This is a topic near and dear to my heart. In addition to representing Veterans in appeals for service connected disability claims, I train case managers, social workers, government staff, and police on various aspects of Veterans benefits, resources, treatment, advocacy and service. I have a history of consulting with and leading organizations in their quest to better support Veterans. And I continue to seek to bring the various service providers in Washington State together for common standards of service.

Here’s the problem with all of this…

How do you know I’m not just making all this up?

Much of my day is spent online, looking up information – whether to cite a case, gain insight on an argument, email folks back, track down an elusive VA phone number or email, or to update our company Facebook. As a person and Veteran seeking to better my approach and delivery of Veterans services, I definitely look to other Veterans service providers to see what they’re doing. What they might be doing right, perhaps what they are doing wrong. In this vein, I am often confronted with information I cannot verify from sources that I cannot verify.

I’m certainly not telling you “trust no-one.” One of the biggest successes we, as Veterans, can have is learning how to trust people outside of our inner circle (again). I would say, rather, trust but verify. You don’t want to stake your benefits, your energy, your ability to pursue goals on someone who is either poorly prepared or ill-suited to support your needs.

I’ll use myself as an example, to show you some tools for verifying providers and their services:

Most advocates exist within a network of other advocates – that is how we stay abreast of changes in laws, methods, delivery, etc. It is our water-cooler. Many/most of us have a LinkedIN profile – and unlike Facebook, we cannot set it to private. Additionally, if we keep it up to date, it shows you our professional history as well as recommendations. It’s basically a resume that ANYONE can look at. Imagine how much power that puts in your hand as someone seeking a great advocate/representative..

How do you know I’m not just making all this up? Use these tools to find out!

Don’t forget to do a Yelp search on someone you’re looking to work with. Here is our Yelp Profile: Gustad Law

Many businesses have a Yelp page created, this is the one stop shop for reviews. Our work is a product, and while it may not resemble stuff you might see reviews about (iPods, Cars, Frying Pans), it does elicit reviews. Yelp is a great way to aggregate these reviews and provides you, the seeker of resources/advocacy a chance to see what others have thought of ours or someone else’s services.

There’s also the good “old-fashioned” Google Search.
Here is what happens when you Google: Josh Penner Veterans
Here is what happens when you Google: Gustad Law Veterans

Look closely at the items that show up that are not LinkedIN or Facebook or our own webpage… you’ll see the events we are present at – how close we are to the community we work with. You can use these tools for other agencies and advocates as well. This is how to be empowered and know who you’re working with.

Look to other advocates – Veterans Services providers. Use these tools and methods to verify they are they doing the work necessary to earn your trust?

If in doubt, feel free to reach out to me and I’ll give you my honest impression.

And as always, work with the person who works with & for you the best.