- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dear Sgt. Shaft, I read your column in The Washington Times every Thursday and as a former Marine (1969-1973), I appreciate what you do for service members and veterans. My oldest son, a USA Ranger, was killed in action March 4, 2002, during Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan. Matt was single with no dependents. My ex-wife received the death benefits, which she well-deserved. However, he left behind two half-brothers. The older of the two is now 17 and entering his senior year of high school. Ive tried to locate any scholarship programs that he might be eligible for but to no avail.

Are you aware of any programs that provide college financial assistance to siblings of service members who have paid the ultimate sacrifice?

I look forward to hearing from you. Keep up the good work!

Sincerely,

Gregory C

Alexandria, Va.

Dear Gregory,

There are no programs that I am aware of that entitle siblings of a deceased service member to federally funded educational benefits. It’s an unusual situation that a sibling would fund educational benefits for another sibling in normal circumstances, so the government can’t be expected to fund education for siblings of service members either. There are obviously benefits for spouses and children of fallen service members, because they are directly affected by the lost support of that fallen service member. I hope this helps.

Shaft Notes

• The Sarge applauds the Fleet Reserve Association (FRA) in their recognition of the difficulty that active duty and Reserve parents have in maintaining a balance between meeting their military responsibilities and caring for their families. Finding high-quality, affordable child care is important to all working parents, but an online survey sponsored by the FRA reveals the task is more complicated for military families, who face the additional challenges of unpredictable work schedules, extended hours, weekend duty and short-notice deployments.

A variety of child care options exist for military families, including programs to assist families with specialized child care needs and subsidies to help some defray child care costs, but problems still exist, according to survey respondents. Military child care programs receive high marks for quality of care and are an enormous benefit to military families, but FRAs survey reveals that access remains a major concern.

“The survey results reinforce comments by senior enlisted leaders who consistently express the need for additional child care facilities. Congress has provided funding to construct or expand over 90 military child development centers since 2008, but more needs to be done to improve accessibility and maintain a high quality of care,” explained FRA National Executive Director Joe Barnes in recent statements to the House and Senate Armed Services subcommittees on personnel. In addition to its congressional testimony, FRA shares data from its quarterly surveys with legislators and military leaders to help them understand the impact their decisions have on military personnel.

Visit www.fra.org/onwatch to learn more about the wide array of military child care programs and what FRA is doing to improve this important quality-of-life benefit. Readers are also invited to participate in FRAs latest survey on healthy lifestyle choices (available at www.fra.org/survey) and post comments at its Healthy Lifestyles discussion forum at www.fra.org/onwatch.

• Kudos to the American Legion for their support to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) G.I. Bill financial relief effort to issue emergency checks to veteran students awaiting benefits. The VA says it is preparing to issue checks of up to $3,000 to students awaiting overdue post 9/11 G.I. Bill benefits. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki made the announcement in the wake of reports from The American Legion and other veterans’ service organizations that some students are experiencing undue financial hardships as the result of delays in the reception of G.I. Bill benefit checks. Some students, it is reported, have been forced to borrow money or take on extracurricular work to pay tuition, fees and other educational expenses while they await their newly implemented benefits. The emergency checks should now be available to eligible students through VA regional offices, according to Mr. Shinseki’s office.

“It is heartening to see the Secretary and his department responding so swiftly and decisively to this unfortunate situation,” said National Commander Clarence E. Hill of the American Legion. “This is a brand new benefits program, instituted just weeks ago, so some startup glitches are to be expected,” he continued, “but the VA’s willingness to rectify the problem should be applauded. … Our veteran students should be free to concentrate on their studies rather than be worried by financial burdens. Sec. Shinseki has echoed my sentiment.

“The American Legion offers its extensive outreach services in implementing the emergency student relief program,” continued Mr. Hill. “We are ready to help students apply for and obtain the benefits they deserve.”

Post 9/11 G.I. Bill students can contact the American Legion directly for assistance with educational benefits questions and issues at 202/263-2995 or by sending an e-mail to the vice president of the National Association of Veterans’ Program Administrators at [email protected]

The American Legion has created a Web site, www.mygibill.org, to aid veterans in understanding and applying for their benefits under the new Post 9/11 GI Bill.

• Congratulations to Wendy Hoffman who was recently elected as president of the Blue Star Mothers of America Inc.

Also elected as 2009-10 national officers:

First VP - Jane Davis

Second VP - Ellie Ramsey

Third VP - Judy Dorsey

Recording Secretary - Kathryn Hood

Treasurer - Kathryn Venable

Financial Secretary - Pat Soler

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.

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