- The Washington Times - Monday, February 19, 2007

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I am a 100 percent disabled amputee Vietnam veteran. My pension is from Veterans Affairs, although I still get a statement from the Marine Corps on how much my retired benefit would be should I decide to switch to that. I was wounded in Vietnam in 1969. I am missing my right hand, my left arm was pieced back together so that I have limited use of it, blind in one eye, hearing loss in both ears, shrapnel still embedded in my face and body (to the point that I set off security alarms at airports, etc.) and I can’t even begin to tell you of all the psychological problems.

Because I was allowed to remain in the service for only 10 years (when I was released from the hospital after a year’s stay), I have been left out of two awards: special compensation for combat wounded and concurrent receipt of both disability and retired pension.

There are several bills in Congress that are trying to correct these injustices. My problem is that I can’t figure out which one applies to me. Can you help me with this?

Sincerely,

Arthur K.

Via the Internet

Dear Arthur:

My friends at the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) tell me that there are two bills in this Congress that will help Chapter 61 retirees — those retired from the service with less than 20 years of service because of disabilities. They are H.R. 89, sponsored by Rep. Gus Bilirakis, Florida Republican, and H.R. 333, sponsored by Rep. Jim Marshall, Georgia Democrat.

The following is the legislative update that MOAA issued a few weeks ago:

Mr. Bilirakis has reintroduced concurrent receipt legislation well-known to MOAA members. It would eliminate the 10-year phase-in period for retirees with a disability rating of 50 percent to 90 percent and would extend concurrent retirement and disability payments eligibility to retirees rated less than 50 percent.

Meanwhile, Mr. Marshall has introduced a proposal called the Disabled Veterans Tax Termination Act, which is the most comprehensive concurrent receipt legislation ever introduced. The all-encompassing bill also would open concurrent retirement and disability payments to Chapter 61 retirees with less than 20 years of service.

Shaft notes

• The Sarge urges members of Congress to support the American Veterans Disabled for Life Commemorative Coin Act, H.R. 634. In a recent floor statement, Rep. Mark Steven Kirk, Illinois Republican, introduced this bill with the following remarks:

“Madame Speaker, today Representative Dennis Moore [Kansas Democrat] and I introduced this legislation that seeks to recognize the sacrifices made by America’s more than 3 million disabled veterans by building a memorial for them in the District.

“In 2000, Congress authorized the construction of the memorial. Last December, President Bush signed into law a bill transferring control of the land for the memorial from the District of Columbia to the National Park Service. Now the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial Foundation needs to raise approximately $65 million to cover the cost of construction.

“This legislation will authorize the secretary of the Treasury to mint commemorative silver dollars that will be sold with a surcharge that will help the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial Foundation raise the money needed to construct the memorial. Not only will these coins be collectors items, they will benefit a worthy cause.”

• The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a hearing to examine and review the president’s fiscal 2008 budget submission for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The committee heard testimony from VA Secretary Jim Nicholson as well as a host of representatives from veterans service organizations, including those that annually develop and publish the Independent Budget.

“I strongly believe that more resources are needed to properly fund the VA, particularly to address increased demand for mental health services, seamless transition matters and research,” said Rep. Bob Filner, California Democrat and committee chairman. “However, I applaud the VA for, at a minimum, submitting a budget that recognizes the need and calls for an increase in veterans medical care, unlike the budget it submitted two years ago. And I believe this budget presents us with a framework from which to begin our analysis and move forward through the budget process.

“I am disappointed that the VA has once again brought forward legislative proposals as part of its fiscal year 2008 budget submission. Instituting enrollment fees and increasing pharmacy co-payments have been rejected year after year by Congress, and I see no different result this year again,” Mr. Filner said.

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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