- The Washington Times - Monday, July 10, 2006

Dear Sgt Shaft:

Concerning your article about VA benefits free from garnishment and such: Would they also be immune to a spouse during or after a divorce?


Michael H.

Via the Internet

Dear Mike,

According to the VA legal beagles, veterans’ benefits can be garnished only for court-ordered child support.

A spouse or former spouse may not garnish a VA check during divorce or child-support proceedings. However, once VA pays the benefits to the veteran, a court still validly may order the veteran to pay child support, even if the veteran’s sole source of income is VA benefits. And if the veteran does not pay, the court can order him held in contempt of court. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that such a court order does not violate 38 USC Sec. 5301.

Shaft notes

The Sarge urges the full House and Senate to follow the lead of the House International Relations Committee in bypassing a bill sponsored by Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican, to promote human rights and democracy in Ethiopia. Mr. Smith, who is the chairman of the Africa, global human rights and international operations subcommittee and former chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said in a press release that “freedom and human rights in Ethiopia have seriously deteriorated under [Prime Minister] Meles Zenawi.”

Mr. Smith said more than 100 elected officials, party activists, journalists and human rights defenders were “thrown into jail on trumped-up charges.” He said: “Violence against dissidents has increased significantly, and yet there have been no credible accounts for the slaughter of protestors in the streets of Addis [Ababa] last year.”

Mr. Smith was joined by Rep. Donald M. Payne, New Jersey Democrat and ranking member of the subcommittee, in presenting the bill. The bipartisan legislation has 15 co-sponsors.

The bill — the Ethiopia Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights Advancement Act of 2006 (HR 5680) — includes an authorization of $20 million over two years to assist political prisoners, indigenous Ethiopian human rights organizations, independent press and civil society and to promote legal training.

“We not only call on the Ethiopian government to unconditionally release all political prisoners, we establish a program to tangibly assist them,” Mr. Smith said. “The people of Ethiopia deserve an independent, fair and transparent judiciary, another goal of this bill.”

HR 5680 also denies visas to anyone who was involved in the June and November 2005 killings of demonstrators.

• The Sarge is looking forward to joining members, guests and the public Thursday at the National Press Club for a 12:30 p.m. luncheon featuring Vice Adm. Richard H. Carmona, U.S. surgeon general.

Dr. Carmona has had many titles on his resume, including paramedic, surgeon, Army veteran, author and emergency health services specialist. He was sworn in as surgeon general of the United States Public Health Service by President Bush on Aug. 5, 2002, after his nomination received congressional approval.

Before being named surgeon general, Dr. Carmona was the chairman of the Arizona Southern Regional Emergency Medical System; a professor of surgery, public health, and family and community medicine at the University of Arizona; and the Pima County Sheriff’s Department surgeon and deputy sheriff. He has served as a medical director of police and fire departments and is a peace officer with expertise in special operations and emergency preparedness.

One of his goals as surgeon general is to promote awareness of childhood obesity and its related conditions later in life. His “50 Schools in 50 States” program has him visiting at least one elementary or middle school in each of the 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia to talk with children about healthy eating and making the right health choices.

Anyone interested in attending this luncheon should contact Pat Nelson at the National Press Club, 202/662-7500.

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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