- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 10, 2006

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I urge you and your readers to contact Sen. Tim Johnson, South Dakota Democrat, and challenge the senator’s statement in American Banker magazine that it is a priority to “revisit” the provisions in the fiscal 2007 National Defense Authorization Act prohibiting creditors from imposing an interest rate greater than 36 percent for loans to military personnel and their dependents. The senator is a member of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee and claims the legislation “flew through here awful quickly” and may be “not fully thought through.”

The Fleet Reserve Association is concerned that the hard work of the past several years is threatened to appease the banking industry. This included collaborating with former Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Terry D. Scott to promote predatory lending reform for more than two years. Predatory lending poses a serious threat to military readiness. Service members experiencing debt-related stresses are less focused on the mission and prone to compromising their own safety and that of the entire unit. Mr. Johnson’s concern does not appear to be with the military personnel; he lumped in the military with widows and orphans as a “sympathetic group,” wondering who would be next for banking reform.

The association has worked closely with the Center for Responsible Lending, the Consumer Federation of America, its partners in the Military Coalition and a number of other organizations to advocate predatory lending reform. Now that we have made progress, please urge your readers to visit the Action Center at www.fra.org and send a message to their elected officials on the issue.

In loyalty, protection and service,

Joe Barnes

Dear Joe:

As I stated previously, Congress should not allow active-duty military and their families to be preyed upon by these payday loan sharks. These military men and their families are subject to many hardships for their great sacrifices on behalf of our nation, and they should not be hounded by these lender leeches.

Shaft notes

As our young men and women on active and reserve military duty are spending two and three tours in harm’s way, Rep. Charles B. Rangel, New York Democrat, is once again calling for a draft. Although I agree that we should have a draft, I think the first step toward a meaningful conscription is to prosecute those who fail to register under the provisions of the Selective Service System. Right now, that figure is falling short by about 7 percent of those who are required to register.

Even though the Military Selective Service Act provides for a fine of up to $250,000, incarceration up to five years or a combination of the two upon conviction of failing to register with the Selective Service System, the Justice Department confirmed that its policy is not to prosecute the more than 7 percent of those who fail to register.

Under the act, men ages 18 to 25 who reside legally in the United States must register with Selective Service System.

The system and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have a partnership that involves automatic, electronic and paper registrations. During processing for U.S. citizenship or for a change in status, men are registered automatically by completing certain forms.

So far for this year, registrations from this partnership equal 130,506.

The Selective Service System supplies posters and other registration materials to USCIS border offices to help raise awareness of the registration requirement.

The system has no way of knowing who is or who is not a U.S. citizen, or who is or is not illegal. The only data collected are a man’s name, mailing address, sex, date of birth and Social Security number. A man can register without a Social Security number.

• After a comprehensive review of the Waco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, its mission and veterans’ needs, Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson announced his decision to keep the Waco veterans hospital open.

“Meeting the health care needs of veterans is VA’s highest priority,” Mr. Nicholson said. “I have visited Waco and seen firsthand the world-class care we provide to Texas veterans. VA’s Waco facility is invaluable to veterans not just in Waco, but throughout the region.”

Waco’s recent designation as a Center for Excellence in outpatient post-traumatic stress disorder services also builds upon the services to be provided by Waco.

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

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