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IRAQ VETERAN BECOMES SERVICE OFFICER TO GIVE BACK

Jon Gohn returns the favor by helping veterans navigate the VA.

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Claims Office Assistant Supervisor
Jon Gohn during his deployment to Iraq.

“When I came home from Iraq, my uncle took me by the hand and helped me navigate the VA,” said Jon Gohn of Sioux Falls, S.D.

“I wanted to give back to the profession that did so much for me.”

In 2006, Gohn became a service officer. Four years later, he was promoted to Claims Office Assistant Supervisor at the South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs. Now he trains service officers and keeps them abreast to VA law changes.

Gohn is grateful to have received training and accreditation through VFW National Veterans Service. 

“Every day my goal is to learn something new,” said Gohn. “The VA is a living, breathing system that is always evolving.”

Gohn has celebrated many victories for the veterans he serves. Most recently, he helped the widow of a Vietnam veteran apply for Dependent and Indemnity Compensation (DIC).

The widow lost her husband, who was 100% service-connected with Special Monthly Compensation, after a long struggle with lung cancer and congestive heart failure. When he passed, the VA reclaimed more than $15,000 in benefits.

“She needed that money to live on,” said Gohn. “And her daughter was getting married the following week in Kentucky. She thought she’d have to miss the wedding.”

Gohn called a coach at the Pension Maintenance Center in St. Paul and explained this widow’s tremendous hardship. VA responded quickly and appropriately. She received her benefits in just two days and the $15,000 was returned immediately. She made it to her daughter’s wedding and didn’t miss a step.

Gohn also remembers another case of restored hope for a man tired of fighting the system.

A year ago, Gohn got a call from a Native American Vietnam veteran who suffered from PTSD and other service-connected conditions. He was frustrated by all the red tape and desperate for answers.

Gohn got right to work and quickly found the veteran to be a prime candidate for Individual Unemployability, which he received two months later.

“This gracious veteran drove across the state to give me a hand-beaded bolo tie that was blessed by tribal leaders to protect me and my family,” said Gohn. “It had a symbol of Unity made by the Lakota people and a Vietnam ribbon in the center. It was so invigorating, and a reminder of just how important this work is.”

Gohn’s favorite part of his work is meeting real-life heroes.

“I meet so many vets from all generations and most are so humble. I run across guys who have seen and done more in one day than most people do in a lifetime. I love my job, and I’m proud of my employees for all the great work they do. We hold our heads high and represent the VFW to the best of our ability … each and every day,” Gohn concluded.

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