- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

It was about a year ago that you gave me a lot of help in navigating the murky waters of the VA regarding the Aid and Attendance program for my mom so I thought tap your brain again. Mom passed away Aug. 10 (to refresh your memory — she was an unmarried surviving widow of a veteran who died in service) and I have heard there may be some benefits regarding burial expenses available. Do you know where to start that inquiry?

Mike L.
Via the Internet

Dear Mike:

I am sorry to learn of your mom’s passing. I wish that my answer could be more positive, but my sources tell me that there are no burial expense benefits for surviving spouses, other than the eligibility to be buried in the same gravesite as the veteran. This includes the opening and closing the grave and inscribing the headstone (if there is one) at the expense of the government, but no cash allowances for burial benefits.

Shaft notes

• In 2011, Newman’s Own Foundation awarded the Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) a $300,000 grant, facilitated by Fisher House, to serve military families through 2012.

The grant provides family support for 12,772 military families nationwide during a two-year period by offering relief with free programs, services and emergency support. The ASYMCA distributed program grants ranging from $30,000 to $50,000 to support programs at eight ASYMCA locations serving Marine and Army families.

Marine and Army Families served at ASYMCA locations include:
* Camp Pendleton, Calif.;
* 29 Palms, Calif.;
* Camp Lejeune and Fort Bragg, N.C.;
* Wheeler Army Air Field and Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii;
* Fort Richardson and Fort Wainwright, Alaska.
* Fort Campbell, Ky.;
* Fort Hood, Texas; and
* Fort Sill, Okla.

Free ASYMCA programs target junior enlisted and their families, who are typically younger and have more financial and emotional burdens without nearby family to assist. As of June 2012, the entire $300,000 grant has been expended to provide relief for thousands of military and their families.

Direct support has included: emergency assistance, respite for medical issues, summer camp opportunities for low-income families, diapers, groceries, car repairs, emergency housing, house fires, and support for travel and respite for families of the fallen and wounded warriors.

Armed Services YMCA CEO Mike Landers said he is thrilled with the impact that the Newman’s Own Foundation support continues to make for military families.

“We thank our friends at Newman’s Own Foundation for their generous donation, as well as the Fisher House for facilitating the Newman’s Own Foundation award. We are proud to partner to make military life easier for military families through innovative programs that pay it forward and eliminate or mitigate problems before they become insurmountable,” he said.

“Newman’s Own Foundation is proud to support the Armed Services YMCA,” said Robert Forrester, president of Newman’s Own Foundation. “During this period in our nation’s history, we feel it is especially important to support organizations that serve military personnel and their families, in a way which hopefully will draw the attention of others to step forward and express their gratitude to all who serve.”

For the sixth consecutive year, the Armed Services YMCA was rated in the top 3 percent of charities nationwide by Charity Navigator in 2011. The ASYMCA makes military life easier with free and low-cost programs for nearly 500,000 junior enlisted and their families each year at 33 branches and affiliates nationwide. Please visit www.asymca.org to learn more.

The Fisher House is a unique private-public partnership that supports America’s military in their time of need. The program recognizes the special sacrifices of our men and women in uniform and the hardships of military service by meeting a humanitarian need beyond that normally provided by the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. Please visit www.fisherhouse.org to learn more.

Newman’s Own Foundation turns all net royalties and profits from the sale of Newman’s Own products into charitable donations. To date, Paul Newman and Newman’s Own Foundation have given more than $350 million to thousands of charities around the world. Please visit www.newmansownfoundation.org to learn more.

For more information, please contact Brittany Catton at [email protected].

• Kudos to the four Department of Veterans Affairs researchers were among the 96 recipients of the 2011 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) honored at a ceremony held last month. The PECASE is the highest honor conferred by the U.S. government on federal researchers in the early stages of their careers.

“Research is the lifeblood of our program to provide cutting-edge, world-class medical care to Veterans,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki. “The achievements of these four individuals show that VA research is a leader in the health care industry.”

Joining fellow award recipients from 11 other federal agencies were VA investigators Jeffrey R. Capadona, Ph.D., Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center; Charlesnika T. Evans, Ph.D., Hines VA Hospital; Amy M. Kilbourne, Ph.D., VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System; and K. Luan Phan, M.D., Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago. The ceremony took place at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

“The outstanding work of these investigators is a microcosm of how VA research itself helps improve the lives of veterans,” said Dr. Robert Petzel, VA Under Secretary for Health. “We look forward to working with these young scientists as their careers progress.”

Established in 1996, the awards are given each year for “innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology” and a commitment to community service.

VA, which has the largest integrated health care system in the country, also has one of the largest medical research programs. This year, approximately 3,400 researchers will work on more than 2,300 projects with nearly $1.9 billion in funding.

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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