- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Dear Sgt Shaft:

I married my veteran husband after he had retired from the service. Would I retain my military ID and privileges following his death?

Chris M.
Via the Internet

Dear Chris:

Yes, widows retain military benefits after their spouse passes, regardless of whether they were married during his service or afterward. The only thing that will cause a widow to lose benefits is if they later remarry. They then lose nearly everything.

Shaft notes

• In a recent hearing, the Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations revealed that there are 91 pending criminal investigations in the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ (VA) Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) program. Investigations have been under way through the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the VA’s Office of the Inspector General (VAOIG). Some investigations have been ongoing for several years.

“The Department of Veterans Affairs‘ VOSB and SDVOSB contracts accounted for approximately 30 percent of government-wide contracts in this category during fiscal year 2010. This leaves 70 percent of VOSB and SDVOSB contracts to be given to self-certifying firms not verified by VA,” said Rep. Bill Johnson (OH-06), subcommittee chairman on Oversight & Investigations.

VAOIG released a report on SDVOSB contracting issues this week, which detailed that more than $21 million has been awarded to fraudulent companies, and estimated that ineligible firms receive $500 million in VA contracting funds annually. GAO’s testimony followed up on a 2009 report on 10 firms and showed that companies revealed as ineligible in the investigation continued to perform millions of dollars in contracting work for VA.

“Despite multiple discoveries of fraud in our investigation, it is important to note that there are many dedicated professionals in VA who seek to do the right thing. In some cases they have been threatened into silence, they have been circumvented by their own chain of command, they have been ignored, or even fired,” Mr. Johnson said. “In such cases, this subcommittee can and will be their voice, and we will present the evidence they have attempted to bring to light. Truth cannot be suppressed — it will always find a way to be heard. The current program needs to be emancipated from an ineffective culture that will otherwise destroy it.”

• Kudos to U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, Washington State Democrat and chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and to her colleagues, Sens. Jay Rockefeller, West Virginia Democrat; Max Baucus, Montana Democrat; and Robert Casey, Pennsylvania Democrat, for calling on state governors to begin reporting critical statistics on suicides among military veterans in their states. The effort, which comes amid a steadily rising suicide rate among veterans and members of the military, focuses on pushing 41 states to create a direct link to the VA to communicate information about veteran suicides. That information is particularly important for tracking and prevention efforts as many suicides among veterans not enrolled in the VA often go unrecorded.

“One of the most significant obstacles to understanding veteran suicide is the lack of information available regarding these individuals,” the senators wrote. “In many cases, the Department of Veterans Affairs does not even know that a veteran has died if that individual was not enrolled in VA health care.”

In addition to the National Governors Association, the letter sent by the senators also went to the National Association of Medical Examiners, which is the professional organization for medical examiners and death investigators who are responsible for investigating deaths that are violent, suspicious or otherwise unusual.

• The Military Voter Protection Project (MVP Project), a program of Military Families United, along with AMVETS Legal Clinic at Chapman University School of Law has released a report on the treatment of military voters in 2010. The report exposes the difficulties faced by our men and women in uniform when they attempt to vote and the need for immediate action before the 2012 elections.

After every federal election, states collect data regarding the total number of military voters that request and return an absentee ballot, as well as the total number of ballots that were counted. The report collected data from 24 states with the largest percentage of military voters, including Texas, California and Florida. The data shows:

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