- The Washington Times - Monday, July 26, 2010

Dear Sgt. Shaft,

I wanted to let you know that my friend was scheduled for surgery on his knee (RELATED: SGT. SHAFT: Delay in surgery putting troop’s life on hold). He was still in the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Meade, Md., but at least he’ll have his leg fixed up. That will get him closer to a normal life.

I don’t know if what you did pushed this to a scheduled surgery, but the decision to schedule him came soon after I contacted you. I want to thank you. I know the military is busy these days, but they don’t seem to care about the guys they use. I’m glad someone does. — Thanks again, Steve G. via the internet

Dear Steve,

Thank you for your “thank you” missive. As a member of Congress, Secretary of the Army John McHugh chaired an armed services subcommittee concerned with the welfare of our men and women in uniform. As you can see by your buddy’s scheduled surgery, Mr. McHugh continues to provide appropriate care for our warriors.

Shaft notes

The Sarge joins John Hall, Chairman of the House Veteran’s Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, in applauding the recent news that the VA will adopt a rule granting presumption of service connection to any veteran who served in a combat zone and has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):

Currently, veterans who apply for disability benefits to compensate for PTSD must demonstrate to the VA their illness is service related, essentially denying benefits to thousands of veterans unable to document their claims decades after their discharge from service. The new rule will make it easier for all veterans suffering from PTSD to receive VA health care and disability compensation. Also, disability benefits will be made available with the rule change to more veterans, including some who may have been denied benefits in the past.  

“Less than half of the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans diagnosed with PTSD are receiving benefits from the VA.  It is our duty to make sure the men and women who risk their lives and sacrifice so much for our values and freedoms, are taken care of when they return home,” said Rep. Hall.  “This rule will have a dramatic impact on Vietnam veterans as well.  It can be especially difficult to find evidence of a traumatic incident 40 years after the fact.  Many Vietnam veterans who were denied PTSD benefits in the past may now be eligible.”

Congressman Hall has taken the lead on this issue, introducing the COMBAT PTSD Act (H.R. 952), which focused exclusively on creating a presumption of service connected disability for veterans diagnosed with PTSD. Hall discussed the issue with President Obama during a meeting at the White House in early 2009, which led to a meeting with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.  By August of 2009, the VA announced that it was drafting the rule.

“PTSD cases are routinely the most complicated cases for the VA to confirm, requiring drawn out investigations by the VA. This new rule cuts down on lengthy investigations and allows VA employees to focus their efforts on new cases and serve more of our veterans,” said Rep. Hall.

The new rule will make it easier for all veterans suffering from PTSD to receive VA health care and disability compensation.  This new rule makes disability benefits available to more veterans, including some who may have been denied benefits in the past.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Legislative Associate Tom Tarantino said, “IAVA strongly supports this rule change and thanks Congressman Hall for his leadership on this issue. This change will benefit veterans of all generations, including those serving in our current conflicts.”

“Finally, I can get the help I need with my PTSD,” said Iraq War Veteran Robert Kingsley of Goshen, NY.  “This problem has deeply impacted my life, and I struggle with it every day. Thank you Congressman Hall for recognizing that the VA needs to treat PTSD as a severe disability.”

•  •  •

On the 66th anniversary of signing the GI Bill into law, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that it has issued more than $3.6 billion in the bill’s newest manifestation, the Post-9/11 GI Bill:

Benefit payments under the new bill, implemented last year, have gone to more than 285,000 people and their educational institutions.

On June 22, 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, commonly known as the GI Bill of Rights.

The Veterans Administration — as it was known at that time — was responsible for carrying out the law’s key provisions for education and training, unemployment pay and loan guaranty for homes, farms or businesses.

• 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.

• Sgt. Shaft can be reached at .

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