Accredited veterans service officers are the key to good service and are supposed to be experts at helping veterans get the benefits they deserve — county, state, or federal.
NOTE: As a matter of policy, because we believe there is a need for face-to-face service, at times and especially during the first interview for a claim, we do not list organizations who do not provide contact information on this page unless an organization has the ability to provide this service to the Lehigh Valley.
State Veterans Service Officers #
Little known, the Office of Veterans Affairs (OVA) from the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provides a few accredited service officers of its own. In fact, OVA now certifies most county directors of veterans affairs for accreditation by the Department of Veterans Affairs; and its state service officers actually represent them at the Philadelphia VA Regional Office, where your claim would normally go.
These state-employed, veterans service officers tend to be hole up at the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh VA Regional Offices and Ft. Indiantown Gap. They no longer provide a service officer twice a month to the Allentown VA Clinic.
As a result, State Service Officers are generally of little use to you as an individual, unless your organization happens to request they come to Lehigh Valley as part of their new mobile outreach van service started in 2013, a service originally intended for more remote areas where other service officers are unable tread. Many parts of the Lehigh Valley fit this criterion. If interested in scheduling an outreach van, click here.
County Veterans Service Officers &
County Directors of Veterans Affairs #
Most county directors of veterans affairs are now accredited service officers, and the state’s county codes require each county to have one county director. Fortunately, in Lehigh and Northampton Counties, these are fulltime positions. Actually, Lehigh County has had additional, accredited veterans service officers who are accredited. Do not use service officers unaccredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Always ask. These below are accredited:
- Lehigh County – Thomas Applebach, tel: 610-782-3295.
- Northampton County – Alex Carrillo, tel: 610-829-4877.
- For additional information and to locate other county directors of veterans affairs, click here.
Veterans Organizations’ Service Officers (VSO) #
Veterans Service Organizations play an important role as advocates; and especially when a problem with a government agency exists. They also play a key role in providing competent, accredited veterans service officers to veterans in this state through the Act 66 of 2007 grant program.
Below are accredited Veterans Service Officers who come into the Lehigh and Northampton counties and serve veterans regardless of whether or not they belong to the service officers’ organizations. There is no requirement by law to join a service organization to receive service officer assistance. Nowadays, only four of the major veterans organizations provide the bulk of this service, however. It changes, but they often use the Allentown VA Outpatient Clinic between the hours of 9 a.m. and 2 or 3 p.m. a day or two a week, and generally accept walk-ins, but some do require appointments and meet at other locations described below — or now use teleconference. Therefore it is best to call ahead of time to make arrangements.
- AMVETS: Jose Monterrosa, tel: 717-865-9982 on Wednesdays at the Allentown clinic
- DAV (Disabled American Veterans): Tim Davis, tel: 610-969-2082. On an appointment basis, provides a service officer to Valley Health Partners through its Veterans Health Program at the old Nurses College building on 17th and Chew St. in Allentown.
- Military Order of the Purple Heart: As of 2021, MOPH no longer provides veterans service officers.
- VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars): Luis Ybarra, tel: 570-821-2535/ 2506, is at Allentown Outpatient Clinic on second and fourth Mondays and Thursdays of the month and at the Bangor (Northampton) Clinic on second and fourth Wednesdays of the month.
- The American Legion: Brian Stolarski, tel: 570-821-2526 or email: Brians@pa-legion.com. The American Legion in Pennsylvania typically provides a broader outreach into the communities through using various office locations, typically those of legislators. However, appointments are required (no walk-ins).
- Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA): They do not provide a routine, local service to the Lehigh Valley.
Veterans Benefit Counselor (VBC) #
The servicing Philadelphia VA Regional Office provides a near-equivalent service to that performed by county directors and veterans service officers for benefits counseling and filing of claims at the Allentown Clinic, if you desire to use the VA directly instead of an “advocate organization” — which we consider a better option for most. Call first.
- Al Pritchard, Veterans Benefits Administration VBC, tel: 570-821-2504 (tel: 610-776-4315 when at the Allentown Outpatient Clinic) on every Tuesday.
Checking on Your Claim’s Status #
In addition to occasionally calling your claims service officer or the VA by phone, you can now check on your claim’s status for yourself using eBenefits, or — worst case — you can use fill out a question form on the VA’s website information inquiry systems. Click here for the new Ask VA and MyVA411 systems.
Self-Help Guides #
Nothing replaces a current, competent, accredited veterans service officer for filing a claim. Studies show that one is more likely to succeed and draw higher compensation using one. However, understanding the system better does not hurt. TurboTaps provides a handbook as do some others. See Transition and Benefits Knowledge 101.
Last Updated: 10 August 2023 (update of county director list; update to outreach van service)