- The Washington Times - Monday, May 29, 2006

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

On the back of my yearly notice of increased service-connected benefits from the Veterans Affairs Department, there was a notice of a change in legislation.

It stated that a surviving spouse who remarries on or after Dec. 16, 2003, and on or after attaining age 57 is now entitled to continue to receive Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). I also receive Tricare health benefits, and I wonder if I would also be able to retain them as well.

I have not remarried; however, that’s not to say that I wouldn’t like to. I always felt that I would be penalized for remarrying. I would appreciate any information that you could forward to me.

Thank you,

Glenda

Dear Glenda:

It is true that a surviving spouse who remarries on or after Dec. 16, 2003, and on or after attaining age 57 is now entitled to continue to receive DIC benefits.

But the only way she can keep Tricare benefits is if the person she marries is an active-duty member or a retired military member.

She might be eligible for the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs if she remarries and loses Tricare, if her first or second husband’s disability was rated permanent and total, or if the first husband died from a service-connected condition, or died on active duty. Before she remarries, she should contact VA’s Health Administration Center at 800/733-8387 and talk to one of the benefit advisers so she will know the effect of a remarriage.

More information on benefits and services is available at VA’s Web site, www.va.gov.

Shaft notes

Michael Durant, pilot of the Black Hawk helicopter shot down in Mogadishu, Somalia, and known by the words “Black Hawk Down,” is in Newville, Pa., today to honor Sgt. 1st Class Randall D. Shughart, who was credited with saving Mr. Durant’s life during the fierce battle on Oct. 3, 1993.

Sgt. Shughart and Master Sgt. Gary Gordon were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions that day. Mr. Durant, a retired chief warrant officer, will speak at the dedication ceremony to name the U.S. Postal Service building in Newville in honor of Sgt. Shughart.

The Sarge is looking forward to joining the Penn State Harrisburg chapter of Chi Gamma Iota, the Chi Gamma Iota Alumni Association of Penn State and other distinguished guests at the prestigious ceremony honoring this special American hero. In addition to Mr. Durant, Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell and Col. Lee Van Arsdale, former Delta Force squadron commander, will speak. Former special forces soldiers who served with Sgt. Shughart from all over the country will pay their respects to their former comrade in arms.

Black Hawk helicopters will land directly across from the post office to begin the ceremony, which follows the annual Memorial Day Parade.

• The Sarge also salutes those who care for the survivors of battle as demonstrated by the planned creation of five amputation and prosthetic rehabilitation centers that will be run by the Department of Veterans Affairs, if Congress approves legislation (S. 2736) submitted recently by Sens. Larry E. Craig, Idaho Republican, and Daniel K. Akaka, Hawaii Democrat.

“My hope is that this new focus will help those returning from Iraq and elsewhere, who have lost limbs in the cause of freedom, gain access to the greatest care and technology available,” said Mr. Craig, who is chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

Approximately 400 military personnel have had limbs amputated since the start of military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Wounded veterans from Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom are young and plan on being active for a long time. We must do everything in our power to provide advanced care to those who have endured the loss of a limb, which will help them regain full function and a better quality of life,” said Mr. Akaka, the ranking Democrat on the veterans’ affairs panel.

A committee hearing was held on medical research being conducted by the VA, during which panel members were able to examine a prototype prosthetic hand under development by the VA.

“In just a few moments’ time, I was able to wire the equipment to my own arm and with a little practice pick up a glass of water, hold it in the prosthetic hand, and then return it to the table and remove the hand from it without spilling a drop. It was nothing short of amazing. It was also a small glimpse of where we can go,” Mr. Craig said.

“Hopefully by bringing together the best minds in a few locations, we will create environments where new technologies and treatments will come together to benefit our nation’s veterans. And once created, tested and approved, that research will almost immediately benefit the civilian population.”

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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