- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Dear Sgt Shaft:

My husband committed suicide while on active duty in the Navy. He was an E-5 and had been in 11 years. We were married for eight years. We share one child, and I have a daughter from a previous relationship. Both kids were on his dependents. How long do we get to keep our military insurance and ID’s?

Via the Internet

Dear C.W.,

You can keep your military ID and health insurance for the rest of your life. However, if you remarry, that entitlement will end.

So long as you don’t marry beforehand, the children keep their ID’s and health care coverage until age 21, or age 23 if they’re attending college full time. There will be provisions in place soon allowing them to keep coverage even longer (until age 26), but they will have to pay premiums for the coverage after age 21, or 23 and attending college full time.

Shaft notes

• Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki is encouraging interested colleges and universities to join the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in participating in the Post-9/11 GI Bill Yellow Ribbon Program for the upcoming 2011-2012 academic year.

“Through shared responsibility, VA and our Nation’s colleges and universities are working together to ensure that our Servicemembers, Veterans and dependents receive the education benefits they have earned,” he said. “I strongly encourage any interested school to formally sign up with us before the May 23 deadline to guarantee their participation.”

Interested schools should visit VA’s website for more information at http://gibill.va.gov/school-certifying-officials/yellow-ribbon-agreement/, where they will find a copy of a letter recently sent to all school presidents and department heads, an agreement form, instructions, and an easy-to-follow checklist.

The Yellow Ribbon Program is a provision of the Post-9/11 GI Bill that allows degree-granting institutions to voluntarily enter into a formal agreement with VA to fund tuition and fee expenses that exceed either the annual $17,500 private institutions cap recently instituted by Congress or the in-state tuition and fees charged out-of-state residents attending public institutions.

The institution can contribute up to 50 percent of those expenses, and VA will match this additional funding for eligible students. This may enable qualified students to attend school tuition-free.

This Post-9/11 GI Bill program is available for service members and veterans at the 100 percent benefit level, specifically those who have served at least 36 months on active duty or served at least 30 continuous days and were discharged due to a service-related injury after Sept. 11, 2001. The benefit can be transferred to eligible family members.

Effective Aug. 1, 2011, under a new law passed by Congress, there is a cap on the maximum payment of tuition and fees at $17,500 per academic year for private and foreign schools, a change from the previous Post-9/11 GI Bill. The law also provides for full payment of in-state tuition and fees (undergraduate, graduate or doctoral) at public institutions.

The institutions of higher learning (IHL) requesting participation in the Yellow Ribbon Program must enter into an agreement with VA each year, whether to renew participation from the previous academic year or enter first year agreements.

For the 2010-2011 academic year, VA signed more than 1,200 Yellow Ribbon agreements with IHLs across the nation. For a complete listing of the schools presently participating, go to www.gibill.va.gov/GI_Bill_Info/CH33/YRP/YRP_List.htm.

Additional information about the Post-9/11 GI Bill, including upcoming changes to the Post-9/11 GI Bill based on recent legislation, can be obtained by visiting VA’s website at www.gibill.va.gov and www.gibill.va.gov/benefits/post_911_gibill/Post911_changes.html or by calling 1-888-GIBILL-1 (or 1-888-442-4551).

• The Army Historical Foundation continues to make great progress in efforts to raise funds for the building of the National Museum of the United States Army at Fort Belvoir, Va. In addition to the sale of coins by the United States Mint, both Lockheed Martin and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) have recently made substantial contributions to the Army Historical Foundation to help fund the creation of the museum, scheduled to open in 2015. The museum will be a state-of-the-art facility, showcasing dynamic exhibits that pay tribute to the 30 million men and women who have worn the Army uniform since 1775.

The United States Mint is currently selling three distinct 2011 Army Commemorative Coins, the Army $5 gold coin, silver dollar and clad half-dollar, which were authorized by Congress in 2008 to celebrate the service’s storied history and honor. The coins — respectfully themed “Army Service in War,” “Modern Army Service,” and “Army Service in Peace” — each depict proud Army imagery. All three coins can be ordered at www.usmint.gov/catalog or by calling 1-800 USA-MINT. The pricing of the coins includes a surcharge, which will help finance the museum.

Lockheed Martin Corp. recently pledged $10 million to sponsor the National Museum of the United States Army’s Education Pavilion, a unique, state-of-the-art interactive resource center that will feature science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) educational programs related to the company’s four product areas — water, air, land, and space.

The museum will have many notable galleries. The “Soldiers’ Stories” gallery will feature personal accounts from soldiers serving from all generations, offering a glimpse into their personalities, emotions and values at their time of service. The “Fighting for the Nation” gallery will tell the Army’s remarkable stories of triumph and sacrifice from the first shots of the Revolutionary War and difficult years of the Civil War, to the overseas service of the last century and today’s ongoing Global War on Terrorism.

The museum’s “Army and Society” gallery, a gallery unlike any in the other services’ museums, will depict the interaction between the country’s oldest fighting force and its citizens, including the Army’s humanitarian efforts, the ever-increasing diversity of the force and the efforts of the American people to show their soldiers’ support.

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.

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