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SGT. SHAFT: Vietnam veteran’s wife seeks help for disabled husband

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Dear Sgt Shaft:

My husband is a disabled Vietnam vet. He was awarded total disability effective Aug. 17, 2010, until Nov. 1, 2011, during treatment for Non Hodgkin's Lymphoma (NHL). He has PTSD and on a VA exam, the doctor said that he was not competent to handle his funds. He asked my husband if he could do his bills. My husband said that if he couldn't, I could, and he said he might forget to mail them on time.

On Oct. 30, 2012, he was notified so I spoke to Dr. Robert Woolley, John's psychiatrist since 2010 from the VA in Lexington Ky. He stated he is competent and wrote to the VA stating this fact. They called my husband from the regional office in Louisville in November 2012 and said they would decide, but he would not get his $5,000 check for total disability until a decision was made by VA. He gets his disability check sent to him every month but not the retro.

We called the 800 number several times, but they say there's no mention of retro check for the increase. An inquiry was sent on Feb. 20 2013, but still no word. His service rep. doesn't know, he says. Can you please tell us who we can contact? You helped me before, and I will never forget it.

Sincerely,
Sandra
Via the Internet

Dear Sandra:

By now you should have heard from the Louisville VA Regional Office that they reviewed the additional medical evidence and determined that your husband is competent to handle his financial affairs. Therefore, a new rating decision was prepared and promulgated releasing the retroactive benefits.

Shaft notes

• Representatives Mike Michaud (D-ME), Ranking Member of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, and Phil Roe (R-TN), also a member of the Committee, praised the recent research breakthrough on Gulf War Illness. According to Georgetown University Medical Center, their researchers discovered for the first time "that veterans who suffer from Gulf War Illness have physical changes in their brains that may account for pain from actions as simple as putting on a shirt."

The Georgetown study was made possible through funding provided by the Department of Defense Gulf War Illness Research Program (GWIRP). Michaud and Roe, who have been lead advocates in previous years for GWIRP funding, have teamed up to lead a congressional effort to maintain the current $20 million funding level for Fiscal Year 2014.

"This research backs up what veterans have been saying all along — that what they are experiencing is physical, not psychological. Veterans of the 1991 Gulf War have struggled for far too long with unknowns, and we are now finally one major step closer to providing them with some real answers. Moving forward, our priority must be making sure this research continues and that exposed veterans get the care and benefits they deserve," said Rep. Mike Michaud, who in 2011 passed an appropriations amendment into law that secured a $10 million budget for GWIRP.

On Sunday, the CBS reality show "Amazing Race," aired footage of contestants using a downed B-52 memorial in Hanoi as a prop, and requiring them to learn a Vietnamese song praising their Communist system.

In a letter to CBS President and CEO Leslie Moonves, VFW National Commander John Hamilton wrote of the anger his organization is directing at CBS for failing to exercise executive oversight about a time in American history that continues to be misunderstood, misrepresented and stereotyped. Mr. Hamilton said the show wasted a golden opportunity to educate as well as entertain. The Sarge lauds the VFW for their letter to CBS which reads in part:

"Anger pointed directly at CBS is the reaction of the 2 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and our Auxiliaries. You may not have known what the "Amazing Race" producers had planned for Sunday night's show, but you certainly do now. I urge far greater executive oversight over what's aired under the CBS logo.

"It's been 40 years since our last combat troops exited Vietnam. It was a war that tore our nation apart, both politically and on college campuses across the country. But my Vietnam Generation — whether they protested in the streets or fought in the mountains, jungles and swamps — learned how to separate the politics of war from the warrior fighting it. This is the legacy of a Vietnam Generation that has moved on with the motto: 'Never again.'

"So I hope you can understand our anger at a show that wasted a golden opportunity to educate as well as entertain. The scene with the B-52 wreckage could have been used to tell a story about what was then America's longest war, about the 58,195 American names on the Vietnam Wall, about the 1,652 Americans still listed as missing-in-action, or about the fates of the multiple crewmen aboard each of the 17 American B-52s we lost in combat. The B-52 scene, as well as the young people singing a propaganda song, was totally unnecessary to the show's plot, which speaks volumes about naive producers who think they're in charge when they are not.

"I left Vietnam on a stretcher in 1970 after being wounded a third time as a Marine Corps rifleman, but I have been very fortunate to have returned several times to meet the people and to discuss the war with my former enemy, many of whom are now helping to recover the remains of missing Americans. To the Vietnamese, their war with America was a drop in the bucket compared to fighting the French for a century and the Chinese for millennia, but to many VFW comrades and fellow Vietnam Veterans, that war continues to influence our daily lives.

"CBS reopened an old wound by failing to educate a viewership about a time in American history that continues to be misunderstood, misrepresented and stereotyped. The Vietnam generation and our nation deserve and expect much better from your network."

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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