- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 3, 2006

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I have learned so much from your column, especially now that I am on my own. A lot of questions have been answered. I am a Navy widow, 75 years old, and my husband is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. I am getting “papers” in order for my children in the event of my own death. Just what papers do I need for burial with my husband?

Thank you,

Mrs. Joan C.

Via the Internet

Dear Joan:

According to John C. Metzler Jr., superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery, you do not need anything in the way of papers for Arlington. Your children, as next of kin, will be asked to sign a paper at the time of the funeral attesting that you had not remarried since your husband’s death, which entitles you to burial with him.

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

As a longtime reader of your column, I am taking this opportunity to thank you for the important information you share with veterans and their families. I also want to thank the Blinded American Veterans Foundation for hosting the annual Flag Day Picnic each June. The patriotic family day commemorating our flag is always meaningful to the hundreds of people who gather to honor Old Glory.

My family and I were particularly touched by the sincere and compassionate manner in which Maryland state Sen. Ida G. Ruben interacted with recently wounded military personnel and their families, veterans of all generations and other guests. She spoke with each person who received a flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol and took the time to read the citation to them. Her warmth and sensitivity toward these young heroes was heartfelt by those who shared this wonderful day.

Keep up the good work, Sarge,

R.S.

Silver Spring, Md.

Dear R.S.:

Mrs. Ruben has been a longtime supporter of veterans in the state Senate. She is recognized by District 20 residents for her unwavering constituent services.

Shaft notes

The Sarge joins the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) in voicing opposition to federal legislation that would allow lawyers to charge veterans for helping them file a claim for benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. It is unnecessary and would increase costs to veterans, said Disabled American Veterans National Cmdr. Bradley S. Barton.

Cmdr. Barton, who himself is a lawyer and a veterans advocate, said veterans should not have to hire and pay a lawyer to help them with the largely administrative claims process, which is designed to be open, informal and helpful to veterans.

“The so-called Veterans’ Choice of Representation Act is unnecessary, and involvement of lawyers would increase costs to veterans and to the VA without significantly improving the process,” Cmdr. Barton said.

“The VA is required to assist veterans in completing and filing the relatively informal application for benefits and then takes the initiative to advance the claim through the appropriate steps,” Cmdr. Barton said. “In addition, veterans can get free help from the DAV’s professionally trained National Service Officers or other organizations in navigating the VA claims process.”

Besides, there is no evidence that lawyers would provide service superior to that rendered by veterans service organization representatives.

The 1.3-million-member Disabled American Veterans, a nonprofit organization founded in 1920 and chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1932, represents this nation’s disabled veterans. It is dedicated to a single purpose: building better lives for our nation’s disabled veterans and their families. For more information, visit the organization’s Web site, www.dav.org.

• The Veterans Benefits Administration recently released the first in a series of notification letters to Department of Defense-identified veterans who were exposed to chemical warfare and related agents as test subjects in military experiments. These experiments took place primarily at military facilities in Edgewood, Md., from 1955 to 1975. The letter informs veterans of benefits to which they may be entitled and advises them to discuss any health concerns they may have with their VA health care providers.

For more information, veterans can be informed about the Defense Department’s hot line number at 800/497-6261, which is included in the letter they receive from VBA.

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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