- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 1, 2009

Sgt. Shaft: I had three years Regular Army, five years Army Reserve and 12 years Army National Guard. In 2004, I was activated for 27 months with the Guard as the battalion personnel sergeant for my unit’s rear detachment while the unit was deployed to Iraq and for demobilization when it returned. Eighteen months into my active-duty tour, I was in a severe motor-vehicle accident three miles from my duty station while on the way to work. I don’t understand why all branches of service — active, Reserve and Guard — pay for Traumatic Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (TSGLI) but it only pays if you are injured in a combat zone.

I broke 22 bones, including numerous bones in my face. My face and skull were lacerated, and I was nearly scalped. I had four surgeries to reconstruct my face, two to fix my broken neck and one to repair internal injuries. My Department of Veterans Affairs disabilities included post-traumatic stress disorder and disfiguring, painful scars. I am considered totally disabled. I could go on, but the point is, according to the TSGLI schedule, I would have qualified for $75,000 to $100,000 in benefits except that I was not injured in a combat zone. Not that I am concerned about the $1-a-month premium, but it is hugely hypocritical to make us pay premiums for benefits for which we do not qualify unless we are in a particular duty-status location. Thousands of soldiers are injured traumatically outside combat zones with the same injuries that qualify soldiers inside combat zones. Maybe it should be renamed CTSGLI (Combat Traumatic SGLI). Thanks for listening.

Deena K

U.S. Army

Dear Deena:

My sources tell me that you might have been misinformed. Since 2005, TSGLI has no longer been just for combat injuries. Here’s what the Army human-resources Web site says about exceptions to TSGLI coverage:

“Exceptions to TSGLI Coverage:

“There are certain circumstances under which a traumatic injury would not be covered by TSGLI. They include injuries caused/sustained by:

• Self-inflicted wounds

• Attempted suicide

• The willful use of an illegal or controlled substance causing the loss, not under prescription

• Committing or attempting to commit a felony

• Medical or surgical treatment of an illness or disease

• A mental or physical illness or disease; unless the illness or disease is caused by:

“- A pyogenic (pus-forming, often from a wound) infection, biological, chemical or radiological weapon

“- Accidental ingestion of a contaminated substance

• The Soldier elected to not participate in SGLI after 1 December 2005”

If you do not fall into one of those categories, you should be eligible. If your accident happened before the effective date of this updating legislation (Dec. 1, 2005), you’re out of luck; the Army applied the law that was in effect when you were injured.

Shaft notes

The Sarge joins the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States in calling on Congress to stop appropriating federal funding for the National Veterans Business Development Corp., better known as the Veterans Corp., or TVC.

Congress created TVC in 1999 to provide military veterans with the resources and guidance necessary to start small businesses, but an investigative report released by the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship revealed that TVC failed to achieve its goals.

According to the bipartisan report, TVC failed to establish and maintain veterans business-resource centers, didn’t become self-sufficient as required; and the use of federal funding for executive compensation and questionable expenditures was deemed unacceptable.

The Senate committee recommended that TVC no longer receive any federal funding for fiscal 2009 and beyond. The VFW national commander agrees.

“This is a prime example of a good government initiative that went bad,” said Glen M. Gardner Jr., a Vietnam veteran from Round Rock, Texas. “Without proper oversight, TVC management had their way with $17 million in taxpayer funding over the past seven years. That has to stop, and TVC needs to be shut down.”

The VFW wants TVC’s funding redirected to expand veteran-specific programs within the Small Business Administration and for the federal government to incorporate TVC business centers into its Veterans’ Business Outreach Center network. The Small Business Administration, unlike TVC, is subject to congressional oversight and accountability, and with 1,500 small-business-development centers across the country, it is more capable of reaching out and working with veterans.

The Sarge joins the American Legion’s national commander in expressing congratulations and a desire to work with President-elect Barack Obama’s choice to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs in the upcoming administration.

“Gen. Eric Shinseki has made a career of serving this country,” said American Legion National Commander David K. Rehbein. “A former Army chief of staff and a Vietnam veteran, Gen. Shinseki knows what it’s like to lead. We are all familiar with the current slogan, ‘Army Strong.’ We are committed to working with Gen. Shinseki to provide a health care system that is ‘VA Strong.’”

Mr. Rehbein added that Gen. Shinseki will face great challenges. “Eliminating the backlog that veterans face to use the health care system that was created for them must be a top priority,” he said. “VA must also ensure that veterans understand and can easily access the benefits for which they are entitled under the new GI Bill. Funding must remain a priority, even during tough economic times. Congress must remember that if not for America’s veterans, there would not be a U.S. economy to worry about. We hope that Gen. Shinseki’s Pentagon experience will enhance the integration under way for DoD and VA to share its information technologies and provide for a seamless transition.”

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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