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Finding a qualified veterans service officer

WASHINGTON—Veterans are eligible for a wide range of benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, including health care, disability compensation, burial and survivor benefits, and education and home loans.

For more information, contact the VA at 1-800-827-1000 or go to www.va.gov.

While veterans can apply for benefits directly with the VA, even on its Web site, experts recommend that those seeking compensation for disabilities get the free help of a well-trained VA-accredited service officer.

Because service-officer training varies widely, here are some questions to ask when shopping for a claims helper:

_How much training and experience do you have?

_What's your approach to researching and building a claim? How much work will you do, and how much will I be responsible for?

_Is this your full-time job? Or do you just handle claims occasionally?

_What's your success rate for handling my type of claim?

_What resources does your organization have if my claim is denied and I need to appeal?

To find a service officer, contact your state or county veterans affairs department or a national veterans service organization. Lists are available at www1.va.gov/vso/.

"The Veterans Self-Help Guide on VA Claims" is available from the National Veterans Legal Services Program and can be ordered online for $7.50 at www.nvlsp.org/publicationslist.htm.

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