- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dear Sgt Shaft:

If one marries a military retiree and he dies, does his spouse retain her military ID card privileges?

Chris M.
Via the Internet

Dear Chris:

Those in the know at the Military officers Association of America (MOAA) tell me that a widow retains all of her benefits following the death of her retired military spouse, even if they didn’t marry until after he was retired. The only benefit she loses when he dies is the ability to use Space A (Space Available) travel. However, if she should ever remarry, she will lose all benefits she once held, including SBP (Survivor Benefits Plan) if she is under age 55. If the remarriage ends in death or divorce, she may be able to get some of them restored, but can never have health care benefits restored.

Shaft notes

• The Department of Veterans Affairs recently announced a change in regulations regarding payments for emergency care provided to eligible veterans in non-VA facilities.

“This provision helps ensure eligible veterans continue to get the emergency care they need when VA facilities are not available,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.

The new regulation extends VA’s authority to pay for emergency care provided to eligible veterans at non-VA facilities until the veterans can be safely transferred to a VA medical facility.
More than 100,000 veterans are estimated to be affected by the new rules, at a cost of about $44 million annually.

For more information about emergency care in non-VA facilities, visit www.nonvacare.va.gov.

• 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, which will take 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,” Mr. Shinseki said. “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 event 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 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. 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.

• Veterans covered under the Veterans Group Life Insurance program (VGLI) now have the opportunity to increase their coverage to the current maximum coverage under the Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) program.

“Currently, 70 percent of the veterans covered under VGLI are under age 60, have less than $400,000 of coverage, and will greatly benefit from this law change,” said Allison A. Hickey, Department of Veterans Affairs under secretary for benefits.

Under the Veterans’ Benefits Act of 2010, enacted on Oct. 13, 2010, veterans can increase their coverage by $25,000 at each five-year anniversary date of their policy to the current legislated maximum SGLI coverage, presently, $400,000.

To date, approximately 21 percent of eligible veterans have taken advantage of this opportunity, resulting in nearly $113 million of new coverage being issued.

The VGLI program allows newly discharged veterans to convert their SGLI coverage they had while in the service to a civilian program. Before enactment of this law, veterans could not have more VGLI than the amount of SGLI they had at the time of separation from service.

For example, those who got out of the service prior to Sept. 1, 2005, when the maximum SGLI coverage was $250,000, they were limited to $250,000 in VGLI coverage.

Now on their first five-year anniversary, these veterans can elect to increase their coverage to $275,000. On their next five-year anniversary, they can increase the coverage to $300,000, and so forth.

Eligible veterans are notified of this opportunity a week before the start of the 120-day period prior to their anniversary date, and twice more before the actual anniversary date.

For more information about VA’s Insurance Program or other VA benefits, go to www.va.gov or call 1-800-827-1000. Veterans are also encouraged to visit VA’s Web portal eBenefits — Insurance.

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.