- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 15, 2007

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

My wife is 67 but is ineligible for Social Security or Medicare Part A and B as she has never worked in the United States. She is covered for medical under Champus/Tricare.

I have been paying into Survivor Benefit Payments since 1988 when I retired. I will be 60 this year but do not plan on drawing Social Security until I am 70 (I currently work) but know that I will be required to start paying into the Part B program, I believe, at age 65 even though I cannot draw Social Security at the max rate until I am 67.

My question: Is the SBP reduced in the event of my demise even though my wife is ineligible to draw Social Security?

Sort of a Catch-22 here.

Mike N

Chino Hills, Calif.

Dear Mike:

My sources tell me that if your wife is truly ineligible to draw Social Security benefits based on your earnings, then her SBP will be exempt from offset. The Defense Finance and Accounting Service will send her DD Form 2886 to be completed by the Social Security Administration to document her ineligibility. Social Security Offset to SBP, and the two-tier method of calculating the annuity, will be completely phased out for all annuitants by April 1, 2008.

Shaft notes

The VA medical center in the District is actively recruiting physical therapists. Potential candidates may send their resume to [email protected] or [email protected]

• The Sarge shares the concerns of the VFW national commander in his comments that the primary responsibility of the government once it sends its men and women to war is to allow them to finish the job.

But that’s not the signal the new 110th Congress sent Friday in the House and Saturday in the Senate, when both bodies voted largely along party lines to retain troop withdrawal language in their versions of the Iraq war emergency funding bill.

The House recently voted 218-212 for a $124 billion version of the emergency funding bill that contained language to withdraw most of the 140,000 American troops fighting in Iraq by September 2008. The Senate voted 50-48 for a $122 billion version that would withdraw the troops by April 2008.

The Defense Department had asked for $103 billion. The additional spending is for homeland-security enhancements and military and veteran health care programs, as well as for programs that are unrelated to the ongoing war on terrorism.

“While we appreciate the plus-ups for military and veterans health care, we absolutely cannot accept the unrealistic troop withdrawal language that virtually guarantees a presidential veto of the entire package,” said Gary Kurpius, commander in chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S.

Mr. Kurpius said that everybody wants the war to end, but that using funding as a threat is dangerous because of the message it sends to the troops and to America’s allies.

Mr. Kurpius is calling on his 2.4 million VFW and Auxiliary members to tell their Senate and House representatives to remove the withdrawal language from the funding package, which must go to a joint conference committee before a single bill is sent to the president.

“The war on terrorism is a long-term war that requires a long-term focus,” he said.

To contact a member of the Senate, go to www.senate.gov/ general/contact_information/ senators_cfm.cfm. To contact a member of the House, go to www.house.gov/writerep.

• Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrat, reintroduced the Keep Our Promise to America’s Military Retirees Act and the Keeping Faith with the Greatest Generation Military Retirees Act.

“This legislation will help rectify the injustices and hardships for America’s greatest heroes that we have allowed to fester for far too long,” Mr. Van Hollen said. “We can and must make health care available to many military retirees for whom the military health care system is broken. We must keep our promise to America’s military retirees.”

The Keep Our Promise to American’s Military Retirees Act (H.R. 1222) would fulfill the promises made to young recruits that quality health care would be available to them when they retired after a career in uniformed service to our country.

It would allow military retirees to opt out of the Tricare military health system and enroll in the Federal Employees Health Benefit (FEHB) plan if Tricare does not provide them adequate health care. It also maintains and improves access to the military pharmacy benefit for military retirees who opt out of Tricare and enroll in FEHB.

“America’s military retirees and their families have sacrificed much for their nation,” Mr. Van Hollen said. “The last thing they need is to contend with the government’s failure to deliver health care that was promised and earned.”

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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