- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 13, 2007

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

The Fleet Reserve Association (FRA) salutes Rep. Gus Bilirakis, Florida Republican, for introducing legislation to close the pay gap between civilians and enlisted service members. The Military Pay Improvement Act of 2007, proposed an active-duty pay increase of 0.5 percent above the Employment Cost Index (ECI), one of the association’s legislative priorities. FRA further appreciates the House Armed Services subcommittee on military personnel approving the 3.5 percent military increase on May 2, a half percentage point higher than the administration’s FY 2008 budget calling for only a 3 percent pay raise, matching the ECI.

Adequate pay increases contribute to improved morale, readiness and retention. The 2.2 percent across-the-board basic pay increase for members of the armed forces that was enacted for 2007 was the smallest increase since 1994.

The pay increase proposal is one in which FRA has long been working with Congress on to close the pay gap between active-duty and private-sector pay. In addition, the association supports targeted increases for midcareer and senior enlisted personnel.

The action taken by this subcommittee will be included in the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, which was approved by the full committee on May 9. The Senate will work on its own version of the bill before final legislation is considered. Please urge your readers to visit the Action Center at www.fra.org and send a message to their elected officials supporting the military pay increase.

In loyalty, protection and service,

Joe Barnes

Executive Director, FRA

Dear Joe:

Thanks for the update on this supportive effort on behalf of the troops.

Some other good news is that the military personnel subcommittee of the House Armed Service Committee has included the provisions of H.R. 1641, which include some good reforms of the reserve Montgomery GI Bill programs, in its markup of the National Defense Authorization Act.

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

If my father, a veteran who has passed away, had never used his VA loan — is it possible for me as his daughter to now use that VA home-loan guarantee? Or is there no such loan for family members after he passed away?

Aggie

Via the Internet

Dear Aggie:

Department of Veterans Affairs home-loan guarantees are issued only to persons who served on active duty or their surviving unremarried spouse. Other dependents of the veteran are not entitled under current statutory authority.

Shaft notes

The Sarge has recently been informed that the Korea Veterans Association (KVA) in Seoul has substantially expanded the eligibility for veterans and their families to visit on the official South Korean government “Revisit Korea” subsidized tours. The following has been added to the eligibility:

Effective immediately, widows and children of Korean War veterans killed during the war are eligible to participate in the Revisit Korea program. In addition, widows and children of Korean War veterans who have died since the war or of veterans who because of health reasons cannot travel are also eligible to participate in the name of their veteran husband/father.

The name, unit and dates of service of the veteran will be required to register for an official Revisit Korea Tour under this revised eligibility criteria. For more information, contact the Revisit Korea Tours coordinator, Military Historical Tours in Alexandria by phone at 800/722-9501 or 703/212-0695 or by e-mail at [email protected]

Revisit Korea tour quotas remain for June 20 to 26; Sept. 10 to 16, for the Inchon landing anniversary; Oct. 14 to 20; and Nov. 7 to 13, for the anniversary of the Chosin Reservoir campaign. Extensions of the trip, to China, are also available.

• Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, Hawaii Democrat and chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, recently introduced legislation to address problems within the Department of Defense’s Disability Evaluation System.

“Based upon what we learned from the Joint Senate Veterans’ Affairs and Armed Services hearing, I believe DoD needs to address the lack of consistency in awarding disability ratings among the military services,” said Mr. Akaka, who also serves on the Armed Services Committee.

“A service member should receive the same percentage of disability for a specific condition regardless of his or her branch of service. The rating should consider all conditions which render the service member unfit for continued service. DoD has an obligation to make this happen,” he said.

The legislation mandates the following reforms of the current, failing Disability Evaluation System:

• Uniform use of the Veterans Affairs rating schedule across the military services.

• Inclusion of all conditions which render a member unfit when making a disability rating.

• Uniform training of Medical Evaluation Board/Physical Evaluation Board personnel.

• Accountability by DoD to ensure compliance with disability rating regulations and policies.

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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