So I want to get myself into a position to help service members transition into the civilian life and help veterans who are pursuing VA benefits like disability, G.I Bill etc. I would like to be certified as a VSO but not necessarily work for an organization. I'm looking to be independent. My idea behind my vision is that I want to me a mobile facilitator, I want to be able to meet the service member/veteran where they are to make it convenient for them. I will also have my own laptop and printer readily available and other administrative materials. I want to help those who don't have a plan or idea of what to do when they get out or how to navigate the VA.
I guess my main question would be can I be certified as a VSO or do I have to be associated with an organization like DAV?
I feel I have a calling to help other veterans and have education and personal experiences to contribute.
Any and all input and advice is welcome.
**Edit, I'm not sure if VSO's get paid or not, but my intent is to not make money off of this, I'm in a position where I can volunteer and focus on helping others bit just want to have some credibility attached to my name.
Here in New York, each county has a certified Veterans Service Officer who works through an existing congressionally chartered VSO (American Legion, DAV, VFW, etc). The county pays the agent; Vets get assistance filing their claims for free. I assume you could seek accreditation on your own. The issue you’d face then is getting Vets who need assistance to know how to find you. Check out https://www.va.gov/OGC/docs/Accred/HowtoApplyforAccreditation.pdf
To get the ball rolling. Good luck!
Hi Michael! Thanks for your service. VSOs are generally registered nonprofit organizations which raise money from individuals and corporations to perform their services. From what you described as your career interests of helping veterans make smooth transitions, it sounds like there are many VSOs you could work for which would allow you to have the stability of a paycheck each week while also helping other vets. If you are looking to do this independently, you might be better off volunteering with an existing VSO than trying to become certified as an independent individual consultant which sounds like it could be complicated. One thing to keep in mind is that there are more than 50,000 existing VSOs so you can likely do what you want to do within the framework of an organization that already exists vs. trying to start your own. Those are just some initial thoughts I had as I read your question.
I am not sure if I can reply to questions directly?
Colleen and Kevin, thank you very much for the advice and sources.
Kevin, the reason I want to work outside of an organization is because with myself and a dozen of other friends/vets that I known have had not too good experience with organizations and I'm not trying to down play or discredit thier services but I figured I can get myself into a position where if I'm helping someone I can give them my full attention all they way through the process. Also, you mention that it would be hard for veterans to find me and I had thought of that issue as well. I am currently in business school and I see this as an opportunity to practice my customer service, marketing and finance skills by advertising myself on the local base, Camp Lejeune, local churches and other places I can out up flyers and business cards. I will look in to the accreditation process and see what I can do, I do not plan on actually working for anyone or making any kind of money at all, this will be something I would do while I get through school and figure out my career path. Who knows, maybe it will be an actual accredited claims agent, but we shall see.
I really appreciate that response and that makes a whole lot of sense. I wouldn't even know where to start but this will help greatly. My experiences with some organizations have been not as great and thats what made me realize I would like to pursue this route. I will have to look into some other places near me and figure out how I can get involved. I definitely want to be volunteer. Again thank you so much for your insight.
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