- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 15, 2006

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I found your column in The Washington Times and I thought I could ask this question to you.

My father, Pedro G., a corporal in the U.S. Army Reserve who was a World War II veteran, was buried at the Puerto Rico National Cemetery in January 1991. My mom recently asked me if she could be buried with him when she passes away. Hope to hear from you at your soonest and thanks in advance.


Petty Officer 2nd Class Ramon G.

U.S. Navy Reserve


Dear Ramon:

Those in the know at the Department of Veterans Affairs tell me burial benefits available to veterans such as your father include a grave site in any of VA’s 123 national cemeteries with available space, the opening and closing of the grave, perpetual care, a government headstone or marker, a burial flag and a presidential memorial certificate at no cost to the family.

At the time of your father’s death, arrangements were made to have your mother interred along with him. The burial benefits available for her as well as for other spouses of veterans and dependents buried in a national cemetery include burial with the veteran and perpetual care. Her name and date of birth and death also will be inscribed on the veteran’s headstone, at no cost to the family.

Shaft notes

• The Sarge is looking forward to attending the “Operation Glory to the Corps” luncheon commemorating the Marine Corps’ 231st anniversary at 11 a.m. on Nov. 3 at Marine Barracks, at Eighth and I streets in Southeast.

A highlight will be the appearance of Gen. Robert Magnus, assistant commandant of the Corps. Brig. Gen. John Kelly, legislative assistant to the commandant, will sing the “Marines’ Hymn.”

Reservations are available at $50 each and will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis before Oct. 30. For more information, contact Buzz Hefti at [email protected] or 202/737-8942, or Aretha Wright at [email protected] or 202/638-8604.

• Kudos to the federal employees who, once again, will reach into their pockets and make generous contributions to the Combined Federal Campaign. As many of you know, the Sarge is partial to the Blinded American Veterans Foundation, CFC Number 2107 (“BAVF”). Information about the BAVF can be obtained at www.bavf.org.

• I have had many questions from veterans regarding garnishment of VA compensation, pension and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). The following is a response forwarded to me from the Department of Veterans Affairs:

The statutory authority in 42 USC 659 clearly states that moneys are subject to garnishment if “[the entitlement to which is based upon remuneration for employment] due from or payable by, the United States.” This statutory scheme would only pertain to circumstances where a veteran who is in receipt of retirement pay and has waived a portion of that retirement pay in order to receive VA compensation. In all other instances where VA provides benefits to include compensation, pension and DIC, and where such moneys paid do not pertain to remuneration for employment, state garnishment orders cannot attach.

Garnishment is a statutory remedy governed by state law. Compliance with state law requirements governing petitioning for a writ of garnishment or similar process and bringing the garnishee before the court is generally required before a garnishment may be made effective.

Congress has specified that payments of periodic compensation benefits to a veteran by VA are considered “remuneration for employment” under 659 (a), to the extent that the veteran has waived a portion of his or her military retirement pay to receive them. Thus, veterans compensation benefits received in lieu of waived military retirement pay are subject to state court garnishment to provide child support or to make alimony payments.

The requirement for “legal process” issued pursuant to state garnishment procedures serves to limit the role of federal agencies in implementing garnishments. Because garnishment is a matter of state law, the decision as to whether, and to what extent, to order garnishment is a matter for determination by the states. The legal process served on an agency may specify the manner and amount of garnishment, and any disputes regarding the manner or amount generally must be resolved in the state court garnishment proceedings.

The agency is required to respond to the legal process within 30 days or such longer period as may be prescribed by state law.

• 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]

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