- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

My dad is a World War II veteran who served in the Navy. He’s 87 years old. He and my mother live in Pennsylvania in a community that ranges from independent to nursing home living. My dad had recently been admitted to a psychiatric floor in a local hospital. He has now returned home, but he is not the same.

My brother and I live three hours away in New York, and my mother has Alzheimer’s and cannot care for him. Are there any veteran benefits for this type of situation? Someone can come spend time with my dad on a daily basis? Please get back to me,

Thanks very much,
Jennie B.
Via the Internet

Dear Jennie:

I referred you missive to the powers that be at the VA and they have assured me that you will be contacted by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) representatives in Pennsylvania. Please keep me advised.

Shaft notes

• Rep. Bob Filner, California Democrat, recently expressed his concern with the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General investigation into questionable spending related to two VA Human Resources training conferences held last year:

“The Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (VAOIG) is in the process of investigating questionable activities related to VA Human Resources training conferences held in July and August last year. The VAOIG informed my staff as to the commencement of the investigation in April and again last week.

“I take very seriously the allegations that VA improperly spent taxpayer dollars, and I believe that the individuals involved should be held fully accountable. I question the need to spend so many resources on these conferences and question the lack of management oversight at the VA that allowed questionable activities and questionable spending to occur in the first place.

“The conferences in question, which took place last year, cost anywhere between $3 million to $9 million, resources that could have been better spent providing health care and benefits to our veterans. I am troubled that with this amount of spending there seems to be a lack of oversight at the VA. We seem to be once again faced with a situation where VA management seems to be asleep at the switch.

“I am hopeful that an important provision in a bill enacted last week (P.L. 112-154) requiring quarterly reports to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs detailing VA expenditures for conferences will assist us in working with the VA to make sure that these questionable activities surrounding last year’s conferences do not happen again.

“I am awaiting the full VAOIFG report next month and will work closely with my colleagues on the committee to fashion an appropriate response to ensure that the department charged with caring for our veterans puts the needs of our veterans first,” he said.

• Kudos to the U.S. Congress for passage of the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 (H.R. 1627). The bill will bring immediate VA health care to Camp Lejeune veterans and their families who have been diagnosed with a disease related to the water contamination that occurred at the base between 1957 and 1987.

In addition, H.R. 1627 increases VA accountability to veterans by streamlining the disability claims process, ensuring transparency in VA funding, protecting veterans from sexual assault, and transforming how VA does business in the 21st century.

Here are some House reactions regarding the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012:

* “This legislation is a culmination of more than a year’s worth of work on behalf of America’s veterans, and an example of what lawmakers can accomplish working together in a bipartisan manner,” said Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “The Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 will make an immediate impact in the lives of veterans, their families, and survivors by providing the care and support they have earned through their service to our nation.”

* “I am pleased that the House of Representatives came together in a bipartisan manner to support H.R. 1627, which included legislation I authored to help streamline the claims process for our veterans,” said Rep. Jon Runyan, chairman of the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs. “Our veterans have sacrificed so much and it is an outrage that many have to wait months for benefits claims to be processed. The backlog at VA must be addressed and fixed, and I believe the passage of this bill is an important first step. I look forward to continuing my work to ensure the backlog is eliminated.”

* “Every year, VA spends millions of dollars on conferences and, while there is a need for such meetings, Congress must be able to provide proper oversight of this spending. I’m proud that this legislation will require VA to report on conferences costing $20,000 or more,” said Rep. Marlin Stutzman, chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity. “Transparency and accountability are essential as VA conducts its mission to serve our veterans.”

* “Caring for our nation’s veterans and their families is one of our most crucial duties as legislators. I am especially pleased that the Veterans Sexual Assault Prevention and Health Care Enhancement Act is part of this legislation and will be sent to the President for consideration,” said Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Health. “Negligence related to sexual assault within the VA cannot be tolerated.”

* “America’s veterans deserve the very best of the benefits and care they have earned, and VA consistently falls short when it comes to addressing the needs of our heroes. More than half of disability claims have been pending for more than 125 days and the backlog has surged to more than 900,000 claims,” said Rep. Bill Johnson, chairman of Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations. “This is completely unacceptable. The Modernizing Notice to Claimants Act, included in H.R. 1627, which I introduced, will modernize how VA communicates with claimants while holding VA’s feet to the fire in making sure America’s veterans are being properly served by VA.”

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.