- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Dear Sgt. Shaft,

My husband died April 13 this year after a lengthy illness of heart failure and COPD. One of the ladies at my church told me I would qualify for Purple Heart Benefits. Is this true?

Bobby served 25 years in the Navy and was highly decorated after serving in Vietnam in the River Rats, or the Brown Water Navy (Mobile Riverine Forces). He was boat captain on M-111-3, on which he was hit after it took fire during one of the tours. He managed to save his boat and crew. He received the Purple Heart for this. He also has 2 bronze stars with V ; two Navy Accommodations with combat V; a Presidential Unit Citation and two Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, among other awards. He also served on other ships (USS Douglas Munro, USS Cavalier, USS Princeton, USS Twining, USS Epperson, etc.). I have all the paperwork on these if you need them. He served in the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Do I qualify for the Purple Heart Benefit and, if so, what do I need to do? He did not join any organizations because he was not a “joiner” and did not boast about what he had done. All he would say is that he just did his job like he thought he needed to do it. He retired as a BMC and was E-7.


Thank you for any information that you can give me. — Elisabeth, via the Internet

Dear Elisabeth,

I understand that your husband submitted a claim prior to his death, but the final regulations linking ischemic heart disease to herbicide exposures have not been finalized. To file a claim for service-connected death benefits, you should complete an application (VA Form 21-534) 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.

Additionally, you will need to provide a copy of your husband’s death certificate showing heart failure caused or materially hastened his death. A decision will be made on your claim as soon as the regulations are finalized.

Shaft notes

A heartfelt “attaboy” to VA Medical Center Director Fernando Rivera, his doctors, nurses and other caregivers who were instrumental in my recent recovery from a hip fracture. Your warmth, patience and dedicated professionalism made a difficult situation bearable.

The children of military personnel who died in the line of duty since Sept. 11, 2001 can apply for an educational scholarship similar to the new Post-9/11 GI Bill. Benefits are retroactive to Aug. 1, 2009.

The scholarship, which is administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, is named after Marine Gunnery Sgt. John David Fry, 28, a Texas native who died in Iraq in 2006 while disarming an explosive. He was survived by three young children.

The Fry scholarship represents this nations solemn commitment to care for children whose mothers and fathers paid the ultimate price for our country, said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.

For more information or assistance, call the toll-free number 888/442-4551, or visit the VA GI Bill Website at www.gibill.va.gov.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, DC 20035-5900; fax: 301/622-3330; call: 202/257-5446; or e-mail sgtshaft@bavf.org.