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

February 11, 2014

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt. Shaft,
I have been petitioning the VA since 1959 on my hearing disability that I received in 1958 at ROTC summer camp. The VA had always claimed that ROTC summer camp was not active duty – until now. Their latest denial contains the following sentence:

“Although we have verified that your ROTC service counts as an active duty period, there is no confirmed clinical evidence that your hearing loss began during that period of service.”

I thought that this admission would be of important interest to you and your readers.

If you need further information and wish to discuss this further, please contact me by email or by telephone.

Andrew F

Dear Andrew,
Those in the know tell me that this is not news to them. They didn’t think it would be news to any VSO. While this is not new, the timing of the event, the nature of the disability, the documentation, and how the claim was submitted could have contributed to the confusion over the issue. A VSO should have been able to offer assistance and clarify the situation.

Shaft Notes
• The Sarge urges all eligible veterans their families to become familiar with the burial benefits offered by VA:

All veterans with qualifying discharges are offered the dignity of committal or memorial services in a national cemetery.

At no cost to the family, burial at a national cemetery includes use of a committal shelter for services, the gravesite, grave liner, opening and closing of the grave, a headstone or marker, and perpetual care as part of a national shrine.

In addition to providing burial space, NCA also offers other ways to commemorate Veterans—through our Memorial Programs Service.

A government-furnished headstone or marker is available for Veterans who are interred in private cemeteries. Approximately 2/3 of the approximately 360,000 government-furnished headstones and markers we provide each year are placed on Veterans’ gravesites in private, state, tribal or DOD cemeteries.

Families can also receive a Presidential Memorial Certificate, expressing the Nation’s gratitude and honoring the deceased’s memory. In 2013, The VA delivered more than 650,000 certificates to loved ones.

• The Sarge joins Rep. Mark Takano and Sen. Tom Carper in commending the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense as they unveiled their new complaint intake website for student veterans who feel that they have been deceived, abused, or otherwise taken advantage of by colleges.

Rep. Takano said, “I am very pleased to see the VA and DOD take up this issue. Many for-profit colleges specifically target veterans, using aggressive recruitment tactics that intentionally invoke pain and fear to pressure veterans into enrolling. This website will provide a space for our student veterans to report these abuses.”

“I believe we have a moral imperative to ensure that those who have sacrificed for our country obtain the best education possible, one that will equip them with the skills they need to find a good job, repay theirc ollege loans, and go on to live productive lives,” said Chairman Tom Carper. “That’s why we must focus on how we can fix problems within the higher education system and encourage all schools to deliver a higher quality education to our military and veteran populations. This common-sense initiative will give our service members and veterans who have been subjected to questionable recruitment practices, deceptive marketing, and substandard educational instruction an opportunity to share their experiences in an effort to curb these unacceptable and abusive tactics.”

Investigations into for-profit colleges have found massive amounts of waste, fraud, and abuse in the industry, including deceptive and aggressive recruiting of students, false or inflated job placement rates, and dismal completion rates. According to a report by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions, for-profit colleges spend more of their budget on marketing and recruitment – 22.7 percent – than on student instruction – 17.2 percent.

This complaint intake website was created as a result of President Obama’s Executive order 13607. The Executive Order also requires the VA to act on each complaint, to share those complaints with law enforcement, and to conduct a risk-based audit of the school if the complaint is serious or if enough complaints are made about the school.

The website can be accessed through the Department of Defense website or through the GI Bill website.

• The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States 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.

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