- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sgt. Shaft: I am a disabled vet. I want to know why the government can’t pay our money back that they took when we got out of service. I got special separation pay (SSB) [Note] cq [/NOTE] , then they took it back when I got sick and was awarded VBA Disability Compensation. They withheld the $24,000 that I had been paid. Why can’t some of that stimulus money go to myself and other disabled vets who sacrificed so much for our country?

Lonnie S.

Via the Internet

Dear Lonnie:

I suggest you and other vets contact your representatives in Congress. It is required by law to recoup SSB from initial disability compensation payments. The regulation that governs this recoupment is found in 38 CFR 3.700(a)(5), which states, “Where payment of separation pay or special separation benefits under section 1174a was made after September 30, 1996, VA will recoup from disability compensation an amount equal to the total amount of separation pay or special separation benefits less the amount of federal income tax withheld from such pay.”



If you need any further information, you can call 800/827-1000.

Shaft notes

The Sarge is looking forward to joining the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) and other invited guests as they honor three U.S. legislators, a major U.S. company, a volunteer bugler, two congressional staff members and a famous musical entertainer as recipients of its highest awards for 2009. The awards will be presented on April 21 at a Capitol Hill ceremony.

Sen. Jim Webb, Virginia Democrat; Reps. Susan A. Davis, California Democrat, and John M. McHugh, New York Republican; Union Pacific Railroad volunteer bugler Tom Day; two congressional staffers, David Kildee and Jeanette James; and singer, songwriter and entertainer Toby Keith were selected by MOAAs board of directors to receive the annual awards.

The Sarge also is looking forward to attending a National Press Club luncheon that afternoon featuring Mr. Keith.

Mr. Keith was named by Forbes magazine as the nation’s highest-earning country music star. His speech at the press club luncheon will be on the eve of his eighth USO tour to entertain military troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr. Keith, whose hits began with “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” and include “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue” and “American Soldier,” has sold more than 25 million albums in this decade alone. More than a country singer, Mr. Keith is an accomplished businessman. He owns his own record label, Show Dog Nashville, has a major endorsement with Ford trucks and is a key player in the I Love This Bar & Grill chain of restaurants.

Mr. Keith will talk about his work with the USO and the military, his businesses and other topics, including his treatment in the media. He has performed more than 128 events for the USO and was instrumental in helping the USO create its USO2Go program, which sends morale-boosting items to troops deployed to isolated areas.

The National Press Club luncheon will begin promptly at 12:30 p.m., and Mr. Keith’s remarks will begin just after 1 p.m., followed by a question-and-answer session. This event is open to press club members and their guests only. Reservations should be made by contacting the National Press Club, 202/662-7501 or reservationspress.org. The cost of luncheon admission is $17 for National Press Club members, $28 for their guests and $35 for general admission.

The Sarge salutes Rep. Gus Bilirakis, Florida Republican, representing the state’s 9th Congressional District, for introducing bipartisan legislation, H.R. 1624: the Military Personnel Income Tax Exclusion Act, to improve active-duty military pay and help military families during tough economic times.

The legislation recognizes the superb commitment of service members and their families to our nation by providing a much-needed reduction of their federal income tax. Rep. Christopher Carney, Pennsylvania Democrat and chairman of the Homeland Security subcommittee on management, investigations and oversight, joined Mr. Bilirakis in sponsoring the bill.

H.R. 1624 would exempt all active-duty military personnel from paying federal income tax on his or her annual pay up to the first $16,800. If enacted, the legislation would provide an across-the-board tax cut for all service members and result in a 100 percent tax cut for 66,000 of our forces’ lowest-paid troops.

“In its first 50 days, Congress spent $1 billion an hour. I believe we should take a couple of hours and cut taxes for our service members,” said Mr. Bilirakis. “While the debt we owe our troops for their sacrifices can never be fully repaid, this tax cut would be a step in the right direction to show our appreciation for their enduring valor.”

Said Mr. Carney: “Supporting and protecting our troops is not a partisan issue and that is why I am honored to be working across the aisle with Representative Bilirakis to co-sponsor the Military Personnel Income Tax Exclusion Act. This bipartisan bill cuts taxes across the board for our men and women in uniform and provides a powerful incentive for our best and brightest to continue serving in the armed forces.

“In addition to being an economic stimulant, the legislation would serve as an excellent recruitment and retention incentive for members of our armed services.

“It is critical for the continued growth and morale of our armed forces that we work toward improving military compensation,” Mr. Bilirakis added. “This legislation will help our armed forces continue to attract the quality men and women who work so tirelessly.”

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5466 or e-mail sgtshaftbavf.org.

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