- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

In April of 2011 I was re-evaluated by mental health at the VA hospital for an increase in my PTSD claim. As of today I have not had any word concerning my claim. Who can I contact about this?

Thank you,
Vietnam veteran

Dear Vietnam veteran:

I have referred your inquiry to the powers that be at the Department of Veterans Affairs. You should be hearing from them very soon.

Shaft notes

• The Sarge is looking forward to joining the Blinded American Veteran Foundation and other invited guests on June 7 at the organization’s 27th annual Congressional Awards reception, beginning at 11:30 a.m. in Room 334 of the Cannon House Office Building.

The recipients of the BAVF’s “Buck” Gillispie Congressional Award are Congressman John Carter, Texas, and Congressman Sanford D. Bishop Jr., Georgia. The Carlton Sherwood Media Award will be presented to Leon Harris, ABC 7 / WJLA-TV and the GI Film Festival.

The George Alexander Memorial Volunteer Award will be presented to Virginia Copeland, Department of Veterans Affairs and Michael Jernigan, Southeastern Guide Dogs, “Paws for Patriots.” The Corporate Volunteer Award will be presented to the Marine Corps Band Brass Quintet.

Following the congressional reception on June 7, the BAVF will host the Flag Week picnic on Saturday, June 9, in Silver Spring. The picnic will honor Bob Madigan, WTOP’s Man About Town. Special guests will include wounded warriors and their families as well as veterans from all wars. Also in attendance will be various federal, state and local political leaders. Picnickers will be serenaded with live music by the Hula Monsters. The picnic will be an afternoon of fun and patriotism, with plenty of refreshments and, as usual, Lakis’s famous New York hot dogs, Washington style.

• The Department of Veterans Affairs and the American Heart Association have entered into a formal agreement to raise awareness of heart disease and strokes among women veterans and service members, and wives of veterans and military members.

“This exciting collaboration bolsters VA’s ongoing efforts to prevent cardiovascular disease,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki said. “This is an important issue for women veterans, and we need to do everything we can to address it.”

In support of the first lady’s “Joining Forces” initiative, VA and the American Heart Association’s “Go Red For Women” are partnering to raise awareness among America’s female veterans of heart disease — the No. 1 killer of women.

“Currently, some eight million women in the U.S. are living with heart disease, yet only one in six American women believes that heart disease is her greatest health threat,” said Dr. Susan Bennett, a cardiologist at MedStar Washington Hospital Center and national Go Red For Women spokeswoman. “Go Red For Women is excited about our newest strategic alliance with VA because it will provide additional opportunities to increase awareness of women’s No. 1 killer and encourage military women — active, veterans and military wives — to actively prevent heart attacks and stroke.”

The two organizations share a common priority to reach women with important information about heart disease. By combining efforts, they can maximize their resources and improve communication of the “Go Red For Women” messages to women veterans and military audiences.

VA will focus on educating women veterans about their risks for cardiovascular disease through the use of “Go Red For Women” online resources. These include “Go Red BetterU,” a free online nutrition and fitness program and “Go Red Heart Match,” a database that allows women to connect with others who share similar experiences. VA and “Go Red For Women” hope to increase consumers’ sensitivity to issues that military women face, especially as it pertains to putting their health first.

“VA continues to focus on women’s cardiovascular disease prevention and outreach, and has improved gaps in heart disease prevention measures between men and women,” said Dr. Robert Jesse, VA’s principal deputy under secretary for health, and a cardiologist. “This collaboration will strengthen our efforts and further the conversation about women’s risks for heart disease.”

Women serve in every branch of the military, representing 15 percent of today’s active duty military and nearly 18 percent of National Guard and reserve forces. Women are now the fastest-growing cohort within the veteran community. In 2011, about 1.8 million or 8 percent of the 22.2 million veterans were women. The male veteran population is projected to decrease from 20.2 million men in 2010 to 16.7 million by 2020. In contrast, the number of women veterans will increase from 1.8 million in 2011 to 2 million in 2020, at which time women will make up 10.7 percent of the total veteran population.

For more information, call the VA at 800/827-1000 or visit: http://www.womenshealth.va.gov, or call 888/MY-HEART (888/694-3278) or visit GoRedForWomen.org (http://www.goredforwomen.org).

• The Sarge joins Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Committee, in his support of the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program. Unemployed veterans can now apply to learn a new skill or trade through the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP). VRAP was the cornerstone of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011.

“Veterans over the age of 35 comprise more than two-thirds of all unemployed veterans. Too many unemployed veterans, who did not expect to have to begin a second career at this stage of their life, are now faced with the need for new skills to compete in this struggling economy. VRAP will provide nearly 100,000 unemployed veterans the ability to use the Montgomery GI Bill for one-year to train for a new career in industries such as technology and manufacturing. I encourage all unemployed veterans, ages 35-60, to apply today,” Mr. Miller said.

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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