Scott DeLuzio: [00:00:00] Thanks for tuning in to the Drive On Podcast where we are focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community. Whether you’re a veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, or a family member, this podcast will share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio, and now let’s get on with the show.
Hey everybody. Welcome back to Drive On. I’m your host Scott DeLuzio, and today my guest is Paul Lawrence. And Paul is a repeat guest on the show. You might recognize him, uh, from, I believe it’s sometime last year, uh, where we discussed his time as the undersecretary for benefits at the va. And, uh, today we’re gonna chat about his new book, uh, called Veterans Benefits for You, get What You Deserve, um, and. whole premise behind that book. I mean, I think that I don’t like typically like to judge a book by its title, but I, I mean, I think it says it all right there, uh, by, by the cover, right? Um, it says it all right there. So, um, welcome back to the show, Paul. I’m really glad [00:01:00] to, uh, have you here.
Paul Lawrence: Hey Scott, great to be with with you again, and thanks for having me on again.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, you bet. Um, you know, I, it was funny because. Uh, I was at the gym a few weeks ago and I, I was watching television at the gym and this commercial pops up and there’s this name that sounded familiar, but it’s a fairly common name. Um, you know, and, and so I was like, okay, well this could be a, you know, a coincidence that I happen to know this, somebody by this name, and then I see a picture of the person associated with this name, and it was you. And I said, well, He’s promoting a new book and it has to do with veterans. I gotta get him back on the show. Um, and, and so this was, it, it was just a, you know, uh, by, by happenstance I happen to catch that commercial, um, you know, at, at the gym. But, um, I usually ask guests to introduce themselves, but since you already did that on the last episode, we recorded, um, I won’t have you rehash it all right now, but what I would love to do is to talk about your book. And [00:02:00] again, for the listeners, it’s titled Veterans. Benefits for you, get what you deserve. So, uh, tell us a little bit about it and, uh, what people can expect from it.
Paul Lawrence: Sure. Well, as you pointed out, I was under secretary for benefits in the last . Team at the va, and it’s been almost three years there. And one of the things that was my job was to administer the benefits veterans have earned by virtue of their honorable or semi close to honorable service, right? So I had to learn all about these programs, how they worked, what they were, how they operated.
So I really end up knowing a lot about this and I’d hold town halls during the pandemic. I’d explain, take questions and the like. One of the things I always heard was from veterans is like, gee, I didn’t know about these benefits. What are they? Please explain them to me and then how do I access them?
Well just repeat a repeated sort of thing of gimme information, education and explain the processes to me. So I thought, well, gee, when I got out, you know, the administration changed. Got out. I thought there must be books out there that explain [00:03:00] all these things. And what I observed was what I found out, there were some books about benefits, but they weren’t about all the benefits.
You could have a book about the GI Bill or a book about the home loan gear, but you had to search lots of books to find it. And then God bless ’em. We all love lawyers, but they were often written by lawyers. They were just really dense and hard to understand. So I took my calling was, I’m gonna write a book, which you now, we now have right?
Veterans benefits for you. I’m gonna write a book, it’ll have all the benefits, and I’ll really make it easy to read and I’ll draw on some of the things I learned from, you know, administering the benefits about not so much tricks, but how to be more straightforward. Forward in your approach for things and try to have veterans understand their, you know, how to access them.
So it was really a desire to address the need as I saw it, of getting veterans information in a way that would really help them.
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You know when I was. Uh, in the, the military getting out, uh, you know, processing out and everything like that. information that was given to me, telling me what in, what benefits were available to me, whether it was GI Bill or, you know, disability and other things that were, uh, just out there that was available. Um, When I was getting that information, it felt like I was drinking from a fire hose.
It was just so much information all at once, and I’m thinking to myself, I’m not in a place where I, I’m not going to school right now. I don’t need the GI Bill benefits right now. I don’t need that information right now because I’m not intending on going to school right now. Maybe I will next year or the year after or something like that, but not right now. And so it just kind of went over my head. It, it was, it was more than I needed, uh, at the time. And As time went on, I sort of forgot a lot of the stuff [00:06:00] that was told to me. And so what I wished I had was like a one stop shop solution where all the benefits that were available, I can go open it up and, and just flip through to say, Hey, I’m buying a house or, um, uh, you know, planning on going back to school or whatever. I can open up that. That resource and just say, okay, that’s what I’m looking for. This is how I can go about getting the benefits that. That I have available to me, um, or even to just discover benefits that maybe I forgot all about, you know?
And, and so that’s, that’s why when I, I saw your book and I, I, after I saw that commercial that I was talking about earlier, I went online.
I, I took a look at what the book was about, and I was like, that’s what I wish I had when I got out of the military the first couple of years afterwards. You know, um, I, I really wish I, I had some sort of resource like that because all the paperwork that they give me, it’s, you know, one person has a, you know, a staple together. Piece of paper, you know, with, with some information and phone numbers that [00:07:00] probably are outdated by the time I, I needed to use them and all that
stuff. It’s like I, I needed something that was, uh, you know, current UpToDate told me the information that I needed, uh, in a, a simple way. And, and that’s, that’s exactly what I, I discovered that, that that’s what the book is all about.
Paul Lawrence: Right. Well, that’s a really good observation. It is a fire hose thing. People forget, and I’ll tell you what I’m also getting, Scott, is military spouses saying, Hey, I got this for my husband or wife so that I can learn . How to help him or her. Right. So it actually is really interesting in the sense that it’s the, it’s not just the veteran individually, but it’s their family members.
And of course, part of what I point out in the book is there are benefits for family members under certain circumstances. So veterans really need to appreciate that. So when they apply for benefits like disability compensation, they don’t just go, Hey, I’m fine, I don’t need this. Not realizing, well, yeah, but if something does happen to you, Don’t forget about your family.
So there’s just a lot of interest and that’s what I was really trying to crack the [00:08:00] code of. Here it is all in one place. One of the compliments I do enjoy is when people say, this is easy to read. ’cause that was really my intention. ’cause if I had to learn it, I had to cut through all the shenanigans and learn like, okay, in words, what is this exactly so I can explain it?
’cause nobody understands the definitions that are written sometimes when they’re so long and so complicated.
Scott DeLuzio: And, you know, anyone can copy and paste stuff from, you know, the VA’s website because they have information there on how to access benefits. But it was written probably by lawyers and it, you know, that’s the, the average person is not a lawyer. And, and having to read through all of that stuff and try to understand. What it is that you need to do, what hoops you have to jump through, who you have to contact, all these things. It’s not easy. And so when you have something just written in plain English that you know, everyone can understand, you don’t need a law degree to figure this stuff out. Um, you know, and. I wanna kind of bring that back to [00:09:00] your time when you were working with the va. Um, I, I was looking through your LinkedIn profile, um, before this episode, and, and I noticed there’s, there’s a lot of, uh, business experience that you had, um, prior to your time at, at the va, um, and when you were working at the va, va. Did you look at your role, um, the way you may, might look at a similar role in business where the, the veterans who are applying for the benefits, they’re, they’re the customer in,
in your eyes?
I, I would imagine based on your background and your experience, was that kind of how you, you saw, uh, that relationship?
Paul Lawrence: 100% the thinking about a business, you know, really can help government, not everywhere, but certainly at the Veterans Benefits Administration, you’re essentially in this business of getting customers the, the benefits that they’ve earned, right? They want ’em fast, they want ’em accurate, they wanna know how to, what they need to do to get ’em.
So that was really the whole conversation about, you know, how do we get veterans there for ? Benefits fast, what’s it gonna take? Right? And it was easy to rally people because so [00:10:00] many of the people of the Veterans Benefits Administration are veterans themselves. It was not . Unheard of the talk to, you know, to be a veteran, to have, have gone through some of the processes they were now administering.
But it was very much, and you know, you ask veterans all the time again, when I would talk to ’em in person before the pandemic and afterwards they would tell you right to their face, this is what I want. Why is it so hard? Why is it so complicated? So you’re like, okay, well here’s a headline. Let’s give ’em what they want.
Let’s make these things faster and come up with reasons, as I say, used to say, get to yes versus get to no and explain why you can’t do things. So it was very much that, and I think you probably saw one of the things I was most proud of is like, you know, the backlog was at record lows when I was there, as well as the timeliness was really fast and efficient.
So I’m really proud of, you know, what could be done.
Scott DeLuzio: Well, and I think I had mentioned this even before, uh, in the last episode that we recorded, but I’ll mention it again for anyone who maybe didn’t catch that episode. But, uh, I had applied for some benefits. Um, Before your time, [00:11:00] uh, at, at the va. And it took I somewhere between six and nine months. Uh, for any, it was like crickets.
I heard nothing in that, that whole time period. I almost forgot all about the benefits that I applied for, uh, during that time. And then eventually I got a decision, uh, you know, later on. Um, whereas during your, your time there, It was probably about three weeks, uh, that it, that it went down to. And so when you’re processing things so much faster and you just don’t allow the backlog to develop right, and,
and you’re able to chip away at the stuff that that is there, but, but also you just don’t allow it to, to develop.
And I, you know, I’m, I’m. Hoping that, uh, it doesn’t go back in the, the other direction, but I, I, I know especially with the PACT Act and stuff, there’s a lot more, uh, claims that are being filed. Um, you know, it, it may, uh, start to go in the, in the wrong direction, but hopefully they can, uh, keep up the pace with, uh, what you [00:12:00] put in place, uh, over there.
Paul Lawrence: Yeah. Well, a couple things, right? A lot of, a lot of people don’t realize that often the first time a veteran interacts with the VA is through applying for benefits. So if they have a good experience, hopefully it leads to trusting the VA more broadly and doing whatever. Or unfortunately, if they have a bad experience, it often, you know, you know, really jades them on dealing with the va.
Oh, why deal with that? My first experience was so terrible. Ironically, a lot of things actually have taken a step back. The PAC Act has really overwhelmed them
and the backlog is shooting up in sort of record in route to, I think one day will pass the record backlog back in 2013 and 14. So we really should continue to be worried about it.
Um, but again, it’s good to hear about your experience while you were there and know that some of these things really did have an effect.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. And you know, I, I think it just goes to, to show that, you know, there, there are people there at the va, the VA’s not all, all bad. You, you may have a bad experience, uh, with, with certain individuals maybe, uh, who [00:13:00] maybe, uh, Don’t have, uh, your best interest in mind, but in general, the people at the VA are, are good people and they are trying to get through all of this
as quickly as possible. Um, you know, but, but again, like, like for me, drinking from a fire hose with all the information that was coming to me, they’re, they’re working at a fire hose where, where
there’s so many, uh, applications that are coming in there, there’s, there’s only so much that they can do with the resources that they have available to.
Paul Lawrence: Yeah. Well, I I, I wouldn’t let ’em off the hook like that. I mean, they, people are well paid to do this, but one of the things why, why the book is so important is I really do try to explain, I. What is all the information you have to supply? Because a completed claim, right? Let’s talk about disability compensation.
When you have all the information there, it’s relatively straightforward for people, the the adjudicators to decide,
right? So part of that is, you know, it’s a little bit of everybody doing the right thing, but if a veteran comes forward, or service member is getting ready to leave with a completed claim,
Those can go through the system pretty fast. [00:14:00] So that’s often the explanation for why it takes a long time versus why it is done really fast. And so that’s something I wanted to explain. I also wanted to explain that, you know, those forms are complicated. If you’ve never done ’em before, it’s your first time through ’em.
Don’t forget, you can get help. A no cost help from a, a veteran service officer from a V S O, like American Legion or Wounded Warrior Project. So there are places that can help you. You know, it’s like everything in life. They’ve done it a whole lot. You’ve done it the first time. Let them help you and you’ll, you’ll discover some of the value of that.
So it really should be a much more straightforward and less onerous process to begin to get things veterans have earned.
Scott DeLuzio: Sure. Sure, absolutely. Now, I know just applying for benefits in general, like you just mentioned, could be a difficult, uh, thing for people, especially if it’s their first time, uh, going through the process. What are some of the other challenges that veterans face when they’re applying for vet benefits that you’ve, you’ve seen? I.
Paul Lawrence: Sure. Well, often you need records, right? And so if you’ve not [00:15:00] kept those records, that becomes a headache, right? So VA will go look for records, it’s called Duty to Assist. They will go help you do that, but if you have them, it’s so much better. So in the book, I explain how to get your records by contacting the National Archives.
Again, that’s where all the records are. The Indiana Jones warehouse of records, they’ll get ’em for you. I understand that process has really improved. So that’s something, it’s paying attention to the forms. The forms are difficult, but you gotta get all the information. And really, if you think about disability compensation, you really have to demonstrate that what happened to you in the service.
Really cause this problems, right? So it’s not just enough to say, well, it’s in my medical record. You really have to go outta your way to say, see, on this day, that’s where I hurt my knee, for example. Right?
See, that’s so, so they can kind of do that. So, and often if you have a lot of things in your medical record, it can be hard.
So again, it’s just trying to like nail the information. A lot of the other benefits requires, you know, forms and bits of [00:16:00] information. So it’s, it’s essentially assembling everything and getting it ready to go.
Scott DeLuzio: Is there a place that people can go to where they can find out eligibility criteria or, or is it in the book that you, you’ve written as
Paul Lawrence: So, so it’s all in the book. I try to, I try to explain that out. Try to explain that in, in, in, uh, straightforward language again. ’cause a lot of it on the web is if this, then this, and if this, and then this. And it’s, it’s all clear, but it’s complicated. It reminds me, I joke, I live in the Northern Virginia area.
I’ve often thought the street maps were really, the street signs were really for people who live here. . You know what I’m saying? Because they just know where everything is. But if you, you’d be lost. And that’s how I feel and say, yeah, you can go to va.gov and it’s all there, but if you don’t know where to look, many people get frustrated and again, it’s hard.
So I try to make the book to explain all that so people understand what they’re eligible for, to include even numbers you can call to talk to a person to explain things to you if that’s what you need.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. I think that’s important too because, you know, you can go through the whole process of applying for things and [00:17:00] uh, if it turns out you’re not even eligible, it’s like you just . You wasted your time, you wasted the other people’s time.
Like, you know, just, you know, fi finding out right off the bat is, is this something I’m even eligible
Did I serve during the right time periods? Did I, uh, you know, serve long enough for certain benefits or, um, you know, do I even have the right, uh, documentation or,
or record keeping or, or things like that. And I’m, I’m sure there’s, there’s some things like, I know there’s some presumptive conditions that, you know, with when you’re about disabilities where if you don’t have records,
um, It may not be an issue because the, the VA just assumes, uh, that based
on your, uh, your, your service and where you served or you know, whatever the conditions are, um, that, that you are eligible for that.
So, um, but there’s a lot, a lot of that, so I’m glad that that’s in the book as well.
Paul Lawrence: Right,
Scott DeLuzio: And,
and as far as like a time limit for, for benefits, uh, so if someone got out 20 years ago, let’s say, uh, and they never applied for benefits, is it too late for them to apply? Or, [00:18:00] or, or, or is it dependent on, uh, certain other conditions?
Paul Lawrence: No, it’s not too late. So let’s talk about disability compensation. That’s easy. A couple of them you can time out on, but those are some of the smaller benefits. But in terms of the one you’re kind of asking is generally one I get all the time, Hey, you know, I served 20 years ago. Now something’s bothering me.
I’m sure it’s related to service. Is it too late to go back? And the answer is no. It’s never too late. You can come back multiple times.
Okay. If you don’t think you got it right, and we’ll talk about how to appeal if you feel the decision is unfair or in air. So I’ll give you an example, right? I’m with my brother who was in the Chemical Corps in the army, right?
You know, uh, mortars, tanks, loud noises, right? It’s my daughter’s wedding. Afterwards, at the reception of the next day, I go to talk to him and he says, you’re gonna have to talk in my other ear. This one I’m kind of deaf in. And I said, you realize that could be service connected, right? And his wife came over and said, thank you for telling him that I’ve been telling him this for years.
And so he can go back and get [00:19:00] assistance because in fact, loud noise has had in fact done that. That’s the classic example. The other thing folks can do is you can look on the internet, and I have, I have this in my book as well, is what was your m o Ss? What was your job in the military? And you can see kind of like likely conditions.
And this is what a veteran service officer could help you. Oh, if you were a pilot, chances are hearing or neck, if you were sat for a long period of times, here’s some of the things you should be thinking about. And often when I tell that to people, they go, yeah, I looked at that. Listen, come to find out.
You know, my ankle is bothering me. And come to find out I’m not the only one. ’cause everybody in my specialty kind of experiences this, so it’s never too late. And also the other thing we would talk about Scott, is just ’cause you got benefits and maybe this is your situation. You know, unfortunately, conditions only worsen as we get older.
So the so rule of thumb was come back every three to five years and if you have to file a claim for increase,
you know, hey, the limitations on my, uh, elbow, you know, we’re [00:20:00] li you know, some limitations now as I get older, they’re more, you know, this is really affecting my quality of life. So again, . There’s no penalty, um, for coming back and making sure it’s done right.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, absolutely. And I just as a, uh, an example to kind of, uh, piggyback off what you were just saying. Um, uh, I served as an infantryman and.
Paul Lawrence: Yeah.
Scott DeLuzio: You know, so hearing issues was, was something that was, um, you know, just kind of assumed. Yeah, you’re, you’re around loud gunfire and shooting all the time. Like, yeah, it, it’s gonna happen. Um, you’re gonna probably have to deal with that. And so I, I applied for those benefits for hearing loss and in tinnitus and, you know, was approved for that. And so, um, you know, it, it was. Just something that I just never thought I would be eligible for. Um, because when I was getting out, uh, one of the people who was processing [00:21:00] me out and, and everything they said, oh yeah, your hearing, they’ll never cover you for, for disability for that because you should have just worn, uh, you know, ear protection.
Well, yes, I, I know I should have, but you know, things
happen and, um, And so I never even considered applying for it until I I did a little bit of research on my own and I found out, oh, I am eligible for that.
Um, and so that, that’s what, so it was years afterwards, but, um, you know, just to talk about the, uh, the time limit and all that kinda stuff.
It, it was years after I’ve been out since 2011.
Um, and, and so, um, you know, there, there really isn’t that, that time limit and, and that you definitely could have access to those benefits. So,
Paul Lawrence: sure. And and just ’cause, just ’cause there’s lots of infantrymen I’m sure who listen to you, right? I mean, you walk long distances, so don’t forget your knees and hips, right? And your ankles, you carried heavy things. Your back and your neck, right? So maybe
I. You got out, you know, when you were young and spr all the, Hey, I’m good.
Well, [00:22:00] you know, maybe not. So keep, keep, keep, keep track of those things too as well, you know, ’cause it isn’t just taking, you know what, when someone say, Hey, I just took Naproxen and it didn’t really bother me, but now it does. Well, you know, to understand if it happened to you while you were in service, it could be a, it could be something that, you know, an intelligent and you know, you, you can get benefits for,
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, and like you said, Rarely do conditions get any better as you get older?
Um, my, my hearing is not getting any better as I get older either. So, um, and I know we, we always heard we should keep records of any physical, mental health issues that we had while we’re in the military, so that if we do apply for benefits somewhere down the line, um, we have the documentation that the issue was service connected. Um, and I’d imagine that’s the best way to get benefits approved. You, you already mentioned that earlier. Um, What if we don’t have those records?
Um, like we, we didn’t go to sick call. We didn’t, we didn’t get documented. Um, because we were like, oh, well I’ll just suck it up and deal with it. I don’t need to go see the doctor or [00:23:00] anything like that. Um, is there still hope for us to be able to connect the issue to our time in the service?
Paul Lawrence: Sure. Let’s talk about two things about not having records. So you, you identified the classic sort of one, which is, you know, I was injured or hurt, but I actually did not go report it. So it is not on my radical record. I got my radical record, but it’s not there ’cause I didn’t go in. So I did something that I’m now.
and this is where a veteran service officer can really help ’cause they can talk to you about ways to do that. One of ’em is called a buddy statement, where you get a letter or a statement from somebody, a buddy who observed what happened. Okay, so yeah, I was with Scott. He did in fact fall down and injure his knee, and I remember he bothered him for some period of time afterwards.
So I’m not surprised. He’s complaining. So they can talk to you about that. Could be family member could talk about, yeah, I remember him coming home from whatever. And I saw it and the like. So there are ways to do that that they are skilled at. You’re not the only person who just kind of sucked it up and moved on.[00:24:00]
It’s a very common thing. People understand that. The other thing is, of course is, hey, I just did not keep track of this. Right? I know a, I know a record exists, but I don’t have it. Right? And that’s where you can find it at the National Archives, or again, . When you apply, VA has what’s called, I think I said this earlier, a duty to assist, which is they will go look for the records.
Okay. It’ll delay things, but they will send information out and say, Hey, where is Scott’s records? Like we need to find those. Okay. So don’t be, don’t be intimidated. Hey, I don’t have it. If you know something happened, you know there are ways to do this. And again, if you think the buddy statement is the way you’re gonna go get a veteran service officer.
’cause they have experience doing exactly what I just described.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, that’s right. And, and that, uh, that buddy statement could, like you said, it could be from somebody who served with you. Who was there when, whatever the incident was happened. Or it could be a family member who
is like, okay, well I’ve noticed this change in
the [00:25:00] physical or mental or, you know, whatever the, the condition is.
I’ve noticed that these changes, uh, and it happened after X event.
whatever. So, um, so that’s a, a, a great thing too. But again, like you said, get a veteran, uh, service officer who can help you with that because, um, you know, I’m sure there’s certain language that they’re looking for in these, these things, and you wanna make sure that you, you have the right language, uh, in there to, to make sure that it is,
uh, you know,
Paul Lawrence: Well let, let’s build, let’s build on this by talking about something that’s often unpleasant, but people unfortunately experience, right, which is military sexual trauma. Okay? So as you can imagine, this is not, I didn’t get around to it. This is, I did not want to talk about it. Okay? So people say, this happened to me and now I’m suffering.
Generally it’s P T S D or p t s, I mean trauma. Okay? So again, it’s the same kind of thing when you apply for benefits, . They’ll go look for, they’ll help you look for what are called markers that indicate something happened. ’cause obviously [00:26:00] you didn’t have a statement. It wasn’t very public in nature, whatever.
But they can say, Hey, you know, often when people have this, they do things like talk to their clergy. I. Right. They experienced drug and alcohol abuse. So things like that are called markers that can say, this is what happens when people experience trauma. And that can be used to validate that it did in fact happen.
So again, this is where people like service officer could help folks say, you know, Hey, this was not something I wanted to talk about, but now I really see how it’s affecting me. Is it too late? And again, there are ways to help tease out what happened.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. And that, that’s a, a method that I didn’t even, uh, think about until, uh, just now. But that’s, that does make a lot of sense. Um, you know, where, where someone maybe, uh, didn’t have a, a drinking problem before this, this incident, um, and, and then they’re co kind of coping or dealing with it. I’m not saying that
that’s the, the right way to do it, but, um, You know, they, they start having this problem [00:27:00] after, uh, the state and it’s like, okay, well that, that kind of syncs up with, with the
timeline that we’re talking about here, you know? Um, now I, I know you mentioned earlier that, um, sometimes people will, will take a look like, you know, at, at your book and, uh, the information that’s in there and say, Oh yeah.
You know, I, I do have, you know, this back issue or my knees or ankles or, you know, I have all these, these, uh, issues. Never really thought about them being connected to my service. Um, are there some more common benefits that veterans are eligible for that, that you might wanna mention that um, that might just kind of ring a bell in, in people’s heads and, and be like, oh yeah, well, maybe that I do remember that time that I fell and, you know, hurt, you know, whatever part of my body and, um, you know, maybe that, that might help. Jog their memory and, and get them to, uh, actually apply for, for the benefits that
Paul Lawrence: Sure. Well, Yeah, we talked about disability compensation, but just kind of think about it for a minute. Okay, so let’s kind talk about it, right? You’ve been hurt or injured in service, okay? It’s not in combat, [00:28:00] it’s in service from, so the moment you were on the clock, I’m now in service. If anything happened to you, this could include, obviously I got hurt doing, you know, my, my M o s, but you’re on the post basketball team and you hurt your knee.
That’s something happened to you in service. Okay? So think about the definition of in service. There’s also what are called, something called secondary conditions, right? Hey, I hurt my ankle that’s now covered, but years later now my knee hurts because my ankle was hurt. So don’t forget this linkage, and I explained this in the book.
I. Of the injury to resulting conditions that can happen. Okay. So there’s a sense of, hey, there are other things like that. That’s one thing people don’t think about. The other thing is, of course, is some of the big benefits, and I go through all of these, so I’ll pick on a couple that people tend to ask about, right?
The GI Bill education benefit is one that everybody sort of know about, okay? And often people go, yeah, I want to go to college. I got it. This is why I enlisted or joined. Now I can get four years of college for my, you know, honorable service. Great, that’s great. But a lot [00:29:00] of people go, nah, I don’t want to go to college, or I’ve been to college already.
This benefit has continued to change over time. And so there’s some really neat things that folks might wanna think about, which is one of them is certificates or credentials. These are a short period of intense training where you test or demonstrate that you learn the subject that can really help you.
So for example, in this day and age, if you had a certificate in cybersecurity, with all the attention to things like this, this can really help you in the job market or . Help you get a promotion relative to your peers, right, who might not have this. So don’t forget these certificates and all these interesting things.
The other thing people tend to forget is these can be used for what we want. We jobs in what we once would’ve called the trades truck drivers, electricians, medical technicians. I mean, all these things we’ve learned in the pandemic that our economy really does depend on. Okay, you can use this for training there.
And in many ways, this is like a great route to a hundred thousand dollars a year job. Okay? So these are not trivial jobs, so I’d ask people to remember, okay, [00:30:00] college isn’t for you. There’s other things. Um, another one is the home loan guarantee. The ability to purchase a home with no money down as a veteran th and the homes will be for most of us.
The biggest asset in our portfolio when it goes up, you know, home equity and the like. So it’s really great, live in a good community, and one of the real features of the home loan guarantee is you don’t have to have the down payment, which our civilian counterparts have to save for years to do. You don’t pay private mortgage insurance, which our civilian counterparts do.
And you can often get a haircut on the interest rates, which I know are high now, but you can get a little bit less and one day they’ll be come down and that’ll be good. So many people get that. But what we don’t realize is some veterans are using the equity in the home they purchase to start a business, right?
I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I didn’t have the money. The home, the home loan can help like that. And finally, of course, don’t forget final sort of thing is. Something happens to you because of your service. You have disability compensation. You know, again, your family can get benefits. So try to think about survivor [00:31:00] benefits, and I talk about a whole bunch of those in the book.
So I really do try to make sure veterans understand. Don’t just think about yourself. Consider your family.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, and it’s kind of like a, a, the same theory as life insurance where you, you don’t buy life insurance for yourself, but you buy it for. Or your family, you know, you, you, you wanna make sure that they’re taken care of, uh, you know, after you’re gone. And, and like you said, there are benefits out there for family members, uh, as well. Um, but yeah, you gotta take a look at that book and, and, uh, make sure you have all of that information at the, the tip of your fingers there. Um, and I, I,
Paul Lawrence: of insurance, and speaking of insurance, there’s also, there’s also a chapter about the va uh, supported life insurance. So there’s lots of, there’s lots of commercial, uh, offerings of that, but sometimes if you’re service connected, you cannot get insurance in the private market, and VA does, in fact have insurance programs I described in there.
So again, that’s a good, that’s a, that’s a good example.
Scott DeLuzio: That’s interesting. I didn’t know that there would be some insurance that would, uh, that you wouldn’t be able to get if you were service [00:32:00] connected. That that is the case though, right?
Paul Lawrence: Yeah, so that’s why they have a mortgage. Uh, you know, something, something happens to you pay your mortgage, a life insurance product, whatever. They’re relatively small, so often people offset it, but sometimes they find it’s easier. Some are free. If you’re service connected, there’s no cost. Others are reduced payments and the like.
So it’s a very attractive product.
Scott DeLuzio: Mm-hmm.
Paul Lawrence: But again, it’s just an option as folks need to think about.
Scott DeLuzio: That’s interesting. Um, and I don’t want to give away the whole book here in this episode, but, uh, but do you have any other advice for veterans who are trying to get the VA benefits that they deserve?
Paul Lawrence: Well, yeah, so a couple things. Um, definitely the service officer kind of thing, and, and it’s really important. I mean, I listed the ones from the Veteran Service organizations, but many folks forget your State Department of Veterans Affairs or Veteran Services has service officers. Again, people who are trained on the VA processes.
Who will assist you at no cost. Why knowing about the state service officers is so important is they will also [00:33:00] know about the benefits your state provides veterans. So every state would like veterans to live in their state, so they have certain benefits they provide to veterans in addition to the VA benefits you and I have been talking about.
So I urge all veterans to think about . What about your benefits from your state? Okay. One of the most really valuable ones is if you are service connected at a certain level, most will exempt you from certain taxes. Here in Virginia, it’s your property tax, which is a big tax. Okay? So veterans need to know about your state benefits.
It can include benefits from your spouse. They often compliment or their benefits that the VA just does not provide. So I ask them, think about service officer . Even check out a service officer from your state. ’cause then you get kind of both of those things working together.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, that, that’s true. I, I forgot all about the, the state level benefits, because that is not directly through the va, but, um, there are benefits out there that,
that are, um, available to veterans and they may not even know about it. They may [00:34:00] be, have been paying their property taxes, like you were saying in in
Virginia. Maybe paying those property taxes for, for all those years. Um, and they maybe didn’t have to, or maybe it’s a reduced rate or, uh, you
know, whatever the, the the case is, each state’s gonna be different. But, um, you know, look, yeah, get, get a, uh, person who is familiar with the benefits that are available in your area, who can help walk you through that whole process because it’s, it’s a lot, there’s a lot of stuff to know, and, and that’s
what these people do. That’s, that’s
Paul Lawrence: in and in the book I have a list of all the, the states where they are their, their veterans affairs, the numbers, the information to contact them. So it’s really easy to, easy to connect.
Scott DeLuzio: That, and that’s great too because, um, you know, e even just right now, thinking to myself, okay, who would I call to find out what benefits I’m available for on the state level? I don’t know who that person is, uh, in,
or, or that department or you know, whoever in, in my state. So having that information, you know, through your book, I think is a great way [00:35:00] to have that as well. Um, Before we, we, uh, wrap up, I want to give you a chance to let people know where they can go to get a copy of your book and, uh, you know, anything else that, that might, uh, be of interest to, to the, uh, listeners.
Paul Lawrence: Sure. Well, veterans benefits for you, as you pointed out, is available at Amazon, like everything okay, so I found that’s the easiest way to deal with that. Also, if you follow me on LinkedIn, I try to post information about veterans issues. Sometimes it’s FAQs around certain benefits and the likes, so they can follow me.
That’s probably another place to, uh, to learn about some of the things I’m writing and talking about.
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Well, that’s great, and I’ll have links to both of those in the show notes so that, uh, the listeners, you can check it out there and get a copy of the book. Um, and de definitely, even if you think that you’re using all the benefits, that you have a avail available. Get the book. Take a look [00:37:00] through it and see if there’s anything else that you might be eligible for and stuff that maybe you just weren’t even thinking about.
We, we mentioned a bunch of stuff, uh, in this episode already, but there might be other things too that you are eligible for. You just didn’t know how to access them, you didn’t know who to contact, uh, whatever the case may be. The information’s in the book. So get a copy of the book. Um, again, the link will be in the show notes for anyone who is looking for, uh, for a copy of the book. Um, and, and to follow along on, on LinkedIn for some other, uh, tips and, and, uh, you know, questions that are, are, uh, frequently asked, uh, that, that get answered. So, um,
Before we wrap this up though, I wanna do a, a little segment I’ve been doing recently. Um, it’s, it’s called Is It Service Connected? And I thought this would be a perfect segment, uh, given the, the fact that you are the guest on this show. Um, but for the viewers who aren’t familiar with it and, and for yourself, uh, is it Service Connected is sort of like America’s Funniest Home Videos [00:38:00] military edition. We look at a video of a service member doing something stupid. They’re probably injuring themselves or, or something, you know, ridiculous is happening.
Uh, we try to predict whether or not what happened in the video could qualify for some disability benefits somewhere down the line. Um, and I, I figured who better to do this segment with than, than you, uh, because of your background with, uh, you know, the, the v, the VA and everything like that. So, um, let me, uh, get this video queued up here, um, so that you can see it on your end. And, uh, Here we go. All right, so for the listeners who are, um, not watching the video portion of this, um, First off, check. You gotta check out the video because it makes it so much better. Um, you know, go to YouTube. Uh, we’ll be posting these videos on Twitter as well, but, um, or x I guess it’s called now.
But, um, for those people who don’t have access to the video right now, it looks like there’s a [00:39:00] soldier standing on, looks like snow or ice. And, uh, it’s probably not gonna end up too well for him. So let’s, uh, let’s see what this looks like. Okay. Sliding across the ice. It actually worked out all right for him. And here comes another guy who is down on his back,
Paul Lawrence: Mm-hmm.
Scott DeLuzio: flat on his back on the ice. He thought he could be as cool as the other guy, I guess, and, uh, clearly he could not. So, um, I’m guessing that was probably, um, there was probably some, some head injury. I think I saw his head bouncing off the ice.
Paul Lawrence: Yeah.
Scott DeLuzio: Um, I’m guessing, you know, head, maybe neck. Um, you know, I, I, I gotta imagine that if there was something serious enough there, that, that probably would qualify.
Paul Lawrence: No, absolutely. I mean that could be t b i right your head smash into the hard surface.
That could be T B I. So that absolutely qualifies. And in this example, if he didn’t, was unable to get to medical help, his buddy right there in the video and before him, who did it [00:40:00] first would be the person who could demonstrate that in a buddy statement.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.
Paul Lawrence: So
Scott DeLuzio: and and I think, uh, I’ve said this for some other, uh, videos that we, we’ve done on this show. Um, He has it on video too, so it’s clearly Like there’s, there’s no question about like, he’s wearing his uniform, he is carrying his rifle. You know, I, I think, I think it’s pretty well documented that that would be service connected
If, if that
was actually a, you know, an issue that cropped up, uh, you know, sometime down the line. So, um, so very good points though. And uh, I do want to thank you for taking the time to come on the show, uh, and for, for playing along with, uh, is it connected? Um, Again, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you and, and thank you again.
Paul Lawrence: Hey, thank you, Scott.
Scott DeLuzio: Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to support the show, please check out Scott’s book, Surviving Son on Amazon. All of the sales from that book go directly back into this podcast and work to help veterans in need. [00:41:00] You can also follow the Drive On Podcast on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and wherever you listen to podcasts.