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SGT. SHAFT: Why did retirement checks stop?

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I am a retired Marine, and a friend of mine has been receiving a check from her ex-husband's retirement. She did not get one recently and called to inquire why. All they told her was that he was in a non-pay status and would not elaborate. What circumstances would cause this non-pay status? Thank you.

Mark W.,
Retired Master Sgt., USMC

Dear Mark:

The information that you provided is insufficient to provide a concrete answer to the question. I can say, however, that if the former wife was getting a share of her ex's retirement, he might have died. That ends it there. If he got a disability award that was less than 40 percent, it might totally offset his retired pay. That would end her payment, also. There are lots of reasons why this is possible, but the solution remains the same: She should inquire with Department of Defense Finance at 1-800-321-1080.

Shaft notes

• Military.com has launched an improved version of it's popular military spouse website: SpouseBUZZ.com.

The site, which celebrates its five-year anniversary in September, offers "slice of life" blogs written by military spouses and provides a virtual meeting place for spouses to discuss the joys and challenges of military life.

Andi Hurley, the site's creator and herself an Army wife, said the redesign was done to keep up with demand from users and to keep pace with technology. "Spouses have been coming to SpouseBUZZ for the virtual community and support it provides. The enhancements we've made improve that experience and allow greater connectivity between users."

Upgrades include an improved commenting system for more robust discussions, better navigation, popular blog categories are more prominently displayed on the home page, and the addition of social media tools like Facebook and Twitter to share the site's content.

SpouseBUZZ recently assisted HGTV's popular show Income Property on a fantastic opportunity for military families. The post received 392 Facebook "Likes" and 40 tweets, proving the wisdom of incorporating social media into the redesign.

"We're already seeing an increase in traffic and getting more calls for interviews about what it's like to be married to the military. My hope is that we can better support military spouses through the improved site, and in the process show others what being a military spouse is really about." Ms. Hurley said.

Military.com also presents a series of SpouseBUZZ LIVE! Events around the country to bring together SpouseBUZZ bloggers and military spouses. Video of these events can be seen here. The 2011 SpouseBUZZ LIVE Tour will kick-off on March 12 in the Washington, D.C., area.

For more information, please contact Sarah Blansett at 703/346-8523 or via e-mail at sblansett@militaryadvantage.com.

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• Jeff Miller (FL-01), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, has expressed frustration with the release of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) implementation plan for veteran caregiver assistance, required by Public Law 111-163.

"Family caregivers often drive the recovery of our wounded warriors, and have already waited way too long for the comprehensive assistance Congress provided in the law," Mr. Miller said.

The Obama Administration has yet to provide the complete array of caregiver supportive services enacted in the law to assist family caregivers of veterans severely wounded in the War on Terror. Just yesterday, the Obama Administration submitted a report to Congress that was due last November outlining its plans to implement the law.

"President Obama signed this legislation last May with a tremendous amount of goodwill from caregivers and veterans' advocates. It troubles me that the first public plan the administration has put forward has been met with serious concern from those same advocates," Mr. Miller said. "We must work together moving forward and I will listen to all views, but I pledge to these veterans and caregivers that we will get this right."

"Caring for the severely wounded returning from combat and their loved ones is the reason for VA's existence. Within a budget of $125 billion, funding for this core group must be a top priority," he said.

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• Subsequent to the recent committee hearing on mortgage-related violations of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), Ranking Democratic Member Bob Filner (D-CA) called on Congress to make current protections against foreclosures permanent.

"The shocking actions of JP Morgan Chase overcharging military families and improperly foreclosing on some highlight the need for Congress to make permanent the foreclosure protections found in the SCRA and look to ways to improve the protections we provide to the men and women who defend us," Mr. Filner said. "How many other military families have been harmed by financial institutions that refuse to follow the rules?"

The SCRA provides vital financial protections to enable service members to answer the call to service without worrying about some of the financial effects of that service. The SCRA protects against evictions, foreclosures, default judgments and high interest rates.

"I applaud the recent action by Elizabeth Warren to create an Office of Servicemembers Affairs within the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and I look forward to working closely with Holly Petraeus to make sure our service members get all the protections that are available to them under law," Mr. Filner said. "The tragic stories of those who have been adversely affected by the failure of our financial institutions to play by the rules further highlight the necessity of effective legal and regulatory protections for our service members and veterans."

"I'm proud of the work we did in the 110th and 111th Congresses to strengthen the SCRA, including strengthening the 6 percent interest rate cap protections and extending the mortgage foreclosure protections from 90 days to 9 months. One of the last acts we did last year was to continue this period through 2012, and my legislation will provide this nine-month protection permanently."

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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