- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dear Sgt. Shaft,

I understand that Social Security benefits will not be increased this year. Will the same be true for VA benefits? — RS, Silver Spring, Md.

Dear RS,

Social Security and VA benefits are based on increases in the cost of living. Since the increase in the cost of living has been zilch, neither VA nor Social Security will be adjusted.


Shaft Notes

Marine Corps Birthday celebrations began early this year with the swearing-in of the new Marine Corps commandant, Gen. James Amos, on Oct. 22. This event will be followed by the Gang of 30 “Max Marines” at the Marine Barracks on Nov. 5. The Sarge will also be joining Marines and their families on Nov. 13 in D.C., at this year’s Commandant’s Marine Corps Birthday Ball.

As usual, these events will begin with the following invocation:

“O Lord, we have long known that prayer should include confession. Therefore, on behalf of the Marines and their guests here gathered, I confess their sins: Lord, they’re just not in step with today’s society.
“They are unreasonable in clinging to old-fashioned ideas like patriotism, duty, honor and country. They hold radical ideas like believing that they are their brother’s keeper and responsible for the Marine on their flank. They have been standing when colors pass, singing the national anthem at ballgames and drinking toasts to fallen comrades.
“Not only that, they have been observed standing tall, taking charge and wearing their hair unfashionably short. They have taken John Kennedy’s words too seriously and are overly concerned with what they can do for their country, instead of what this country can do for them.
“They take the Pledge of Allegiance to heart and believe that the oath is to be honored. Forgive them, Lord, for being stubborn men and women who hold fast to such old-fashioned values. After all, what can you expect? They’re Marines.
“O Lord our God, bless our misguided ideals, continue to raise up in this nation strong leaders and deliver us from ‘me-first’ managers and ‘don’t ask me’ followers.
“Be our honored guest this day. Let it be a day of laughter, good food, good drink, and the telling of tall tales and legends that far exceed the truth.
“Watch over and keep safe those who wear this nation’s uniform with special attention to their families everywhere.
“Now through this day and all the days ahead, God bless this great Nation and God bless the Corps.”

                                                               • • •

The House and Senate recognized the anniversary of last year’s Fort Hood shootings before the House adjourned, as both bodies passed a resolution by Rep. John Carter, Texas Republican, who represents the Fort Hood area in the House:

The Carter resolution recognized the outstanding response of military and civilian law enforcement, emergency medical personnel, and base commanders to the incident which left 14 dead and 30 wounded. 

The resolution is Carter’s second bill relating to last November’s attack that have passed both Houses. Still pending are additional bills to provide combat casualty status for all those killed or wounded in the attack; authorize casualties and their families to receive charitable gifts from outside groups; amend the current Military Whistleblower Protection Act to include protections against politically-correct persecution of service members and civilian defense employees who report radical Islamic terror threats; and a requirement for Active Shooter Training for all law enforcement personnel providing security to U.S. military installations.

                                                               • • •

The VA issued the following information concerning prescription benefits:

Please be informed that effective July 1, 2010, the Department of Veterans Affairs charge for a 30-day or less supply of medication provided on an Outpatient basis for treatment of a non-serviced connected condition will increase from $8 to $9 for Veterans who generally have higher incomes and no service connected disabilities — referred to as Priority Groups 7 and 8. As a result, the charge for a 60-day supply of medication will be $18 and for a 90-day supply will be $27.

Veterans in Priority Groups 2 through 6 will not be impacted by this change and will continue to pay $8 for each 30-day or less supply of medication provided for a non-service connected condition unless otherwise exempted.

Priority Group 2-6 Veterans will also continue to have a cap on the amount they can be charged in a calendar year of $960. Veterans who have an injury or illness connected with their military service resulting in a disability rated 50 percent or greater — enrolled in Priority Group 1 — are exempt from this copay.

VA generally sets its outpatient medication copay rate based upon a regulation which ties the rate to the Medical Consumer Price Index for prescription drugs.

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.