- The Washington Times - Monday, June 19, 2006

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I have a friend who is hospitalized, draws a Veterans Affairs disability check and owns a small business. His wife called and asked me if his disability income could be garnished to help pay off his business debts.

Thank you,

Ken

Via the Internet

Dear Ken:

The powers that be at the Department of Veterans Affairs tell me that, with certain exceptions, VA benefits are exempt from claims of creditors, attachment, garnishment and other forms of legal process under Title 38, Section 5301 of the U.S. Code. This protection applies to benefits “either before or after receipt by the beneficiary.”

For example, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that VA benefits on deposit in a bank account retain their exemption from attachment because they remain available on demand for the support and maintenance of the veteran and the veteran’s dependents, or for the support and maintenance of the veteran’s survivors.

VA General Counsel has held that the VA is not permitted to deduct a portion of the beneficiary’s payment in order for the beneficiary to obtain private dental insurance even when the beneficiary requests that this deduction be made. The General Counsel held that this would violate the provisions of Section 5301(a) that prohibit the assignment of payments of VA benefits.

The exemption protection does not apply to “claims of the United States arising under [veterans benefits laws]” according to Section 5301(a)(1). So when a veteran receives an overpayment of benefits, VA may legally collect the debt by reducing his monthly benefits.

An exception to the protection is that VA disability compensation is garnishable to the extent to which a military retiree waived all or part of his or her retired pay in order to receive such compensation from VA.

Shaft notes

• Here are the results for the Armed Services YMCA’s Soap Box Derby held June 2 in Twentynine Palms, Calif.:

Marines from CLB 7, the Single Marine Program and India Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment lent a hand by helping to set up and tear down the tents, etc.

They also helped with keeping the racers on track, clocking the racers, helping the racers get back to their starting point, etc.

The derby, with racers riding gravity waves on Cactus Drive from Bullion to Desert Queen, featured 50 racers competing in two age divisions: 5 to 8 and 9 to 16.

Family, friends and members of the public lined both sides of Cactus Drive to watch the carts negotiate the course.

Among the younger drivers, Mark Clinkscales took first place, followed by Xavier Johnson in second place and Dakota Johnson in third. Twenty-seven drivers competed in that division.

In the older division, with 23 drivers, first place was taken by Joshua Alderson, followed by Jacob Smith in second and Alexandria Hurlbert in third.

All participants received a Medal of Sportsmanship.

Downhill racers were honored by Brig. Gen. Douglas Stone, commanding general of the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center; Kevin Cole, mayor of Twentynine Palms; and Genevieve Salisbury, chairman of the Armed Services YMCA.

The general’s choice for best Soap Box racer was Zayne Bryan, the mayor’s choice was Zack Robinson, and the Armed Services YMCA’s choice was Shane Estrada.

After the race, cars and drivers were escorted to the Twentynine Palms Chamber of Commerce’s Street Fair and Car Show. The drivers stood next to their cars and answered questions from the public such as how their cars were built and their racing experiences.

Sony Avalos, the Armed Services YMCA’s own, did a great job of organizing and implementing the Soap Box Derby in conjunction with Twentynine Palms Chamber of Commerce’s Street Fair and Car Show.

• VA and the Washington Nationals have teamed up for a major league salute to veterans. VA and the Nationals honored veterans and informed them about VA’s array of benefits with “Veterans Appreciation Day,” when the Nationals hosted the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday at RFK Stadium. All veterans and VA employees were invited to attend this exciting Flag Day event. Tickets were discounted 50 percent.

This evening of honoring America’s heroes featured a military flyover, the United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, VSO color guards, VA benefit booths set up around the ballpark and tributes to veterans.

• 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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