Larone Alexander - Fellow

Nov 13, 2012
Larone Alexander
Larone Alexander - Fellow

Larone Alexander says that West Virginia has one of the highest rates of service veterans per capita in the United States, and as the Veterans Advocate Caseworker in the Office of Congressman Nick Rahall, he’s had to work hard to learn all the ins and outs of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) benefits claims process.

But luckily for his veteran constituents, Alexander is an awfully quick study. “What I’ve learned is that there’s an answer for everything,” he says.

Alexander, who’s been on the job since early 2012, is as familiar with the VA’s policies and procedures as an attorney would be with the United States Code. For instance, while doing research on a particular claim, he learned that in some cases AWOL veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder could have certain statutory restrictions removed from their benefits. “We’re working with a highly decorated Vietnam vet now on this,” Alexander says. “He should have his benefits.”

Certainly, Alexander’s ability to quickly grasp the legal ins and outs of the claims process has been a huge asset to him and his veteran constituents. But he thinks the most important attribute someone in his role can have is empathy. “I was homeless for two years, I lost everything,” he says. When he’s sitting down with a veteran constituent today, he gives them his undivided attention. “The most important thing I’ve learned is to listen,” he says. “They want to talk for an hour or two? I’ll listen to them.”

Alexander, who worked for the VA doing outreach after serving as a hospital corpsman in the United States Navy, earned his current position through the U.S. House of Representatives Wounded Warrior Program. He says a typical day keeps him busy between managing his casework and performing outreach.

One of his most interesting cases at the moment involves the nomination of an American World War II veteran whose paperwork to receive the British Military Medal was signed by General George Patton. “This particular soldier was captured by the Germans, devised an escape plan, and went back to rescue his platoon,” Alexander says. “The level of heroism is remarkable.”

Alexander grew up in Newark, New Jersey, and moved to South Carolina in his teens. After a year of college, he says he joined the military to escape street life. He was on active duty from 1995 to 2000 aboard the USS Estocin FFG-15 before getting called back to run a medical clinic on Parris Island in 2005.

He credits all that experience with making him the person he is today. “I matured, I became more responsible during that time,” he says. “It taught me to be a man.”