If you’re a disabled vet looking for help in navigating your benefits, Marana’s Disabled American Veterans Chapter 4 is here to help.
The organization has provided free essential services to all veterans and their families since 1926.
DAV Chapter 4 is where veterans help veterans. DAV is solely supported by community donations and run by unpaid volunteers who are also veterans. DAV services are available at no cost to veterans and their families.
David Morales, who was recently elected commander of DAV Chapter 4, began serving the military in 1969 as a flight engineer during the Vietnam War. Like many during the war, Morales was exposed to Agent Orange.
“I got a cup of coffee in the Styrofoam cup, about a mile away I could see them spraying Agent Orange,” Morales said.
“We’re just enjoying the sunshine and I went to take a drink of my cup but there was an oil filament in the coffee, that was Agent Orange.”
Morales didn’t finish his coffee, but Agent Orange dusted every part of the jungle and his skin. Agent Orange is a toxic herbicide that was used by the U.S. military to clear vegetation in Vietnamese jungles. This made it difficult for enemy soldiers to hide and destroyed local food sources. It also managed to poison people within several miles of the treated area.
Agent Orange exposure has been linked with birth defects and chronic illnesses such as bladder cancer, hypothyroidism and parkinsonism. U.S. veterans who served in Vietnam are forever affected by the chemical ravages of Agent Orange. Veterans exposed to Agent Orange can file for disability claims.
Although monetarily helpful, Morales said filing for a disability claim takes a lot of paperwork. He became a service officer for the DAV in 2012 to help veterans like himself receive compensation for their physical and mental sacrifices. DAV volunteers are willing to help fellow veterans fill out their paperwork as long as they have their DD214 (military discharge documents) or Veterans Affairs medical card.
DAV has two main duties. Half of the job is dedicated to creating appointments around filing paperwork. The other half is dedicated to helping answer questions.
“I once had this elderly lady come in and she started to cry,” Morales recalled. “She told me, ‘My husband is a World War II veteran and I’ve been taking care of him all this time, but it’s getting to the point that I’m getting old and I’m afraid that I won’t be able to bathe him anymore.’”
Morales’s client was worried she would have to put him in a nursing home. Morales talked her through a plan to meet with her husband’s medical group with the Department of Veterans Affairs and request weekly nurse visits. Morales said she had no idea those services were available to her husband.
“The expression on her face was worth a million dollars, she thought her husband was gone to some nursing home,” Morales said.
DAV Chapter 4 provides this guidance to veterans and their families at no cost. DAV also keeps disability equipment, such as electric wheelchairs, for veterans on site. The organization has two sheds filled with donated clothing and medical equipment.
DAV hands out the clothing to homeless veterans during Stand Down events, which are three-day events held by the VA to give homeless veterans a safe place to sleep, shower and connect with social services.
“You can help people and it’s rewarding to our service officers, it’s beautiful when you’re able to do this for other people,” Morales said.
DAV Chapter 4, 4145 W. Ina Road Suite 131, is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (It will be closed for Veteran’s Day.) The organization is always looking for donations. Morales says the organization accepts “anything” and once sold a donated car to help pay rent. Call 520-791-9067 with questions.