Thursday, November 19, 2009

Dear Sgt. Shaft, My husband was in the Korean War and served as a boiler man for three years and three months.

He now has multiple myeloma due to the exposure of asbestos and using black oil to run the ship. He served on the USS Diachenko (APD-123). Do you know if the Navy recognizes this blood cancer caused from the asbestos exposure? I would appreciate any information you may have on this.



via the Internet

Dear Ailene:

My sources tell me that in considering service connection for disabilities resulting from exposure to asbestos, Veterans Affairs carefully reviews each claim on an individual basis. VA must verify the veteran’s exposure before, during, and/or after military service and then must determine whether a relationship exists between the exposure and the claimed disease. This is accomplished through reviewing the veteran’s military personnel records, medical records and lay evidence. A medical opinion may be requested from a VA physician.

You can apply online by going to the following Web site: /vonapp/main.asp.

Shaft notes

President Obama recently signed into law the Fiscal Year 2010 Department of Homeland Security Act, which included an initiative sponsored by Rep. Gus Bilirakis, Florida Republican, to enhance our nation’s visa screening capabilities overseas to keep terrorists out of the United States.

The Bilirakis provision increases funding for the Visa Security Program, which is an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) program that places security officers at high-risk overseas posts to carefully investigate and scrutinize visa applicants. Currently, ICE operates 14 visa security units around the world.

“The Visa Security Program is a vital terrorist detection tool which allows ICE to aggressively examine visa applications to identify potential terrorists before they gain entry to the United States,” Mr. Bilirakis said.

“The increased funding will provide ICE with needed resources to establish an additional visa security unit and accelerate the addition of new units overseas in the coming years.”

The provision is budget neutral and transferred funds for administrative purposes under the Office of the Secretary of Homeland Security to ICE’s Visa Security Program.

c Kudos to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, led by Rep. Bob Filner, California Democrat, for the approval of two bills by the committee that would improve benefits and services to veterans provided by the VA.

“These bills would not be possible without the hard work of many members of this committee and the Congress,” Mr. Filner said. “It is our duty as a nation, when we put our men and women in harm’s way, to care for them when they return, and that is what these bills do.”

H.R. 3949 - Veterans Small Business Assistance and Servicemembers Protection Act of 2009. The bill would:

• Clarify current law and require VA to verify that firms are veteran-owned small businesses or service disabled veteran-owned small businesses in order to be listed in the vendor information pages database maintained by the VA secretary.

• Improve outreach efforts at the VA.

• Establish a scholarship program for students learning to care for veterans with visual impairments.

• Permit a parent whose child gave their life in service to our country to be buried in a national cemetery with that child when their veteran child has no living spouse or children.

• Reauthorize the Veterans Advisory Committee on Education until the end of 2015.

• Expand the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act protections to service members seeking to cancel certain service contracts due to a change in duty station where such service is not provided.

• Amend the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to improve the equitable relief available for service members called to active duty.

H.R. 1168, as amended - the Veterans Retraining Act of 2009 - authorizes $100 million per year to provide a living stipend and moving assistance to veterans who have been unemployed for at least 4 months, who are not eligible for training or education under the VA, and are enrolled in a U.S. Department of Labor retraining program.

The bills will next be considered by the House of Representatives.

• Many employers should be aware of expanded military family leave provisions contained in a new law signed recently by President Obama. Among other things, the law (National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 - H.R. 2647). The law extends covered service member leave to veterans of the U.S. armed forces (provided that they were members of the U.S. armed forces within the past five years ). Prior to the law, only families with active service members were covered.

The law also extends leave to the family of all members of the U.S. armed forces and/or a reserve component of the U.S. armed forces who are on “covered active duty.” Prior to the law, such leave only applied with respect to members of the National Guard or Reserves.

“Employers need to update their policies immediately to comply with the new provisions,” said Tal Marnin, counsel with the executive compensation, benefits and employment law practice group of White & Case. “Employers also may need to update their FMLA posters as soon as the U.S. Department of Labor issues a new poster or other guidance.”

• An all-new American Legion National Headquarters Web site came to life the week of Veterans Day. Easier to search than ever before, the site provides dozens of new features, including a frequently updated daily news menu on the landing page and unique hubs dedicated to specific Legion programs and interests.

The site will keep its familiar domain name at on the Web.

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

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