- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

Knowing not who to contact, I thought you might be able to lead me in the right direction. I served onboard the Prichett during 1967 and 1968, and the ship was recently (in January 2012) added to the list of ships in the “brown water” but for the year 1969. This now entitles the sailors on her in 1969 to qualify for Agent Orange-caused diseases. How do I go about getting the information to the proper place as to being in the Tonkin Gulf, Mekong River Delta and Da Nang Harbor in 1968? Any help will be greatly appreciated.

Joe R,
Duluth, Minn.

Dear Joe:

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is collecting information and will add ships to the list based upon evidence. Evidence of this ship’s Mekong delta operations will get the ship on the list. You can send evidence by email directly to the VA mailbox, which was created to receive documented objective evidence (deck logs, ship history, cruise book, etc.) that a Navy ship operated on the rivers or other inland waterways of Vietnam, docked to shore, or otherwise sent crew members ashore in Vietnam between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975.

The VA does not have access to these documents. You must obtain them yourself from the National Archives and Records Administration in College Park, Md., or from other sources, and send them to this mailbox. If the documented evidence you send meets the above requirements, the ship will be added to the Agent Orange exposure list. Do not send documents showing that a ship anchored offshore in a harbor such as Da Nang. Harbors are not inland waterways and will not be the basis for the presumption of Agent Orange exposure or the basis for adding a ship to the Agent Orange exposure list.

If you want to file a disability claim, go to the VA Internet website for instructions or contact your local VA Regional Office. If you are a Navy veteran and file a disability claim based on Agent Orange exposure, VA will conduct research on your ship. The current ships list is published on the VA Public Health Internet website.

Shaft notes

Congratulations, the National Association of Manufacturers and an international software developer who along with a major university have been honored by the VA for their contributions to a new digital badge program that will make it easier for veterans to document the skills they learned in uniform for civilian employers and institutions of higher education.

“We strive to support the men and women who served in uniform as they make their transitions to good jobs and advanced education,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki, “Our Badges for Vets program will offer veterans a handy tool to demonstrate their experience to employers and educators.”

“Badges recognize the skills that members of our military are learning in the field – making veterans the real winners of this competition,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “These grantees will help to put veterans on a fast track toward earning a degree or certificate and will let employers know they have workforce-ready skills.”

Last November, VA announced a nationwide competition to create digital “badges” to help veterans translate their military skills into civilian jobs or to receive advance credit in higher education.

Finalists in the contest are:

• The Manufacturing Institute, an affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers, which will incorporate badges in its online jobs-and-talent-matching platform.

• TopCoder Inc., an international information technology consulting company, which will issue badges representing military training and experience and use them to qualify a veteran for a particular assignment.

• Western Governors University, a national, nonprofit university sponsored by 19 governors, which will award academic transfer credit to veterans who have earned digital badges representing corresponding military training. The university’s initial focus will be in its IT and health-care degree programs.

The finalists will now compete in the second phase of the contest to see which organization best implements its badges program by the end of May. VA will announce the final winner of the contest shortly after Memorial Day.

A digital “badge” recognizes skills obtained through learning outside traditional classrooms, such as work-related training and experience. Digital badge credentials are issued by organizations such as schools, universities, employers or trade associations. Badges can be displayed and validated electronically on the Web or presented on a resume.

Like any credential or academic credit, a digital badge can lead to a job or advanced academic standing.

VA was joined by the departments of Education, Energy, and Labor to sponsor the contest. The Badges for Vets contest is part of the Badges for Lifelong Learning Competition, which aims to build digital badge systems and explore the ways badges can be used to help people learn, demonstrate skills and knowledge, and unlock job, educational and civic opportunities.

The competition is held in collaboration with Mozilla, supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and administered by the Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Advanced Collaboratory.

“The U.S. military offers some of the highest quality training available,” said Jonah Czerwinski, director of VA’s Innovations Initiative (VAi2), which administered the contest. “Badges for Vets will deliver a return on our national investment in military training and experience.”

VA solicited the most promising ideas from VA employees, the private sector, nonprofit organizations and academia to increase veterans’ access to VA services, improve the quality of those services, enhance the performance of VA operations and deliver services more efficiently.

Information about the Badges for Lifelong Learning Competition: Click https://www.dmlcompetition.net/ or https://challenge.gov/VAi2/262-badges-for-vets.

Information about the VA Innovations Initiative: www.va.gov/vai2/.

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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