Skip to content

October 19, 2022

ELITE Success: The VA Claims Insider Journey of Marine Veteran Donald Cheli

Last updated on December 22, 2022

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you want to learn how to implement these strategies to get the VA benefits you deserve, click here to speak with a VA claim expert for free.

FOR MORE THAN THREE DECADES, Marine Veteran Donald Cheli has suffered in silence.

Cheli has experienced PTSD symptoms since returning home from a 1969 combat deployment to Vietnam. He’s also battled physical issues, including Ischemic Heart Disease, due to Agent Orange exposure

In 2022 alone, Cheli has undergone four major operations, including triple bypass surgery. In September 2022, the VA granted Cheli a 100% disability rating with Special Military Compensation (SMC)

Getting his benefits was long overdue. Yet Cheli never complains. 


Cheli joined the United States Marine Corps out of high school. He felt it was just a matter of time before the lottery system drafted his number.

 “It was either be drafted. Or enlist.”

Following basic training, Cheli’s first stop was in Okinawa, Japan. He connected with the Force Logistic Command (FLC, Camp Pendleton) and underwent additional training. 

From there, Cheli and fellow Marines flew to the Da Nang Airport, where they dispersed into the villages and rural areas outside of Da Nang, Vietnam. 

ELITE Success

Cheli’s primary responsibility was supplying his fellow Marines with everything they needed in the field. He describes the then-ongoing Tet Offensive as “very stressful, very emotional, and very frightening.”

After leaving Vietnam, Cheli spent the next four years in the reserves, ready to be called back into action at any time. He completed his six-year enlistment in 1974.

After taking off the uniform, Cheli returned to the San Francisco Bay area, driving trucks and selling wooden decking throughout Northern California.

Elite Success with Marine Veteran Donald Cheli

It took decades for Cheli to realize that his mental health issues came from his time as a Marine. During that time, Cheli not only missed out on his VA disability benefits, but he also lost out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax-free VA disability compensation.

“I was a naive veteran who had no idea about anything with benefits; nothing. And that was the truth. I’d been suffering from PTSD symptoms ever since leaving the service. Tinnitus. I didn’t realize anything about VA benefits.”

Nobody volunteered to talk to him about it, and Cheli never asked. Not until a good friend sat down with him one day and began talking to him about his health and the benefits he earned in service to his country.

His friend worked directly with veterans and was well-respected among the local veteran community. He began to open Cheli’s eyes to exploring the possibility of getting his VA disability benefits.

In 2008—more than 35 years after he deployed to Vietnam—Cheli filed his first VA claim for PTSD

It was denied.

Cheli appealed the decision and was granted a 30% VA rating two years later. He appealed again and was eventually awarded a 50% VA rating. 

As his health continued to decline, Cheli knew he was likely still underrated. 

In addition to PTSD, Cheli experienced constant ringing of the ears (tinnitus), high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.


In 2021, Cheli came across VA Claims Insider on the internet. He joined the ELITE program in December 2021 and was paired up with his Veteran Coach.

“My Coach was outstanding and encouraged me throughout the process. I felt like giving up so many times, but he kept telling me to keep going and stay with it, and I did.”

Less than a year after joining the ELITE program, Cheli is 100% P&T with SMC. He’s grateful for the help and guidance he received from VA Claims Insider and is relieved to have his full benefits.

He encourages other veterans to “Educate yourself with the VA claims process.”

Cheli received a pacemaker in March 2022 and underwent the triple bypass three weeks later. He also underwent two follow-up surgeries (to close up an incision and deal with an infection) which required a lengthy hospital stay. 

He now spends three days a week in cardiac rehab and will likely be under heart care for the rest of his life. 

But like everything he’s endured over the years, Cheli takes it all in stride and keeps himself grounded by what matters most. 

That includes his faith (he’s been a pastor for more than 30 years) and his eagerness to help other veterans. He hopes his fellow veterans can better streamline the claims process and get the VA disability benefits they deserve for their service.

And while his 100% VA disability rating and his SMC were long overdue. Cheli admits that it’s better late than never.

“I almost gave up. But my Veteran Coach wouldn’t let me.” 

Cheli admits he was discouraged and frustrated by the claims process, but he’s thankful he stuck with it. 

“I’m not impatient, but I was mentally, emotionally, and physically stressed out with the whole matter. Thanks to VA Claims Insider, I overcame the challenges and persevered.”



Cheli’s ELITE Success story is one of resilience. Despite his long road to 100%, he stayed determined in the face of adversity. His experience is a reminder that no matter how tough things seem, there’s always hope. 

If you’re facing difficulties in your life–don’t give up. If you’re stuck or struggling to obtain your benefits, the ELITE Veteran Coaches are available to help. We won’t let you quit until you get what YOU DESERVE.


Take advantage of a FREE VA Claim Discovery Call with an experienced Team Member. Learn what you’ve been missing so you can FINALLY get the disability rating and compensation you’ve earned for your service.

Related Articles

Featured Resources

Elite Membership

Dear Veteran,
Here’s the brutal truth about VA disability claims:

According to our data, 8/10 (80%) of veterans reading this message right now are underrated by the VA…

This means you do NOT currently have the VA disability rating and compensation YOU deserve, and you could be missing out on thousands of dollars of tax-free compensation and benefits each month.

As a fellow disabled Veteran this is shameful and I’m on a mission to change it.

Brian Reese here, Air Force service-disabled Veteran and Founder @ VA Claims Insider.

Since 2016, VA Claims Insider has helped thousands of Veterans just like you get the VA rating and compensation they deserve in less time.

If accepted into our ELITE membership program, you’ll get free up-front access and permission to use $13,119 worth of proprietary VA claim resources, including access to our network of independent medical professionals for medical examinations, disability evaluations, and credible Medical Nexus Letters, which could help you get a HIGHER VA rating in LESS time.

It’s FREE to get started, so click “Go Elite Now” below to complete our 3-step intake process.

  1. Complete Basic Information
  2. Sign Members Agreement
  3. Join the Mastermind Group

If you’re stuck, frustrated, underrated, and currently rated between 0%-90%, VA Claims Insider Elite is for you!

Click “Go Elite Now” below to get started today and a member of our team will be in touch within minutes.

Go Elite Now!

Why Choose VA Claims Insider

You’ve exhausted your free resources

You're not alone. Thousands of other Veterans in our Community are here for you.

Veteran Community

You’re ready to get the rating you deserve

We know the pain of feeling stuck, frustrated, and alone, and we want to make this process as easy and painless as possible for you.

Explore Elite Membership

We win ONLY when YOU win

Hear from fellow Veterans just like you, with many of our Veteran Ambassadors having gone through our programs.

Schedule a Call

Fellow Veterans:

For a limited time, you can book a free, no-obligation VA Claim Discovery Call with one of our experts.

Book A Call

Fellow Veterans:

For a limited time, you can book a free, no-obligation VA Claim Discovery Call with one of our experts.

Book A Call