An Expert in Filing

by | Jun 2024

FORMS AND paperwork can be daunting even on the best days — especially when so many forms are important to fill out correctly. That is the struggle of many veterans as they work to file for benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Fortunately, veteran service organizations (VSOs) like the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion always have someone there to help: the service officer. 

A service officer acts as a liaison between the veteran and the VA and has the knowledge and experience to handle claims with care. P.R. Webster provides that resource for thousands of veterans in Bowling Green and surrounding counties. For nearly 20 years, he has met with veterans and filed paperwork, doing his best to get local service members the help and compensation they have earned. 

The job is neither glamorous nor easy. While Webster is retired, his position as a service officer includes 40-hour weeks and weekend overtime. He has to be familiar with dozens of different forms and qualifications, and he must travel across seven counties to meet with those he serves. 

“The VA has over 730 forms, but we deal with about 30 or 40,” Webster explained. “It just takes time — patience — to learn how to do them.” 

Because it is so time-consuming and complex, Webster said the position is often relegated to the “new guy” at a VSO. That is how Webster was introduced to the position in 2006. He’d spent three years in the army, serving in Vietnam. Years later, after retiring from his construction job, he joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion as a life member. 

“I had retired from my job, and I needed to do something,” Webster said. “I took to it, I enjoyed it, and I got good results, and so I’ve stuck with it ever since.” 

That persistence sets Webster apart from many other service officers, who Webster said wanted to help veterans but didn’t want to learn the VA system. It’s a system that many veterans are unaware of and need to know. Webster’s job has helped him serve thousands of people, but there are many more who never seek out a service officer to get the benefits they are due. 

“They don’t know what they’re supposed to do when they get out of the service,” Webster said. “By joining a VSO, then people like me tell them what their benefits are, but a lot of veterans don’t join veteran service organizations, and they’re just out there playing with their grandkids and [have] no clue what they might be entitled to.” 

It might be six years of work to get someone’s back pay, or there may only be a few days to file a claim so a family can have military honors at a funeral. It could be filing for insurance, education, disability, or any number of other issues. Once a month, he goes to the Warren County jail to work with veterans who are inmates there, helping them access resources the VA can provide and prepare for their release. Any veteran, spouse, child, or widow may have a claim, and Webster helps all of them — free of charge. 

As a result of his years of dedication, many veterans and their families have gotten the benefits they worked so hard to earn through serving their country. His work and those like him make Bowling Green a better place daily. GN 

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