- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Dear Sgt Shaft:

How do I begin to get an exemption/dispute from the 20/20/20 rule? They do happen per individual Dates of Service and Regulation Changes.

I was married for 30 years. My husband was on active duty for 22 years. Only 17½ not 20 were overlapping years. I understand that the rules have changed. I was told that if I was married for 20 years with 20 years active duty that I would qualify for former spouse if divorced. During his years of service I was always told that I would qualify for former spouse status. There was no 20/20/20 rule. I have heard of re-evaluation of change of rules after enlistment. How do I start a case requesting Former Spouse Benefits exempting the 20-20-20 requirement?

Joanne Y.
Via the Internet

Dear Joanne:

Those in the know tell me that it can’t be done. The rules were part of the Former Spouse Protection Act and to their knowledge won’t be waived. Apparently you were mistaken or were misinformed while he served. You can always appeal to Board of Correction of Military Records (BCMR) or the Secretary of his service, but your expectations should be low.

Shaft notes

• Kudos to the Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis who recently announced that the U.S. Department of Labor is proposing to implement new statutory amendments to the Family and Medical Leave Act that would expand military family leave provisions and incorporate a special eligibility provision for airline flight crew employees.

The FMLA, enacted in 1993, entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons.

“Keeping the basic promise of America alive means ensuring that workers, from our servicemen and servicewomen who keep us safe at home to the flight crews who keep us safe in the skies, have the resources, support and opportunities they need and have rightfully earned,” she said. “The proposed revisions announced today are an important step toward keeping that promise.”

The proposed language would extend the entitlement of military caregiver leave to family members of veterans for up to five years after leaving the military. At this time, the law only covers family members of “currently serving” service members. Additionally, the proposal expands the military family leave provisions of the FMLA by extending qualifying exigency leave to employees whose family members serve in the regular armed forces. Currently, the law only covers families of National Guard members and reservists.

For airline flight crew employees, the proposed revision makes the benefits of the FMLA more accessible. It would add a special hours of service eligibility requirement for them and specific provisions for calculating the amount of FMLA leave used that better take into account the unique – and often difficult to track – hours worked by crew members.
The proposed revisions were announced by Ms. Solis in separate events with first lady Michelle Obama and International President of the Association of Flight Attendants Veda Shook. For additional information on the FMLA, including information and fact sheets on the proposed revisions, visit http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla.

• Registration is open for the 32nd National Veterans Wheelchair Games, the largest annual wheelchair sports event in the world. More than 500 veterans from across the United States, Puerto Rico and Great Britain are expected to compete in the Games, taking place June 25-30, 2012, in Richmond, Va. — the site of the very first National Veterans Wheelchair Games held in 1981.

“The National Veterans Wheelchair Games are an outstanding event that showcases the abilities and determination of veterans,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “VA is committed to providing world class care to our wounded heroes.”

The Games, presented by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Paralyzed Veterans of America, are open to all U.S. military veterans who use wheelchairs for sports competition due to spinal cord injuries, neurological conditions, amputations or other mobility impairments. The 32nd Games will be co-hosted by the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center and the Virginia Mid-Atlantic Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America.

“We’re thrilled to see the National Veterans Wheelchair Games return to Richmond after 31 years,” said Bill Lawson, national president of Paralyzed Veterans of America. “Adaptive sports play a crucial role in getting people back into life after serious injury, and the Wheelchair Games are often a life-changing experience for our athletes, representing a unique combination of competition, rehabilitation and fun.”

The Games are made possible through the generous support of national host sponsors, Altria Group, Invacare and UPS.

Competitive events will take place at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, Hanover Lanes Bowling Center, the Conservation Club of Virginia Inc. in Charles City, Sports Backers Stadium, Mary Munford Elementary School and Byrd Park. The 32nd Games will include competitions in 17 different events such as swimming, basketball, table tennis, archery and wheelchair slalom, which is a timed obstacle course. The athletes compete in all events against others with similar athletic ability, competitive experience or age.

In addition to the competitions and the opening and closing ceremonies, the Games will include a “Kids Day at the Games” on Friday, June 29, at Sports Backers Stadium. Local children with disabilities will have the opportunity to interact with the athletes, participate in sporting events, and watch veterans compete.

Veterans interested in competing may download the registration packet from the Games’ website at www.wheelchairgames.va.gov; or contact Marlene Pratt at 804/675-5000, Ext. 3969; or Kristin Windon at 804/675-5002. The deadline for interested athletes to complete their registration is April 15.

The public is invited to attend any of the sports competitions throughout the week of the Games, and admission is free.

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.