SGT. SHAFT: TRICARE For Life administrator seeks to help reader in distress

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

My name is Jim Schwartz. I work for TRICARE For Life in the Priority Benefits Department. I have recently read your last article from Mary W. in Toledo and thought that I might be able to help. Could you provide me with contact info for Mary or give her mine? I will see what we can to help her out.

Jim Schwartz
TRICARE for Life
Priority Benefits Administrator
Phone 608/301-2409
Fax 608/301-2430

Dear Jim:

Thanks for willingness to help. I shared your information with Mary, and I’m sure that this will be helpful to many of my other readers.

Shaft notes

• Do you know children of veterans that could benefit from an educational scholarship?

The Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund honors the bravery and dedication exhibited by Americans in our Armed Forces who have sacrificed life or limb defending their country by providing educational scholarships to their children.

Here is the eligibility criteria:

* Dependent son or daughter of a U.S. soldier, sailor, Airman, Marine or Guardsman who has been killed or permanently disabled (100 percent VA disability rating) as a result of an operational mission or training accident, or who is currently classified as a Prisoner of War (POW) or Missing in Action (MIA).

* High school senior or graduate, or registered as a full-time undergraduate and under the age of 26.

More information can be found by contacting Adam Morgan at 800/475.6620 or Adam.Morgan@FreedomAlliance.org.

• The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is now offering a new program called “1 Student Veteran” to provide direct assistance to student-veterans who are experiencing problems accessing their GI Bill or other earned benefits provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“This partnership with the VFW will ensure student-veterans are provided with the necessary support needed to gain access to their earned benefits and navigate the complex education claims process,” said Michael Dakduk, executive director of Student Veterans of America (SVA). “I am very proud of our continued partnership with the VFW, an organization dedicated to the success of student-veterans.”

Any student-veteran who is experiencing difficulty in accessing their GI Bill or other VA benefits, or believes they have been wrongfully denied these benefits, can now e-mail the VFW at 1studentveteran@vfw.org. VFW National Veterans Service staff will acknowledge receipt of each inquiry within 24 hours during the workweek, then either intervene with the VA on behalf of the student-veteran or recommend other courses of action.

Through “1 Student Veteran,” VFW and SVA will have direct access to the VA Regional Offices responsible for education claims adjudication, meaning veterans whose benefits have been denied or paid in error will not have to wait the months it would traditionally take to file a formal appeal.

The new program is possible thanks to an ongoing collaboration among VFW, SVA and the VA’s Veterans Benefits Administration, which approves and administers the GI Bill, as well as claims for other VA programs and services. “1 Student Veteran” is also the latest collaboration between VFW and SVA resulting from a memorandum of understanding signed by the two organizations in January.

“Our goal is to mitigate errors and resolve conflicts on the lowest possible level to ensure VA can deliver timely, accurate GI Bill benefits,” said VFW National Veterans Service Assistant Director Jim Wear, who will manage “1 Student Veteran.”

“The VFW has a proud history of working with veterans to make sure they can access their earned benefits, so ‘1 Student Veteran’ is a great way for VFW to meet the needs of our newest generation of heroes,” VFW National Commander John Hamilton said. “Student-veterans will now have a place to turn to for reliable and timely help when they encounter problems with the VA.”

Last year, VFW’s nationwide cadre of 1,200 VA-accredited service officers helped more than 125,000 veterans to recoup $3.7 billion in earned compensation and pension from the VA at no cost to the veteran.

• Retired USAF Col. Mike Hayden has been named the new Director of Government Relations for the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) and was unanimously elected as co-chair of The Military Coalition (TMC.) He succeeds retired USAF Col. Steve Strobridge as both director of MOAA government relations and co-chairman of TMC. Col. Strobridge retired from MOAA in April 2013.

“This transition has been in the works for MOAA for quite some time,” MOAA President Vice Adm. Norb Ryan Jr., said. “Mike is well-versed in all aspects of MOAA’s operations and is extremely knowledgeable about military personnel issues.”

Col. Hayden spent his last five years on active duty at the Pentagon as chief of the Military Personnel Policy Division, HQ USAF, and as chief, Personnel Services Division, for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As the Military Personnel Policy Division Chief, his team developed and implemented the one-year drawdown of over 24,000 airmen. In the latter position, he worked with MOAA in winning Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) coverage for survivors of service members killed on active duty.

Since joining the MOAA lobbying team in July 2005, Col. Hayden has led the charge on active duty and retired compensation issues, successfully championing restoration of military pay comparability and fending off inappropriate military retirement changes. For the last seven years, he’s served as co-chair of The Military Coalition’s Retired Affairs Committee.

Most recently, he authored an in-depth article in the November issue of Military Officer Magazine (“Will Your Military Pay and Benefits Break the Bank?”) debunking the myth that personnel and health costs are exploding and unaffordable.

Col. Hayden will serve as co-chair of TMC with Joseph L. Barnes, national executive director of the Fleet Reserve Association.

TMC is comprised of 34 organizations representing more than 5.5 million members of the uniformed services — active, reserve, retired, survivors, veterans — and their families.

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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