- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Dear. Sgt. Shaft:

I am writing you to ask for assistance in helping me in time of need. My oldest daughter was a full-time high school student during the period of Aug. 20, 2011, to June 15, 2012, and I was not paid for her as a dependent after age 18 even though she was a full-time student and the appropriate paperwork was completed and submitted by fax and mail before November 2011.

Now she will be attending college in the fall, and the tuition only has a 30-day extension for payment. I need the back pay to cover her tuition before the 30 days are up, otherwise she will not be able to register for the fall term if her tuition is not paid. I need the back pay that I am due for her.

I have contacted the VA numerous times, but to no avail. Basically I have been told that I will have to wait my turn. Normally I wouldn’t mind waiting, but that would mean my daughter would not be able to attend college in the fall. Surely there must be some provision for processing this as a hardship. I would really appreciate anything you could do for me in this matter.

Respectfully submitted,
Robert D.
Via the Internet

Dear Robert:

I referred your inquiry to those in the know at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. You should have received the following good news by now:

“The St. Petersburg VA Regional office reports that the case has been completed. The veteran will receive a retroactive payment check for the amount due. A VSR (Veterans Service Representative) contacted the veteran on July 5, 2012, and informed him that his claim was completed.”

Shaft notes

• The Sarge is looking forward to joining other members of the National Press Club and their guests on Aug. 28 at a club luncheon featuring Gen. James Amos, commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps. Gen. Amos will talk about the Marines’ role as America’s crisis-response force.

The 35th commandant of the Marines is the first with a background as a career aviator and the first to be promoted to the top job from the position of assistant commandant. Though he served in Iraq during the early days of the war there, the 65-year-old did not lead troops in Afghanistan and in nominating the general in the summer of 2010, then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates signaled he wanted a leader who could redefine the role of a sea-borne force that, over the last decade, has operated as a second land Army.

In addition to coping with deep budget cuts that will require restructuring the force with fewer Marines, Gen. Amos has had to deal with the fallout of overseeing a service exhausted by a decade of war. Recently, he embarked on a worldwide tour to warn Marines to straighten up after a series of embarrassing incidents, which pointed to a breakdown in the storied discipline of the Corps.

Initially a vocal opponent of repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays — he predicted it could cause life-threatening distractions on the battlefield — Gen. Amos later called it a “nonevent” and said it had no impact on military readiness. In another major change in the Corps’ culture on Gen. Amos‘ watch, women are now allowed to enroll in the Marines’ infantry officers school at Quantico, Va., although they are still barred from most ground combat units.

The Press Club luncheon will begin promptly at 12:30 p.m. Remarks will begin at 1 p.m., followed by a question-and-answer session, ending at 2 p.m. Advance reservations should be made through 202/662-7501 or reservations@press.org. The cost of luncheon admission is $19 for National Press Club members, $30 for their guests and $37 for the general public. Tickets must be purchased at time of reservation.

National Press Club luncheons are webcast live on press.org. Follow the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #NPCLunch, or on Facebook at (facebook.com/PressClubDC) and Twitter (@PressClubDC). Submit questions for speakers in advance and during the live event by sending them to @QNPCLunch on Twitter. Or email a question in advance, type AMOS in the subject line and send it to president@press.org before 10 a.m. on the day of event.

The Press Club is on the 13th floor, 529 14th St., NW, Washington, D.C. Credentialed press may cover this event.

• Rep. Gus Bilirakis, Florida Republican and vice chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, recently introduced legislation that would require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide caskets or urns for veterans with no next of kin and insufficient resources to cover burial and funeral expenses.

The legislation comes after it was discovered that Pvt. Lawrence Davis Jr., a World War II veteran with no next of kin, was buried in a cardboard box at Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, Fla.

“America’s veterans deserve to be laid to rest the same way they served this nation: with dignity and honor,” Mr. Bilirakis said. “This legislation recognizes their service and ensures that veterans who do not have immediate family are not forgotten and receive proper respect upon their passing.”

The bill would also improve communication between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the entity responsible for the deceased veteran (medical examiner, funeral director, county service group, etc.) to determine if there is no next of kin.

Original co-sponsors of the legislation include Reps. Jeff Miller (R-Pensacola), chairman of the House Veterans Committee; Richard Nugent (R-Brooksville); Bill Young (R-Indian Shores); Connie Mack (R-Fort Myers); Dennis Ross (R-Lakeland); and Kathy Castor (D-Tampa).

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio have both co-sponsored a bill in the Senate titled “The Dignified Burial of Veterans Act of 2012.”

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.