- The Washington Times - Monday, February 4, 2008

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

How does it work when you are a Veterans Educational Assistance Program enrollee, but were never informed about the transfer eligibility to the Montgomery GI Bill? I have been recently informed that I would be eligible to transfer my VEAP enrollment to MGIB, but need 12 months’ retainability in order to accomplish this — no exception — this when I am about to retire.

I have been eligible before and was never notified. I need approximately 18 months to finish my business degree and a master’s degree in business administration in a program which I am currently enrolled. Is there no option to immediately qualify and fund the transformation without the 12-month processing time?

SM Sgt. Johny H.

Dear Sgt. Johny:

The education gurus at the Department of Veterans Affairs tell me that under Category IV of the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), former Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP) participants could elect to convert to MGIB during two open-window periods. During the first open window, a VEAP participant must have elected Chapter 30 (MGIB) during the one-year period beginning on Oct. 9, 1996, and ending Oct. 8, 1997. Their basic pay must have been reduced by $100 a month for 12 months or the participant could make a $1,200 lump-sum contribution. The contribution could have been paid to the service department or VA. There was no time limit on payment of the $1,200.

During the second open window, a VEAP participant must have elected chapter 30 during the one-year period beginning on Nov. 1, 2000, and ending Oct. 31, 2001. Their basic pay must have been reduced by $2,700 or the participant could make a $2,700 lump-sum contribution.

There is no provision in the law that allows VEAP participants to elect Chapter 30 if the participant did not make the election during one of the open-window periods. However, if the service department allows an individual to elect MGIB because of an administrative error or oversight, the service department would have to notify VA regarding the individual’s eligibility.

Please note that VA has no provision to waive the requirements for an election. A service member would need to apply to their service department for a waiver based on administrative error or oversight. Only Congress could provide for any other exception.

Shaft notes

• Sens. Daniel K. Akaka, Hawaii Democrat and chairman of the Veterans” Affairs Committee, and Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent and a member of the committee, sent a letter this week urging the Department of Veterans Affairs to dedicate additional funding to the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (NCPTSD).

Congress last year passed an unprecedented budget increase for VA in fiscal 2008 that included funds for the NCPTSD. In their letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Peake, Mr. Akaka and Mr. Sanders called for an additional $2 million for the NCPTSD above the previous year”s funding level. The center is a leader in research and education on PTSD, and provides clinical tools and guidance to clinicians across the country.

“The National Center for PTSD continues to make valuable contributions to the understanding and treatment of PTSD, and America”s veterans are better off thanks to their work. Additional funding will enable them to address critical issues and facilitate better care for veterans. It is my hope that Secretary Peake will support the Center for PTSD with adequate funding in the years to come,” said Mr. Akaka.

• Congratulations to Rep. Chet Edwards, Texas Democrat, on his selection to receive the Veterans of Foreign War (VFW) 2008 Congressional Award for his outstanding service to veterans, service members and their families. The congressman, who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee on military construction and veterans affairs, will be presented the award March 3 at the annual Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. Community Service and Legislative Conference at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Northwest Washington.

“This award is extremely important to the VFW,” said VFW National Commander George Lisicki, a Vietnam veteran from Carteret, N.J., “because it recognizes a champion who is in our corner in Congress.”

The VFW Congressional Award has been presented annually since 1964 to a member of the House or Senate for significant legislative contributions on behalf of those who have worn the uniform.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. 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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