was hatched in April of 1982 at the home of
the veterans' newspaper, Stars & Stripes,
in Washington, D.C. This moniker combines
the name of its creator, John Fales, Marine
MOS in Vietnam and "Scout Sgt.," with the
military expression when wronged, "Shafted."
Sgt. Shaft's wry sense of humor, empathy for
the underdog, and strong love of country and
fellow veterans closely mirror the nature
of its creator. The weekly advice column resided
in the Stars & Stripes from 1982 to 1985,
and laid dormant until its rebirth in the
Washington Times in 1991. The column,
Fales is proud to say, gives an outlet for
the concerns of active military, veterans,
and their families in a national newspaper.
In addition to writing the column, John Fales
is President of the Blinded American Veterans
Foundation. Fales was born in New York City
and served in the U.S. Marine Corps until
his retirement on disability. His decorations
include Purple Heart, Vietnam Service Medal,
Vietnam Campaign Medal, National Defense Service
Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Service
Medal, New York State Conspicuous Service
Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, Combat
Action Ribbon, and South Vietnamese Cross
of Gallantry. Sgt. Shaft has no twin.
This week, Sgt. Shaft weighs in on revived concurrent receipt
legislation, the brown bag movement, and USERRA.
[Want to sound off on Sgt. Shaft's latest column? Visit
the discussion boards.]
Dear Sgt. Shaft:
FRA is grateful to Representative Michael Bilirakis (Fla.) for
reintroducing H.R. 303 which would eliminate the unfair policy that
currently forces certain retired military service members to forfeit
a dollar of their retirement pay for every dollar received in VA
disability compensation. Full concurrent receipt of these benefits
has been the mandate of FRA's membership for many years and remains
a legislative priority for the Association in the 109th Congress.
Recent legislation allows concurrent receipt for military retirees
whose VA disability ratings are 50 percent or higher. Although this
represents great progress, it is time for Congress to authorize
full concurrent receipt for all military retirees with service-connected
FRA has also been tracking the implementation of a provision
within the FY 2005 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authorizing
military retirees with VA disability ratings of 100 percent to immediately
begin collecting full concurrent receipt. Due to budget constraints,
the provision does not apply to retirees who receive Individual
Unemployability (IU) compensation but have a VA disability rating
of less than 100 percent. IU ratings are independent of VA disability
determination and the Department of Defense (DoD) is currently reviewing
the legislation to determine whether the approximately 23,000 retirees
with an IU rating should receive immediate relief as well. If DoD
rules that full concurrent receipt to these retirees should be limited,
those with the IU rating will have their retired pay phased in under
the pre-existing 10-year schedule. It is unclear when the Department
will make a ruling.
The issue of concurrent receipt has never been to provide military
retirees with "new" benefits, but to allow them to be
separately compensated for their career service to the nation (military
retirement) and for their suffering due to service connected disabilities
(VA). FRA members have long demonstrated grassroots advocacy for
concurrent receipt and are contacting their elected officials in
the 109th Congress on this issue, but more support from the public
is needed. Your readers are encouraged to visit www.fra.org/action/index.html
to contact their congressional representatives and encourage support
for these initiatives.
JOSEPH L. BARNES
National Executive Secretary FRA
Ditto. The Sarge is so proud of (our) good friend of military veterans
Rep. Bilirakis for recently introducing HR 1366. This legislation
expands Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC) to those who
were medically retired with less than 20 years of service. The same
CRSC rules would now apply for all Chapter 61 retirees regardless
of years of service. The proposed effective date of the legislation
is January 1, 2006.
Dear Sgt. Shaft,
This is the first I've heard of the movement to forward brown
bags to our Congressmen. If it was printed in FRA, I missed it.
Please forward me the information as to how one sends a brown
bag and what verbiage is recommended on the bag.
Thanks, Bob R
Via the internet, USA
Simply take your grocery bag, cut it up properly, insert it an envelope
addressed to your member of Congress with the appropriate salutation
and include the following: Military retirees and veterans should
not be discarded after use like this brown paper bag.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao recently announced that
a notice in poster format explaining the rights of employees under
the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)
is now available for employers to download from the Department of
Labor (DOL) Web site.
The Veterans Benefits Improvement Act, enacted by Congress in December
2004, mandates that employers provide the notice to "all persons
entitled to rights and benefits under USERRA."
"We are committed to ensuring that our brave men and women
who are protecting our country's freedoms have the opportunities
they deserve when they return to civilian life," said Chao.
"We will work tirelessly to continue to keep National Guard
and Reserve service members, their families and employers informed
about USERRA, the law that protects their jobs and benefits."
USERRA protects the job rights of individuals who voluntarily or
involuntarily leave employment positions to undertake military service.
The law also prohibits employers from discriminating against past
and present members of the uniformed services and applicants to
the uniformed services.
The USERRA poster is now available at
www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra/poster.pdf. Employers can obtain
detailed information about USERRA by calling 1-866-4-USA-DOL or
The Sarge has recent become aware of how to retire your tattered,
worn out and frayed American flags without cost to you. Send your
flags to the Kitchen Table Gang Trust, 42922 Avenue 12, Madera,
CA 93638-8866 and we will dispose of your flags in a proper and
dignified manner with full honors and dignity pursuant to the United
States Flag Code Section 8K. We have been doing this for the past
seven years. Our flag retirement ceremonies are held on Flag Day,
June 14th each year and are conducted by an all volunteer U.S. Marine
Corps Honor Guard led by GySgt. Dan Kelley USMC (Ret.).
The date for the First Day of Issuance (FDOI) of the Distinguished
Marines block of stamps is set for 10 November 2005. The official
ceremony will take place somewhere in the National Capitol Region
at a place to be determined.
This block of four individual stamps honors John Lejeune, Lewis
Puller, John Basilone and Daniel Daly.
Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900,
Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax to 301-622-3330; call 202-462-4430
or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2005 Sgt. Shaft. All rights reserved.