- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 3, 2005

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

The Fleet Reserve Association (FRA) is grateful to Rep. Michael Bilirakis, Florida Republican, for reintroducing House Resolution 303, which would eliminate the unfair policy that forces certain retired military service members to forfeit a dollar of their retirement pay for every dollar received in VA disability compensation.

Full concurrent receipt of these benefits has been the mandate of FRA’s membership for many years and remains a legislative priority for the association in the 109th Congress. Recent legislation allows concurrent receipt for military retirees whose VA disability ratings are 50 percent or higher.

Although this represents great progress, it is time for Congress to authorize full concurrent receipt for all military retirees with service-connected disabilities.

FRA also has been tracking the implementation of a provision within the 2005 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authorizing military retirees with VA disability ratings of 100 percent to immediately begin collecting full concurrent receipt.

Due to budget constraints, the provision does not apply to retirees who receive Individual Unemployability (IU) compensation but have a VA disability rating of less than 100 percent. IU ratings are independent of VA disability determination and the Department of Defense is currently reviewing the legislation to determine whether the approximately 23,000 retirees with an IU rating should receive immediate relief as well.

If the DOD rules that full concurrent receipt to these retirees should be limited, those with the IU rating will have their retired pay phased in under the pre-existing 10-year schedule. It is unclear when the department will make a ruling.

FRA members have long demonstrated grass-roots advocacy for concurrent receipt and are contacting their elected officials in the 109th Congress on this issue, but more support from the public is needed. Your readers are encouraged to visit www.fra.org/action/index.html to contact their congressional representatives.

Sincerely,

Joseph L. Barnes

National executive secretary

Fleet Reserve Association

Dear Joe:

Ditto. The sarge is so proud of good friend of military veterans Mr. Bilirakis for recently introducing HR 1366. This legislation expands Combat Related Special Compensation to those who were medically retired with less than 20 years of service. The same rules would now apply for all Chapter 61 retirees regardless of years of service. The proposed effective date of the legislation is Jan. 1.

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

This is the first I’ve heard of the movement to forward brown bags to our congressmen. If it was printed in FRA, I missed it.

Please forward me the information as to how one sends a brown bag and what verbiage is recommended on the bag.

Thanks,

Bob R.

Via the Internet

Dear Bob:

Simply take your grocery bag, cut it up properly, insert it an envelope addressed to your member of Congress with the appropriate salutation and include the following: Military retirees and veterans should not be discarded after use like this brown paper bag.

Shaft notes

Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao recently announced that a notice in poster format explaining the rights of employees under the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act (USERRA) is available for employers to download from the Department of Labor Web site.

The Veterans Benefits Improvement Act, enacted by Congress in December, mandates that employers provide the notice to “all persons entitled to rights and benefits under USERRA.”

The USERRA poster is available at www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra/poster.pdf. Employers can obtain detailed information about USERRA by calling 866/4USA-DOL or by visiting www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra/.

The Sarge has become aware of how to retire your tattered, worn-out and frayed American flags without cost to you. Send your flags to the Kitchen Table Gang Trust, 42922 Ave. 12, Madera, CA 93638-8866, and they will dispose of your flags in a proper and dignified manner with full honors and dignity pursuant to the U.S. Flag Code Section 8(k).

They have been doing this for the past seven years. The flag retirement ceremonies are held on Flag Day, June 14, each year and are conducted by an all volunteer U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard.

The date for the first day of issuance of the Distinguished Marines block of stamps is Nov. 10. The ceremony will take place somewhere in the national Capitol region at a place to be determined.

This block of four individual stamps honors John Lejeune, Lewis Puller, John Basilone and Daniel Daly.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, PO Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330; call 202/257-5446; or e-mail sgtshaft@bavf.org

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