‘Here for Our Military Veterans’: Member-Veterans Share What the Veterans Services Program has Meant to Them
IAM Veterans Services Coordinator Richard Evans moderated a discussion among panelists Kimberlee Charvet (Marine Corps, Local Lodge 1125), Robert Phillips (Navy, Local Lodge 18), Enrique ‘Henry” Guadalajara (Navy, Local Lodge 4), Carvin Evans (Air Force, Local Lodge 837A), Franklin Wilson (Navy, Local Lodge 1005), and Bill Harkum (Air Force/Air National Guard, Local Lodge 2424) about what the IAM is doing to support members who have served in the military.
“Our union has the largest percentage of military veterans in the labor movement,” said IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr., a U.S. Naval Air veteran, in his introduction of Evans as host of the panel. “It has always made taking care of our service men and women a high priority. We work to ensure that IAM military veteran brothers and sisters receive all the benefits they rightfully deserve to continue the next phase of their careers.”
Evans, a U.S. Navy veteran, is an accredited claims agent, which makes it possible for him to prepare, present, and prosecute veterans’ claims against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for benefits in disability, health care, education, pension, and burial.
“I’ve been tasked to help each and every one of the IAM’s military veterans, as well as veteran family members, in maximizing their benefits from a veteran’s standpoint,” said Evans. “Previously our veteran’s program gave information to our members to make them aware of the benefits they could receive. We would give thanks for their service, give out nice things like pins and letters, and celebrate the holidays. Now, we go out and we get them the benefits that they have earned through their service to our nation.”
Panelists took turns sharing their experiences with the help they received from Evans through the IAM Veterans Services Program.
“Every time I had a question about doing a claim, I was able to reach out to you any time of day and you would give a response,” said Robert Phillips, a U.S. Navy veteran from Local Lodge 18 whose claim took a long time to get adjudicated and had a higher level of review. “Why would I give up, if you’re not going to give up? You helped my daughter to get her claim started, and I trusted you to get mine going.”
Servicewomen and women’s advocates are speaking out about Military Sexual Assault, an epidemic in our Armed Forces that the media has been covering in recent years. Nearly one in three servicewomen reports experiencing sexual assault in the military, and more than half report experiencing harassment.
“Women get let down a lot after the assault occurs,” said Charvet. “They face retaliation and judgment; they face harsher discharge rates, and they are twice as likely to become homeless. What I want veterans who have faced sexual assault to know is that as disheartening as the continued high rates of sexual assault are, it’s also indicative of the number of survivors around us. I would encourage you to reach out and find community and gather strength in that community, and remember that you’re not alone.”
“When I did a claim, I had a military Sexual Trauma claim, we were working on that claim for 13 months, and we ended with 100% disability which was incredible and not something I was expecting because like most victims I didn’t have a lot of evidence,” said Charvet.
“I had heard about the horror stories with the VA, the wait times, the number of times they ask you to recount your assaults, and I was extremely discouraged with the process, but with Rich’s help and encouragement and compassion, we were able to get through that process,” said Charvet. “I would encourage any veterans to use this program, because the people behind it, they care, legitimately and genuinely, they care about you and will be there to help you every step of the way regardless of how difficult that process becomes.”
Panelist and Local 2005 shop steward Franklin Wilson, a U.S. Navy Veteran, is one of three local delegates from the West Coast on the Veterans Services steering committee. He has been attending classes at the IAM’s Winpisinger Education and Technology Center (W3) to become accredited as a claims agent for the VA.
READ: IAM Local 1005 Member on Mission to Help Friends, Military Veterans
“The love and respect that Mr. Evans has given me have just motivated me,” said Wilson. “When I reached out for help, Mr. Richard Evans replied back to emails, called me, let me know the whole process, and gave so much knowledge and help. So, when I get the chance to give back, I have to give back because it takes a lot of pain away from myself to give love to somebody else.”
Since Evans’ appointment as Coordinator, starting April 1, 2022, the program has already won back-pay for veterans totaling more than $400,000, gotten 38 veterans’ claims confirmed, and improved the disability status of eight veterans to 100% permanent and total.
READ: Newly-Launched IAM Veterans Services Program Proves Huge Success in Helping Members Obtain Earned VA Benefits
“As of August 25, with the help of our general council and legislative department, our union has submitted our application to be recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs as a veterans service organization,” said Evans. “Remember, we are the first, we are the only to ever do this.”
Get help from IAM Veterans Services by calling 1-800-IAM-4VET or submitting to the Veterans Services contact form.
For more information, visit our website.