SGT. SHAFT: Estranged widow can be buried with veteran

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Dear Sgt. Shaft:

My husband is buried at the RIverside National Cemetery. He died, April 25, 1987, and was interred May 12, 1987. What are the requirements for spouse burial?

Due to his alcoholism and abuse we were separated at the time of his death but not divorced. Thanks to his lack of financial support for his family and his alcoholic expenditures, retirement savings were impossible.

I live on my Social Security and am concerned about final expenses.

Please advise.

Anne S.
Via the Internet

Dear Anne:

Surviving spouses are eligible for burial with their veteran husband or wife. Divorced spouses or spouses who had their marriage annulled are ineligible. The rules do not address separation, so she was legally married to the veteran at the time of his death, and she is indeed eligible for burial at a national cemetery.

Shaft notes

• The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the Veterans Fiduciary Reform and Honoring Noble Service Act (H.R. 5948), which includes language sponsored by Rep. Gus Bilirakis, Florida Republican and vice-chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, to ensure that our nation’s veterans receive proper burial in the absence of next of kin or adequate finances.

“Our nation’s heroes deserve to be buried the same way they served this country — with dignity and honor. By ensuring our veterans receive proper burial upon their passing, we are not only recognizing their brave service to our country, but also the selfless sacrifices our service men and women and their families make to protect the freedoms and values we enjoy as citizens of this great country.”

The language was proposed by Mr. Bilirakis 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.

In addition to providing for the proper burial of veterans, the Veterans Fiduciary Reform and Honoring Noble Service Act would require the VA to perform credit and criminal background checks for each fiduciary it appoints, establish an appeals process so that a veteran can appeal should he or she lose confidence in a VA-appointed fiduciary, and allow veterans to appeal their status of financial incompetence.

The VA’s Fiduciary Program serves the needs of veterans who are deemed financially incompetent to manage their financial affairs.

Lack of oversight of the VA’s Fiduciary Program has resulted in veterans being denied access to their benefits, veterans and their families having their power turned off after the fiduciary failed to pay the bill, and millions of dollars being stolen from veterans by fiduciaries. For too long, VA fiduciaries have abused the system and subverted the rights of the veterans they were entrusted to protect, in some cases for personal gain.

By reforming this program veterans and their families are able to trust the VA and its agents to act lawfully and ethically on their behalf.

• On Nov. 2, 2012, Mack’s Marines will gather at Crawford Hall, Marine Barracks, 8th and Eye streets, NE to celebrate the 237th Birthday of the U. S. Marine Corps. This is the 37th straight year Mack’s Marines has celebrated the Marine Corps Birthday.

The organization dates back to November 10, 1975, when five Marines, led by Sgt Maj Mack McKinney met on Capitol Hill to celebrate the Bi-Centennial of the Marine Corps. They had no specific name, but met each year for the Birthday celebration, at one point having up to 240 participants. Downsizing to about 30 attendees, Sgt Maj McKinney named the group The Gang of 30. Upon his death in 2006, the Gang changed its name to Mack’s Marines to honor his legacy and tenacity.

Almost 130 guests are expected to reconnect with comrades in arms and enjoy the camaraderie of fellow Marines, telling tall sea stories and toasting the Corps. Festivities will begin at 11 a.m. with the luncheon beginning at noon. The traditional cake-cutting ceremony will also take place as the guest of honor cuts the birthday cake, and then presents the first piece of cake to the oldest Marine present and the next piece to the youngest Marine present. A good time will be had by all.

For more information, call Aretha Wright at 202/302-6708.

As usual, this event will begin with the following invocation:

“O Lord, we have long known that prayer should include confession. Therefore, on behalf of the Marines and their guests here gathered, I confess their sins: Lord, they’re just not in step with today’s society.

“They are unreasonable in clinging to old-fashioned ideas like patriotism, duty, honor and country. They hold radical ideas like believing that they are their brother’s keeper and responsible for the Marine on their flank. They have been standing when colors pass, singing the national anthem at ballgames and drinking toasts to fallen comrades.

“Not only that, they have been observed standing tall, taking charge and wearing their hair unfashionably short. They have taken John Kennedy’s words too seriously and are overly concerned with what they can do for their country, instead of what this country can do for them.

“They take the Pledge of Allegiance to heart and believe that the oath is to be honored. Forgive them, Lord, for being stubborn men and women who hold fast to such old-fashioned values. After all, what can you expect? They’re Marines.

“O Lord our God, bless our misguided ideals, continue to raise up in this nation strong leaders and deliver us from ‘me-first’ managers and ‘don’t ask me’ followers.

“Be our honored guest this day. Let it be a day of laughter, good food, good drink, and the telling of tall tales and legends that far exceed the truth.

“Watch over and keep safe those who wear this nation’s uniform with special attention to their families everywhere.

“Now through this day and all the days ahead, God bless this great Nation and God bless the Corps.”

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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