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SGT. SHAFT: Can widow be buried next to vet husband?

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Dear Sgt Shaft,

My mother, who is now 92 years old, became a widow 3/4/45 when my father was killed during WWII.

She has never remarried and receives an Unremarried Widows Pension. Is my mother eligible for any type of medical insurance through the VA (she's in good health) and is she entitled to be buried in Beverly National Cemetery along with my father? If she's entitled to either or both of these benefits, what steps do I take to make this happen?

Thank you very much.

Cynthia K via the Internet

Dear Cynthia, There is a Web page specifically dedicated to information on burial benefits: http://www.cem.va.gov/bbene_burial.asp.

This link takes you directly to eligibility: http://www.cem.va.gov/bbene/eligible.asp. According to the eligibility criteria, your mother should be eligible if her husband was eligible to be buried in the cemetery: (1) The spouse or surviving spouse of an eligible Veteran is eligible for interment in a national cemetery even if that Veteran is not buried or memorialized in a national cemetery. In addition, the spouse or surviving spouse of a member of the Armed Forces of the United States whose remains are unavailable for burial is also eligible for burial.

Here is the link for the procedures of requesting the benefit when the time comes: http://www.cem.va.gov/bbene/need.asp. I suggest you contact VHA on the health care eligibility part. Your mother may be eligible for the medical expense reimbursement. The Web site for services provided to family members is http://www4.va.gov/healtheligibility/familymembers/.

Shaft notes

Kudos to House Republican Conference Secretary John Carter, who represents the Fort Hood area in Congress, for his support of the victims and families of the Fort Hood shootings. The impact of political correctness on the failure to prevent the deadly attack must be recognized and remediated in future Department of Defense policies, and those wounded and killed should be awarded benefits as combat casualties,

Carter, who is also co-chairman of the House Army Caucus, says the Department of Defense must go further than the 26 policy changes initiated this week by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

"We must still address political correctness, the benefit status of soldiers and civilian casualties of the shooting, and the ability of the casualties and their families to receive charitable contributions," Carter says.

Carter today renewed his call for enhancement of whistleblower protections within DOD to encourage service members to report early warning signs of radical Islamic activities without fear of adverse personnel actions for being politically incorrect.

The former Texas judge says DOD must also address making the Fort Hood casualties eligible for the same benefits extended to 9-11 Pentagon casualties, including eligibility to receive the Purple Heart.

In addition, Carter has called for casualties and their families to be able to receive charitable contributions. Current DOD regulations restrict the ability of soldiers and their families to receive donations, and Carter is working with DOD and House and Senate leaders to revise those rules as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.

Carter introduced the Military Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, HR 4267, and the Fort Hood Victims and Families Protection Act, HR 4791, earlier this year and has requested the language for both measures also be included in the National Defense Authorization Act.

The U.S. Small Business Administration recently announced the award of grants to 10 local SBA Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) to increase entrepreneurial assistance to veterans. The grants will provide approximately $1 million to fund programs for veterans that promote business ownership and provide services to small businesses dealing with the deployment of key personnel overseas.

Each SBDC receiving funds will promote increased coordination of services to veterans, and will use multimedia tools to connect veterans through distance learning and customized online business counseling by providing services to reach the local veteran business community. Five of the centers were previously awarded grant funds to provide these services, and will now receive a second year of funding. Five centers will receive grant funds for the first time.

Five SBDCs will receive a second year of funding. They are located at the Research Foundation at the State University of New York, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, the University of Kentucky Research Foundation in Lexington, the University of Texas at San Antonio, and George Mason University in Virginia.

Five grant recipients will receive awards for the first time. They are the SBDCs located at the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, the University of Southern Maine, the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Southeastern Oklahoma State University and Lane Community College in Eugene, Ore. They were selected from a highly competitive pool of applicants based on the range of services they could provide to veterans.

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.