- The Washington Times - Monday, April 3, 2006

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I thought I would take the opportunity to inform you of a situation that I fear is all too prevalent today.

I was deployed to Iraq in April 2004. While serving, I received notification that I was a two-time nonselect for promotion and was not selectively continued. Therefore, I was told that I was to be separated Jan. 1, 2005.

I returned from deployment and did not receive my discharge papers until September 2005. The discharge was dated Sept. 7, 2005. I did not think that this would be a problem, as I had not been receiving any compensation or benefits. Then I noticed that the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) was sending me notices that I owe almost $400 for Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) premiums.

To date, I have been in contact with the Army’s Human Resources Command (HRC) and DFAS.

DFAS informed me that it is not their problem and that they would more than likely collect their money through garnishment of my tax refund. HRC was less than helpful and passed me on to the Board of Records Correction, which stated that it may take up to 12 months to correct my records.

Meanwhile, DFAS still continues to bill me for the life-insurance program. Go figure.

Regards,

Former Capt. William C.

Dear William:

I referred your missive to the powers that be at the Department of Defense. I now remind them of Rudyard Kipling’s poem “Tommy” about the treatment of soldiers in civilian life. Here are the first and last verses:

I went into a public-‘ouse to get a pint o’ beer,

The publican ‘e up an’ sez, “We serve no red-coats here.”

The girls be’ind the bar they laughed an’ giggled fit to die,

I outs into the street again an’ to myself sez I:

O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, go away”;

But it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins,” when the band begins to play,

The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,

O it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins,” when the band begins to play.

You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all:

We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.

Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face.

The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace.

For it’s “Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”

But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot;

An’ it’s “Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please”;

An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees!

Shaft notes

The top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs have joined forces again, this time to help America’s veterans obtain quality jobs.

In a letter to the head of the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Sens. Larry E. Craig, Idaho Republican, and Daniel K. Akaka, Hawaii Democrat, asked the GAO to examine the U.S. Department of Labor’s efforts to help veterans.

“We are particularly concerned about whether we have appropriate data on which to base our decisions. We can’t make good decisions in Washington if we’re relying on inaccurate data from the field,” the senators said.

There are about 24.5 million veterans in the United States, and as a group, they have a better employment rate than their civilian counterparts. Currently, 96 percent of veterans are employed, compared with a nationwide employment rate for all Americans of 95.3 percent. But within the 4 percent of veterans who are unemployed, certain segments of the veteran population, including disabled veterans and recently separated veterans, continue to struggle in finding quality jobs.

“One problem is that we don’t have a good system for assessing how well current employment programs are serving our nation’s veterans. Hopefully, the GAO report will help us all get a better handle on the data,” Mr. Craig and Mr. Akaka say.

This year the Bush administration has requested $161.2 million for employment efforts administered for veterans through the U.S. Department of Labor.

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 [email protected]

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