- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 20, 2009

Dear Sgt Shaft,

My husband, David Patton Richardson, served in the jungles of Vietnam in the ‘60s. He was wounded in the wrist and shoulder and received a 30 percent disability check until his death. When he was 56 years old, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He died before he turned 60. The doctor at Emory University stated that she thought he possibly had a nerve-related disease caused by Agent Orange.

When he died in March 2005, I lost his veterans disability check plus his teacher retirement check. (We have since said that it is possible to take your money with you when you die!) I have been told that if I pursued this matter, I would be eligible for a widow’s benefit of $1,000 per month. How do I go about checking into this matter?I appreciate any information you can give me. Thank you. - Allie R.

Dear Allie,

It appears that you are requesting guidance about applying for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). This is a monthly payment paid to a surviving spouse, parent or dependent child because the veteran’s death was service-connected.

Service-connected death can mean either that the death occurred while on active duty or the death was caused by a disability attributable to the veteran’s active duty service.

Regarding your husband’s service in Vietnam, the Department of Veterans Affairs has established a causal relationship between Agent Orange or herbicides used in Vietnam and the subsequent diagnosis of several disabilities in veterans who were exposed to these chemicals. These disabilities include:

• AL amyloidosis.

• Chloracne or other acneform disease consistent with chloracne.

• Type 2 diabetes (also known as diabetes mellitus or adult-onset diabetes).

• Hodgkin’s disease.

• Chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

• Multiple myeloma.

• Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

• Acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy.

• Porphyria cutanea tarda.

• Prostate cancer.

• Respiratory cancers (cancer of the lung, bronchus, larynx or trachea)

• Soft-tissue sarcoma (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma or mesothelioma).

To file a claim for service-connected death benefits, you should complete a VA Form 21-534, Application for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), Death Pension and Accrued Benefits by a Surviving Spouse or Child, and return it to the local VA regional office. You can request a copy of this form and the address of the nearest VA regional office online at www.va.gov or by calling the toll free number, 800/827-1000.

In addition to the VA Form 21-534, you will need to provide a copy of your husband’s death certificate listing the conditions that caused or contributed to his death. If the undiagnosed nerve-related disease you mentioned is not included in the list above, you may wish to provide a statement from the Emory University physician and include a copy of the medical treatise on which the opinion is based.

Shaft notes

The Sarge is looking forward to joining Rep. Gus Bilirakis, Florida Republican, at the 3rd annual Veterans Benefits Resource Fair scheduled to be held Aug. 29 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. atEast Lake High School, 1300 Silver Eagle Drive, Tarpon Springs, FL 34688

All veterans (past, present and future), their families and friends are welcome to attend this event.

Several military and veterans officials will be on hand to discuss myriad services, benefits and information for veterans and their families. Some informational topics include medical/dental care, veterans claims and services, education benefits, job placement/employment services, housing and social services.

Entertainer Tony Orlando, a longtime supporter of uniformed men and women, will be among many in attendance to show their support for our troops and the veterans. The fair also will feature a special welcome home for Vietnam veterans.

College tuition

St. Bonaventure University in southwestern New York has teamed up with the Department of Veterans Affairs to help post-Sept. 11 veterans attend the university tuition-free through the new Yellow Ribbon GI Education Enhancement Program.

St. Bonaventure is among a sizable number of private colleges and universities in New York state participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program, designed to help students pay for education programs not covered by the Post-9/11 GI Bill tuition benefit.

The Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Act, for veterans who were considered active-duty during or after Sept. 11, 2001, caps educational benefits at the highest public in-state college or university undergraduate tuition rate. Under the Yellow Ribbon Program, the difference between that in-state rate and the tuition cost at a private college or university is split between the school and the VA.

If, for instance, the tuition bill at a participating university is $20,000 and the Post-9/11 GI Bill can pay only $15,000, the university and the VA will split the $5,000 difference.

Jim DiRisio, director of admissions at St. Bonaventure, lauded the new program and the opportunity it affords post-Sept. 11 veterans.

“As a U.S. Army veteran and a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, I am proud that my university is among the colleges whose leaders have recognized the value that veterans provide to any organization. I am excited that veterans are now able to choose St. Bonaventure without regard to cost, and I am certain their experiences in our classrooms, and among our community, will be valuable,” Mr. DiRisio said.

Nearly 750 private, nonprofit colleges and universities in the United States have signed Yellow Ribbon participation agreements with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

For information about academic programs and enrolling at St. Bonaventure University, contact Mr. DiRisio at 716/375-2400 or jdirisio@sbu.edu. To learn more about the benefits of St. Bonaventure’s Yellow Ribbon program, contact Wendy Fleming, associate director of financial aid, at 716/ 375-2529 or wfleming@sbu.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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