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SGT. SHAFT: Veteran living in the U.K. wants info on benefits

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Dear Sgt Shaft:

I am way out of touch with possible benefits after being honorably discharged in 1977; I actually enlisted in 1971 after serving in Camp Lejeune and also on the MSG program, serving at the American Embassy in London for some three years inclusive. I currently live in the United Kingdom, where I married here and brought up our two daughters.

Please give me some help and guide me on any benefits that I can claim, retirement or some other financial benefit. Thank you in advance for your help. I also have a copy of my DD214 if ever required.

Regards,
Robert B.
Former U.S. Marine Sergeant

Dear Robert:

I whole heartily agree with my sources who said that "This veteran Marine deserves the thanks of his country for his service. Unfortunately, he's far off qualifying for retiree benefits, which require 20 good years of at least inactive duty. He has 'veteran' status and that entitles him to VA disability compensation if he has a service-connected disability, or pension if he is very low income. He is eligible for burial in a veteran cemetery in the U.S. His GI Bill benefits expired 10 years following his discharge from active duty. There are VA loan benefits which are only available in the U.S.

They suggest that you review the VA Benefits in Brief, available here.

Shaft notes

• The House of Representatives recently passed two pieces of legislation to better support America's veterans and their families. H.R. 4057, as amended (392-3), will provide student veterans with more information to make informed decisions on schools when using their Post-9/11 GI Bill. And, S. 3202 (393-0), the Dignified Burial and Other Veterans' Benefits Improvement Act of 2012, are both being sent to the President for signature.

"We have accomplished a lot the past two years," said Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. "These two bills will provide veterans with greater educational opportunities, more accessible transition programs, dignified memorial services, and with an eye on the future, to better care for those who are wounded on the field of battle. The Committee will continue to work together with the Senate in the 113th to take up the mantle of the greatest issues facing our veterans today — veteran unemployment, access to mental health care, and the disability claims backlog."

Included in the legislation passed is a provision to establish an Open Burn Pit Registry at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The registry will track the symptoms and illnesses of those who have served in Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom, and who were exposed to burn pit contaminants.

"As Chair of the Subcommittee on Health, I have heard from countless veterans who returned home from war consumed with concern about how the air they breathed in battle, which was often filled with smoke from the burning of solid waste, could affect their health and well-being," said Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle. "I am very grateful that the Open Pit Burn Registry Act the House passed earlier this year is included in this bipartisan legislation that will be sent to the President. With this provision, our veterans and their families can be assured that we are taking every available step to track and monitor their long-term health needs."

Broadly supported by the Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs), the legislation passed will become law in the near future.

"I have been proud to work closely with Chairman Miller to keep our veterans needs above the political fray," said Senator Patty Murray, chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs. "The passage of these critical bills, that will give veterans important tools to better utilize their educational benefits and that will ensure they are given honorable and dignified burials, is just another example of that critical work. Our veterans deserve nothing less than us working across party lines to meet the challenges they face."

• Congratulations to the Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), John Berry, who received the Regional Partnership Award from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG). The award was presented to Mr. Berry at the 2012 Annual Meeting on December 12, 2012.

"Working together with the Council of Governments during weather emergencies helps OPM keep the federal government running, and our workforce safe," said Mr. Berry on the relationship between OPM and COG. "It's a team effort, and this partnership makes it possible. I want to accept this award on behalf of the entire OPM team."

Each year, COG members nominate partners for the Regional Partnership Award, which highlights those that have worked alongside COG to improve the quality of life for the Metropolitan Washington area. This award is given to an individual or organization which supports the programs and policies of COG.

OPM is responsible for informing the Washington, DC, area on dismissal and closure procedures during times of extreme weather conditions or other emergency events. For more information, please see: http://www.opm.gov/oca/compmemo/dismissal.pdf.

• The Sarge joins with Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, on his statement regarding the death of Sen. Daniel Inouye:

"I am saddened by the news this evening of Senator Inouye's passing. He was one of the last World War II veterans in Congress, and a leading veteran advocate for more than 50 years. His selfless service to our nation dates back well before his time on Capitol Hill, where in hard battle on the fields of Italy in 1945 his actions resulted in being bestowed the Medal of Honor. With his passing, we remember the bravery and dedication of the Greatest Generation, and with each day that sets, we mourn all who battled through this life to find reward in the next."

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