- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Dear Sgt Shaft:

Your recent article on the legality of attachment of VA Service-Connected Disability Compensation to divorce settlements is misleading and, in practical terms, false.

Although federal regulations supposedly prevent such attachment, the reality is that the federal government does not interfere or involve itself with the issue of attaching commingled income and assets in divorce settlements in the state and local court jurisdictions.

Case law is rife with such court decisions that have been unsuccessfully appealed to the highest courts. The fact is, as long as the compensation is commingled, it is attachable; and, barring the actual wording of the federal statutes, this has become nearly settled law in the nation’s state and local court jurisdictions. Many disabled veterans are currently incarcerated for refusing to pay their VA paycheck to a former spouse.

Rich Hasse,
Marquette County,
Veterans Service Officer

Dear Rich:

I agree with you. Federal regulations say it’s not divisible, but divorce is a state matter and states regularly do what they want. The federal government does not challenge a state’s division of property in divorces settlements, and sometimes the veterans lose out.

Dear Sgt Shaft:

For more than 29 years, the Kitchen Table Gang Trust has been helping veterans and our troops deployed overseas. Please visit us at http://www.kitchentablegang.org.

The Kitchen Table Gang Trust is a rag-tag bunch of military types trying to make life a little more pleasant for our hospitalized veterans at VA Hospitals throughout the United States and our soldiers and Marines deployed overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Kitchen Table Gang’s award-winning weekly newsletter provides some excellent information on your pay and health benefits — in fact it’s a really great resource for you!

These guys are doing some wonderful things for our veterans and our troops overseas, and it all started with a poker game. (They donated a portion of the pot to help veterans and our active-duty troops — are you doing anything that cool with your Texas Hold ‘Em obsession, hmm?) These great guys will tell you all about it on their site, and they’ve got lots of suggestions on how you can express your gratitude to our brave men and women deployed overseas. Who knows, they might even be able to help you!

Thank you very much!

Charlie Taliaferro,
Director
The Kitchen Table Gang Trust (http://www.kitchentablegang.org)

Shaft notes

The Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs held an oversight hearing to obtain an update from Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) on the problems that have plagued the cemetery. It was disclosed at the hearing that boxes of records from the cemetery had recently been discovered at an off-site public storage facility on June 10, when a bill for the facility went unpaid. The committee requested information regarding this incident immediately upon notification nearly two weeks ago.

ANC officials confirmed that a total of 69 boxes were recovered, which included documents such as copies of grave cards and other records directly related to the interment of veterans. The Army’s Criminal Investigation Division is now leading the investigation into why and how the boxes were moved and found outside of ANC. Subcommittee Chairman Jon Runyan described himself as “less than pleased with the lack of follow-up and public disclosure.”

“It’s been a long year, and the new team at Arlington is unfortunately still finding problems. While much has been accomplished in just 12 months, there is still more hard work ahead. We have a responsibility to restore the trust and confidence in America’s most hallowed grounds and to close this dark chapter in the cemetery’s history for good,” Mr. Runyan said. “This committee is dedicated to providing support to the Department of the Army, the families of those buried at Arlington, the Veterans Service Organizations and all interested Americans to work together to ensure a much brighter future for Arlington National Cemetery.”

In a recent defense of the VA Cemetery system, Steve Muro, VA’s Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs, stated:

“Our focus at the National Cemetery Administration always has been and always will be on veterans and their families — and how we can best serve them in their hour of need. VA operates 131 national cemeteries across the country and conducts over 111,000 interments a year. In each case, the wishes of the veteran’s family come first. Families decide whether and what type of religious service will take place.

“More than 70 percent of NCA employees are veterans, including me. We take seriously our Sacred Trust to honor veterans and families with final resting places in national shrines. This includes meeting families’ needs and respecting their wishes regarding their loved one’s committal service.

“We cherish the religious freedoms our veterans secured for us. At all VA national cemeteries, families are free to choose and use the burial rites and rituals that are meaningful or sacred to them. During interments, the name of God or Jesus is not only allowed, it is freely spoken at VA national cemeteries across the country. Families are equally free to have a service without religious references.

“Whatever type of service the family chooses for their loved one, we both share a common goal: to ensure a dignified, committal service worthy of their loved one’s service and sacrifice to our nation.

“VA national cemeteries are hallowed grounds in honor of all who have served and sacrificed on behalf of our nation. VA ceremonies are inclusive and honor the faith traditions of all veterans.

I am proud that VA’s national cemeteries are nationally recognized for their commitment to excellence and top-rated customer satisfaction. For the past 10 years, the American Customer Satisfaction Index has rated VA national cemeteries as the top-performing organization in the federal government. These high customer service satisfaction ratings are reflected every day by the service our employees and volunteers provide to veterans and their families.”

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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