- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dear Sgt. Shaft,I recently had a stroke that left me blind in my right eye. I am already 100 percent service-connected disabled. Is there any advantage to making a further claim?

Thank You,

Maj. Richard H, USAF, Retired

Dear Richard:

Depending on the remaining vision in your right eye, there could be additional compensation payable. You would have to undergo a Veterans Affairs eye examination to determine the extent of your visual impairment.

I suggest you contact the VA to file a claim for increased VA compensation.

Shaft notes

I was happy to join Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis and a variety of military personnel, veterans, service organizations and congressional leaders who attended the annual salute to veterans at the U.S. Department of Labor headquarters on Friday.

The event included a discussion with two female veterans, highlighted the work of the department’s Veterans Employment and Training Service and spotlighted contributions veterans are making to the workplace.

The Sarge also was happy to join National Security Adviser James L. Jones, a retired Marine general; Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James T. Conway; and other members of Mac’s Marines to celebrate the 234th birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps.

As usual, this special event began with the following prayer:

“O Lord, we have long known that prayer should include confession. Therefore, on behalf of the Marines, I confess their sins: Lord, they’re just not in step with today’s society.

“They are unreasonable in clinging to old-fashioned ideas like patriotism, duty, honor, and country.

“They hold radical ideas believing that they are their brother’s keeper and responsible for the Marine on their flank.

“They have been seen standing when colors pass, singing the National Anthem at ball games, and drinking toasts to fallen comrades.

“Not only that, they have been observed standing tall; taking charge and wearing their hair unfashionably short.

“They have taken John Kennedy’s words too seriously and are overly concerned with what they can do for their country instead of what their country can do for them.

“They take the Pledge of Allegiance to heart and believe that their oath is to be honored.

“Forgive them, Lord, for being stubborn men and women who hold fast to such old-fashioned values.

“After all, what more can you expect: They’re Marines!”

Kudos to the House of Representatives, which recently approved the Military Spouse Residency Relief Act as part of the House Suspension Calendar by unanimous voice vote. President Obama is expected to sign the legislation into law within the next few days.

The House action today brings to a legislative conclusion a three-year quest by Rep. John Carter, Texas Republican, to improve the legal residency status of military spouses that began in 2007. Mr. Carter introduced the bill in the 110th Congress in May 2008, then again in the 111th Congress in February as H.R. 1182 in the House. The bill also was introduced by Sens. Richard M. Burr, North Carolina Republican, and Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, as S. 475 in the Senate.

“This is fantastic news for our service families worldwide,” Mr. Carter said. “We should have done this long ago, but at least we are now on track to have a new law in 2009.”

The bill would a military spouse who moves out of a state with his or her service member under military orders to have the option to claim the same state of domicile as the active-duty spouse, regardless of where they are stationed. Service members themselves have had that option for decades, but spouses did not, leaving many families with split residencies.

An “Attaboy!” to the secretary of veterans affairs for the addition of four new veterans law judges to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA), which will enable the board to increase the number of cases being decided.

“Veterans have earned the right to prompt, exhaustive and professional review of their claims for benefits,” Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki said. “This expansion of BVA will enable veterans to receive more expeditious decisions on their appeals.”

BVA is an appeals body to which veterans, their dependents or their survivors can go when they are not satisfied with decisions about claims for benefits administered by the department.

BVA reviews decisions on benefit claims made by local VA offices and issues decisions on appeals. The board has 60 veterans law judges..

These law judges are lawyers experienced in veterans law and in reviewing benefit claims. They are the only ones who can issue BVA decisions. Staff attorneys, also trained in veterans law, review the facts of each appeal and assist the board members.

In fiscal 2008, the board decided 43,757 appeals and handled 48,804 cases in fiscal year 2009. Most of the cases involve claims for disability compensation and pensions.

“We must foster a responsive approach when we consider veterans,” Mr. Shinseki said. “Reducing the backlog of benefits decisions and waiting times are essential to providing our veterans and their families with the service they deserve.”

VA provides a pamphlet, “How Do I Appeal,” to anyone who is not satisfied with the results of a benefits claim that was decided by a VA regional office, medical center or another local VA office. The pamphlet explains the steps involved in filing an appeal. For more information about BVA or to download a copy of the pamphlet, visit www.va.gov/vbs/bva.

cKudos to Rep. Steve Buyer, Indiana Republican, who recently held a meeting with the General Services Administration (GSA )and the VA to identify ways to increase small businesses’ ability to bid on VA procurement contracts by expanding their access to the GSA schedule.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, DC 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5446 or e-mail sgtshaft@bavf.org.

VA provides a pamphlet, “How Do I Appeal,” to anyone who is not satisfied with the results of a benefits claim that was decided by a VA regional office, medical center or another local VA office

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