- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Dear Sgt. Shaft,

Here is good one for you since this repayment of separation pay was not well planned.

I received separation pay and then retired from the Army.

The VA has recouped my disability pay in accordance with the law.

The Army Finance Center has also recouped my retirement pay.

The problem is that both of these organizations do not know how much either one has recouped from me.

If the recoupment is taken out in September 2010, they owe me.

I have talked to both organizations and get nothing but the runaround.

If this goes on, then instead of collecting $8,400, they will collect $16,800 from me.

TERRY B

SSG (RETIRED)

Dear Terry:

Those in the know at the VA tell me that the law prohibits duplication of benefits per 38 CFR 3.700. VA is responsible for recouping separation pay under Title 10 U.S.C 1174 from the veterans disability entitlement. Once the total amount is withheld, VA will release monthly entitlement.

VA policy provides guidance on handling recoupment of separation pay by both VA and the service department. The steps are as follows:

• VA will ask the service department to confirm if it is recouping separation pay. If the service department is recouping, VA will verify the amount, and give consideration only to the amount actually recouped.

• If the service department is recouping the separation pay, VA will adjust the veterans compensation award and/or repay any amounts previously recouped by the VA that are now being recouped from military retirement pay.

Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS), Coast Guard and Public Health Service have read-only access to VA’s award system, and VA has read-only access to the DFAS award system. Shared access is used to verify separation pay when recoupments are processed manually. VA is currently working with DFAS, Coast Guard and Public Health Service to develop an automated solution for coordinated separation pay recoupments.

Shaft notes

I recommend that all my readers visit the Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, which recently welcomed Gloria Campbell and her two grandsons as the 2 millionth visitor. This was her first visit to the museum ever.

“Every Wednesday, I take my grandsons on little field trips around the area, and today I decided we’d come here. I love history and figured they might enjoy it, also,” said Campbell who retired from Fairfax County Public School System last year. She is a Manassas resident who does not have any ties to the Marine Corps, although her son served in the Army.

Upon learning of this grand moment, she was reduced to celebratory tears and truly was touched by all the fuss. The three of them are enjoying lunch in Tun Tavern currently and will be given a private tour of the museum afterward.

This is why we have our museum — to continue to teach American history through the eyes of Marines and to touch the hearts of many along the way.

The Sarge joins the national commander of America’s largest combat veterans’ organization who is aghast that a California-based federal appeals court would rule in favor of a Medal of Honor impostor.

“The court just dishonored every genuine military hero in our nation’s history,” said Thomas J. Tradewell Sr., who leads the 2.1-million Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. and its Auxiliaries.

The case involved water district board member Xavier Alvarez of Pomona, Calif., who claimed during a 2007 meeting that he was a retired Marine who received the Medal of Honor.

He was sentenced under the 2006 Stolen Valor Act to perform 400 hours of community service at a veterans hospital and fined $5,000.

By a 2-1 vote, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last week ruled that Alvarez’s false claims were covered by First Amendment free speech protections, because there was no intent to harm others.

“Alvarez held a prominent position within his community,” said Tradewell, a combat-wounded Vietnam veteran from Sussex, Wis.

‘His false claim generated more respect from his peers and news of his conviction rocked his community. He dishonored those who earned our nation’s highest medal and countless others whose equally heroic acts went unrecorded from the heat of battle,” Tradewell said.

“I call that intent to cause harm and hope federal prosecutors carry this case to the Supreme Court,” he said. “There are things that are sacrosanct in this country, and protecting the honor and memory of true American heroes is one of them.”

To this the Sarge can only say that, although justice is supposed to be blind, this decision suggests that these judges have no vision.

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.

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