- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I want to thank you for your well-written article on aid and attendance. Thank you for concise thoughts.

I hope you can assist me in gaining benefit information for my mother. She was in the Women’s Auxiliary Voluntarily Emergency Services (WAVES) during World War II. She was stationed at the National Naval

Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. Any information you might know would be greatly appreciated. I’ve spent hours looking through the VA Web site with no results.

Thank you,
Heidi B
Via the Internet

Dear Heide:

Those in the know at the VA tell me that the Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Services (WAVES) was started in July 1942 by the enactment of PL 689, H.R. 6807, establishing the Women’s Reserve and the commissioning of the first female Naval Officer, Mildred H. Fover as a lieutenant commander and director of the WAVES.

Within one year, there were more than 27,000 WAVES in service, both enlisted and commissioned. In 1948, PL 625, the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, formalized the permanence of female members of all armed services. WAVES members are considered a part of the active naval service. They are, like all veterans, eligible to apply for VA benefits.

Shaft notes

The Sarge joins Thomas J. Tradewell Sr., commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S., in his admonishment of the Department of Defense in which he said that any attempt to link rising military personnel costs with shrinking military readiness is total nonsense.

“If the Defense Department needs a larger budget for personnel programs, then let the VFW carry that message to Congress. Just don’t pin the budget blame on service members and military retirees.”

Tradewell’s ire is targeted at the new DOD undersecretary of personnel and readiness, Clifford L. Stanley, who in recent testimony before the personnel subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said: “Rising personnel costs could dramatically affect the readiness of the department.”

His predecessor, Dr. David Chu, took the same position in a January 2005 Wall Street Journal article, by saying, “The amounts have gotten to the point where they are hurtful. They are taking away from the nation’s ability to defend itself.”

Tradewell, a combat-wounded Vietnam veteran from Sussex, Wisc., said: “What’s hurtful is a continuing perception that DOD is more concerned about the budget than they are about recruiting and retaining a professional volunteer force that’s been at war now for more than eight years.”

According to the testimony, last year was the military’s most successful recruiting year since the establishment of the all-volunteer force in 1973. Stanley, a retired Marine Corps major general, said in order to continue that recruiting trend, the department must provide a compensation package comparable and competitive to the private sector.

“At the same time,” he said, “we must balance the demands of the all-volunteer force in the context of growing equipment and operations costs.”

The VFW national commander said any attempt to compare the wages and benefits of those who are fighting a two-front war and those who are not is pointless. “The military contract requires extended time away from family under extremely hazardous conditions, with being hurt or killed on the job a very real possibility. No civilian contract requires the same conditions for employment,” he said.

“War is expensive and so is the cost of fielding an all-volunteer military, as well as retaining the best so that they can lead the force while training their successors. Our troops only ask for our respect and for better pay, better benefits, and better support programs for themselves and their families,” Tradewell said.

“It is a sacred responsibility that this nation provides her defenders something more tangible than just the privilege of fighting and dying for their country.”

The federal departments of Veterans Affairs, Labor and Defense has unveiled an improved Web site for wounded warriors.

VA is committed to tapping into the full powers of the Internet to provide accurate, timely, easy-to-find and easy-to-understand information that improves the lives of veterans, service members, their families and all who care for them, said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.

The National Resource Directory is a comprehensive, free, online tool for wounded and ill service members, veterans and their families. Visitors to the site can find an extensive range of information about veterans benefits, including disability and pension benefits, VA health care and educational opportunities. Visit the site at www.nationalresourcedirectory.gov.

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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