- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 2, 2005

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I was awarded 100 percent service-connected disability compensation in June 1982. Recently, it has come to my attention that I could possibly have been entitled to an award dating back to a particular date of filing.

I first became disabled in 1974, and sometime thereafter I, or rather a VA benefits officer, filed an initial claim for increased benefits (from 40 percent to 100 percent). In 1976, the Social Security Administration granted me full disability benefits based on my VA medical records. I never appeared before a Social Security board for these benefits. During the intervening years from 1974 to 1982 multiple filings were submitted in my behalf, asking the VA to increase my compensation.

My question is, should I have been granted any retroactive benefits for any period from 1974 to 1982? Did the people, (VA benefit officers, DAV, VFW, or American Legion reps) who filed for me on different occasions fail to obtain any retroactive benefits for me? I served honorably for a period of 8.5 years, reaching the rank of sergeant E-5, which I held for four years until my discharge.

My sincere gratitude,

Jerry G.

Clarkesville, Tenn.

Dear Jerry:

There isn’t a yes-or-no answer to your question, but let me just mention a few of the rules of the game. When a veteran files an original or reopened claim, Veterans Affairs will render a formal decision. If the veteran does not agree with the VA ruling, he or she need only state in writing that they wish to appeal.

If this is done within a year, there is a formal appellate process that kicks in. If a year elapses, however, without a disagreement by the veteran, the VA decision becomes final. It can then be reopened only with new evidence that is relevant to the claim (new and material is the terminology used by VA).

If the veteran prevails with the disagreement, the effective date of award is the date the claim was reopened. The only way retroactive benefits can be approved to the date of the original claim is if there is clear and unmistakable error found in the original decision.

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I am British, living with my American-born wife in the U.S. I support the troops in Iraq. I find it disgraceful and have difficulty trying to understand how so-called American citizens can be so unpatriotic and, in fact, on the side of the enemy by their behavior.

I travel a lot and in many of the nations I go to, such as Pakistan and Sri Lanka, I seem to find people who tell me to thank America for the war on terrorism because it is bringing peace to their countries by isolating terrorists from their lines of support; e.g., when the president froze the terrorist bank accounts.

Keep pressing on for true freedom.

Syd D.

USA

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I’m retired from the United States Navy after serving faithfully for 20 years. I’ve help defend that very freedom that so many non-patriots want to take advantage of and disgrace the very symbol for which so many a brave American has died. It’s not freedom of speech when you burn the American flag; it’s an act of arson.

Why is it that Congress has not passed a law in all these years? And when the bill appears on the floor for a vote, it should be unanimous. It’s high time that we, the people, protect our flag. I fly not one but two flags in front of my home. I honestly don’t know what I would do if I saw some idiot burning the flag.

GSM1(SW) George J.

U.S. Navy, retired

Brick, N.J.

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

The free-speech argument regarding flag burning is in the same category as dirty books. Neither has literary, social or political value. They are not social expression; they are incitement. They have no real content, and therefore should not count as “speech.”

Yaakov “Jim” W.

Shaft notes

Kudos to the federal employees who, once again, will reach into their pockets and make generous contributions to the Combined Federal Campaign.

As many of you know, the Sarge has a partiality for the Blinded American Veterans Foundation, CFC No. 2107 (BAVF). Information about the BAVF can be obtained by logging on to www.bavf.org. The foundation is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) organization.

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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