- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 5, 2009

Dear Sgt. Shaft: I’m a vet and I served in the Army and Army Reserve from July 1982 to March 1986, from February 2004 to August 2004, and from August 1991 to February 1992. In 1995, I was in the Army Reserve, and during annual training I was involved in an accident. After the accident, when I went to VA and applied for service connection, I was still in the Army Reserve. The unit that I was assigned to did not let me re-enlist and gave me a medical discharge as not fit for duty. My question is: What benefits does a person in this situation receive?

Sincerely,

Jesus A

via the Internet

Dear Jesus:

Those in the know at VA tell me that an incident that occurred while on inactive duty training may be service connected if the incident was not found to be due to willful misconduct and if there is supporting documentation indicating that you were in training status for the Army Reserve. You can also claim benefits based on the disabilities incurred during prior or subsequent active duty periods.

If you would like to file a claim for disabilities incurred, you may complete and submit a VA Form 21-526, Veteran’s Application for Compensation and/or Pension. You can also file for benefits at www.va.gov. If you have further questions regarding compensation benefits, you can contact a representative at 800/827-1000.

Shaft notes

I was happy to attend the recent Capitol Hill ceremony for Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic (RFB&D;), the nation’s educational library for people with print disabilities. The ceremony honored this year’s select group of members who demonstrated extraordinary scholarship, leadership, enterprise and service to others.

The awards program totals more than $50,000 and includes the Mary P. Oenslager Scholastic Achievement Awards for college seniors who are legally blind and the Marion Huber Learning Through Listening Awards for high school seniors with learning disabilities. Both awards are made possible due to the generous endowments of their late namesakes.

The students hailed from Massachusetts, Indiana, Texas and California, and they each extolled the great role that RFB&D;’s audio books played in their educational successes.

Kudos to Rep. Bob Filner, California Democrat and House Veterans´ Affairs Committee chairman, for his efforts on the Filipino veterans provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act approved by Congress and sent to President Obama:

“Sixty-three years ago, President Truman signed the Rescission Acts, which denied the Filipino veterans of World War II equal status as American veterans, stripping them of equal recognition, compensation, and benefits. These Filipino soldiers, who swore an oath of allegiance to the United States, fought side-by-side with American soldiers under the American flag. Despite the gallant efforts of the Filipino soldiers during the war, Congress still passed the Rescission Acts, which denied these veterans their rightfully earned respect, benefits, and honor.

“Twelve years ago, I joined Filipino veterans in protest in front of the White House and demanded equitable treatment. Together, we pleaded with America’s leaders to acknowledge the contributions of these veterans, recognize the injustice visited upon them, and act to correct this injustice. Unfortunately, the historical record remained blotted and Filipino veterans were not granted the rights they had earned and deserve.

“I am thrilled that the 111th Congress has resolutely acted to acknowledge the Filipino veterans for their steadfast contributions to the successful outcome of World War II. H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, corrects this long-standing inequity, recognizes their noble service, and provides a one-time payment of $15,000 to Filipino veterans who are American citizens and $9,000 to veterans who are Philippine citizens. This compensation is intended to assist them in their later years and provide the dignity and honor that they earned as heroic veterans of the United States.”

Hats off to the Pentagon Federal Credit Union Foundation for their efforts to enhance financial security for our soldiers and sailors at home. As a contingency matter of national security, they created the Asset Recover Kit (ARK) program that provides military personnel and their families with low-cost loans to meet emergencies and teaches them good money-management techniques to avoid going into debt or falling prey to payday lenders.

“We believe our fighting men and women deserve a fair deal when seeking financial help,” said Mary Lynn Stevens, vice president of the Pentagon Federal Credit Union Foundation. “Many payday lenders prey on military members and their families.”

The Department of Defense has listed payday lending as one of the key issues affecting the quality of life of U.S. soldiers. Extended deployments, frequent moves, or monetary gaps that occur between a civilian job versus a lower-paying National Guard or reservist position, make soldiers and sailors extremely vulnerable to payday loans with sky-high interest rates.

ARK offers a low-cost alternative to predatory lending. The nonprofit program is hassle-free and confidential to each service member. In exchange for an ARK loan, the borrower must undergo mandatory financial counseling for interest-free loans:

• Military members can borrow up to $500 to cover shortfalls between paychecks.

• ARK only charges $6 to cover the processing fee.

• The average ARK loan is $371.

Since the program began four years ago, 1,500 military families have used ARK for their emergency financial needs. To date, $900,000 in advance payments have been loaned with only a 6 percent delinquency payback rate. The ARK program, launched in Fort Hood, Texas, has expanded to Pentagon Federal Credit Union branches in the District; Fayetteville, N.C.; Colorado Springs; San Antonio; and Fort Myer in Arlington.

For more information, visit www.PentagonFoundation.org.

• 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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