- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

My father worked for the British army for 5 years from 1941 and served in Egypt, Rangoon and Malaysia.

My mother is 85 years old and lives with me. Since I am nearing retiring age, I will find it difficult to sustain her medical bills in the near future.

Therefore, can you let me know whether she is eligible for a pension and how can I get about appealing for same.

Thank you,
Via the Internet

Dear Evelyn:

I suggest you contact the British Embassy for advice, or visit this U.K. website: https://www.dwp.gov.uk/international/ that contains advice about pensions and health care for British nationals living abroad.

Shaft notes

• Kudos to Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, for the introduction of complementary legislation to the Veteran Opportunity to Work (VOW) Act of 2011 (H.R. 2433) to help curb rising veteran unemployment. The Tax Credit to Hire Veterans Act of 2011 (H.R. 2443) would provide a tax credit to be applied toward capital equipment purchases to small businesses that hire unemployed veterans.

“When I became chairman, I pledged to take a comprehensive approach to reducing veterans’ unemployment. I firmly believe that approach must include incentives for small businesses to invest in hiring veterans,” Mr. Miller said. “This unique approach not only employs veterans, but also incentivizes small businesses to purchase capital equipment creating even more jobs for all Americans. I am confident that with the partner legislation I have introduced today, we can bring veteran unemployment below 5 percent in the next two years.”

The tax credit provides small businesses, including veteran-owned businesses, the option to grow their companies, while also hiring a jobless veteran. Several protections within the legislation ensure that veterans will be hired for the right reasons and prevent abuse.

“We all agree that the tax code must be simplified. Thousands of regulations hinder small businesses, the engine of our economy, from prospering,” Mr. Miller said. “Coupled with broader efforts to keep taxes and regulations on small businesses to a minimum, this credit will incentivize job creators and provide our veterans with meaningful employment.” A legislative hearing on the VOW Act will be held at 10 a.m. July 15, 2011, at Room 334 in the Cannon House Office Building.

• The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has embarked on a major initiative to reach out to women veterans in order to solicit their input on ways to enhance the health care services VA provides to women veterans.

“We are taking a proactive approach to enhancing VA health care for women veterans,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “We are seeking the input of women veterans so that VA can continue to provide high quality health care to the growing numbers of women veterans.”

Representatives at VA’s Health Resource Center (HRC) are placing calls to women veterans nationwide, asking them to share their experiences with VA and suggest potential enhancements that will further VA’s mission to provide the best care anywhere.

Women veterans are one of the fastest-growing segments of the veteran population. Of the 22.7 million living veterans, more than 1.8 million are women. They comprise nearly 8 percent of the total veteran population and 6 percent of all veterans who use VA health care services.

VA estimates by 2020 that women veterans will constitute 10 percent of the veteran population and 9.5 percent of VA patients. The HRC, which started placing calls on June 1, is contacting women veterans who have enrolled, but have not begun using VA services.

“Through this contact center, we are placing friendly, conversational calls to women veterans,” said Patricia Hayes, chief consultant of the VA’s Women Veterans Health Strategic Health Care Group. “We want these veterans and their caregivers to talk candidly about why they are not using VA, whether they are aware of the gender-specific services we offer, and what additional services they would like to see VA offer.”

The HRC representatives making the calls are also informing women veterans about the services VA offers and quickly connecting them with appropriate departments if they are interested in trying VA health care. Veterans who have complaints about VA are connected to a patient advocate who helps resolve issues.

VA has trained professionals in all aspects of women’s health, including general primary care, osteoporosis management, heart disease, mental health care, menopausal services and obesity-related issues, such as diabetes. Preventive screenings for breast and cervical cancer are also areas in which VA excels. Soon, all VA facilities will offer comprehensive primary care for women from a single provider.

The Women Veterans Health Care program has made significant changes in the last few years to enhance the health care offered to eligible women veterans. This progress includes:

* Adopting key policies to improve access and enhance services for women veterans;
* Implementing comprehensive primary care for women veterans;
* Conducting cutting-edge research on the effects of military service on women’s lives;
* Improving communication and outreach to women veterans; and
* Providing mental health, homelessness and other services designed to meet the unique needs of women veterans.

Additional information about VA programs and services for women veterans is available at: www.va.gov/womenvet and www.publichealth.va.gov/womenshealth.

• Congressman John Carter, Texas Republican, has applauded the Army’s decision to send the trial of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan to court martial status, opening the door to the death penalty as punishment for a conviction in the Fort Hood shootings that left 13 adults and one unborn child dead, and 43 wounded.

“This was the proper decision in this case from both a legal and moral standpoint, and I applaud Lt. Gen. Donald Campbell for his leadership in making the call,” says Mr. Carter, who represents the Fort Hood area in the House of Representatives. “Those who lost their lives, those who were wounded, and their families deserve full justice in this case, and that demands that the person convicted for this shooting is eligible for the ultimate penalty under law.”

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 email sgtshaft@bavf.org.

• Sgt. Shaft can be reached at .

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