- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 28, 2009

Dear Sgt. Shaft,

Five years ago, my husband of 16 years was retired from the USMC reserves as a lieutenant colonel when he was killed in Iraq working for the Department of Defense. Do our three young children and I qualify for a military ID card, DD Form 1173-1?

Would this entitle us to certain recreational privileges and perhaps commissary or exchange benefits? Also, he was initially an active duty Marine for about eight years and then continued his military service as a reservist. He was activated twice for military campaigns overseas. Currently, I collect RCSBP.

Thank you.

- Widow of Reservist Veteran

Dear Widow,

It is my understanding that you will be eligible for an ID card and military benefits when your late husband would have turned 60. Your children will also be eligible then if they are still minors. Hopefully, you know that a grateful nation remembers.

Shaft Notes

• Veterans should know that President Obama recently signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which includes a provision by Rep. Phil Hare, Illinois Democrat, to create a Veterans Corps.

The Veterans Engaged for Tomorrow Corps Act was co-authored by Mr. Hare and Rep. John Sarbanes, Maryland Democrat. It will establish a service corps, similar to AmeriCorps or Senior Corps, for veterans by veterans.

The primary mission of the Veterans’ Corps will be to recruit and mobilize veterans to serve the needs of their fellow servicemen and women. It will collaborate with Veterans Service Organizations, the Department of Veterans Affairs and other groups to provide education, job training and mentoring to our nation’s veterans.

The Veterans’ Corps will be overseen by the Corporation of National and Community Service. It would be the first of its kind.

“America’s veterans are the living embodiment of President Obama’s call to service,” Mr. Hare said. “With thousands of troops set to return home over the next several years and millions of veterans already needing some form of assistance, Vet Corps will provide a vehicle for our heroes to continue their service while addressing a critical national priority.”

“Vet Corps provides veterans an opportunity to continue their tremendous service to our nation,” Mr. Sarbanes said. “It will also help mitigate the disproportionately high levels of unemployment in the veteran population while providing disabled or older veterans with tangible benefits. It is only natural that veterans would be the first to answer President Obama’s call to community service. Vet Corps will allow them to participate in a meaningful way and help smooth their transition back to civilian life.”

• Congratulations to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Its 2008 performance and accountability report ranked second among the largest federal agencies, according to the Mercatus Center of George Mason University. This independent research organization evaluates and ranks federal agency reports on how transparently they report their successes and failures, how well they document the tangible public benefits they produce and whether they demonstrate that their leadership uses performance information to devise strategies for making program improvements.

The Government Accountability Project at the Mercatus Center in Arlington examined the federal agencies for its 10th annual Performance Report Scorecard, ranking VA second behind the Labor Department for quality of disclosure in its annual performance and accountability reports. VA’s report was also recognized as the government’s best in the leadership category.

“These reports play a vital role in ensuring that federal agencies carry out their responsibility to inform the American public about how their tax dollars are used, the results we achieve, and the areas that require improvement,” said VA Chief of Staff John Gingrich at the Mercatus Center awards ceremony.

“VA has made noteworthy progress developing, implementing, and using performance measures that are directly linked to the department’s strategic goals and objectives,” he added.

The Mercatus Center’s full analysis of the 24 federal agencies’ reporting can be viewed at www.mercatus.org.

• The Sarge joins Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel K. Akaka, Hawaii Democrat, and Sen. Russ Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, who recently applauded news that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is finally implementing a law to reimburse state nursing homes for the full cost of the care they provide for certain seriously disabled veterans.

More than two years after Congress passed legislation to provide full nursing home reimbursements for veterans with disabilities rated 70 percent or greater, cash-strapped states and more than 1,000 disabled and elderly veterans stand to benefit from the laws implementation. The VA will pay retroactive reimbursements for nursing home care back to March 21, 2007.

“This long-overdue benefit will help disabled veterans receive the care they earned through their service. It will provide relief to nursing homes across the country that have been burdened with the cost of their care, despite Congresss order that VA provide reimbursement. I am pleased that VA will provide retroactive benefits for the veterans and state homes that have waited for over two years to receive the assistance they are entitled to,” Mr. Akaka said.

Mr. Feingold stated, “For over a year, I have been pressing the VA to put in place these regulations so that veterans, and the state homes that care for them, wont have to pay for care in state long-term care facilities that they would receive for free in VA facilities. I am pleased that the new administration has finally acted on this issue and our veterans who have more than earned this care will be able to receive it in more facilities and without having to use their often limited income to pay for it.”

• 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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