- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

My wife recently suffered a heart attack during her sleep and died. One week later, I was informed that I had prostate cancer. In May 2011, I filed a claim with VA, and heard nothing, I filed another claim August 2011. Thanks to your intervention, I received a call from a VA rep in Oakland and notification of scheduled medical appointments on May 5, and 6. On May 22, I received a packet requesting any supporting documentation, which I then sent to them.

I was wondering why they could not make a decision on my prostate cancer claim and follow up with the rest. Regardless, thank you very much for getting my claim rolling. Thank you for any assistance you can provide me. I will send you a copy of my last submission.

William T.
Via the Internet

Dear William T.:

Claims for prostate cancer are rated based on the severity of the symptoms, as well as the required surgical intervention and treatment. Thanks for your service.

Shaft notes

• Kudos to the House Veterans Affairs Committee who recently favorably reported five pieces of legislation to the full House for consideration, including H.R. 4072, as amended (Consolidation Veterans Employment Services for Improved Performance Act of 2012).

“This bill, which includes legislation I introduced in February, is another important component in the mission to lower veterans’ unemployment to below 5 percent by placing all veterans’ employment programs under VA’s jurisdiction to improve coordination,” said Jeff Miller, Florida Republican and chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. “I am appreciative of the support the bill has received from both sides of the aisle, and look forward to working in a bipartisan manner to continue to advance legislation for America’s veterans.”

The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs have joined forces to request that the administration provide immediate VA health care to Camp Lejeune veterans and their families who were exposed to contaminated water over a 30-year period. After receiving correspondence from VA Secretary Eric Shinseki on the matter stating it was “premature” to provide health care to these veterans, House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee members — Mr. Miller; Ranking Member Rep. Bob Filner, California Democrat; Chairman Patty Murray, Washington Democrat; and Sen. Richard Burr, North Carolina Republican — sent a letter to President Obama last week to plead their case.

• Three Florida lawmakers are urging the Department of Veterans Affairs to move forward with a major construction project at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center that a VA cost analysis said would more than pay for itself over the next 30 years.

In an April 25 letter to Mr. Shinseki, Mr. Miller, Rep. Gus Bilirakis (committee vice chairman) and Rep. Kathy Castor said they were disappointed the project was not included in the Obama administration’s fiscal 2013 budget proposal.

Haley had been appropriated $231.5 million in 2009 for a number of construction projects at its Tampa campus, including a new parking garage and a renovation of four floors of bed space.

But Haley has since proposed building a new “bed tower” rather than renovating the old space. Other Haley projects have come in under budget, the cost analysis shows. And the agency had allocated about $85 million to renovate existing bed space.

So if the VA builds a new $119 million bed tower, rather than renovating bed space, the project would be “budget neutral,” Haley officials have told lawmakers.

The budget analysis shows cost savings if a new bed tower is built and would total $500 million over 30 years. The hospital says it could use old bed space for other departments that now lease expensive office space outside the hospital.

“This forward-thinking proposal truly makes sense, and we would like to work with you to move it ahead,” the letter said. “Given the reality of our nation’s financial situation, and our obligations to be wise stewards of the taxpayer dollar, we are deeply concerned that the (VA) has slated to move forward with the project as is, knowing that it is ultimately a more costly alternative.”

The letter asked Mr. Shinseki to reveal what needs to be done to complete the revised project.

It is unclear why the project was not included in the president’s budget proposal. VA officials in Tampa did not return a call for comment on Thursday.

Haley has the busiest polytrauma unit in the nation. The unit treats the most-severely wounded troops from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

• U.S. troops are making gains daily helping Afghan security forces defend their nation against Islamic extremists, and the U.S. government must support those gains in order to meet the dual goals of a lawful, self-sustaining government in Afghanistan while bringing all U.S. forces home as quickly as possible, said Rep. John Carter, Texas Republican.

“Our Fort Hood soldiers have done a tremendous job through battlefield victories and cooperative efforts with Afghan security forces and civilians in building a new Afghanistan that can become a respected member of the community of nations,” Mr. Carter said. “That is a long way from the barbarous actions of
the Taliban in running this country leading up to 9-11. Today we have a nation on the verge of enormous gains in security, liberty and prosperity.”

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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