- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

God bless you for your dedication to your country. I have a question regarding Agent Orange benefits. My husband of 40 years has been informed that his benefit for Agent Orange has been approved. Unfortunately, my husband has left me at this time and he applied for this benefit a year ago and will not go and get help as I feel this has affected his mental status along with the COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) that he now has.

My question is: Am I entitled to some of his payment that he will receive from the Agent Orange payout? At this time my husband of 40 years wants a divorce and has left me with debt up to my eyeballs. Thank you for your time, I have nowhere else to turn and someone at my church gave me your email.

Vickie T.
Via the Internet

Dear Vickie:

There are currently no provisions for payment of any portion of a veteran’s service-connected disability compensation to or on behalf of a divorced spouse except in limited circumstances involving military retirees. 38 USC 5301(a) exempts VA disability compensation from taxation, claims of creditors, attachment, levy or seizure, by or under any legal or equitable process.

However, in the case of military retirees who waive retired pay in lieu of VA compensation, the amount of VA compensation that is received is subject to garnishment for court-ordered child support, or in some cases, alimony. Only the amount of compensation equal to the waived retired pay is subject to this garnishment. Such garnishments are handled jointly by the VA Regional Office and the appropriate VA Office of Regional Counsel. If there were any minor or dependent children of the veteran in the custody of a divorced spouse, an apportionment of VA disability compensation could be awarded to the custodial parent for support of the veterans child or children.

Individuals can file a claim for an apportionment by filling out VA Form 21-0788, which can be found at https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-0788-ARE.pdf and submit it to the Regional Office that has jurisdiction over the veteran’s claim.

Shaft Notes

• U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, Georgia Republican, and U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, Florida Republican, recently introduced identical resolutions in the Senate and House honoring the service and sacrifice of members of the U.S. Armed Forces who are deployed now or who have served in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan or Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn in Iraq.

Mr, Isakson serves on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and Mr. Miller serves as the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

“The men and women in our country who have answered the call of duty of the United States have made tremendous sacrifices in leaving their homes and their families to serve our nation. In some cases, they have paid the ultimate sacrifice,” Mr. Isakson said. “I hope all Americans will join me in honoring the brave members of our Armed Forces who deeply deserve our gratitude for ensuring the safety and security of our country and our cherished freedoms.”

More than 2 million members of the U.S. Armed Forces have deployed to theaters of war since the commencement of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn, and many have been deployed for multiple tours of duty. More than 5,500 troops have been killed while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, and tens of thousands have been seriously wounded in the line of duty.

“America’s Armed Forces personify patriotism, service, duty and courage. We, as a nation, should never take for granted that our freedom is not free. It is paid for through the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform and their families. Through this resolution, we call on all citizens of the United States to honor the 2 million service members who have fought for us in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to support their families here at home. We especially keep the families of the fallen in our hearts, and those who have been wounded in defense of our nation in our prayers,” Mr. Miller said.

The resolution honoring these troops has garnered bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress. Cosponsors of the Senate version, S.Con.Res.13, include Sen. Mark Begich, Alaska Democrat; John Boozman, Arkansas Republican; Scott Brown, Massachusetts Republican; Richard Burr, North Carolina Republican; Mike Johanns, Nebraska Republican; Jerry Moran, Kansas Republican; Patty Murray, Washington Democrat; Bernie Sanders, Vermont Independent; and Jim Webb, Virginia Democrat. Cosponsors of the House version include Reps. Bob Filner, California Democrat; Phil Roe Tennessee Republican; Gus Bilirakis, Florida Republican; Doug Lamborn, Colorado Republican; Mike Michaud, Maine Democrat; Bill Johnson, Ohio Republican; John Barrow, Georgia Democrat; Jeff Denham, California Republican; Jon Runyan, New Jersey Republican; and Tim Huelskamp, Kansas Republican.

• Kudos to Rep. John Carter, Texas Republican, for his introduction of legislation holding that the casualties of the radical Islamic terror attack on Fort Hood, Texas, on Nov. 5, 2009, should be granted the same combat status as the victims of the radical Islamic terror attack on the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

Mr. Carter, co-chairman of the House Army Caucus, has asked members of the House Armed Services Committee to again incorporate the Fort Hood Victims and Families Benefits Protection Act into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The committee added language from the Carter legislation to last year’s NDAA.

Mr. Carter told committee members that, “those injured or killed in terrorist acts, whether in combat zones or on U.S. soil, have sacrificed their lives or health for this country and the very least we can do for their eternal sacrifice is ensure that they or their family will be taken care of and protected.”

The former Texas judge, who represents the Fort Hood area, has authored multiple legislative efforts to support victims of the attack, improve security measures against similar incidents at U.S. military installations, and eliminate the gagging effect of political correctness on military whistleblowers who might help identify radicalized service members before they commit future attacks. The Carter bill would deem the Fort Hood attack to have occurred in a combat zone during a contingency operation, and at the hands of a terrorist and enemy of the United States.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5446 or e-mail [email protected].

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