- The Washington Times - Monday, November 22, 2004

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

The Department of Veterans Affairs needs your readers’ help in ensuring that certain remarried widows of veterans know they may be entitled to have restored a nearly $1,000-a-month tax-free benefit.

President Bush last year signed into law the Veterans Benefits Act of 2003, which restores this entitlement to Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits and related home-loan and education benefits for certain surviving spouses of deceased veterans, the widows or widowers who remarry on or after their 57th birthdays.

In the past, surviving spouses who remarried were not eligible to continue on the DIC rolls unless their subsequent marriages ended, at which time they could apply for reinstatement. The change means that widows and widowers no longer need to choose between giving up their VA benefits and forgoing a new marriage in their later years.

But VA’s challenge concerns those who already had passed the 57th birthday mark and had remarried before the new law. Although they were taken care of through a provision that gives them the opportunity to apply for reinstatement, they face a deadline of Dec. 15 to do so.

While VA has tried to identify these widows who have a deadline for action and send letters alerting them to the possibility that they may be able to resume payments of $967 a month or more (depending on health), the fact that they have remarried means they may have a new last name. When they became ineligible for DIC benefits, they may have lost touch with VA. Many have moved to new cities in the intervening years. We have found and signed up hundreds of these widows, but we would appreciate the help of your readers in making sure as many as possible get the word before the Dec. 15 deadline for applications.

We hope those of your readers who are in touch with remarried older widows, or widowers, of veterans might mention this benefit and suggest they call us at 800/827-1000 for more information. The DIC benefit applies only if the service member was killed in action or if the civilian-life death was found related to a condition connected with service.

I know that I can count on you and the Sarge’s loyal readers among our veteran family to spread the word about this opportunity for some to have their DIC benefits restored.

Adm. Daniel L. Cooper, retired

Undersecretary for benefits, Department of Veterans Affairs

Washington

Dear Adm. Cooper:

Kudos to you and to the Department of Veterans Affairs for reaching out to this deserving group of widows and widowers. I urge all my readers to share this column with those who might benefit from this important legislative initiative. I also urge Congress to revisit this provision and to extend the deadline to apply for reinstatement.

Shaft notes

• A new single-volume book, “Cold War Clashes: Confronting Communism, 1945-1999,” covers every operation and overseas theater of the struggle against the Soviet Union, its Asian allies and their Third World proxies. It is available from Veterans of Foreign Wars Publications for $18.

Where Americans engaged the enemy on land, at sea or in the air, this 172-page book brings to life the military actions that claimed the lives of 382 Americans. Well beyond the borders of the “hot” wars in Korea and Vietnam, GIs were standing guard, fighting and dying in now largely forgotten global conflicts.

“People don’t really understand and know that the Cold War was a real war with real casualties. Real people died,” says the sister of an American airman killed when the Soviets shot down his aircraft.

Based on first-person accounts gathered over years of research by VFW magazine’s staff, this single volume gives meaning to the service and sacrifice of millions of Americans in uniform. For more information, contact Shannon Hanson at 816/968-1167 or [email protected]

• The Sarge salutes President Bush for signing the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2005.

One of the key provisions of the bill is elimination over the next 3 years of the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) age 62 offset. The offset reduces the SBP annuity from 55 percent to 35 percent when the retired service member reaches age 62 and becomes eligible for Social Security.

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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