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In the season of giving, the opportunity to help is one of the finest gifts for veteran

For DAV benefits expert Joe Kauffman, the spirit of giving is something he embraces every day, and the opportunity to help his fellow veterans means more to him than he could have ever imagined.

“My work [with DAV] is humbling,” said Kauffman. “Every day I meet with veterans who have remarkable stories and experiences. We see veterans when they are at the lowest point in their lives, or they have been fighting with the VA for years to get the benefits they believe they are entitled to.”

Kauffman is a Marine and two-time Iraq War veteran who joined DAV as a benefits advocate when he learned about DAV’s mission. He was especially touched by his work with Navy veteran Joseph Lightwies.

Lightwies sought help from DAV for an appeal when another veteran told him about DAV’s claims services. He was discharged from the Navy in 1968 and worked many years as a carpenter until health issues forced him into retirement. As is often the case, circumstances left Lightwies unable to afford housing. For decades, he was homeless.

Kauffman sprang into action to assist Lightwies, who had revealed that he had been sleeping in his car. With confirmation of the veteran’s housing situation, Kauffman expedited the appeal based on VA policy for prioritizing claims processing for homeless veterans.

The thing he remembers most about his conversations with Lightwies was his understanding of the process.

“He was never bitter or angry,” said Kauffman. “He understood we were doing everything we could to help him get his benefits, and this made working with him much easier.”

Kauffman is quick to point out that he wasn’t the only DAV representative in his office working with Lightwies and that he just happened to be the one who had the good fortune to work with him over the last half of his appeal. This appeal ultimately helped him get the benefits he had been waiting for several years to receive. 

The amount awarded to Lightwies meant he no longer needed to worry about where his next meal was coming from. Instead, he could focus on working with the VA to secure housing. Kauffman has remained in touch with him since his appeal decision, and Lightwies has sent Kauffman photos of his new home.

“I am genuinely happy for Joseph, and all the clients I assist each day,” says Kaufman. “And that is a good feeling to have about the type of work you do.” 

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