- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

If a soldier that served in the Army Reserve received a medical disqualification with less than 15 years in service due to a service connection for something that happened in Iraq, does he or she qualify for combat-related special compensation (CRSC) or just whatever they get from VA as service connection and lose 15 years of service. Thanks for all your help. Alvarado J.

Dear Alvarado,

Those in the know tell me that the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2008, Public Law 110-181, Section 641, expanded eligibility for CRSC to military retirees who retired for disability through the military disability evaluation system (10 U.S.C. Chapter 61) with less than 20 years of service for longevity purposes. The discharge form (DD 214) will show “retired due to disability” and the veteran will have less than 20 years of service. Veterans who retire due to disability with less than 20 years of service are referred to as “641” veterans.

Shaft Notes

Kudos to Rep. Bob Filner, California Democrat, who recently co-authored H.R. 4403, the Securing Patriots Access to Convenient and Economic Air Travel Act (SPACE-A Travel Act).

Currently, military retirees and their dependents can travel on flights when military space is available. However, once the military retiree dies, the surviving spouse and dependents lose access to ride on such flights. Additionally, surviving spouses of those service members who are not military retirees, but have died due to a service-connected injury or illness, have no such access.

The SPACE-A Travel Act would extend access to travel on military aircraft to un-remarried surviving spouses of retired members of the armed forces and surviving spouses of veterans who died from a service-connected injury or illness. The bill would also extend the benefit to the dependents of these surviving spouses.

Benefits survey

In an effort to bring the voice of the enlisted personnel to Capitol Hill, the Fleet Reserve Association (FRA) is conducting an online survey to determine which military benefits are most important to active duty and reserve personnel. The brief survey, available at www.fra.org/survey, asks enlisted members of the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard to rate a variety of benefits and quality-of-life programs theyve earned through service to the nation.

FRA shares the survey results with decision-makers in the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security and with elected officials on Capitol Hill — ensuring these key decision-makers understand the enlisted perspective.

“We invite all current and former members of the Sea Services to share their opinions about programs that directly affect their lives,” said Joe Barnes, FRAs national executive director. “We reference survey results and respondents comments in our congressional testimony and other interactions with lawmakers and their staff. This adds strength to our legislative advocacy on service members behalf.”

Visa screening

Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis, Florida Republican and ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee’s subcommittee on management, investigations and oversight sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano last month urging prompt action “to enhance our nation’s visa screening capabilities overseas to keep terrorists out of the United States.”

In the letter, Mr. Bilirakis highlighted the need to expand the Visa Security Program, which places highly trained security officers at overseas posts to thoroughly investigate and scrutinize visa applicants. Currently only 14 of the 220 Department of State posts around the world have Visa Security Units, while 40 have been identified as “high priority,” he said.

“I am greatly troubled that expansion of this vital terrorist screening program does not appear to be a priority of the administration, especially since Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab reportedly received a visa in London, which does not have a Visa Security Unit,” the letter said. Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian, was arrested on Christmas Day for allegedly trying to explode a bomb on a flight about to land in Detroit.

“The Visa Security Program is the nation’s first line of defense against those who want to gain visas to do us harm, and we should be aggressively examining visa applications to identify potential terrorists before they obtain a visa to the United States,” Mr. Bilirakis said.

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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