- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Dear Sgt Shaft:

I was trying to track down some information concerning the question posed in one of your letters about the person that worked or served in the British Armed Forces. I know that we have a reciprocal agreement with Canada, and I am almost certain we have something similar with Great Britain. I believe the Veterans Assistance Service supervised these efforts as part of their Foreign Benefits Program. I am not sure who does this now. I am trying to track it down.

J.F.
Via the Internet

Dear J.F.:

Eligibility for most VA benefits is based on discharge from the active military, naval or air service under other than dishonorable conditions. Active military, naval or air service includes active duty as well as certain periods of active duty for training and inactive duty training during. Active duty means full-time service as a member of the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps or Coast Guard, service as a cadet or midshipman at the U.S. Military, Air Force, Naval, or Coast Guard academies, and certain service in the Regular or Reserve Corps of Public Health Service or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Veterans from other countries (except certain veterans of service with Philippine forces) are not eligible for VA compensation and pension benefits. Canadian veterans can get care at VA facilities in the U.S., and then VA bills the Canadian government. VA has the same arrangement with the United Kingdom for U.K. veterans.

Shaft notes

• 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:

* Of the nearly 2 million military voters residing in the states covered by the report, only 89,887 or 4.6 percent cast an absentee ballot that counted in 2010.

* While 310,625 military voters requested an absentee ballot in 2010, only 31 percent of those ballots were returned to be counted by local election officials.

* There were widespread failures by federal officials — in particular, the Department of Justice — to implement and enforce a new federal law designed to protect military voters. These failures had a clear and undeniable impact on military voters.

“The data says it all — it is disappointing that military voters continue to have their voices silenced on Election Day,” said Eric Eversole, founder and executive director of the MVP Project. Mr, Eversole, a veteran of the Navy JAG Corps added, “If we are going to turn this ship around, it has to be a top priority for both the states and the administration.”

Professor Kyndra Rotunda, who directs Chapman’s AMVETS Legal Clinic, said: “We are delighted to co-publish this important research, and we are proud of the Chapman and Berkeley Law students who uncovered the raw data behind it.”

“The vote of every man and women in uniform must be counted, regardless of their location in the world,” said Robert Jackson, executive director of Military Families United. Mr. Jackson, also a Navy veteran added, “Our service members sacrifice far too much for the freedom and rights of all Americans and that includes their right to vote. This report is an important first step in identifying the problems faced by our military voters and will allow the MVP Project to begin its critical efforts to protect the voting rights of our military members in 2012.”

• Rep. Gus Bilirakis, Florida Republican, has presented Frank Chicollo with the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s (CMP) Patriot Award to recognize his dedication and continuous service to the United States and the Tampa Bay area.

“Frank has always been more than willing to lend a helping hand to his community and to his fellow veterans,” Mr. Bilirakis said. “He has been a true hero for me as I have made it a priority to ensure our veterans receive the benefits they deserve. His devotion to these men and women and his years of ongoing service to both them and to their families makes him an ideal candidate to receive the Patriot Award.”

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Mr. Chicollo served as an infantryman and Ranger from 1966 to 1970. After completing his training, Mr. Chicollo was deployed to Vietnam as part of the 10,000-troop buildup for the Tet Offensive. During his service in Vietnam, Mr Chicollo received three Purple Hearts. He was honorably separated from the Army as an E-4 in 1970 and a few years later, in 1974, decided to make Florida his home.

Mr. Chicollo went on to put in 27 years with the U.S. Postal Service and remains a proud member of several veteran service organizations. He currently is State Area Committeeman of the Disabled American Veterans organization. He was past commander and VSO of Military Order of the Purple Heart; Senior Vice Commander, Legislative Director, Membership Director and VSO for the Disabled American Veterans Chapter #4; Member of the American Legion Post #5; and Member of the VFW Post 10167, Holiday.

The CMP is a national organization dedicated to training and educating U.S. citizens in responsible uses of firearms and air guns through gun safety training, marksmanship training and competitions. The CMP actively assists the mission of our armed services. As such, the organization created the Patriots Program, where outstanding citizens are recognized for their contributions to our country.

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 email sgtshaft@bavf.org.