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SGT. SHAFT: Brother asks how to help incarcerated veteran

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Dear Sgt Shaft:

I have a brother who is currently incarcerated and receiving his 10 percent of his veteran disability benefits. He has a daughter who is 21 and is having a hard time. She would like to make a claim of apportionment. What V.A. form would she need to complete? Are there any additional proof or paper work that needs to be submitted with it?

Thanks,
Donald P.
Via the Internet

Dear Donald:

Those in the know tell me that all or part of the compensation not paid to an incarcerated veteran may be apportioned to the veteran's spouse, child or children, and dependent parents on the basis of individual need. In determining individual need, consideration shall be given to such factors as the claimant's income and living expenses, the amount of compensation available to be apportioned, the needs and living expenses of other claimants as well as any special needs, if any, of all claimants.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (V.A.) will inform a veteran whose benefits are subject to reduction of the right of the veteran's dependents to an apportionment while the veteran is incarcerated, and the conditions under which payments to the veteran may be resumed upon release from incarceration.

V.A. will also notify the dependents of their right to an apportionment if the V.A. is aware of their existence and can obtain their addresses.

No apportionment may be made to or on behalf of any person who is incarcerated in a federal, state, or local penal institution for conviction of a felony.

An apportionment of an incarcerated veteran's V.A. benefits is not granted automatically to the veteran's dependents. The dependent(s) must file a claim for an apportionment by filling out V.A. Form 21-0788, which can be found at http://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-0788-ARE.pdf and submit it to the Regional Office that has jurisdiction over the veteran's claim.

Shaft notes

• As a follow up to the recent committee hearing on mortgage-related violations of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), Rep. Bob Filner, California Democrat, 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 servicemembers get all the protections that are available to them under law," he 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 servicemembers 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 9-month protection permanently."

• The V.A. has successfully deployed a new automated system that is delivering faster, more accurate payments to veterans attending school under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

"V.A. is relying upon the latest technology to provide a high-tech solution for administering the most generous educational benefits since the original GI Bill in 1944," Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki said.

The technology relies upon information from veterans and specialized rules-based software to streamline the process for calculating veterans' benefits.

"The new GI Bill is the first example of V.A.'s use of an agile approach to software development," said Roger W. Baker, VA's assistant secretary for information and technology. "Our success on this project is already being leveraged to ensure the success of other large software projects within V.A.."

The new processes and software available to V.A.'s claims personnel replace the interim tools in use since August 2009, when the Post 9/11 GI Bill became effective.

V.A. has issued more than $8 billion in Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit payments to nearly 440,000 students and their educational institutions.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill pays schools directly for the tuition and fees incurred by eligible Veterans and active-duty personnel. Those payments are based upon the maximum rate in each state for tuition and fees at the in-state level for undergraduates. A monthly housing allowance is also provided.

Also included is a maximum $1,000 annual stipend for books and supplies, and a one-time payment of $500 for students who reside in specific rural areas. More information about the Post-9/11 GI Bill is available on the Internet at www.gibill.va.gov.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. recently presented its 2011 Congressional Award to Sen. Tim Johnson, South Dakota Democrat, for his outstanding service to the nation's military and defense. The presentation took place at the annual VFW Legislative Conference at the Hyatt Regency in Crystal City.

"The Congressional Award recognizes a champion in Congress who fights for those who have worn the uniform and their families, and for a strong and secure America."

As chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, Senator Johnson was a key voice in getting advanced appropriations for the Department of Veterans Affairs -- a top VFW legislative priority -- signed into law, as well as additional V.A. funding increases.

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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