- The Washington Times - Monday, January 7, 2008

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I am in dire need of obtaining appropriation of benefits for my wife and disabled son. I have been incarcerated for 84 months. I filed a VA Form 21-4193 with the Veterans Affairs regional office in Huntington, W.Va. I was a veteran classified as 100 percent disabled at the time of my incarceration in the federal penal institution.

Under Title 38, Section 5307, shouldn’t my spouse and disabled child receive my monthly compensation checks immediately?

Sincerely yours,

Dan

Federal Correctional Institution

Cumberland, Md.

Dear Dan:

I contacted officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and by now you and your family should have received the following information:

VA learned of your 2006 incarceration when you advised the Huntington regional office of this fact on June 11 last year.

On Sept. 19, the regional office sent you a letter advising that your monthly compensation would be reduced to the 10 percent rate, or $112, because of your incarceration. This amount subsequently was increased to $115 on Dec. 1, 2006, because of a cost-of-living adjustment. You were also advised in this same letter that a portion of your benefits being withheld could be apportioned to your dependents, but they would need to apply for this benefit on their own behalf.

On Oct. 19, the Huntington regional office received your wife’s request for apportionment of your benefits. The office contacted your wife on Dec. 18 to obtain the necessary information to process the claim. A decision was made that same date that granted her and your son a monthly benefit effective Nov. 1 last year. Proceeds due were expected to be released from the Treasury on Dec. 26.

Shaft notes

• Kudos to Rep. Bob Filner, California Democrat and chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, for his strong support of the VA’s medical center in the District. In a recent letter to the secretary of veterans affairs, he wrote that he recently visited the facility and was impressed with the level of services and electronic record-keeping. He also has given his support to further expansion of the facility.

• Congratulations to Dr. James B. Peake, a combat veteran of the Vietnam War and former Army surgeon general, who was recently sworn in by President Bush as the nation’s sixth secretary of veterans affairs.

“Dr. Peake takes office at a critical moment in the history of this department,” Mr. Bush said. “Our nation is at war — and many new veterans are leaving the battlefield and entering the VA system. This system provides our veterans with the finest care — but the bureaucracy can be difficult to navigate.”

Dr. Peake stressed his commitment to easing the transition of our current generation of returning, combat-experienced men and women and of “the opportunity to look to the future of this newest generation of combat veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan — getting it right for them and for their families.”

Dr. Peake, who retired in 2004 as a three-star general, is a board-certified thoracic surgeon. He told those assembled, “You need to know that I believe deeply in the mission; and that I believe in you. I know quite a number of you already. I’ve seen the ethic, the caring, the compassion, and the technical skills.”

A native of St. Louis and a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Dr. Peake attended medical school after serving in Vietnam, where he earned the Silver Star and Purple Heart.

He assumes leadership of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), whose budget last year exceeded $82 billion.

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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