- The Washington Times - Monday, June 9, 2008

I am a retired Air Force Master Sergeant and am receiving military retirement pay. I was just awarded 100 percent disability by the VA for prostate cancer due to exposure to Agent Orange.

Am I able to get both retirement and disability pay? If not, do I have to waive my retirement - disability is almost two times retirement - and will it be possible to reinstate retirement if VA adjusts my rating to a lower percentage?

Thanks for any help you might be able to provide.

Kenneth C

Dear Ken:

My sources at the Military Officers Association tell me that you seem to be eligible for Combat Related Special Compensation due to your disabilities related to Agent Orange exposure under the “Instrumentality of War” clause. You should complete DD Form 2860 and mail it to the Air Force CRSC Board. The address is on the form. If the Air Force approves your claim, you will receive your VA disability compensation and your military retired pay without offset.

Shaft notes

*The Sarge is looking forward to joining the Blinded American Veterans Foundation (BAVF), and their invited guests Saturday at its Flag Day picnic in Silver Spring, where MarylandDelegate Sheila E. Hixson will be honored.

We’re delighted to recognize Ms. Hixson for her outstanding service to the residents of Maryland’s District 20 and to the entire state of Maryland. Her tireless efforts as a legislator and community activist are known throughout Maryland.

The foundation’s annual Flag Day Picnic attracts political figures, area civic leaders, veterans’ service organization representatives, and the BAVF “family” of disabled and visually impaired veterans. Flags that were flown over the U.S. Capitol will be presented to many guests.

As always, the picnic’s famous hot dogs will be prepared and served by the gregarious Chef Lakis, a longtime Washington, D.C., fixture who has since retired from his cart at the northeast corner of 18th and K Streets in Northwest.

In 1976, Ms. Hixson was elected as a State Delegate representing District 20 (which includes Silver Spring, Takoma Park and portions of Burtonsville). Starting with her first assignment to the Environmental Matters Committee, she became a member of the Ways and Means Committee, of which she has been chairman since 1993 - the first woman to serve in this position. She also serves on the board of several Montgomery County nonprofit organizations.

*A recent ceremonial ground breaking at the site of the future Fisher House was attended by many dignitaries, veterans, employees and volunteers at the VA Medical Center in Washington. The 21-suite facility will provide free lodging for the families of hospitalized veterans when completed in summer 2009.

“This Fisher House will be a home-away-from-home for our veterans and their families who have served us so well,” said Fernando O. Rivera, VA Medical Center director. “No-cost lodging, right on the Medical Center’s grounds and a place to return to loved ones after a day of treatment will help alleviate both family stress and the financial burden families often faced when a loved one is hospitalized.”

In 2007, the Fisher House Foundation estimated it saved military and veterans’ families approximately $10 million in lodging, food and transportation costs through its program. Since the foundation began in 1990, approximately 120,000 families have been provided with 2.5 million days of free or low-cost lodging.

*The Sarge salutes Rep. John Carter, Texas Republican, for introducing the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act (H.R. 6070), which amends the Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act (SCRA) to allow a military spouse who moves out of the state with the servicemember because of military orders to have the option to claim the same state of domicile as the active-duty spouse, regardless of where they are stationed.

“With Fort Hood in Texas’ 31st District, we are reminded daily of the sacrifices made by our service men and women. We owe the highest merit to these brave soldiers,” Mr. Carter said. “But it is also important that we recognize the sacrifices and efforts made by the spouses and families of these soldiers, and assist them in the challenges they face.”

The SCRA allows military men and women the ability to claim a home of domicile and maintain that home regardless of where military orders may send them. This not only allows a small level of tax relief, but also makes the move from station to station easier, as common headaches from interstate moves like updating driver’s licenses and vehicle registration are no longer necessary.

Unfortunately, military spouses are not granted this same consideration though they still move around the country and interrupt their lives because of military orders.

*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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