- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I found your recent column about Texas’ initiative focusing on returning veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan very interesting. The only concern I have is that no mention was made of the thousands of specialists in the Disabled Veterans Outreach Program (DVOP) and Local Veterans Employment Representative (LVER) program who cover every county of this nation.

We help veterans of every era overcome barriers to employment. Title 38 (Chapters 41 and 42) of the U.S. Code as well as Public Law 107-288 guide the actions of these veterans advocates. While I understand that the Texas program was created to address specific issues faced by the veterans of the recent conflicts, the tone of the column seemed to indicate that until this program was initiated, nothing was being done to assist these returning warriors.

I just wanted to make sure that folks know we are out there assisting those veterans every day as they qualify for services as determined by Public Law 107-288.

Thanks as always for your support of our fellow veterans. Keep up the good work.

Jason K. Correll
Army 1990-95
Ohio Department of Job & Family Services
Veterans intensive services coordinator

Dear Jason:

I am happy to highlight all programs that assist active-duty military veterans and their families. Thanks for your continued service.

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

When I flew to California for my aunt’s funeral, a young man returning from Iraq was upgraded to first class. I have to say he received attention from everyone. Many people before the flight were thanking him for his service to our country. He was 20 years old, and when we arrived in Fresno, he tried to get a rental car but couldn’t because he had to be 21. I was at the rental car place myself, and it was one of those moments when a person thought, “How can that be?”

Judy W.

Dear Judy:

If this is the policy of our car rental agencies, this is not the way to say thanks for your service. This practice should be scrutinized, then changed voluntarily or, as a last resort, by Congress.

Shaft notes

Thanks to the Veterans of Foreign Wars for weighing in on the issue of major U.S. carriers charging a $100 fee for a third checked bag for military personnel, who were allowed to check two bags for free. This was hitting young troops directly in their wallets despite some assurances from the Department of Defense that the fee might be reimbursable at a later date. The VFW asked the Air Transport Association to work with its member airlines to exempt military personnel traveling on orders from paying baggage fees on a third piece of checked luggage.

“I am extremely grateful to the airlines for agreeing with the VFW that dropping the fee was the right decision to make for our troops,” said Glen Gardner, the newly elected national commander of the VFW. The baggage-fee issue surfaced last month in a Texas newspaper article about a young soldier being charged $100 for a third piece of checked luggage. The soldier was headed for additional training before deploying to Iraq.

In a letter of appreciation sent Wednesday to ATA President James C. May, the VFW national commander expressed his thanks to the association for facilitating the fee waiver with its member airlines.

“Waiving the third-checked-bag fee was a decision that needed to be made,” Mr. Gardner wrote. “The VFW is very appreciative of ATA’s understanding of our call to action, and very grateful for the subsequent actions taken by your member airlines. U.S. air carriers have always been huge supporters of our troops; their decisions to waive the third-checked-bag fee now amplifies that strong support.”

• Army & Air Force Exchange Service gas stations in the continental United States (CONUS), Alaska and Puerto Rico are being programmed to reflect a discount of 3 cents a gallon for drivers who pay with a Military StarSM Card.

“Anytime a customer uses a bank-issued debit or credit card, the retailer pays a portion of the transaction to a third party financial institution,” said AAFES’ chief of corporate communications, Lt. Col. Dean Thurmond. “Because the Military StarSM Card is administered by the Exchange Credit Program, AAFES is not subject to the additional fees incurred through other ‘pay at the pump’ options. As a result, we’re able to pass savings on to authorized exchange shoppers.”

The 3-cent-a-gallon discount is being applied to transactions at 13 installations. All remaining facilities in CONUS, Alaska and Puerto Rico (177 facilities) should have received the software upgrades and will be applying the discount.

“I encourage drivers during the first week or so of this new effort to touch base with the attendant at their local gas station to ensure the software upgrades have taken effect before fueling up,” Col. Thurmond said. “As is the case with anything technical, we expect a few glitches could occur during the first few weeks of the program.”

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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