- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Dear Sgt Shaft,

My father is a 93-year-old World War II veteran. He entered Harmony Hall in Columbia, Md., an assisted-living facility, in September 2008. He was eligible for Department of Veterans Affairs Non-Service Connected Monthly Pension benefits to help pay the cost of his assisted living expenses. He is on a fixed income, which includes Social Security ($1,339 monthly), a monthly pension of $73.53 and the VA pension. He was receiving a monthly VA pension of $1,644.

In August, we received notification from the VA that his benefits were being reduced to $484 a month and that we owed the VA a back debt of $20,660. We found out that the VA pension had been reduced due to a problem with a Medical Expense Report from January 2010.

We immediately resubmitted a revised Medical Expense Report (Aug. 25, 2010) indicating that my father still resides in an assisted-living facility and that he is dependent on the VA pension to stay at this facility. Harmony Hall also submitted a letter to the VA detailing my father’s monthly expenses and the need for the VA pension to help defray costs. We also sent a letter to the VA requesting a waiver and forgiveness of the VA debt of $20,660.

We are working with Congressman Elijah E. Cummings’ congressional office and the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs to try to find out what is happening with our appeal. Unfortunately, they have been unable to find out the status of our appeal.

This is a time-sensitive matter. We have enough money to last until the end of this December. Without the immediate restoration of the VA benefits, my father will be destitute and he will have to leave his assisted-living home.

I’m looking forward to hearing back from you.

Rita B.,
Via the Internet

Dear Rita,

By now, you should have been notified by the VA that they had been attempting to fix your dad’s award for the past few weeks, and it looks like it should be settled. The Debt Management Center is calculating the retroactive amount and liquidating the debt.

Shaft notes

Holiday gifts and decorations are not just candy canes and ornaments, they can be houses, too. On Dec. 18th, from 7:30 to 9 p.m., Rolling Thunder NY2 and the Stephen Siller Children’s Foundation hosted a Christmas Concert in one of New York’s most historical and spiritual locations, the Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral, located at 262 Mulberry St. in Little Italy. The concert featured musical artists from C*A*M*M*O, a nonprofit veteran organization, to spread Christmas cheer and raise funds to build a home for a soldier.

This purpose of the event was to raise awareness and support for the construction of an accessible new home for this hero. Spc. Brendan Marrocco suffered severe injuries from a roadside bomb in 2009 while serving in Iraq, leaving him the first soldier to survive after losing all four limbs. Work has begun on building the home and it is their goal that it be ready by Easter of 2011 (the anniversary of his injury), when he returns home after going through hospitalization and rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, in Washington, D.C. All proceeds went toward the construction of this home, where dozens of professionals and contractors are ready to donate their time to make this dream come true for him.

The music was provided by a veteran military organization, C*A*M*M*O, Center for American Military Music Opportunities, that was created by veterans for veterans to help them heal and connect with the world through their music. Based in Virginia, this group helps veterans and active members see their music as therapy and future careers.

“To be able to host this event at the cathedral was such an honor, especially since it was recently named a basilica by the Pope Benedict XVI,” says John Ponte, event coordinator for the event. “The entire night was inspirational.”

Rolling Thunder NY2 is a Staten Island-based organization that works to raise awareness and assist in the needs our military. They are currently hosting a toy drive to help with gifts to the children of our military. Details are available on their website, www.rollingthunder2ny.com.

• The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently announced that it will begin using Medicare’s standard payment rates for certain medical procedures performed by non-VA providers on Feb. 16, 2011.

“This regulation will have no impact on the Veterans we care for,” said VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. Robert A. Petzel. “VA will now have the ability to better plan budgets and place more money into access to health care for the veterans that VA is honored to serve.”

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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