- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dear Sgt. Shaft: I want to upgrade my discharge. How would I download DD Form 149 from the Department of Defense website?

Martha P.
Via the Internet

Dear Martha:

* Go to a Web Browser (e.g. Google).

* Type in DD-149 and hit enter.

* Start typing in the blue lines on the form.

* Save your entries by clicking on “Save As,” name your document and save on your computer’s local drive.

That’s all there is to it.

Shaft notes

The Sarge is dumbfounded by Sen. Patty Murray’s and three of her Senate colleagues’ support of legislation that would allow blind citizens to work for less than the minimum wage. In a letter to Ms. Murray, National Federation of the Blind Executive Director for Strategic Initiatives John G. Paré Jr. wrote as follows:

Dear Senator Murray:

I am writing regarding proposed language in the draft Workforce Investment Act (WIA) legislative package that reverses the progress of blind Americans toward first-class citizenship, full integration into society and competitive employment; specifically, Title V, Section 511, “EMPLOYMENT OF INDIVIDUALS WITH SIGNIFICANT DISABILITIES AT WAGES BELOW MINIMUM WAGE.” In 1938, when every other employee in America was guaranteed the workforce protection of a federal minimum wage through the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Section 14(c) of this act denied people with disabilities this protection. The language found in Title V, Section 511, of the proposed reauthorization is a tacit endorsement of Section 14(c) of the FLSA and its antiquated contention that people with disabilities cannot be competitively employed. Since our founding in 1940, the National Federation of the Blind, the nation’s largest organization of blind Americans, has fought against the misconception that blind people cannot be productive employees, and we have made significant strides toward a correct understanding of the true capacity of the blind and other workers
with disabilities. Most notably, the National Industries for the Blind, a network of sheltered workshops with a history of employing blind workers at subminimum wages, has essentially eliminated the need for a Special Wage Certificate for its member agencies by adopting a policy of employing blind workers at the federal minimum wage or higher.

Also, over the past few decades, we have seen the passage of progressive disability legislation to move people with disabilities closer to the goal of competitive integrated employment. Section 14(c) of the FLSA is neither consistent with this general trend nor consistent with current findings that even people with the most significant disabilities can be competitively employed. Section 14(c) of the FLSA has not previously been referenced in the Rehabilitation Act, and it should not be linked in any way to this reauthorization. Language endorsing the payment of subminimum wages to disabled employees simply has no place in a piece of legislation that is supposed to pave the way for disabled Americans to be integrated into the competitive workforce. It is in direct conflict with the intent of the legislation.

I speak regularly with blind people from across the nation, and I can tell you that their universal belief is that the payment of subminimum wages must be forbidden. The language in Title V, Section 511, is an attempt to protect youth with disabilities from being inappropriately steered toward sheltered employment and a life of low expectations rewarded with subminimum wages. However, aside from the specific requirements for prevocational and transitional services, Title V, Section 511, simply restates the current law of Section 14(c) of the FLSA. Moreover, the language in the draft providing an exception where “the individual has been working toward an employment outcome…for a reasonable period of time without success” and will “likely not be successful,” could result in subminimum wage employment being newly considered as a service of vocational rehabilitation. This language will not solve the problem of abuse of Section 14(c); it will make it worse. The goal of protecting youth with disabilities from unnecessary employment at subminimum wages would be better accomplished by providing for prevocational and transitional services elsewhere in the draft without referencing the FLSA at all. I am asking, on behalf of all blind Americans, that you do everything in your power to see that Title V, Section 511, is removed in its entirety from this legislation, along with any other reference to Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act. I thank you for your attention to this critically urgent and important matter.

However, kudos to Ms. Murray, who is a Washington state Democrat, for her recent speech on the Senate floor urging her colleagues to pass the critical health care and benefits investments included in the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs spending bill the Senate is considering this week. Among many other things, the bill includes lifesaving investments in Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder research as well as mental health care for those struggling with the invisible wounds of war. The bill also makes a significant investment in preparing the VA for the influx of new Iraq and Afghanistan veterans while supporting housing opportunities and care for older veterans.

“No matter what fiscal crisis we face, no matter how divided we may be over approaches to cutting our debt and deficit, no matter how heated the rhetoric here in Washington D.C. gets, we have to keep our commitments to our veterans and service members,” Ms. Murray said. “We have to move this bill forward, and we have to provide those who wore — or are wearing — the uniform with the peace of mind that we are keeping up our promise to them.”

Funding broken down by base appears below:

Naval Station Bremerton — $13,341,000
Naval Station Kitsap — $121,844,000
Fairchild Air Force Base — $27,600,000
Joint Base Lewis McChord — $331,300,000
Naval Air Station Whidbey Island — $25,000,000

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.

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