- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

My little brother died in service in 2009, and I was wondering if I could receive educational benefits for going to school. He was single and had no children. Still wondering if you have more information or knowledge of any benefits to help me pay for school. I appreciate your time,

Delvin M.
Via the Internet

Dear Delvin,

Unfortunately, the Department of Veterans Affairs does not provide education benefits to siblings of veterans. Requirements for survivors’ and dependents’ educational assistance are as follows, according to the VA:

1. The spouse or child of a service member or veteran who either died of a service-connected disability, or who has permanent and total service-connected disability, or who died while such a disability existed.

2. The spouse or child of a service member listed for more than 90 days as currently missing in action (MIA), captured in the line of duty by a hostile force, or detained or interned by a foreign government or power.

3. The spouse or child of a service member who is hospitalized or is receiving outpatient care or treatment for a disability that is determined to be totally and permanently disabling, incurred or aggravated due to active duty, and for which the service member is likely to be discharged from military service.

Shaft notes

• A high five to California Rep. Bob Filner, who will be receiving the Fleet Reserve Association (FRA) Pinnacle Award for his outstanding leadership in preserving and enhancing the quality of life for military personnel, retirees, veterans and their families.

Mr. Filner, who represents the 51st Congressional District of California, was selected to receive the association’s highest honor for his support of Navy and Coast Guard veterans who served off the coast of Vietnam and are suffering illnesses related to exposure to Agent Orange. He was also selected for his efforts to secure funding for the Post-9/11 GI Bill and, as ranking member and former chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, his advocacy on behalf of all military veterans.

The award will be presented in a Capitol Hill ceremony, hosted by FRA. The event will take place at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 26, in Room B-340, Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C.

• I was honored to be present when Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown attended the AMVETS Department of Maryland’s annual luncheon at Turf Valley Resort, where he was presented with the 2012 “PNC A. Leo Anderson Free State Award of Excellence.” This was the 26th anniversary of the presentation of the award, which recognizes recipients for their role in supporting Maryland veterans. Former recipients include Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein, and U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski.

“I am extremely honored to be recognized by AMVETS with this prestigious award,” Mr. Brown said. “Governor O’Malley and I remain committed to delivering for our veterans, and we couldn’t do it without the work of organizations like AMVETS. Together, we have worked successfully to honor the invaluable contributions of our brave Marylanders while providing vital opportunities, resources and services to enhance the quality of life for all veterans.”

This session, Mr. Brown advocated on behalf of legislation that allows notation of “veteran” status on drivers’ licenses and identification cards. Earlier this month, the bill passed unanimously in both the Maryland Senate and House of Delegates.

Mr. Brown, a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves and the nation’s highest-ranking elected official to have served a tour of duty in Iraq, leads the O’Malley-Brown administration’s efforts to provide veterans with better services and resources. Since taking office in 2007, Mr. Brown has championed successful efforts to pass the Veterans Behavioral Health Act, protect veterans’ business loans programs and fully fund the Iraq and Afghanistan Scholarship Program.

Last year, he launched the Mil2FedsJobs Web portal, located on the Maryland Workforce Exchange (MWEjobs.maryland.gov), the first of its kind in any state to directly match transitioning service members with careers in the federal government.

• I am looking forward to joining VA Medical Center Director Brian Hawkins and his staff at the upcoming grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Community Resource & Referral Center (CRRC), located on 1500 Franklin St. NE in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, May 9. The ceremony is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. and will be followed by a brief reception and tours of the facility.

The new CRRC is the first of its kind in the metropolitan D.C. area. It will serve as a community hub to avert and combat homelessness among veterans. The CRRC will play a crucial role in helping the VA reach its goal of ending homelessness among veterans by the year 2015. It’s primary mission is to link veterans and families to resources aimed at exiting homelessness and promoting community reintegration.

The VA is supported by many federal agencies and community organizations in its effort to provide services to homeless veterans. The CRRC will centrally locate staff members from HUD-VASH, Healthcare for Homeless Veterans, Veterans Benefits Administration, as well as vocational rehabilitation specialists and case managers. It will be open seven days a week, 24 hours a day, to provide veterans with access to primary care, mental health, case management, housing and employment assistance, and benefit information.

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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