- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

Thank you so much for all you did to help me. I only recently learned the extent to which news spread. Although I think I still only know about a small portion of the action. It’s really amazing to find someone who can make logical things happen in an illogical world.

I had a wonderful time on my trip. I challenged myself emotionally and physically and was able to sleep and act without focusing on everyone else’s welfare — real respite. I’m hoping to use our respite hours again in late January to take out little ones to Disney. I’ve never been, and we’re meeting some cousins there, although my children know none of this.

I went to a caregiver luncheon in Hampton last month and learned that at least one caregiver was unable to attend because her respite hours were declined, so I fear the problem still exists. If I struggle again, may I contact you again, or is there a more appropriate first step for me to take?

The help you provided last fall was amazing — and so much more than many other people could accomplish. If there is anything I can ever do to assist in your mission, I would be glad to participate.

Thanks again and Happy New Year!

Christina M.
Via the Internet

Dear Christina:

Thanks should go the powers that be at the Department of Veterans and Capitol Hill. When they learned of your inability to take time off from caring for your wounded warrior husband, they made sure that the rest you needed was made possible. I am sure that Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck will be happy to have you and your family visit.

Shaft notes

• Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, recently recommended some of his distinguished colleagues in the House to serve as subcommittee chairs for the 113th Congress:

“The selections I am recommending for the Committee’s Subcommittee Chairmanships represent a diverse group who has served, who are doctors, and who has advocated for veterans throughout their careers. I am confident these Members will work with the Committee to improve the lives of America’s veterans, their families, and survivors, as well as to continue the Committee’s work in the previous Congress to provide oversight of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“I am also delighted to announce my colleague and friend, Rep. Gus Bilirakis, will continue to serve as Vice Chairman of the Committee. His dedication has been unparalleled, and I look forward to his continued leadership.”

* Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs: Rep. Jon Runyan (New Jersey).
* Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity: Rep. Bill Flores (Texas).
* Subcommittee on Health: Rep. Dan Benishek, M.D. (Michigan),
* Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations: Rep. Mike Coffman (Colorado),

The Sarge is looking forward to working closely with these members to ensure that the benefits earned by our nation’s veterans are not only protected, but enhanced.

The Sarge joins the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. in its support of the recent Senate passage of H.R. 4057, the Improving Transparency in Education for Veterans Act, a bill designed to improve consumer protections for student-veterans who use their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. The bill must now go back to the House for final approval before heading to the White House for the president’s signature.

“The VFW has worked diligently over the past year to build consensus among other veterans’ groups and education advocates to ensure we provide student-veterans with quality consumer information and consumer protections when they seek to use their earned GI Bill benefits,” said VFW National Commander John Hamilton, a combat-wounded Vietnam veteran.

“We’re proud the Senate took this issue seriously by passing the Improving Transparency in Education for Veterans Act, and we thank Senate VA Committee Chairman Patty Murray and Ranking Member Richard Burr for their leadership, as well as their colleagues in the House, Chairman Jeff Miller and Ranking Member Bob Filner, for making sure this could get done before the end of the year.”

H.R. 4057 was amended in the House to include several other VFW-supported provisions to improve veterans’ benefits, such as the HIRE at HOME Act (H.R. 4115), which would ensure states considered military training for professional licenses in certain technical fields, and the open air burn pit registry. The additional bills, however, were stripped from the Senate version because they had been included in other legislation already passed.

This procedural issue means that the clean version of H.R. 4057 must be again approved by the House before it can be signed into law. The VFW says it anticipates that the House will take it up before the end of the week.

H.R. 4057 was inspired by VFW action earlier this year, when VFW authored a letter, signed by a broad coalition of education experts and veterans’ advocates and organizations — to include Student Veterans of America — to call for improved consumer information and consumer protections for veterans.

Over the summer, Mr. Bilirakis, who introduced the bill, spoke on the House floor to champion the merits of H.R. 4057, which passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support. This fall, VFW advocates stormed Capitol Hill, asking Congress to “Finish Strong For Veterans” by passing the education package. After a slew of meetings and hard-pressed advocacy, the VFW was able to muster overwhelming support on both sides of the aisle to ensure H.R. 4057 could pass in the Senate.

For more details, visit the VFW’s Capitol Hill blog — www.thevfw.blogspot.com.

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