Members of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) chapter in Granbury are fighting for their fellow soldiers’ rights to receive their disability benefits that they so rightly deserve.
Two DAV members, veterans Nelson Roberts Jr. and Chris Georgopoulos, were both wounded during their time in service, and vowed to educate future wounded soldiers about receiving their necessary benefits.
Originally from San Diego, California, Roberts, 92, was a member of the Marine Corps, who joined the Reserves when he was 22. Just three weeks after joining, he was sent to Korea.
Roberts’ Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) in the Marines was driving a World War II tank.
“Because I worked on my dad's ranch and (had) driven tractors, I was allowed to just get in it and it had a gearshift — no hydraulics, or no automatic drivers so it didn't bother me — and I liked it,” he said. “I didn't have to attack any except in Korea. In the capital of Korea, they had the walls of dirt bags set up on the streets, but with this bulldozer blade in front, I could go up and knock them down and fire into them, and that's really what we did.”
Roberts suffered from a gunshot wound on his right shoulder during his two years in the military, for which he received two Purple Hearts.
“I still have it and I still suffer with it. It still hurts,” he said, referring to his wound. “I wouldn’t let them operate on me.”
Georgopoulos was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He joined the Air Force when he was 17 and served from 1969-1973, where he worked as a weapons mechanic.
“Our nickname was load toads,” he said, chuckling.
When he lived in New York, he had been a part of the DAV chapter there. Realizing that there wasn’t a DAV chapter in Granbury once he moved here seven years ago, Georgopoulos helped late Marine, Con Shuck, to get one started. At first, they needed 50 new members to form a chapter, but that number was later lowered to 25, allowing the Granbury DAV Chapter 238 to finally form on Aug. 20, 2018.
“Our main goal is to help veterans and their families get the benefits they've earned because working through the VA (Veteran Administration), it's a long, hard process,” Georgopoulos said.
During his time in service, he injured his back and also developed hearing loss.
“The VA gives me $5,000 hearing aids, but they won't pay anything for it,” Georgopoulos said. “For my hearing loss I am rated at 10% disabled because the VA considers it tinnitus rather than hearing loss. That's the struggles we have. They word things a certain way, so they won't have to pay.”
Georgopoulos said if an individual believes they have a service-connected disability, a chapter service officer will fill out the preliminary paperwork and pass that on to a national service officer in Waco, who would then be the next contact person for the veteran or the family.
“Veterans get benefits, but the family does as well, depending on the situation,” he said. “My uncle died several years back, and my cousin called me, and he asked, ‘Does my mom receive any income since my father died?’ I said, ‘Well, let me look into it.’ She got a benefit because of her loss and she's getting about $1,200 a month.”’
He said the reason that many disabled veterans don’t receive their benefits is because they wait too long after they leave the service to claim their injury.
“Back then, when I was getting out in ‘73, nobody grabbed you by the hand and said, ‘Hey, let's go get you some benefits if you got hurt.’ Nobody knew how to navigate the system,” Georgopoulos said. “I didn't put a claim in my back injury till 1990, and waiting that long even now 50 years later, you can't get a doctor to connect the dots for you. They don't know if it's service connected because it was just so long ago. And (it’s hard) to find records from your doctors that treated you where everything was handwritten where you couldn't read it anyway, and my two doctors who treated me for that, they're dead now. So how do you connect the dots? It's very hard.”
He recommends veterans to try to claim an injury before they even get out of the service if they can.
“Even if you think something's connected to your service, get somebody, talk about it and try to reclaim it. Worse that can happen, they deny you,” he said.
“They couldn't argue with me. I had two Purple Hearts,” Roberts chimed in, laughing. “I have gotten my benefits for many years. I don't get much but I get something, and I have a strong belief in it and the concept of what's going on.”
Roberts and Georgopoulos also hope to increase the DAV membership.
"We have a total now of about 75 members, and about eight to 12 of us are the only active ones who come to meetings every month, and that puts a strain on us, because we have to be everywhere in the community when something's going on where we're involved in it,” Georgopoulos added. “A lot of people, even now, don't know there's a DAV chapter in Granbury.”
The Granbury DAV chapter meets at 7 p.m., the second Monday of every month at the clubhouse charter house located at 959 Charterhouse Circle.
For more information, contact the Granbury DAV Chapter 238 by calling 682-498-3792.