Dear Sgt. Shaft:
I am a Vietnam veteran (era 1965/1966) and, over the years, have developed problems due to an enlarged prostate and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) issues.
During my service, I served in An Khe, Pleiku, Qui Nhon, etc., where heavy concentrations of Agent Orange were sprayed.
Will I be eligible to receive compensation/benefits because of exposure to Agent Orange?
Also, do you know of any advisers located in the Baltimore, Md., or Harford County, Md., area that could assist me with filing a claim?
Via the Internet
You may well be entitled to VA Compensation as a result of your exposure to Agent Orange. There are several conditions that are presumed to be linked to such herbicides. You must, however file a claim with the department of Veterans Affairs to establish your entitlement. I suggest that you do this immediately. You can obtain information on initiating this process by contacting VA at www.va.gov. I have asked my friend Jim, a service officer with the Paralyzed Veterans of America, to contact you for further assistance.
• The Committee on Veterans Affairs' Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity recently held two field hearings to discuss the employment problems facing veterans in local communities and how to solve those issues. The two hearings led by Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Marlin Stutzman and Ranking Member Rep. Bruce Braley were held in Waterloo, Iowa, and Fort Wayne, Ind.
Iowa is home to 56 Army National Guard armories in 53 communities. Northeast Indiana has a veteran population of 48,000. Both communities have been active in supporting measures to help service member's transition to civilian life.
"We traveled to Iowa and Indiana this week to hear directly from the communities to learn more about the employment difficulties facing our National Guard, Reserve and military," said Mr. Stutzman, Indiana Republican. "It is shocking that as many as 30 percent of returning members of the Guard and Reserves do not come home to a job in this country. We must find ways to help these men and women find meaningful employment after having served their nation."
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Indiana's overall veteran unemployment rate in September was 6.9 percent, while it was lower in Iowa at 5.8 percent. Yet, 35.6 percent of OIF/OEF veterans' aged 20 to 24 are currently unemployed — four times higher than the national average.
"We heard this week that one of the greatest obstacles to unemployed veterans in these communities is that many employers don't know where to go find veterans to hire," Mr. Stutzman said. "We need to look for new ways to connect veterans with employers. This week we heard some good ideas such as increasing the outreach to local employers, especially small businesses, to ensure they understand how to contact state agencies who can get them in touch with unemployed veterans."
Business leaders and members of the National Guard and Reserve in Waterloo and Fort Wayne both pledged to continue to work together to help lower veteran unemployment in their states.
• The Department of Veterans Affairs announced that under the Veterans' Benefits Act of 2010 the maximum amount of Veterans Mortgage Life Insurance (VMLI) will be increased from $90,000 to $150,000, effective Oct. 1, 2011. After Jan. 1, 2012, the maximum coverage will further increase from $150,000 to $200,000.
VMLI is issued to severely disabled veterans and service members whose movement or vision is impaired because of their disabilities and who have received grants for specially adapted housing from VA.
VMLI coverage offers three options for policy holders: They may (1) retain their pre-October VMLI coverage and decline the increased coverage and premium, 2) accept the maximum amount of VMLI coverage for which they are eligible, or (3) select a different amount of VMLI coverage. Coverage may not exceed the maximum allowed by law, or their mortgage balance, whichever is less.
All policyholders will be automatically covered for $150,000 or their mortgage amount, whichever is lower, between Oct. 1 and Jan. 1, 2012, with no increase in their premium for this period. After Jan. 1, 2012, coverage will increase to the maximum amount for which the policyholder is eligible unless a different level of coverage is elected. Premiums for the new level of coverage will be deducted from VA compensation checks beginning in February 2012.
Only policyholders can access the site by entering a personal identification number included in their notification letter which was sent out in September by the VA. Once an online request is submitted, an electronic workflow task is automatically generated, authorizing immediate processing.
Effective July 30, 2008, the program was expanded to also offer coverage to disabled active duty service members, and also service members and veterans who suffer from severe burn injuries.
• 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 email@example.com.
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