Expressway 83 Harlingen, TX Ph: 956-440-6613 Hours of operation: Tues. Wed. and Thurs. 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.