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By Pat Lisi

          One of the best kept secrets inSouthern Utahwhen it comes to veterans’ advocacy is the Veterans Angels LLC.  “Angels” is owned and operated by James McElfresh, a VA Accredited Agent for VA Appeals and a former member of the US Air Force, and his wife Jeanese McElfresh, a very kind and caring woman, just like her husband.  Their office is located inParowan,Utahwhich is a quick, scenic drive from Saint George and just twenty minutes north ofCedarCityalong the Hwy 15 corridor.

          I was introduced to the McElfresh’s by a veteran who I casually met one day in the waiting room at the St. George VA clinic, just before a PTSD group workshop.  Earlier, I had made application to the VA for a PTSD claim and was not getting the response or aid that I needed and knew I deserved.  The VA was finally willing to settle with me based on a 10% decision.  When I spoke with this veteran about the decision he told me to give Jim McElfresh a call.

          At first, I was sort of skeptical.  You know how it is, if you’re a veteran.  I wasn’t too sure what the Veterans Angels was about or what they could even do about the insulting 10% offer handed to me by the VA.  More or less a trust issue, I waited a week before calling.  As it turned out, the only mistake I made by waiting amounted to wasting 7 days!  In other words, I should have called immediately, because every day you wait to appeal a decision the more time you risk not getting your appeals process started and completed within the prescribed (by law) time period.

          The Angels’ office is really at their home in Parowan, but James prefers to meet with the veteran in a conference room at the public library there.  This is a great atmosphere as it is quiet, private (closed door), and best of all easy to find.  My first encounter with James was awesome!  Over the phone I could feel his respect for me as a veteran as well as his outrage at the VA’s decision concerning my PTSD problem and request for compensation. 

          But, in person I was “wowed” by Jim, because this man was for real!  In the first ten minutes I knew that he was extremely knowledgeable about the federal laws governing the VA’s compensation programs.  I also figured out quickly that James’ education and licensing requirements are very strict and that he knows the federal code forward and backward.  You see, sometimes you don’t even know there is a benefit available to you unless you talk to someone who knows the code and is willing to volunteer that information to you, the veteran.

          Jim went to work on my claim which manifested itself right away in the form of an appeal to the VA’s decision.  I agreed to let him be my official representative by way of a contract, and then I just sat back and allowed the Angels to do their stuff.  I did not give up control, which is something you keep despite your agreement with Jim.  What was really great was every time Jim sent a letter to the VA to inquire about my appeal, which was often, he would cc the letter to me; conversely, each time the VA responded to Jim, which again was letter for letter, I would get the same correspondence from both the VA and Jim.  In other words, I was always up to date with information.

          I had to go in for appointments as set by the VA for evaluations and re evaluations and, even though these visits to the VA-assigned vendors at times seemed to be burdensome, James was always there beforehand to encourage me. 

          Over the next 15 months my PTSD rating steadily went up, and it WOULD NOT have happened had I not signed on with the Veterans Angels LLC.  This I guarantee.  Why?  The answer is simple.  When you go through the hell and turmoil that comes with the symptoms of PTSD only to get a rating of 10%, the air is let out of your balloon and all you want to do is give up, accept what they offered, and then crawl into a hole to live out your life as a lizard. 

          James McElfresh will not let you do this even if you want to, and I must admit there were times during my appeals process that I thought about letting this go.  He is tenacious with your claim and will not rest until he gets you to the percentage and respect that you deserve for your loyal and undying service to this great country.  I don’t want to give away all my secrets here, but let’s just that in my case I am really, really satisfied with what the Veterans Angels have fought for and accomplished on my behalf.  My wife loves Jim and Jeanese and, even though we have finally settled with the VA, the four of us get together for lunch or dinner whenever possible.  When we’re around these people we almost feel like we have body guards on each side of us.  “Guardian Angels” are more like it.

          Even though the Veterans Angels specialize in VA appeals you don’t have to wait until your initial decision from the VA to contact them.  Jim will probably ask you if you have made formal application to the VA for your claim, and he will also ask if you have chosen a personal representative, such as one of the military service organizations like the American Legion or VFW, etc. When I called Jim the first time, it so happened that I had named the American Legion as my rep.  When Jim asked me how that was going I had to admit that the Legion had never, ever contacted me, and that’s when I switched reps to the Angels.  This is not to say the American Legion did anything wrong, and they are a wonderful organization; it’s just that I was getting nowhere on my claim using them as my rep and I needed to get this done.

          If you want more information from me about James and Jeanese and the Veterans Angels LLC call me, Pat Lisi, at 435-215-3090.  Or, you can simply go ahead and call them yourself, and please tell them that you read this article and want more information from them.  By the way, the Veterans Angels specialize in disability appeals of ALL kinds, not just PTSD.  But, the best advice I can give you is DO NOT WAIT, because you are wasting precious time that could put you in jeopardy of filing an application or appeal outside the legal time limits.

Here is the contact information for the Veterans Angels LLC:

801 – 290-1760 (Yes, that sounds like a SLC area code, but it’s correct)

Hang in there my friend, and don’t ever give up!