- The Washington Times - Monday, October 29, 2012

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

My husband passed away on July 18, 2012, from several service-connected illnesses.

While settling his affairs, going through his paper work and applying for widow’s benefits, I was dismayed to find out that just because I might qualify for DIC (Dependent indemnity Compensation) payments that the SBP (Survivor Benefit Program) payments would be offset.

I find paying into an insurance plan and to be told … oops … his cause of death qualifies you for another payment, so we can’t honor this one, although we paid premiums for the entire time of our marriage, is at the least, very dishonest.

So sad, hope we can get help. By the way, I read that there are approximately only 57,000 widows involved, and they can’t find the funds. Are you kidding me? And to add insult to injury, they’re talking about paying back the premiums with no interest. Unbelievable.

Mrs. B.
Via the Internet

Dear Mrs. B.:

Legislation has been introduced with many supporters in the House and Senate in recent years; however, the votes have not been there to correct this inequity. Hopefully, the new Congress will pass the appropriate legislation that will allow you and others to receive your earned benefits.

Shaft notes

• There has been considerable discussion over the last couple of weeks about the current state of military voting, with numerous concerns raised about how many military voters have actually registered for the upcoming election, and how much assistance these military personnel actually receive from the Department of Defense.

And it is with good reason that observers are concerned and skeptical of DoD assurances. For two years before I became Director of the DoD Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), I was a very vocal critic of the program while Executive Director of the National Defense Committee.

But simply because it is easy to believe the Department of Defense is asleep on watch, or even worse, is actively suppressing military voting, does not make it so. Mostly because of a subtle, but analytically fatal flaw in the calculation of 2008 military ballot requests, and because of a persistent reliance of fundamentally flawed data, these reports of precipitous drops in military voting hide the actual experience of a significant increase in military voting this year.

States were required by law to automatically send extra ballots in 2008.

The analytically fatal flaw in these reports is that prior to 2009, federal law required state and local election officials to send absentee ballots automatically to any military and overseas voters who requested a ballot for that election, or in the previous election. What that means is that in 2008, election officials had to send absentee ballots to any military or overseas voters who requested ballots specifically in the 2008 election, or who requested ballots in the 2006 election, whether or not those voters also requested ballots for the 2008 election.

But state and local election officials thought this requirement to automatically send ballots was bad policy; these election officials complained to Congress that the requirement led to a large number of ballots either being returned as undeliverable (given the highly mobile nature of military voters) or never returned at all. In fact, during the 2008 election, while 91 percent of the general electorate’s absentee ballots were cast by voters, only about 67 percent of military and overseas voters’ absentee ballots were returned for that election.

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