December 15, 2015

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt Shaft
I came across your information in the web and would like to know if you can help me out by pointing me to the correct directions. I need to know how to go about searching for any money under my name in the US Savings Bonds.

I was in the Marines from 1997 to 2001. I really appreciate your help and look forward hearing from you.  Thank you in advance and have a great Holidays season.

Carlos D
Via the internet

Dear Carlos
I have forwarded your missive to the top official at the U.S. Marine Corps.  Hope it helps.


Shaft Notes
On behalf of The Military Coalition and the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), retired Air Force Col. Steve Strobridge testified before the House Armed Services military personnel subcommittee today on the serious financial penalty imposed on some survivors whose military sponsor’s death was caused by service.

Strobridge urged Congress to repeal the law that forces survivors to forfeit a dollar of the Survivor Benefit Plan annuities purchased by their spouses for every dollar of VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation the survivor receives for the service-caused death — commonly known as the SBP/DIC offset or the military “widows’ tax.”

Strobridge thanked the committee for championing the cause of this group of military survivors. He said when Congress acknowledged this inequity in 2008 by authorizing a modest monthly Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA) for those affected by the offset and then creating in 2009 a schedule of annual SSIA increases through 2017, thousands of survivors had hope Congress finally was taking action on their cause.

He also referred to the August 2009 court ruling that required payment of both SBP and DIC to eligible survivors who remarried after age 57 as a good example of why the deduction is so wrong. The ruling stated, “After all, the service member paid for both benefits: SBP with premiums; DIC with his life.”

Strobridge highlighted the current contradictory aspect of the law that penalizes survivors who remarry before age 55 for SBP and age 57 for DIC by stopping their payments but then penalizes widows (by continuing to subtract DIC from SBP) for not remarrying after age 57. “The ideal solution would be to eliminate the offset for all SBP/DIC survivors,” he stated.

“Because of budget issues, our hope has been Congress would do that on a phased basis by steadily increasing the SSIA amounts,” Strobridge said. “As of FY 2017, the $310 monthly SSIA will restore about 25 percent of the offset.”

However, SSIA authority will expire Oct. 1, 2017, and the payments will stop. At minimum, he emphasized, Congress needs to extend the SSIA in the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, or SBP/DIC survivors will forfeit the $310 monthly allowance.

Strobridge also highlighted another inequity affecting survivors of National Guard and Reserve members who die on inactive duty for training. Because survivor benefits for this group are calculated with a reduced formula compared to what’s used for service members who die on active duty, their lower SBP amounts are typically wiped out by the SBP/DIC offset.

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin recently applauded the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs for passing an updated version of her Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act, a bill aimed at providing safer and more effective pain management services to our nation’s veterans.

The legislation was cleared today as part of a larger bill, to improve health care and other issues at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which unanimously passed the committee by voice vote. The entire section of the legislation related to veterans’ health care is titled The Jason Simcakoski Memorial Act. The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

“I am grateful to the members of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs for their support as this critical bipartisan legislation moves forward. Families like the Simcakoski family have a story to tell that needs to be heard,” said Senator Baldwin. “After two, decade-long wars, our veterans and their families are facing the difficult challenges of physical injuries, addiction, PTSD and other mental illnesses. We must find safer and more effective ways to confront these problems to help them meet those challenges. My provisions propose a number of solutions to strengthen opioid prescribing guidelines; improve coordination and communication throughout the VA; and put in place stronger oversight and accountability for the quality of care we are providing our veterans. My goal is to put these reforms in place to prevent Jason’s tragedy from occurring to other veterans and their families.” (Download AUDIO of this statement here.)

“I know Jason is looking down and smiling at us because this will be something that I know he would be proud of. I’m grateful to Senator Baldwin and her staff for their tireless work on this reform because it’s going to help other veterans and active duty servicemen and women. We want Jason to be remembered as someone who gave his life to save the lives of other veterans. This bill gives people hope for a brighter future,” said Marv Simcakoski, Jason’s father.

“This brings meaning to Jason’s life and is another step forward to these reforms becoming law, so other families don’t suffer what we’ve had to endure. I want this to be hope for them – hope that it’s going to change and that this new law is going to protect them and their loved ones,” said Heather Simcakoski, Jason’s widow.

“I want to commend [Senator Baldwin], the Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act is included in the omnibus bill. We all were here for the hearing about the terrible tragedy in Jason’s life and his contribution will be lasting when this legislation memorializes the lessons learned from the opioid incident that happened at Tomah.

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