- The Washington Times - Monday, October 4, 2004

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I thought you would like an update on medication safety inside the Department of Veterans Affairs. As you know, mistakes and miscues with prescription medications can be life-threatening. Recently, there has been a big push inside the VA to help blind vets who have difficulty reading the tiny print on their prescription medicines.

Well, after a long evaluation period of several different technologies, the VA selected ScripTalk Audible Prescriptions. The VA has issued a directive and contract that calls for nationwide implementation of the ScripTalk service inside all VA outpatient pharmacies over the next 12 months.

The VA chose ScripTalk because of its ease of use, cost-effectiveness and ease of delivery by pharmacy.

Now vets throughout the country can get their prescriptions with a microchip embedded in the label. At home, the vet uses a hand-held ScripTalk Reader that speaks all the information stored on the microchip. This device will give vision-impaired and elderly veterans the ability to maintain safety, independence and privacy for their medications.

David Raistrick,

Envision America

Dear Dave:

You and your dad, Phil, have a tremendous product that enables many veterans to take their medications safely while maintaining their independence. I also wish to thank you publicly for donating $1,000 to the Blinded American Veterans Foundation, which matched your contribution and then donated all to the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund.

This, as you know, is the organization that assists families of wounded Marines at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda to pay for expenses not covered by the Department of Defense. If anyone else wishes to make a contribution, the address is Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, 825 College Blvd., Suite 102, PMB 609, Oceanside, CA 92057

Shaft notes

The Sarge was happy to be on hand when the Military Coalition, a District-based consortium of 35 military and veterans groups, presented its highest awards to two legislators and two congressional staff members who have played leading roles in improving compensation and benefit programs for military families and survivors.

Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat, and Rep. Jeff Miller, Florida Republican, received the Military Coalition’s 2004 Award of Merit for their sponsorship of key bills in the Senate and House that would phase out and ultimately repeal the current law that reduces Survivor Benefit Plan annuities for military survivors by more than one-third once they attain age 62.

Eliminating this “military widow’s tax” is a top goal of the Military Coalition. Military survivors are the only federal survivors who are required to accept any benefit reduction at any age. Federal civilian survivors receive 50 percent to 55 percent of retirement pay for life, whereas military survivors’ annuities are reduced as low as 35 percent of retirement pay at age 62.

The military Survivor Benefit Plan also is subsidized by the federal government at a much lower rate, with the government paying 19 percent of the cost, compared with the 40 percent originally intended by Congress. In contrast, federal civilian survivor programs enjoy federal subsidies ranging from 33 percent to 48 percent.

Mrs. Landrieu and Mr. Miller have proposed legislation that would phase out the military benefit reduction over several years. Thanks to their personal leadership, the House and Senate have passed separate versions of the bills. House and Senate leaders are negotiating a resolution that will be included in the fiscal 2005 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4200).

The Military Coalition presented its annual Freedom Award to Clint Highfill, legislative assistant to Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, and Michael Higgins, professional staff member for the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee.

The Military Coalition represents the interests of more than 6 million members around the world, including active-duty, National Guard and Reserve, and retired members and veterans of the uniformed services, plus their families and survivors.

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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