- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

My husband recently passed away. He was in the U.S. Air Force and was in Vietnam in 1966 and 1967 for over a year and half. He started out with diabetes, then went to heart problems and died from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). He served in Vietnam when Agent Orange was sprayed.

Can you help me with this, because my husband worked so hard through the years and his retirement was taken away from him. Something just doesn’t seem right to me about his death. They say they don’t know the cause of IPF, but I truly believe that it was from Agent Orange. Who should I contact about this? Thank you for your help.

Carol B,
Via the Internet

Dear Carol:

I referred your inquiry to the Department Of Veterans Affairs, and I understand that a management analyst has spoken with you and provided information on death pension; Dependency, Indemnity Compensation (DIC); and burial benefits, as well as the contact information for your local VA. I suggest that you complete those forms for benefits as soon as possible.

Shaft notes

• More than 500 family caregivers who applied for new services offered for post-9/11 veterans started their care-giving training June 9 and 10.

“There is no more valuable tool we can provide family caregivers than the knowledge and training needed to perform this highly demanding labor of love,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “This training we provided in partnership with Easter Seals will meet this need and support veterans and their family caregivers with services and benefits they have earned.”

The core training, which was developed in collaboration with Easter Seals, is offered in traditional classroom settings, online or through home study with a DVD and workbook. The modules focus on the health and well-being of both the veteran and the family caregiver. The training includes information on caregiver self-care, home safety, practical care-giving skills, providing personal care services to the veteran, managing challenging behaviors and locating additional resources.

Veterans may review the criteria for eligibility and download the Family Caregiver program application (VA CG 10-10) at www.caregiver.va.gov. Support for all caregivers is also available via the National Caregiver Support Line at 855/260-3274.

• Any American can help soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines stay connected this summer by sending All-Services Exchange long-distance calling and gift cards to those who will mark the season far from home.

With deployed service members in Iraq for Operation New Dawn, Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom, and numerous other contingency locations, the distance from home to duty has grown. But as military service locations change, Exchange calling cards help troops stay in touch, while Exchange gift cards let troops get what they want and need, such as snacks and electronics.

“There’s nothing like talking to loved ones to help bridge the deployment distance,” said the Exchange’s Senior Enlisted Advisor, Chief Master Sgt. Jeffry Helm. “Calling cards not only connect deployed folks in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we also have ship-to-shore cards for Navy and Coast Guard members out at sea.”

Both calling and gift cards are available through the Exchange 24-hours a day. Individual cards range from $10 to $500. Individuals and organizations can buy up to 100 cards per purchase.

Gift cards can be used by any military member, stateside or overseas, at any of the Exchange facilities worldwide or online. Receiving cards boosts morale especially for those deployed.

“Exchange gift cards are a great way to ensure troops are able to get what they want,” said Chief Master Sgt. Helm, noting that there are 80 store facilities and more than 160 food vendors from Afghanistan to the United Arab Emirates in contingency locations.

For nearly 116 years, the Exchange has gone where the troops go, and these cards go as well. Americans who don’t personally know a deployed soldier but want to help can purchase cards at the Exchange online site, www.shopmyexchange.com. Midway down the page is the heading “Shop Online” and tabs to the right; click on “Support Your Troops,” and under “Don’t Know a Person to Send a Gift To?” The site shows six military charities, ranging from the American Red Cross to the USO.

No matter where shoppers celebrate summer fun, it’s easy to help our defenders of freedom — our troops — with global calling cards and gift cards.

Any American can send gift or calling cards by logging on to https://shop.aafes.com/gcs/default.aspx or by phoning the Exchange at 800/527-2345.

The Army & Air Force Exchange Service is a joint command and is directed by a Board of Directors, which is responsible to the Secretaries of the Army and the Air Force through the Service Chiefs of Staff. The Exchange has the dual mission of providing authorized patrons with articles of merchandise and services and generating non-appropriated fund earnings as a supplemental source of funding for military Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) programs. To find out more about the Exchange history and mission or to view recent press releases, please visit https://www.shopmyexchange.com.

• Rep. Gus Bilirakis, Florida Republican and vice chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, has introduced legislation that would track the effectiveness of Veterans Affairs education programs.

“Billions of taxpayer dollars are being used for education programs for our nation’s veterans,” Mr. Bilirakis said. “While I believe these programs provide valuable and necessary resources, we must be able to track the progress and success of the post 9/11 GI Bill to ensure that we are spending money in the most effective and efficient manner while affording our military heroes an education.”

H.R. 2274 would require an annual report from the VA that includes the number of credit hours completed, the number of degrees earned, and the employment status and average income of veterans who use the GI Bill. The Secretary of Defense would be required report on the GI Bill’s impact on recruiting and maintaining a well-qualified military.

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 [email protected].

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