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Veterans don’t need to pay for help accessing benefits, official says

February 01, 2019 - 7:14 am

There’s been an uptick in veterans turning to paid services for help accessing their benefits, a Cameron County official said, but assistance is available completely free through the Veterans Service Office.

Salvador Castillo, director of the Cameron County Veterans Service Office, said he noticed veterans occasionally requested their medical records because a friend or relative had passed on the name of someone who promised to help push their benefit claims through the Veterans Affairs Department for a price. Castillo said he now is hearing veterans say they are entering into contracts for assistance, signing away a percentage of the money they receive from the VA.

The county Veterans Services Office provides help connecting with compensation, medical, education and other veterans’ benefits free of charge.

“I want the public to know, before you fork over money or sign a contract to give a percentage of what you’re going to get back, you might be giving away money for no reason,” Castillo said. “If the government is providing the service for free, why pay for it?”

One thing that sets his office apart is that Castillo is accredited by the Veterans Administration. He and his staff have access to all of veterans’ military service and medical records, Castillo added, and they can advocate on behalf of their clients in a way unaccredited people can’t.

“I can pick up the phone and call people at the regional office or people handling your case,” and ask them to look at evidence in the veteran’s favor, he said.

The Cameron County Veterans Service Office can assist with accessing benefits including compensation, pension, health care enrollment, education, burial, widow’s pension, housing and business ownership.

Castillo added that a red flag to look out for is anyone who guarantees certain results.

“There is no guarantee for a positive outcome,” he said, because the decision is up to a rater or in some cases a judge with the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. “If it’s within the law, it doesn’t deviate very much. There’s no one who can do something special for you.”

One recent accomplishment for the Cameron County Veterans Service Office on behalf of a client was the case of a WWII veteran who hoped he qualified for a few hundred dollars per month. Castillo played a video of the veteran’s daughter revealing that he not only qualified to receive $1,100 per month from the VA, but also $6,000 in back-pay.

“We take care of the whole individual,” Castillo said. “One benefit you qualify for may open the door to another one.”

Learn more about the Cameron County Veterans Service Office by visiting co.cameron.tx.us or facebook.com/CCVSOoperationligthouse. The department has offices in Brownsville and San Benito.

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