- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 19, 2009

I am a 72-year-old female whose husband was a veteran (He served in World War II and as one of “Merrill´s Marauders”) and died May 12, 1993. I will be retiring soon and wanted to know if I can receive any benefits. I was receiving a monthly check after he died, but it was discontinued when I became a full-time employee. Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

Rose P

Bronx, New York

Dear Rose:

If your husband was a retiree, yes. If he was a veteran, maybe. It depends on whether he died as a result of service connected disabilities.

You should contact the VA at 800/827-1000, explain your husband´s career and your finances and let them guide you from there.

Shaft notes

Kudos to Rep. John Boozman, Arkansas Republican and ranking minority member of the Veterans Affairs economic opportunity subcommittee, who recently introduced legislation aimed at expanding assistance to veterans for job training, housing accommodations and education opportunities. Among the six pieces of legislation is a bill named after Pat Tillman, a U.S. Army Ranger and former professional football player killed in the line of duty while serving in Afghanistan.

“As ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs subcommittee on economic opportunity, I continue to work with my colleagues to provide more job opportunities for our veterans and find ways we can assist their lives after serving our country,” Mr. Boozman said. “These pieces of legislation represent areas we can improve our commitment to our veterans through employment, education and accommodating living needs.”

• H.R. 1172, the Pat Tillman Veterans´ Scholarship Initiative, is named after the former NFL player who was killed on active duty while serving in Afghanistan. The bill directs the secretary of veterans affairs to include a list of organizations that provide scholarships to veterans and their survivors on the VA Web site.

• H.R. 1171, the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP) Reauthorization Act of 2009, reauthorizes the HVRP program for five years through fiscal 2014. HVRP provides grants to homeless veteran providers for job skill training and employment services.

• H.R. 1170 establishes a grant program to encourage development of new assistive technologies that will help meet the needs of disabled veterans through the Specially Adapted Housing grants.

• H.R. 1169 would triple the sizes for the Specially Adapted Housing and Adaptive Auto grants. These grants enable disabled veterans to adapt their homes and their vehicles to meet their particular disability. These grants are essential for increasing the opportunities for disabled veterans to lead full and successful lives.

• H.R. 1168, the Veterans Retraining Act of 2009, increases training assistance for veterans who have been unemployed for at least four months. The bill would provide a housing stipend for veterans who are participating in a retraining program. The bill would also provide up to $5,000 in moving expenses for the veteran who completes the training to move to an area of the country that has jobs to fit their new skill.

• H. Res. 188 honors the service, courage and sacrifice of the Seawolves of Helicopter Attack Light Squadron Three, the only Navy helicopter gunship squadron to fight in the Vietnam War.

Aloha to Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, Hawaii Democrat and chairman of the Veterans´ Affairs Committee, who introduced the Veterans Rehabilitation and Training Improvements Act of 2009.

“Veterans disabled in our current wars are transitioning from military service into a challenging economy that is contracting at historic rates. This bill will give these new veterans more of the help they need by increasing program flexibility and boosting the living stipend for disabled veterans undergoing rehabilitation. These men and women have paid the cost of war, and now we must do more to assist them as they transition back into civilian life,” Mr. Akaka said.

The chairman’s rehabilitation bill would:

• Allow the VA Vocational Rehabilitation program more flexibility in paying for rehabilitation-related expenses incurred by recovering veterans who successfully complete programs;

• Boost the living stipend for veterans undergoing rehabilitation, which will narrow the difference between the vocational rehab stipend and the 21st Century GI Bill; and

• Remove the annual cap on the number of veterans who may enroll in VA’s Independent Living program, which assists severely-disabled veterans in achieving greater independence in their daily lives.

The Sarge joins the Fleet Reserve Association (FRA) in asking President Obama to exempt military credit unions from proposals that will force these member-owned credit unions to replenish losses incurred by corporate credit unions. FRA is advocating action by Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner to ensure that military credit unions are not required to participate in the National Credit Union Administration´s (NCUA) plan to restore the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund to its maximum operating level.

According to credit union officials, doing so would force military credit unions to forfeit nearly $5 billion. The letter from Joe Barnes, the association´s national executive director, cites the inequity of NCUA’s requirement because it would “force almost half of all military credit unions into the red, which would result in degraded services, reduced loan opportunities, reduced savings returns, and higher loan interest rates for millions of military families who depend on their military credit unions for essential financial services.”

FRA thinks the U.S. Treasury should not impose this unfair burden on blameless credit unions and their military owners, who are already making sacrifices for our nation.

FRA is encouraging its members and others to visit the association´s Action Center at www.fra.org to share their concerns with Mr. Geithner and prevent military families from shouldering this unwarranted financial burden.

• 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 sgtshaft@bavf.org.

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