- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dear Sgt. Shaft: Throughout my Army career, I have worked to serve my fellow soldiers and most recently I have the opportunity of finding skilled health care professionals to serve as officers in the Army Medical Department (AMEDD). As the commander of the 1st Medical Recruiting Battalion in Fort Meade, Md., my recruiters and I work every day to find the exceptional men and women to serve our country as physicians, dentists, nurses and other medical providers.

Our team enjoys a unique role. Though we don´t heal injured soldiers, we recruit the surgeons who do. We don´t deliver babies, but we recruit the physicians and nurses who do. We don´t seek cures for HIV and cancer, but we recruit the scientists who do. The work being done in Army medicine today ultimately benefits everyone. Key medical advances in immunizations, treatment of trauma patients, rehabilitation, et cetera, have been discovered by Army providers or through collaborative efforts with the military and our civilian partners.

I find my job very rewarding and want to take every opportunity to spread the word about the tremendous opportunities. The Army has some of the most comprehensive scholarships available to include the F. Edward Hebert Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP). This scholarship is available to medical, dental and veterinary students and provides full tuition, to any accredited medical school in the country. Unfortunately, a lot of college students don´t know about this option.

Under this scholarship program, students receive the full cost of tuition, school fees, books and equipment and a monthly stipend of $1,900 per month to attend any accredited medical, dental or veterinary college in the United States. In addition, the Army is currently offering a $20,000 signing bonus for HPSP recipients. The scholarship, which is available for two-, three- and four-year terms, requires a service commitment, which begins upon completion of residency, but for many this scholarship has enabled them to graduate medical school debt free.

Our military men and women deserve only the best possible medical care, from the most qualified and exceptional health care professionals. We currently have some of the best dentists, physicians and nurses caring for our soldiers, but we need more. I hope you can help me spread the word about Army medicine and the HPSP scholarship.

I´d like to personally invite every person who reads your column and knows of a young man or woman thinking about medical, dental, veterinary school to get in touch with an AMEDD recruiter or visit this Web site at www.healthcare.goarmy.com. We would be happy to send them a packet about the scholarship and answer any questions they may have about the opportunities available in Army medicine. We think they´ll be surprised by what they learn.

Lt. Col. Karrie Fristoe

Commander, 1st Medical Recruiting Battalion

Fort Meade, Md.

Dear Col. Fristoe:

I urge all qualifiable young men and women to take advantage of this great medical career opportunity. What a great way for these individuals to be all that they can be.

Shaft notes

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has identified nearly 11,000 surviving spouses of deceased veterans who are entitled to receive a lump-sum payment to correct an error in their VA benefits. Also documented were more than 73,000 who had been previously paid. VA officials are still tracking down eligible survivors.

“I am pleased that our task force working to correct this problem has been able to identify this first group,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs James B. Peake. “We understand the difference these funds can make for these surviving spouses.” Payments were released to these survivors on Dec. 29. The total value of the payments is about $24 million.

At issue is a 1996 federal law that makes a surviving spouse eligible to receive the veteran´s VA compensation or pension benefit for the month of the veteran´s death. VA failed to properly implement that law in all cases.

Most likely to have been affected by this problem are surviving spouses who never applied for VA survivors´ benefits following the death of a veteran. Eligible for the payment are surviving spouses of veterans who died after Dec. 31, 1996. The department doesn´t have current addresses for many of them, which makes the process of contacting them difficult.

VA has established a special survivor call center (800/749-8387) for spouses who think they might be eligible for this retroactive benefit. The call center is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Central Standard Time. Inquiries may also be submitted through the Internet at www.vba.va.gov/survivorsbenefit.htm.

Congratulations to Sodexo, a leading food-service and facilities management company with an enterprisewide focus on hiring, supporting and retaining military veterans and reservists.

The company has earned a distinction as one of the “Top 50 Military-Friendly Employers in 2008,” by G.I. Jobs, the premier publication for military transitioners. Throughout its operations in the United States, Sodexo employs nearly 3,000 veterans, National Guard members and reservists, and is annually increasing the numbers of former military employees on its staff roster at all levels.

Last year, Sodexo expanded the number of newly hired veterans on its management team by 28 percent.

“The skills and training of former soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines create leadership qualities that are valuable to Sodexo as we continue to grow our company,” said John Bush, market president and chief operating officer. “To create our leadership teams of today and the future, we actively seek employees from the military.”

Mr. Bush said that Sodexo has a training program that helps recruiters specifically identify military-learned skills and apply them to the needs of available positions in the company.

• 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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