- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 24, 2006

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

Any type of update on the recently discussed retro pay due to combat-related special compensation folks? I cannot find any. Thanks

Bill C., U.S. Navy, Retired

Via e-mail

Dear Bill:

According to the experts at the Military Officers Association (MOA), if a retiree was awarded an increase in his or her disability percentage retroactively during a period of entitlement to combat-related special compensation (CRSC) or concurrent retirement and disability payments (CRDP), they likely are entitled to retroactive pay.

The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) and the VA are making retroactive payments for those entitled to them. For the oldest cases, data are needed back to June 1, 2003 (CRSC) or Jan. 1, 2004 (CRDP). As DFAS or the VA obtains the necessary data, the retiree receives his or her retroactive CRDP or CRSC pay. Nearly 40,000 retroactive-pay cases have been paid since Sept. 1, 2006. Of these, more than 25,000 were paid by the VA alone.

Some cases involved payments from both DFAS and the VA. More than 9,795 cases resulted in no payment, as either DFAS or the VA determined no payment was due. Some cases could result in a finding of debt to the government.

DFAS is automating the payment of retroactive cases and is working through collecting the data needed to clear each case. The simplest cases already have been paid. Cases that require additional data or correction will be next. Complicated cases that must be paid individually or need significant work will take more time.

Complicating factors include a change in dependency finding, garnishment, former-spouse issues, casualty or collection of an overpayment of retired pay. DFAS anticipates the backlog will be cleared by September 2007.

Shaft notes

Congratulations to Lucille B. Beck, a senior executive with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), on her recent receipt of the top honor from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

The award recognizes distinguished contributions to the field of speech, language and hearing and is the highest honor the association confers.

A VA employee for nearly 30 years, Miss Beck has initiated groundbreaking collaborations between the VA and the Department of Defense to develop the first distance-learning doctoral program in audiology. Her recent efforts included increasing the understanding of polytrauma and blast complications for speech, language and hearing.

“I am privileged to work for VA,” Miss Beck said. “VA has allowed me the opportunity to develop a world-class system for comprehensive hearing, communications and rehabilitation programs for veterans. This award also reflects on VA’s support for these critically important programs.”

• I wish all my readers a very merry Christmas and special thanks for the poignant words of a fellow Marine for capturing the true meaning of the season. His only request was that people read it.

‘Twas the night before Christmas,

he lived all alone,

in a one-bedroom house made of plaster and stone.

I had come down the chimney with presents to give,

and to see just who in this home did live.

I looked all about,

a strange sight I did see,

no tinsel, no presents,

not even a tree.

No stocking by mantle,

just boots filled with sand;

on the wall hung pictures of far distant lands.

With medals and badges,

awards of all kinds,

a sober thought came through my mind.

For this house was different,

it was dark and dreary;

I found the home of a soldier,

once I could see clearly.

The soldier lay sleeping,

silent, alone,

curled up on the floor

in this one-bedroom home.

The face was so gentle,

the room in such disorder,

not how I pictured a United States soldier.

Was this the hero of whom I’d just read?

Curled up on a poncho,

the floor for a bed?

I realized the families that I saw this night,

owed their lives to these soldiers who were willing to fight.

Soon round the world the children would play

and grownups would celebrate

a bright Christmas Day.

They all enjoyed freedom each month of the year,

because of the soldiers,

like the one lying here.

I couldn’t help wonder how many lay alone,

on a cold Christmas Eve in a land far from home.

The very thought brought a tear to my eye,

I dropped to my knees and started to cry

The soldier awakened and I heard a rough voice,

“Santa don’t cry,

this life is my choice.

I fight for freedom,

I don’t ask for more,

my life is: my God,

my country, my corps.”

The soldier rolled over and drifted to sleep.

I couldn’t control it;

I continued to weep.

I kept watch for hours,

so silent and still

and we both shivered

from the cold night’s chill.

I didn’t want to leave on that cold, dark night,

this guardian of honor so willing to fight.

Then the soldier rolled over,

with a voice soft and pure,

whispered, “Carry on, Santa,

it’s Christmas day; all is secure.”

One look at my watch,

and I knew he was right.

“Merry Christmas, my friend,

and to all a good night.”

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330; call 202/257-5446; or e-mail [email protected]bavf.org.

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