- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 27, 2008
Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I served 22 years in the Navy. My GI Bill benefits expired this year while I was working to pay bills. Now I am facing a layoff and probably will have time in the future to attend school or use the GI Bill benefits that I lost. Why is there not a retiree GI Bill amendment?

Regards,

Mark S

Via the internet

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

My name is Larry. I was reading an article in your area of expertise from a veteran named Danny B. Like him, I served in the military from 1987 to 1997. I am a Desert Storm veteran and paid my dues with money and sweat for my country. I recently submitted my paperwork to start college. I also had a lot on my plate for a number of years. After submitting my paperwork, I received a formal letter from the Department of Veterans Affairs stating that I had let my benefits expire.

I am very disturbed to think how soldiers can put money aside for education and fight for our country, only to have education benefits taken away from us on a time limit. We should be able to use this money until the day our last breath is taken. I know there are certain circumstances where the VA will extend this, but it will not tell you how. Do you have any advice on how to work out this problem?

Deeply concerned,

Desert Storm Vet

Via the Internet

Dear Mark and Larry:

New regulations allow veterans to use their GI Bill benefits up to 15 years following separation or retirement. Unfortunately, the rules do not apply retroactively. You and other vets in similar circumstances highlight the need for a revisit by the newly elected Congress and administration.

Shaft Notes

• More than 1,600 students will receive up to $5,000 each in interest-free loans from the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) Scholarship Fund for the 2008-09 school year. More than 515 of the students will be first-time recipients.

Students can apply online at MOAA´s site for the loans, which are awarded annually for up to five years of undergraduate study. Applications are accepted from students under age 24 who are either the children of former, active or retired officers or the children of active or retired enlisted military personnel. Active, retired, reserve and National Guard officers and warrant officers of the seven uniformed services are eligible for MOAA membership.

If the child himself was in a uniformed service before completing college, the maximum age for eligibility will be increased by the number of years served, up to five years. Applicants may be graduating high school seniors or full-time college students working toward their first undergraduate degree.

Qualified students with a grade-point average of 3.0 or higher are considered based on their scholastic ability, potential, participation in extracurricular and community activities and financial need.

In addition to the more than 1,600 interest-free loans, MOAA will award 19 grants to college seniors who are current loan recipients in the program, eight grants to children of deceased retired officers and at least 50 grants to children whose military parent died in active service. All of the 19 senior grants will be for at least $5,000 each. Also, 793 of those receiving the interest-free loan are Designated Scholars who receive a $5,000 interest-free loan and a $500 grant.

The MOAA Scholarship Fund has given nearly 10,000 students interest-free loans totaling more than $71.2 million since its inception in 1948. For MOAA Scholarship Fund applications for the 2009-10 school year or for more information on making a contribution to the fund, visit www.moaa.org/education or e-mail edassist@MOAA.org.

Applications are being accepted; the deadline is noon EST on March 2.

• Rep. John Hall and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, both New York Democrats, recently announced that the president has signed a comprehensive veterans benefit bill that includes their legislation to overhaul the Veterans Affairs Department’s disability claims bureaucracy.

Mr. Hall crafted the Disability Claims Modernization Act (H.R. 5892) and pushed it through the House. Mrs. Clinton introduced companion legislation in the Senate and helped secure its Senate passage.

“This law will comprehensively modernize the Veterans Benefits Administration and make it more accountable,” said Mr. Hall, chairman of the House Veterans subcommittee on disability assistance. “It will help the VA become a 21st-century, world-class entity that fulfills its purpose of serving our veterans, their families, and survivors.”

“This is a victory for all of the brave men and women who have put their lives on the line to defend the freedoms we hold dear,” Mrs. Clinton said.

• 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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