- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 30, 2009

Dear Sgt Shaft,

I am a 60-year-old, unemployed, disabled veteran attending college in North Carolina, but my house is in South Carolina. I have very low income and am in danger of losing my house. I will have to transfer to a college in South Carolina, but what I really need is a small grant or loan to pay my back taxes. Interest is growing every month. I have until October to get my house because somebody has bid on it. Please send me any information or advice on what to do. Help.

Thank you in advance,

Mr. M

via the Internet

Dear Mr. M

Although the Department of Veterans Affairs does not provide personal loans or grants to veterans who need assistance with local or state taxes, you may find the help you need through the Making Home Affordable program. This part of President Obama’s Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan was created to help millions of homeowners refinance or modify their mortgages to a payment that is affordable, both now and in the future. You should use the self-assessment tools provided on www.makinghomeaffordable.gov to see if you are among the 7 million to 9 million homeowners who may be able to benefit from Making Home Affordable.

In addition, VA counselors at nine regional loan centers are available to help people with VA-guaranteed loans avoid foreclosure through counseling and special financing arrangements. VA counselors have helped about 74,000 veterans, active-duty members and survivors keep their homes since 2000. Depending on the veteran’s circumstances, VA can intercede with the borrower on the veteran’s behalf to pursue options - such as repayment plans, forbearance and loan modifications - that would allow a veteran to keep a home.

To obtain help from a VA financial counselor, call VA toll-free at 877/827-3702. Information about the home loan guaranty program can be obtained at www.homeloans.va.gov.

:

Congratulations to Rep. Walter B. Jones, North Carolina Republican, on the progress made in the legislation he introduced in January to redesignate the Department of the Navy as the Department of the Navy and Marine Corps. HR 24 has gained 200 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives. In each Congress since 2001, Mr. Jones has introduced legislation aimed at giving the Marine Corps the recognition it deserves as one of the official branches of the military.

“Im very encouraged by the support for H.R. 24 among so many of my House colleagues,” Mr. Jones said. “I am also grateful to Senator Pat Roberts, a former Marine, who has introduced companion legislation in the Senate, S. 504. With the support from Senator Roberts [Kansas Republican] and my House colleagues, I’m hopeful that this will be the year the Marine Corps may be granted the recognition it deserves.”

“The Navy and the Marine Corps have operated as one entity for more than two centuries, and H.R. 24 would ensure the name of the department they share exemplifies this fact,” Mr. Jones continued.

“This legislation is not about changing the responsibilities of the secretary, reallocating resources between the Navy and Marine Corps or altering the course of their missions. Rather, it is about showing the nation the true meaning of the department and recognizing the overall importance of the Marine Corps to our national security.”

Kudos to the president of the National Association for Uniformed Services (NAUS), retired Army Maj. Gen. William M. Matz Jr., who wrote a strongly worded letter to President Obama urging him to step in personally and stop any efforts by the Defense Department and others in the administration to raise the out-of-pocket costs paid by the military’s Tricare health care system beneficiaries. The letter was sent as the administration is completing work on its 2010 budget.

Gen. Matz’s letter to the president (available online) cites disturbing reports that the Defense Department plans to raise Tricare premiums for military retirees and increase pharmaceutical co-payment fees for family members of active-duty, Reserve and National Guard service members as well as Tricare for Life (Medicare-eligible) participants.

“It is inconceivable that the administration would recommend proposals that would virtually destroy a major career incentive by shifting the costs onto the shoulders of those brave men and women who sacrificed to earn the benefit,” Gen. Matz writes in the letter. “Instead, we should look to improve Tricare … rather than shift the financial responsibility to those who have already sacrificed so much for our nation.”

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, DC 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5466 or e-mail [email protected]

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