- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I just read your response (July 30, 2007) to Donald about ROTC [Reserve Officers Training Corps] Summer Camp counting for Civil Service Retirement. My problem is that I do not have pay voucher or orders documenting my attendance. DFAS [Defense Finance and Accounting Services] and ROTC Brigade haven’t been able to help. Do you know where I can get copies of required information?

Also, will ROTC Summer Camp count toward reserve retirement?

Thank you,
John Z.
Via the Internet

Dear John:

ROTC Summer Camp does not count toward reserve retirement.

As to records, they should be retained at the reserve personnel command of the service you were with during your ROTC period.

Shaft notes

• The Sarge joins the United Spinal Association in their criticism of New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg who recently made incredibly offensive remarks directed at wheelchair users who want greater access to the city’s yellow taxi fleet.

Mr. Bloomberg stated that “it’s too dangerous” for wheelchair users to hail a cab in New York City and that most drivers would “pretend they didn’t see them.” He also said wheelchair users “sit too far from the driver to establish a dialogue” and therefore “they would not tip well.”

It’s time to call out the offensive remarks of Mr. Bloomberg by showing your support for a fully-accessible New York City taxi fleet. Sadly, only 231 of the city’s 13,000 taxis are accessible to wheelchair users. The New York Daily News is taking an online poll regarding the desirability of accessible taxis.

United Spinal has advocated for accessible taxis in New York City for many years. But this fight reaches far beyond the city’s front lines. If New York City creates an equitable system of accessible public transportation then other cities both small and large will follow.

Background reading on this issue can be found at http://www.spinalcord.org/push-for-cab-access-grows/ and http://www.spinalcord.org/key-to-hailing-a-cab-in-nyc-tip-well-and-hide-your-wheelchair/.

• The chairman and the ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Reps. Jeff Miller and Bob Filner, and the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Sens. Patty Murray and Richard Burr, recently submitted a joint letter to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.

The letter urges the Joint Select Committee to look to history should the committee, during the course of its work; have to turn to VA programs in order to meet the minimum $1.2 trillion deficit reduction goal outlined in the Budget Control Act. As the letter notes, the budget must never be balanced on the backs of veterans, but there have been thoughtful, measured proposals enacted in past times of fiscal restraint.

None of the proposals cited in the historical examples attached to the letter affects the six critical issues cited in the “Independent Budget Critical Issues Report for Fiscal Year 2012” — an annual report issued by a consortium of Veterans Service Organizations that highlights protection of health-care benefits, reforming the benefits-claims processing system, transition and employment for veterans, caring for war veterans, transforming the VA health-care delivery model and maintaining VA’s infrastructure as the most important issues facing veterans today.

“We all have a responsibility to America’s veterans to ensure that the benefits they have earned remain intact and that their needs remain a priority,” stated Mr. Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “We also have a responsibility, however, to ensure that during these tough economic times, we provide to the Joint Select Committee information that is pertinent to its decision-making process in a transparent and bipartisan manner. Through this letter, we outline areas which in the past have been acted upon, in order to avoid even the possibility of across-the-board cuts that would have a devastating impact on our veterans and their families.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs is the second largest federal department, yet its budget accounts for just under 4 percent of the total federal budget.

I join the national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) in urging all elected officials to not break faith with the nation’s military and veterans’ communities.

“We and our families who have and continue to serve and sacrifice the most need to raise our voices loudly and clearly before the nation’s debt is placed squarely on the shoulders of our military families and veterans,” said Richard L. DeNoyer, a retired Marine and Vietnam combat veteran who leads the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. and its Auxiliaries.

“It is critical that our voices not be lost in the ongoing budget debate that seems to now equate national service and sacrifice with the size of health-care premiums,” he said. “The ‘people programs’ inside the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs are expensive because it takes people to fight our wars, and with less than 1 percent of our citizens currently in uniform, any degradation of these hard fought-for programs will break faith with those who sacrifice the most, and will place the continued viability of the all volunteer military in serious jeopardy.”

The VFW national commander’s call to action is the result of three letters sent by the leadership of the Senate Armed Services Committee and both House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. The letters support or suggest possible ways to eliminate or reduce quality of life programs and benefits in order to avoid more drastic budget cuts should a deficit reduction deal fail to pass by Thanksgiving Day.

Sending individual letters were Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat; and Ranking Member John McCain, Arizona Republican. The joint Senate/House VA Committee letter was signed by Senate Chairman (and Select Committee member) Patty Murray, Washington Democrat; Ranking Member Richard Burr, North Carolina Republican; House Chairman Jeff Miller, Florida Republican; and Ranking Member Bob Filner, California Democrat.

The joint VA committee letter was short on specifics, since the four signers believe existing laws exempt all VA programs from sequestration — forced reductions without discussion or modification — but they did provide an eight-page summary of cost-saving acts that Congress considered in the past to reduce, modify or extend VA programs ranging from disability compensation to educational assistance

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.