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Sgt. Shaft: Retired Vets Pay Hefty Fees for 'Free' Health Care
Sgt. Shaft: Retired Vets Pay Hefty Fees for 'Free' Health Care

 

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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Dear Sgt. Shaft:

It's very unfortunate that you made a slip of the pen (keyboard?) in a column this past week in The Washington Times when you wrote that the Tricare for Life legislation "assured hundreds of thousands of military families free health care services sponsored entirely by the government."

I urge you to correct the record for any readers who may mistakenly believe that the government is keeping its promise to military retirees. They need to be informed that although government officials repeatedly promised free medical care for life if warriors stayed on for a full career, those retirees under age 65 are instead required to pay hefty co-pay fees and/or buy their own supplemental insurance plan, and after age 65 are kicked out of the military medical system altogether.

A federal appeals court ruled that the promise was indeed made and the benefit earned, but then after the retirees had fulfilled their part of the contract, government lawyers fought the elderly warriors and got their legitimate claim denied on a technicality.

By passing Tricare for Life, Congress only partially redeemed its broken promise to America's brave World War II, Korean era and Vietnam retirees. This bodes ill for the fates of today's brave fighting men and women, who also may see themselves dumped later by the same government officials who today are promising to take care of them if they will risk their lives for our country.

Sincerely,
"Mrs. T. E. C."
Virginia


Dear Mrs. T.:

I stand corrected. Retirees do pay a hefty premium and co-pay for their "free" health care.

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I personally want you to know that it was my honor to have attended your reception and the USMC Sunset Parade in your honor as your invited guest. I believe that this honor was long, long overdue. I served with Delta Co. 1st Battalion 5th Marines 1st Marine Division and was wounded on May 12, 1967, during Operation Union. I was wounded in my right ear.

As long as there are Sgt. Shafts in this world, the veteran will always have a fair chance to be judged as a first-class citizen and not as an underdog without a voice when being treated unfairly by the system. God bless you and your wife and all of those who directly or indirectly support your work/labor/assistance on behalf of all veterans.

A proud Marine
Pennsylvania




Dear Marine:

Thank you so much for sharing this momentous occasion. I am still in my mind's eye revisiting this solemn Marine Corps tribute.

Words cannot express my gratitude to Brig. Gen. Mary Ann Krusa-Dossin and the United States Marine Corps for recognizing me at a special reception at Henderson Hall, followed by the prestigious Sunset Parade held at the historical Iwo Jima Memorial on June 28.

My heart swelled with pride as my family and friends joined me at this touching tribute.

Hats off to the special Marines who provided their talents during the parade. The Sarge was humbled to be recognized as the guest of honor at this event. The oohs and aahs sent a chill up my spine as the silent drill team of 24 Marines twirled, tossed and caught their 24 M1 Garand rifles with gloved hands, all with seeming ease and without verbal command.

The tingling continued as the music of the Commandant's Own Drum and Bugle Corps presented classic masterpieces, military marches of bygone eras, contemporary wind ensembles, instrumental solos and current hits, with their traditional ending of "The Stars and Stripes Forever" -- a testament not only to their nation, but also to their legendary leader, John Philip Sousa.

What pride the Sarge felt as the Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, appearing in swirling torrents of scarlet and white spiked with silver, presented a unique blend of traditional and contemporary musical virtuosity. And the shivers continued as, from atop the imposing memorial, a figure appeared. He is the lone bugler, who brought what may have been the most poignant moment of the evening.

He lifted his instrument, and the solemn notes of taps began to reverberate throughout the hallowed grounds of the Iwo Jima Memorial. Those notes grabbed a piece of everyone present, especially this devil dog. This is one evening I will never forget.

Shaft notes

A note of thanks to Washington VA Medical Center Director Sandy Garfunkel and his capable and caring staff. After I lost a battle with 13 stairs at my home, the VA medical team, especially on surgical Ward 2D, treated my broken left wrist and fractured right shoulder.

Thanks to these fine health care professionals, the Sarge is on the road to recovery.

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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