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Sgt. Shaft: If Divorcing a Military Retiree, Know Your Rights
Sgt. Shaft: If Divorcing a Military Retiree, Know Your Rights

 

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.


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[Want to sound off on Sgt. Shaft's latest column? Visit the discussion boards.]

Dear Sgt Shaft:

I am about to get a divorce from my retired military husband after 42 years of marriage. 

We were married 17 years of his 20 years of service time. We are registered in [the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System]. Am I still eligible to keep my benefits, i.e., commissary, PX and medical along with my ID card just like I have now? I need a directive on some proof of this. If there is a directive that I can get off the Internet, please inform. Thank you for your attention to this matter for me.

Nancy D.
Wetumpka, Ala.


Dear Nancy

While you are still married to the retired military member, I would strongly suggest that you call the nearest military (JAG) legal assistance office -- probably at Maxwell Air Force Base and Gunter Annex -- and make an appointment to speak to a military legal officer regarding your rights going into the divorce process.

The other document, AFI 36-3026(1), concerns identification cards. It is a lengthy document and addresses DoD policy on ID cards.

After all of the above -- and in my judgment, most importantly -- it is imperative that you be represented by a civil attorney who is totally familiar with the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act (USFSPA). You must have representation to protect your rights. Those rights must be a part of court documents that are defined in terms that will stand up to the financial processing requirements of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS).

Get the best possible lawyer to represent your interest. Too many spouses fail to have adequate representation. Let the best possible lawyer negotiate the entire process to your benefit.

A third source of important information, while dated, will also help you understand the importance of language in the eventual court documents. This resource is located at www.abanet.org/legalservices.

In fact, if you run an Internet search on the term USFSPA, you'll see a variety of additional resources available on the Internet for your review.

I hope this information is helpful.

Shaft notes

A group of Vietnam veterans, concerned and frustrated with the lack of public understanding of the Vietnam War and the negative image of those who served there, has embarked on a new mission: to tell the American people the truth about what really happened in Vietnam.

The new organization will be led by Col. George E. "Bud" Day, a Medal of Honor recipient and former prisoner of war (POW) who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, and is the Air Force's most highly decorated combat veteran.



Col. Day said: "The false history of Vietnam has been used to demoralize our troops in combat, undermine the public's confidence in U.S. foreign policy and weaken our national security. Radical leftists such as Jane Fonda lied about the war 35 years ago, and are still lying about it today. The goal of the [Vietnam Veterans Legacy Foundation] is to continue the work of countering more than three decades of misinformation and propaganda, and to set the record straight."

The VVLF Board of Directors' other members are retired Air Force Col. Kenneth W. Cordier, retired Navy Cmdr. Paul Galanti and retired Marine Corps Capt. James Warner (all former POWs), Mary Jane McManus, wife of former POW Air Force Capt. Kevin McManus, and Vietnam veterans Robert A. McMahon and Wallace Nunn, who is chairman of the Medal of Honor Society Foundation.

The VVLF will serve as a national repository of Vietnam-related materials, information and records, and will make this information available to the public. The organization will create independent films and documentaries, and provide exhibits and visual materials to museums, libraries and other public places.

The VVLF will also act as a source of accurate information for journalists, authors and researchers, and will work to counter and expose false information presented about the Vietnam War in the press.

VVLF, on the Internet at www.VietnamLegacy.org, is a 501(c)(3) public service corporation whose mission is to educate and inform the public about the Vietnam War, its events, its history and the men and women who sacrificed to serve their country in Vietnam.

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A new edition of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) handbook, Federal Benefits for Veterans and Dependents, updates the rates for certain federal payments and outlines a variety of programs and benefits for U.S. veterans.

Most of the nation's 25 million veterans qualify for some VA benefits, which range from health care to burial in a national cemetery. In addition to describing benefits provided by the VA, the 2005 edition of the 120-page booklet provides an overview of programs and services for veterans provided by other federal agencies.

The handbook also includes resources to help veterans access their benefits, with a listing of toll-free phone numbers, Internet addresses and a directory of VA facilities throughout the country. The handbook can be downloaded for free from the VA's Web site at www.va.gov/opa/feature.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, PO Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330; call 202/257-5446; or e-mail sgtshaft@bavf.org.

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2005 Sgt. Shaft. All rights reserved.

 



 



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