- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

Hi, my name is David W., and I was merchant marine in Vietnam in late 1969 and went up and down the rivers. I had Hodgkin lymphoma and kidney cancer. Where can I get help. Thank you.

David W.,
Via the Internet

Dear David,

38 CFR 3.6(14) and(15) defines the limits of naval or air service for VA Benefits entitlement. Only American Merchant seamen serving aboard blockships in support of Operation Mulberry (invasion of Normandy, WWII) and oceangoing Merchant Marine service during the period 12-7-41 through 8-15-45, are considered to be active military, naval or air service. Vietnam-era Merchant Marine service is not included.

For additional assistance, you may try contacting the American Merchant Marine Veterans organization: http://www.ammv.info/.

Shaft notes

• The Army Review Boards Agency (ARBA) office at St. Louis has been closed in conjunction with Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC). Applications to the Army Board for Correction of Military Records (ABCMR), DD Form 149, and the Army Discharge Review Board (ADRB), DD Form 293, must now be mailed to 1901 S. Bell St., Arlington, VA 22202-4508. The current editions of these applications also provide this mailing address. The current applications can be printed from the ARBA website, http://arba.army.pentagon.mil. The forms are in a fillable format so that applicants can use word-processing software on the forms and print them.

The ARBA website also provides an online process for application to the ABCMR and the ADRB that can be used instead of completing and mailing the hard copy applications. The use of the online application process is encouraged. Veterans Service Officers may do the computer work for applicants but for all applications, the applicant or legal representative must sign the application.

When mailing a hard copy application or the signature page for the online application, applicants should provide copies of all records and documents they have in their possession related to their application.

It should not be assumed that all the documents they wish the board to consider are in their military record.

The ARBA website is very useful. It provides the information, forms, online application, application guides, answers to common questions and links to many other helpful sites. Contact can be made via the ARBA website “Contact Us” link at the bottom of the website home page.

• Guard and Reserve members have a few more weeks to nominate their supportive employers for the 2011 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award before nomination season closes on Jan. 17, 2011. Guard and Reserve family members can also nominate their service member’s employer during this nomination season. The award is the government’s highest honor given to employers for their outstanding support of employees serving in the Guard and Reserve. Nearly one-half of the U.S. military is comprised of the Guard and Reserve, making the role of U.S. employers in support of employees in the military increasingly important.

Guard and Reserve members and their families are eligible and encouraged to nominate employers that have provided exceptional support to Guard and Reserve employees beyond the federal law requirements. Nominations may be submitted at www.FreedomAward.mil. The names of all nominated employers will be announced in the spring, and the 15 Freedom Award recipients will be announced in early summer.

The Freedom Award was instituted in 1996 under the auspices of Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), a Department of Defense Agency, to recognize exceptional support of Guard and Reserve members from the employer community.

For questions regarding the Freedom Award nomination process, please visit www.FreedomAward.mil; or contact Maj. Melissa Phillips, ESGR Public Affairs, at 703/696-1171, Ext. 519; or by e-mail at ESGR-PA@osd.mil.

• House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner, California Democrat, announced that the House of Representatives voted to approve legislation to address the unique medical concerns of women veterans, and injured and amputee veterans. H.R. 5953 requires that all Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities post a bill of rights as a way to bolster the consistency of VA care and address gaps in care reported by these veteran patient populations.

“Through the hearings and roundtable discussions that the Committee held during this year, veterans have come forward to share their personal stories,” Mr. Filner said. “Although the VA has made some strides in caring for combat veterans, both male and female, significant gaps remain. H.R. 5953 would require VA to display in all of their facilities the 24 fundamental principles governing their treatment of women veterans, as well as require VA to widely distribute the bill of rights to women veterans. The bill would also instruct the VA to inform veterans and educate employees at each VA prosthetics and orthotics clinic of the Injured and Amputee Veterans’ Bill of Rights.”

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.