• P.O. Box 65900 Washington, D.C. 20035-5900
  • 202-257-5446
  • P.O. Box 65900 Washington, D.C. 20035-5900
  • 202-257-5446

January 28, 2014

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt. Shaft,
My name is Carlos, a Persian Gulf Combat Vet, (USMC) and I have a dependency claim filed since 10/26/2011. The dependency claim is posted as claim received since 10/26/2011 and has a completion date as of 07/08/2012 which is past due. I have sent a few inquiries to: Department of Veteran Affairs Regional Office, P.O .Box 8079, Philadelphia, PA. 19101 and I feel that they are just giving me the run around because this claim should have been closed along with my Compensation claim back since 2011. I understand that the claims work load may be backed up but, two years for a simple dependency claim is just too long of a wait. I would appreciate any help from you.

Sincerely,
Carlos C
Via the internet

Dear Carlos,
The powers that be at VA tell me that your Dependent benefits have been granted. The Philadelphia RO released a notification letter to you on January 16, 2014. Your monthly benefit was increased, and retroactive benefits have been authorized.

Shaft Notes
• The Sarge joins the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States who has thrown its support behind a bill introduced by the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee chairman because it fulfills a number of VFW legislative priorities that benefit all generations of veterans and their families, and it eliminates the cost-of-living adjustment penalty on military retirees.

S. 1950, the Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Restoration Act of 2014, was introduced last week by Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and VFW National Commander William A. Thien is calling it “The most comprehensive veterans’ legislation to be introduced in decades.”

In a letter of support, Thien said the bill expands the current caregiver law to include all generations of veterans, something the VFW has been advocating since the law was signed in 2010. It provides advance appropriations for all mandatory accounts, which ensures disabled veterans, survivors and GI Bill student-veterans will continue to receive their monthly payments regardless of future government shutdowns. S. 1950 improves and expands education and training programs to allow veterans to receive in-state tuition rates, extends the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program, improves mental healthcare access to veterans and families, expands military sexual trauma treatment services, authorizes the Department of Veterans Affairs to proceed with contracts to build community-based outpatient clinics that have been on hold, and mandates that VA provide a comprehensive assessment of its capital infrastructure and how it will address its deficiencies. The bill also eliminates the 1 percent COLA penalty on working age military retirees younger than age 62.

The VFW national commander is now pledging to work with Senator Sanders to get other senators and congressmen from both sides of the aisle to support S. 1950. “Now is the time for every member of Congress to support those who have served and sacrificed the most for our nation,” he said.

To urge your members of Congress to support S. 1950, and to read the VFW’s letter of support to Senator Sanders, click here or go to http://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/Articles/2014-Articles/VFW-Legislative-Alert–Urge-Passage-of-Comprehensive-Veterans–and-Health-Benefits-Package-Today!/.

• An attaboy to the commander of The American Legion who stated that he is incensed by a threat to the survival of military commissaries – the U.S. military’s grocery stores. The Department of Defense reportedly is discussing a $1 billion cut over the next three years to the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) budget. As a consequence, all but a handful of servicemembers’ and military retirees’ grocery stores could be closed.

“This is yet another undeserved blow to our men and women in service – and their families – in the name of ‘necessary cutbacks’ to reduce an ungainly national deficit,” said Daniel M. Dellinger, national commander of the 2.4-million member American Legion. “Like the trimming of expenses to be made by reducing military retirees’ pensions, this is an inexcusable way of attempting to fix a fault by penalizing the blameless.”

The DeCA currently operates nearly 250 stores worldwide with a $1.4 billion annual budget. With the proposed budget cut to $400 million annually by fiscal 2017, all but 24 stores would close. Those remaining would be overseas and in rural areas stateside.

“Commissaries are extremely important to young military families who are just trying to make ends meet,” Dellinger said. “By using commissaries, financially challenged military families can save an average of more than 30 percent on their purchases compared with commercial supermarkets.

“This important benefit helps compensate for the significant difference between military pay and comparable civilian salaries. In addition to improving the quality of life for the troops and their families, commissary privileges help recruit and retain the best and brightest men and women to serve our country.”

The American Legion leader’s comments echo the points made in a resolution adopted by Legion leadership in 2012, which stated, “The value of commissaries in the quality of life equation for junior enlisted families and military retirees and others is indisputable. Military commissary usage has ranked second only to medical health care in the non-pay compensation package… Any effort to reduce or dismantle the integrity of the military commissary system would be seen as a serious breach of faith with a benefit system that currently serves as a mainstay for the active and reserve components, military retirees and military survivors, military personnel involuntarily discharged or released from active duty, and 100 percent service connected disabled veterans and others.”

Dellinger encouraged DoD to reconsider the proposal, saying, “The costs in both fiscal and human terms would be far higher than the temporary savings realized. It’s a bad idea, plain and simple.”

• The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has purchased land in Colorado for a new national cemetery in the southeast portion of Colorado Springs.

“We are pleased to expand burial service to Veterans and their families in southern Colorado,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “Acquiring the land is a key step forward in the process.”

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