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Sgt. Shaft: Concurrent Receipt, Brown Bags, USERRA
Sgt. Shaft: Concurrent Receipt, Brown Bags, USERRA


About the Author

Sgt. Shaft 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.

Related Links

Sgt. Shaft : Archives

Concurrent Receipt: FAQs

USERRA Overview

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 disabilities.

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.

National Executive Secretary FRA

Dear Joe,

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

Dear Bob,
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.

Shaft Notes

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 by visiting www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra/.

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 sgtshaft@bavf.org.

2005 Sgt. Shaft. All rights reserved.



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