- The Washington Times - Monday, August 9, 2004

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I follow your column in the weekly edition of The Washington Times and although I am a member of many veterans groups, I find your answers/advice the most concise and accurate.

I have recently reconnected with my navigator from the 346th Bomb Squadron. We flew B-52s in Southeast Asia for several years. I was an electronic warfare officer. He separated from active duty in March 1972. His wife was from Australia and they moved there. He was recommended for a Distinguished Flying Cross and all the paperwork was submitted prior to his separation. I remained in the squadron until November 1973 but never saw his award come down to the unit.

Whom can I contact to see if he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, and if I can secure the citation and medal for him. I will be in Australia in January for a long-overdue reunion with him and would like to be able to present his award to him. I am a retired O-5 and a member of the American Legion, VFW, MOAA, ROA and DAV. I am asking you first, as I trust I will get an accurate answer.

Thank you.

Ralph T.

LTC AUS Retired

Via the Internet

Dear Ralph:

You should first write the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis and request military records to see if the individual was awarded the medal. The NPRC has a Web site that explains how to obtain military records and replacement medals: www.archives.gov/facilities/mo/st_louis/military_personnel_records.html.

If you find the medal was never awarded, then you can to go to the Air Force Board for the Correction of Military Records (BCMR).

The Air Force BCMR Web site is www.afpc.randolph. af.mil/safmrbr/bcoverview.htm.

Shaft notes

The Sarge salutes the 5th Marine Division (Iwo Jima) on its 55th annual reunion. The reunion is being held Oct. 13-17 at the Lafayette, La., Hilton Hotel.

Further information is available by contacting Bert A. Clayton, secretary, at PO Box 1775, Harrison, AZ, 72602-1775, or by calling 870/741-8940. Semper fi, and best wishes for a successful reunion.

• Hats off to the Department of Veterans Affairs for spearheading a new health care initiative.

One of the world’s most sophisticated systems for keeping electronic health records will soon be available to doctors, hospitals and clinics around the country, courtesy of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The system, called Vista-Office Electronic Health Record, was developed by VA. A version of Vista is used at more than 1,300 VA facilities throughout the United States to maintain records on 5 million veterans who receive their health care from VA.

Under the plan, private-sector health care providers can obtain a version of Vista at nominal cost. Distribution of the software is expected to begin in late 2005.

Vista offers health care providers a complete electronic record covering all aspects of patient care, including reminders for preventive health care, electronic entry of pharmaceutical orders, display of laboratory results, consultation requests, X-rays and pathology slides.

Vista is currently used by the Department of Health for the District of Columbia, plus health care systems in Finland, Germany, Egypt and Nigeria.

• A special pat on the back to Gary Silversmith, owner of the former presidential yacht Sequoia for hosting a tour for recently wounded service members.

This is the second time Mr. Silversmith has generously offered to host wounded military personnel and their families.

• “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band and Marine Chamber Orchestra continue their free concert series in August. Tickets are not required. For concert information, call the 24-hour Concert Information Line at 202/422-4011 or visit www.marineband. usmc.mil.

Shaft shot

Disabled veterans who depend on van rides to get to Indianapolis for hospital care are having trouble finding volunteer drivers.

In May, the Department of Veterans Affairs began requiring that volunteer drivers of Disabled American Veterans vans pass the same physical examinations required for a commercial driver’s license.

The director of the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs says many of the drivers are retirees and they’re having difficulty meeting the tougher requirements.

A spokeswoman for the VA Medical Center in Indianapolis says the new rules were implemented to protect veterans. She says the Indianapolis VA Medical Center has worked with organizations such as the American Red Cross to provide transportation to and from the center.

Because these DAV drivers are volunteers and not “youngsters” anymore, it seems sad that their efforts to help fellow vets are being challenged by more federal bureaucracy. Why the change? Probably fair to assume someone somewhere had an isolated problem so the entire system gets gutted by a bureaucrat seeking to cover his behind. You can bet this will soon affect the entire VA system.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, PO Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330; call 202/257-5446; or e-mail sgtshaft@bavf.org.

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