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When I retired from the U.S. Navy in November 1973, I could hardly wait to get to the local chapter of the Disabled American Veterans to see if they could help me with a claim for VA Disability Compensation.
I had received injuries to my spine during a Bombardment Mission off the East Coast of North Korea. I was serving aboard the battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) as the Assistant Director Operator of a Bofors Quad-40mm Anti-Aircraft Gun Mount located on the fantail (rear end) of the ship, port side!
There are three 16″ gun turrets onboard and Turret #3 is located between the ship’s superstructure and the tail end of the ship (stern). The other two turrets are located between the front of the ship (bow) and the superstructure!
When Turret #3 is to be used, all personnel aft of the superstructure were ordered into the ship for safety. I was delegated as one of three men with the task of ensuring all personnel aft of Turret 3 were safely into the superstructure.
On one occasion, while we were racing to the hatch where we would enter the ship, Turret #3 fired a two-gun salvo, to port and we were caught up in the concussion waves created by the firing of the guns.
The concussion waves picked us up about 5 or 6 feet in the air and slammed us back to the teak wood deck like ragdolls!
Long story short, I coped with the injury until surgery became necessary. I underwent spinal surgery twice before my retirement. At discharge, I was offered a measly 3% disability rating for my injuries. I declined the offer as insufficient and was discharged from the service.
I found the Veterans’ Service Officer at the local DAV Chapter to be, in my humble opinion, incapable of providing the assistance that I needed to file my claim.
I located a local doctor who provided physical examinations for VA disability claims and filed my claim with the VA, along with a copy of the results of the physical examination. Several months later, I received notification from the VA wherein they awarded me a disability rating of 30%.
I immediately prepared an “appeal” and resubmitted my claim with additional proof of my disability. I won the Appeal and was awarded a rating of 60% and compensation pay at the 100% rate because my injuries were “permanent and total!” That was called Individually Unemployable (IU)!
Pleased with the VA’s final decision, I started working with members of Congress individually regarding legislation affecting disabled Veterans. I have constantly continued that work from about 1978 to the present day.
I accepted positions as Legislative Officer with the DAV and VFW organizations, in order to have closer contact with the Veterans.
In 2013, I became aware of the extraordinary salaries being paid to incumbents of certain positions within the Veterans Service Organizations (VSO). It was reported on Facebook, by a credible organization, that between just the three largest VSOs (DAV, VFW, AmLegion), they paid a total of 25 of their employees more than $5 million dollars between 2010-2011! These salaries were paid out of the charitable donations made to the VSOs. All attempts to force the VSOs to justify those exorbitant salaries were ignored.
Although these organizations do SOME good for Veterans, it seems obvious that we are making millionaires out of some of the VSO employees. I, for one, have not made further donations to these organizations since 2012. I continue to donate to specific causes; i.e. the refurbishing of the “Wall of Names” at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. We donated $1,000 which was used for that project.
It is time to demand that these so-called charitable organizations cease and desist paying six-digit salaries to any of their employees. There is nothing to indicate justification of these salaries. If they continue paying these salaries, they should lose their “non-profit” status and start paying taxes!
Brooks Outland is a Korean and Vietnam war veteran.He volunteered to serve in Vietnam because he was keen to help the people of South Vietnam keep their freedom and their country from communist takeover by the North. After retiring Brooks and his wife spent eight years volunteering aboard his old battleship, USS Missouri (BB-63), before returning to the mainland in Arkansas in 2015.