- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

As recent Veterans Day activities have reminded us of the sacrifices many Americans have made for our country, it is important to note that more than 1 million U.S. veterans have either a visual impairment or some other disability that prevents them from effectively reading standard print. Because of medical advances, todays soldiers increasingly are surviving but returning home with serious combat injuries that affect their reading ability.

As these brave young men and women embark on the journey of rebuilding their personal and professional lives, Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic (RFB&D) can help.

RFB&D has a 60-year history of serving U.S. veterans. Founded in 1948 to help blinded World War II veterans attend college via the GI Bill of Rights, RFB&D and its audio textbooks are helping more than 237,000 students and professionals who have print disabilities pursue educational and professional success. One of our newest members is retired U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Michael Jernigan, who was blinded by a roadside bomb while serving in Iraq. Mike is rebuilding his life and attending Georgetown University using RFB&D audio textbooks. He recently filmed a public service announcement and video interview for RFB&D that can be accessed at www.youtube.com/record4bd.

For more information about our Learning Through Listening services for veterans and others with print disabilities, please visit www.rfbd.org/vet or call our Metropolitan Washington Unit at 202/244-8990. RFB&D was there to help our nations veterans in 1948, and we are here to help them now.

Betsy Paull OConnell, executive director

RFB&D Metropolitan Washington Unit

Dear Betsy:

Thank you for your service in thanking our special veterans for their service. I urge not only those eligible veterans, but anyone who requires your assistance to contact you.

Shaft notes

Congratulations to Fernando O. Rivera, director of the VA Medical Center in the District, and his employees for their recent recognition. Secretary of Veterans Affairs James B. Peake selected this group as a 2008 winner of the Robert W. Carey Performance Excellence Award. The Carey Award, one of the most prestigious national awards VA bestows, recognizes organizations that implement management approaches resulting in high levels of performance and service to our nations veterans.

This coveted award is based on the National Baldrige Quality Award criteria, used by thousands of organizations around the world to continuously improve efficiency and performance to become among the best in their field.

The D.C. VA Medical Center (DCVAMC) is one of the most visible and dynamic facilities in the VA system. Known as the “flagship of VA health care” for its consistently high results in quality of care, DCVAMC serves as a model of VA’s leadership in health care delivery and the application of electronic health records. This award-winning medical center has been recognized recently as one of the “100 Most Wired” hospitals by the American Hospital Association’s Hospitals and Healthcare Networks magazine and won VAs 2008 Olin E. Teague Award for excellence in rehabilitative care.

The Carey Award was named in memory of Robert W. Carey, a recognized VA quality leader and a champion for excellence in the federal government who served as director of the VA Philadelphia Regional Office and Insurance Center from 1985-90.

For more information about the DCVAMC visit www.washingtondc.va.gov/ or phone 202/745-4037.

Kudos to President Bush for his recent executive order granting federal agencies the authority to bypass competitive hiring regulations to appoint spouses of military service members to civilian government jobs.

“It shall be the policy of the United States to provide for the appropriately expedited recruitment and selection of spouses of members of the armed forces for appointment to positions in the competitive service,” Mr. Bush’s executive order states.

The order allows agency heads to make noncompetitive appointments to the following groups of people:

• Spouses of military service members who are on active duty under orders that authorize a permanent change-of-station move - assuming the spouse is moving, too.

• Spouses of totally disabled retired or separated members of the armed forces.

• Widows or widowers (who have not remarried) of service members killed on active duty.

The order follows Mr. Bush’s proposal in his State of the Union address in January that Congress work to expand benefits for military families.

“Our military families … endure sleepless nights and the daily struggle of providing for children while a loved one is serving far from home,” Mr. Bush said. “We have a responsibility to provide for them. So I ask you to join me in expanding their access to child care, creating new hiring preferences for military spouses across the federal government, and allowing our troops to transfer their unused education benefits to their spouses or children.”

An attaboy to Virginia’s Stratford University, which recently announced a special tuition rate for active military personnel. Servicemen and -women who enroll in undergraduate or graduate programs at the university are eligible to receive a tuition rate of $750 per 4.5-credit course, about half the cost of the standard tuition rate. This military tuition cap will open the door to many military personnel who are qualified to receive funding toward a university degree.

“Offering the military rate is our way of thanking those brave individuals who are currently serving in the military,” said Mary Ann Shurtz, executive vice president of Stratford University. “Because the costs of the courses are completely covered with the tuition reimbursement, all that the student needs to pay for are their books, laboratory fees and any extra costs they may incur for special courses.”

Additional information is available online at www.stratford.edu.

• 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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