- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

My mother is 85 years old and hasn’t received anything from the government. They even took her ID card at Camp Lejeune. Her husband served in World War II and the Korean War. He retired in 1967 from the Marine Corps with 25 years active service and five in the reserves. She has just gotten her ID card back. Nobody can explain why she has not received any benefits all these years, or why they took her card in the first place. He passed away in 1973 and my mother has been without benefits all these years. She has never remarried. Should she not be entitled to something?

She tried recently at Camp Lejeune to inquire about benefits. They said she should have received something, but nobody has done anything. My mother is old and has been through enough. Can you please help her or give us a number to call, or even forward this e-mail to someone that can help her?

Denis K.
Via the Internet

Dear Denis K.:

I have referred your inquiry to the powers that be at the Marine Corps Headquarters and the Department of Veterans Affairs. They have assured me that your mom’s eligibility for benefits will be resolved.

Shaft notes

• The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs recently held a hearing titled, “Reviewing the Implementation of Major Provisions of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011.”

The hearing tracked the progress by the departments of Labor and VA in the implementation of the law to date, as well as examined the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP), the cornerstone of the law, which began accepting applications from unemployed veterans, ages 35-60, on May 15, 2012. Eligibility and information for VRAP can be found at: http://benefits.va.gov/vow/education.htm.

• The Department of Veterans Affairs has streamlined the process for families of deceased veterans to receive a medallion that can be affixed to grave markers at private cemeteries and indicates the veteran status of the deceased.

“This new form streamlines the ordering process, making it easier for families to order the medallion,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “The families want everyone to know that their loved one was a veteran. We should help them do that in any way we can.”

Previously, families ordered the medallion using the form to order a government headstone or marker. VA has introduced a new form — VA Form 40-1330M — for use solely to order a medallion. The older form, VA Form 40-1330, remains in place to order a traditional government headstone or marker.

The medallion is a device furnished in lieu of a traditional government headstone or grave marker for veterans whose death occurred on or after Nov. 1, 1990, and whose grave in a private cemetery is marked with a privately purchased headstone or marker. Under federal law, eligible veterans buried in a private cemetery are entitled to either a government-furnished grave marker or the medallion, but not both.

The medallion is available in three sizes: 5 inches, 3 inches and 1½ inches in width. Each bronze medallion features the image of a folded burial flag adorned with laurels and is inscribed with the word “Veteran” at the top and the veteran’s branch of service at the bottom.

Next of kin receive the medallion, along with a kit that allows the family or the staff of a private cemetery to affix the medallion to a headstone, grave marker, mausoleum or columbarium niche cover.

The medallion is available only to veterans buried in private cemeteries without a government headstone or marker. Families of eligible decedents may also order a memorial headstone or marker when remains are not available for interment.

More information about the medallion or headstones and markers can be found at http://www.cem.va.gov/cem/hm/hmorder.asp. To download the VA Form 40-1330M, Claim for Government Medallion, go to http://www.va.gov/vaforms/va/pdf/VA40-1330M.pdf.

• VA operates 131 national cemeteries in 39 states and Puerto Rico and 33 soldiers’ lots and monument sites. Nearly 4 million Americans, including veterans of every war and conflict — from the Revolutionary War to the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan — are buried in VA’s national cemeteries on more than 19,000 acres.

Veterans with a discharge issued under conditions other than dishonorable, their spouses and eligible dependent children can be buried in a VA national cemetery. Other burial benefits available for all eligible veterans, regardless of whether they are buried in a national cemetery or a private cemetery, include a burial flag, a Presidential Memorial Certificate and a government headstone, grave marker or medallion.

Information on VA burial benefits can be obtained from national cemetery offices, from the VA website at www.cem.va.gov or by calling VA regional offices toll-free at 800/827-1000.

• The Department of Veterans Affairs is no longer charging veterans a copayment when they receive care in their homes from VA health professionals using video conferencing.

“Eliminating the copayment for this service will remove an unnecessary financial burden for veterans,” Mr. Shinseki said. “We will continue to do everything we can to ensure that veterans have access to the first-class care they have earned with their service to our nation.”

This change will primarily benefit veterans with limited mobility, such as spinal cord injury patients. Whenever medically appropriate, VA will make the home the preferred place of care for veterans to ensure timely and convenient access to VA services.

For more information about telehealth, visit: http://www.telehealth.va.gov/.

Data have shown that expanded use of technology in the home enables patients with chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, chronic heart failure and hypertension, to live independently, actively engage in managing their health, and prevents avoidable hospitalization of patients who otherwise may need long-term institutional care.

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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