Department of South Carolina DSO Officer

John Johnson

Command Sergeant Major, USA (Retired)

VFW Department Service Officer

Columbia, South Carolina






Nicole Johnson

Claims Consultant/Administrative Assistant

Office Phone: (803) 647-2442




Jerri Williams

Assistant Service Officer

Office Phone: (803) 647-2421



Office Schedule

Monday-Thursday 8:00 AM-4:00 PM; Friday 8:00 AM-12:00 PM

Scheduled Appointments

Friday 12:00 PM-4:00 PM; Training/Administrative.

Office: (803) 647-2442/2443

Fax: (803) 647-2313

6437 Garners Ferry Rd, Suite 1124

Columbia, SC 29209


February 13, 2024




August 2, 2023


Pact Act Claims


New Director VA Regional Office, Columbia, SC

Director: Shelia Jackson

On May 7, 2023, Shelia Jackson was appointed to the position of Director, Columbia Regional Office (RO), Columbia South Carolina. Ms. Jackson is responsible and accountable for administering federal benefits to approximately 393,792 Veterans and their families living in South Carolina.  These services total approximately $3 billion in annual compensation, pension, and survivor benefit payments. An additional $4.3 million is spent in the operation of the Regional Office. The Columbia VA Regional Office also includes out-based Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) offices in Greenville and Charleston, South Carolina.  Additionally, the Columbia VA Regional Office has a presence at the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) locations at Fort Jackson, Shaw Air Force Base, Beaufort Naval Hospital, Charleston Naval Hospital, Charleston AFB, Charleston Naval Health Clinic, and under the Veteran Success on Campus (VSOC) initiative, a presence at Midlands Technical College in Columbia, SC.

Prior to this appointment, Ms. Jackson was assigned to the Office of Administrative Review with the primary mission to establish the Nation’s three Decision Review Operations Centers (DROCs) and implement the Appeals Modernization Act of 2017.  In this capacity, Ms. Jackson has served as the DROC Manager at the St. Petersburg RO since 2018.  From 2015 until 2017, Ms. Jackson was the Director of the VA Regional Office in Reno NV.  During her assignment as the Assistant Director at the VA Regional Office in Los Angeles from 2012 until 2015, Ms. Jackson served as the Acting Director of the VA Regional Office in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Ms. Jackson served 20 years in the United States Army in positions of Military Police, Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Specialist, and Army Recruiting Command.


February 15, 2023


                         PACT Act Information Website Referrals

On January 10, 2023, VFW launched a new initiative to inform veterans of, a website that streamlines referrals to our cadre of accredited service officers for VA Disability Claims related to the PACT Act. When a veteran visits the site, they can answer a short series of questions to determine if they are potentially eligible for benefits and can also request that an accredited representative contact them to discuss their claim.

Many offices have received and addressed these referrals during our soft launch period, however we expect that referrals from this site will increase as the word gets out. When you receive a referral from the site, please respond to the veteran in a timely manner; all requests should be acted upon within one week of the referral.

After responding to a referral or working on a PACT Act claim, please create a communication marked "Other” and enter "PACT Act” in the veteran’s VetraSpec record so that we may be able to accurately track PACT Act claims. If the veteran’s VetraSpec record already has a PACT Act communication entered you do not need to enter a new Pact Act communication, just note your actions as you would with any other claim.

If you have any questions about the PACT Act, need to update your office POC, or find that you are receiving more referrals than your office can manage, please contact your Regional Quality Assurance Specialist and they will assist you. You can also visit the PACT Act Resources section in the VFW Online Learning Portal Resources page for more information.    

                Auto Allowance May Now be Granted every 10 years

On January 5, 2022, President Biden signed Public Law 117-333 which includes a provision that allows VA to provide an automobile allowance more than once in the veterans lifetime.

With this change, eligible veterans may now receive an automobile allowance once every 10 years rather than once in a lifetime.

Implementation of the Law: If a veteran had already received an automobile allowance prior to this law change, they may apply immediately for a new auto allowance if more than 30 years have elapsed since they received their most recent auto allowance. Beginning on January 5, 2032 veterans may apply for an additional auto allowance once 10 years have passed since their previous auto allowance was awarded. 


New VA Life Insurance

On January 1, 2023, VA launched a new life insurance program for veterans with service-connected disabilities. The new program, called Veterans Affairs Life Insurance (VALife), offers guaranteed acceptance whole life insurance coverage to all veterans aged 80 or under with any level of service-connected disability rating from VA. Veterans 81 or older may qualify if they meet certain criteria.

VALife offers the following benefits:

·        Up to $40,000 in coverage, available in increments of $10,000

·        Cash value component that builds over the life of the policy after the initial two-year enrollment period

·        No medical requirements for enrollment

·        No deadline to apply if you are age 80 or under

·        Premium rates that are competitive or better than similar programs available in the private sector


To learn more on VALife please review the attached documents and visit the VALife website here: These documents are also available on the VFW Online Learning Portal in the VA Provided Job Aid file of the Resources section. 


                                         SBP DIC Offset Eliminated

Beginning February 1, 2023, surviving spouses enrolled in the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) program will receive their full payment from DFAS and their full Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) payment from the VA. This is because February 1, 2023 will be the first SBP annuity payday after the SBP-DIC Offset is fully eliminated, which takes effect January 1, 2023. This offset was eliminated as part of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.

Along with the elimination of the SBP-DIC offset, the 2020 NDAA also eliminated the SBP Optional Annuity for Dependent Children as of Jan. 1, 2023, with final payments being sent to the child on January 3, 2023. After this date, SBP payments will revert to the surviving spouse unless the surviving spouse is not eligible to receive payments.           -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

December 13, 2022

Since President Biden signed the PACT Act into law on August 10th, more than 176,000 Veterans have applied for PACT Act-related benefits. Approximately 2,500 of those claims were filed by Veterans who self-identified as terminally ill. Although VA will begin processing PACT Act claims for all other Veterans on January 1,2023, the Secretary made the decision to expedite processing for terminally ill Veterans to ensure that they receive their earned benefits and health care as soon as possible.


Therefore, VA will begin processing terminally ill Veterans’ PACT Act-related claims earlier. However, VA will only finalize decisions on PACT Act claims for terminally ill Veterans that result in a grant of benefits. Claims that cannot be granted immediately will be held for further evaluation after publication of sub-regulatory guidance implementing the PACT Act.

This morning, VA announced that effective immediately, PACT Act benefits claims for terminally ill veterans will be processed and expedited. Please note that this guidance only applies to veterans who are terminally ill; all other PACT Act related claims will still be processed beginning on January 1, 2023.If you are working with a veteran who is terminally ill, please ensure that you submit a request to VA to process and expedite the claim.

Expedited PACT Act claims will be processed at the following locations:

 VARO Sites

  • Boise
  • Des Moines
  • Detroit
  • Honolulu
  • Jackson (Radiation claims)
  • Louisville (CLCW claims)
  • Manila
  • Montgomery
  • New York
  • Pittsburgh
  • San Juan
  • St. Paul (RACC/A123 claims)
  • St. Petersburg (BWN claims)

DROC Sites

  • St. Petersburg
  • Seattle
  • Washington DC DROC


November 17, 2022


First step a Veteran or Family Member should Take if they qualify under the PACT ACT is to File your Claim with an Accredited Veteran Service Officer with the VA who has an OGC Accreditation Number!


VA is accepting claims NOW for service connection for the new presumptive conditions outlined in PACT ACT.

VA is holding off on processing these claims until January 2023.


If a veteran applies for one of the presumptive conditions and VA grants service connection, the effective date of the claim maybe retroactive to August 10, 2022, the date the law went into effect, if the claim or Intent to File was filed within 1 year of the law’s passing.


Healthcare Enrollment: 

Enhanced Enrollment Eligibility for VA Healthcare for new veterans has been extended from 5 years to 10 years.

Open Enhanced Enrollment begins October 1, 2022, through October 1, 2023.

Enhanced Enrollment is Priority Group 6 within the VHA


Eligibility for Enhanced Enrollment has been made for veterans who served in any of the following capacities:

      On or after August 2, 1990: Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia (new), or U.A.E.

      On or after September 11, 2001: Afghanistan, Djibouti, Egypt (new), Jordan (new), Lebanon (new), Syria, Yemen (new), or Uzbekistan,

      Any risk of exposure recorded in an exposure record tracking system, including ILER,

      Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, New Dawn, Freedom’s Sentinel, Inherent Resolve, or Resolute Support Mission,


Any other location the VA Secretary determines is appropriate.

Permanent eligibility for VA care will be phased in over a 10-year period based on discharge date for each veteran serving in one or more of the specified locations:

        October 1, 2024, for veterans discharged between 8/2/1990 and 9/11/2001

       October 1, 2026, for veterans discharged between 9/12/2001 and 12/31/ 2006

       October 1, 2028, for veterans discharged between 1/1/2007 and 12/31/2012

       October 1, 2030, for veterans discharged between 1/1/2013, and 12/31/2018

       October 1, 2032, for all others who participated in any of the covered contingency operations.

 Permanent eligibility for VA care will begin October 1, 2032, for veterans who served in support of the listed operations but not in a specified location listed above.


The PACT Act has added more than 20 new presumptive conditions that veterans can file for if they meet the requirements.


What is "Presumptive” Service Connection?

VA presumes that certain disabilities were caused by military service. This is because of the unique circumstances of a specific veteran’s military service.


If a presumed condition is diagnosed in a Veteran within a certain group, they can be awarded disability compensation.


PACT ACT Presumptive Areas:

The PACT Act determined that veterans who served in any of the below locations on or after August 2, 1990 had exposure to burn pits or other toxins. We call this having a presumption of exposure.

Bahrain                      Iraq                                         Kuwait

Oman                         Qatar                                     Saudi Arabia

Somalia                     The United Arab Emirates (UAE)

**Includes the airspace above any of these locations


The PACT Act determined that veterans who served in any of the below locations on or after September 11, 2001, had exposure to burn pits or other toxins. We call this having a presumption of exposure.

Afghanistan              Djibouti                                 Egypt

Jordan                       Lebanon                                Syria

Uzbekistan                Yemen                                              


**Includes the airspace above any of these locations

The PACT Act Presumptive conditions for Gulf War and Post 9/11 Veterans:

  • Brain Cancer;
  • Glioblastoma;
  • Respiratory (Breathing-Related) Cancer of any type;
  • Gastrointestinal Cancer of any type;
  • Head Cancer of any type;
  • Lymphoma of any type;
  • Neck Cancer;
  • Pancreatic Cancer;
  • Reproductive Cancer of any type;
  • Kidney Cancer;
  • Melanoma;
  • Asthma (Diagnosed After Service);
  • Chronic Rhinitis;
  • Chronic Sinusitis;
  • Constrictive Bronchiolitis;
  • Obliterative Bronchiolitis;
  • Emphysema;
  • Granulomatous Disease;
  • Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD);
  • Pleuritis;
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis;
  • Sarcoidosis;
  • Chronic Bronchitis;
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

The PACT Act Presumptive conditions for Vietnam Veterans and those exposed to Tactical Herbicides

For Vietnam veterans and other veterans exposed to tactical herbicides, the PACT Act includes two Agent Orange presumptive conditions:


  • Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS)
  • High blood pressure (hypertension). 


Camp Lejeune: 

Questions are still being raised about how the Camp Lejeune water Lawsuit will interact with service connection for the new presumptive conditions.

Remember that VA has not released guidance on how these two unique benefits will interact with each other.


If you have lost a loved one due to Camp Lejeune Contaminated Water or a Contractor who is suffering from a disease due to Camp Lejeune; contact the Law Firm below that the VFW has Vetted! However, if you are Veteran or Family Member who will be filing a claim for compensation or survivor benefits, we are encouraging you to contact your local VFW VSO! 

VFW, BMBFC Law Collaborate to assist with Camp Lejeune Claims
Goal of relationship is to assist and guide veterans and military families affected by toxic water exposure at Camp LeJeune


WASHINGTON (Nov. 16, 2022) — The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) is today announcing an agreement in which it is entrusting the experienced environmental litigation team at the law firm of Baird Mandalas Brockstedt Federico & Cardea (BMBFC Law) with guiding and assisting its members in navigating legal claims related to exposure to toxic water at Camp Lejeune.


 The VFW continues to encourage its members and supporters to consult with a VFW-Accredited Service Officer to determine whether filing a lawsuit is the right step for them. This includes determining how the offset required by the law impacts their VA benefits and any possible award from a Camp Lejeune Justice Act claim.


 "Ensuring veterans harmed in the line of duty are made whole has been a guiding principle for the VFW since our founding more than 123 years ago,” said VFW National Commander Tim Borland. "We are honored to entrust BMBFC with this vital mission to ensure veterans and their families who benefit from filing a lawsuit are represented by a team with relevant expertise and veterans’ best interest at heart.”


 In August, the VFW-championed SFC Health Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022 was signed into law. Along with the most significant expansion of health care and benefits in more than a century, Section 804 of the PACT Act, known as the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, authorizes veterans and military families who were exposed to toxic water at Camp Lejeune from August 1953 to December 1987 to file a federal tort claim for harm caused by such exposure.


 "Since the PACT Act added another recourse for veterans and their families suffering the effects of toxic exposure at Camp Lejeune, getting the right legal advice is crucial,” added Borland. "That’s why, given their deep experience in obtaining justice for communities affected by groundwater contamination and leadership role in this litigation, we turned to the team at BMBFC Law to provide the best counsel possible for those with claims related to Camp Lejeune.”


 The VFW cautions its members and supporters to avoid predatory law firms advertising endlessly on television and other media. To assist those who wish to join the Camp Lejeune Justice Act lawsuit determine if a law firm has their best interest at heart, the VFW has established six guiding principles. BMBFC Law has emphatically agreed to (1) cap attorney fees at a reasonable rate, (2) no upfront costs, (3) work with the VFW to ensure veterans explore their earned Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits, (4) counsel claimants on the impact of the offset included in the Camp Lejeune Justice Act before accepting an award, (5) encourage VFW membership to eligible veterans, and (6) provide resources to support the VFW Service Officer Program.


 "Veterans and their families harmed by the toxic water at Camp Lejeune deserve representation from attorneys experienced in groundwater contamination litigation and fundamentally committed to representing their best interests,” said Iraq War veteran, Purple Heart recipient, and Chair of BMBFC Law’s Military Advisory Board, Jason E. Johns. "As a past state commander for the VFW Department of Wisconsin and a longtime VA-accredited attorney, I’ve chosen to partner with BMBFC Law because this prestigious group of attorneys with proven success in matters regarding toxic water shares my dedication to doing right by my brothers and sisters who have served our country, and as importantly, their families who supported them while they did.”


 The Camp Lejeune Justice Act contains broad offset language and to date, there are differing opinions on the meaning of that language. The VA is expected to release regulations related to this in the coming months.


 The Camp Lejeune Justice Act potentially offers historic benefits to veterans and their families.  However, these benefits need to be carefully evaluated by a firm that understands VA disability benefits. The VFW encourages anyone who served or lived at Camp Lejeune from Aug. 1, 1953, to Dec. 31, 1987, to visit Baird Mandalas Brockstedt Federico & Cardea or call (443) 665-0375.



September 21, 2022

PACT ACT Guidance:

As of now, VA is encouraging veterans and beneficiaries to file claims and began to send out informational literature but will not start processing claims until January 1, 2023.

If a claimed issue can be granted under any other theory of entitlement, it will still be addressed. If can only be possibly granted under PACT Act legislation, it will be deferred in the Rating Decisions, pending further guidance. No educational material has been released to VA processors as of the date of this class.