- The Washington Times - Monday, August 14, 2006

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I was told that the children of World War II veterans — I am a handicapped child of one — were eligible for Veterans Affairs housing loans years ago. Is this still the case, or has it been eliminated?

Blue skies,

John M

Via the Internet

Dear John:

The only family member permitted by law to obtain VA loan guarantee benefits is the surviving spouse of a veteran whose death was service-connected. Congress has never extended this benefit to other family members.

Shaft notes

The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) has provided a Web site (vetrecs.archives.gov) for veterans to gain access to their DD-214 discharge forms online. This may be particularly helpful when a veteran needs a copy of his DD-214 for employment purposes. NPRC is working to make it easier for veterans with computers and Internet access to obtain copies of documents from their military files. Military veterans and the next of kin of deceased former military members may now use a new online military personnel records system to request documents.

Others with a need for documents still must complete the Standard Form 180, which can be downloaded from the Web site. Because the requester will be asked to supply all information essential for NPRC to process the request, delays that normally occur when NPRC has to ask veterans for additional information will be minimized. The new Web-based application was designed to provide better service on these requests by eliminating the records center’s mailroom processing time.

At a recent dinner with Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) leaders, Health Net Federal Services Inc., one of the nation’s largest providers of health care to America’s military families, presented a check for $300,000. This generous donation will help sustain many of the educational, recreational and support services provided by ASYMCA to military families at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Fort Bragg/Pope Air Force Base, N.C., Fort Drum, N.Y., Fort Campbell, Ky., Fort Lee, Va., and the Navy installations in Hampton Roads, Va.

“Health Net Federal Services and ASYMCA share the same goal of supporting the needs of our country’s military community,” said ASYMCA Executive Director Frank Gallo, a retired rear admiral in the Navy. “Now that we are working together, we’ll be able to make even greater strides in improving the quality of life for America’s military families.”

Each of the six designated ASYMCA locations will receive $50,000, which they will use for a variety of purposes. For example, Hampton Roads ASYMCA will purchase a bank of computers and server that will be used for children’s and family support programs; Fort Campbell ASYMCA will purchase furniture and other supplies for the nursery at its child-care co-op; and Camp Lejeune ASYMCA will use a portion of the funds to support its Back-2-School Block Party, which last year provided 500 backpacks filled with school supplies to children of local military personnel.

“Health Net has the important job of ensuring quality medical care for military families in the Northeast region every day,” said Sue Schwartz, vice president of beneficiary and congressional relations for Health Net Federal Services. “But knowing the pressures these families face, we want to do more. Giving to the ASYMCA is another way for us to show appreciation and support for our troops.”

Additional information about Health Net Federal Services is available at www.healthnetfederalservices.com.

• I was glad to join the Fleet Reserve Association (FRA) when they recently hosted the eighth annual U.S. Coast Guard Caucus breakfast, an event the Association sponsors each year in conjunction with the Coast Guard’s House Liaison Office and its Governmental Affairs staff. The breakfast is an opportunity to spotlight the Coast Guard’s tremendous service to our nation and promote dialogue among members of Congress, staff personnel, key Coast Guard leaders and FRA.

The caucus is headed by three members of Congress who served in the Coast Guard — Reps. Howard Coble, North Carolina Republican, Gene Taylor, Mississippi Democrat, and Bill Delahunt, Massachusetts Democrat — all who were in attendance. Other members of the Caucus, including Rep. Rob Simmons, Connecticut Republican, who has the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in his district and serves on House Armed Services and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committees, and the subcommittee for Coast Guard and maritime transportation; Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo, New Jersey Republican, who chairs the Coast Guard and maritime transportation subcommittee; Rep. Joe Wilson, South Carolina Republican and a member of the House Armed Services Committee; and Rep. John F. Tierney, Massachusetts Democrat, were also present. Each member of Congress spoke and pointed to the heroic rescue efforts of the Coast Guard personnel in the wake of Hurricane Katrina as an example of the exemplary efforts.

FRA works closely with this bipartisan group in support of compensation, health care and various benefit programs that affect USCG personnel and are essential to maintaining military readiness and ensuring our national security. FRA also is committed to educating members of Congress, their staff and the public about the Coast Guard’s critical missions and the role the service plays as part of the Department of Homeland Security.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad Allen thanked FRA and others for their unwavering support of the Coast Guard. “FRA does an extraordinary job on Capitol Hill, and we are grateful for the continued work,” he said.

During the event, Adm. Allen presented Cmdr. Ray Evans with the Outstanding Coxswain Trophy Award and Fireman 1st Class Paul Clark with the Outstanding Engineer Award. He thanked both for their superb leadership and devotion to duty.

The Coast Guard also was represented by Master Chief Petty Officer Jeffrey Smith of the Coast Guard Reserve and other senior enlisted leaders.

• 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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