When Renee Chevalier saw an opportunity to help fellow veterans, she moved in to fill the need.

Chevalier, an Army veteran who was part of the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 155 in the Barefoot Bay area, said she took up where the DAV chapter left off.

She began offering to help veterans file for disability and compensation benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“I totally volunteer my time,” she said. “I don’t take credit for anything.”

Chevalier, who served in Vietnam, said she began offering her services for free around March and has filed 10 successful claims for veterans from Barefoot Bay and South Brevard County. Most have received positive responses from the VA for compensation, whether medical or monetary.

“This is part of helping veterans help themselves,” she said.

I’ve long known DAV members as true advocates for their fellow veterans. Member volunteers are trained to navigate the mounds of regulations and rules to file claims with the VA.

Chevalier was a service officer for the DAV 155 until it ceased to operate as a unit. There were plans for members to join another DAV chapter. A Facebook page for Sebastian River Area DAV 155 shows it closed permanently.

Many DAV chapters offer help to veterans filing claims with the VA, including DAV Chapter 123 on Merritt Island, Chapter 32 in Melbourne, Chapter 109 in Titusville and others. There are none on the extreme southern end of the county. Barefoot Bay is near the county line.

So, Chevalier has taken up the mantle. She has encountered veterans that are homeless, often because of mental conditions resulting from combat duties.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, she asks that veterans drop off whatever paperwork they have at her home in Barefoot Bay. She checks them, then lets the veteran know by phone whether everything is in order.

Chevalier has a long history of advocating for fellow veterans. At one point, she used to volunteer to drive veterans in need of medical care from the Barefoot Bay area to the Viera VA Outpatient Clinic.

For veterans in the Barefoot Bay area needing help filing a claim, call Chevalier at 207-442-7434. Listen for instructions immediately after dialing.