Veteran Seeks Help for Hearing Loss

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I have a veteran that has severe hearing loss that made two tours on the flight deck of the USS Bennington in the early 1960s. The VA says he has hearing loss but has no proven nexus to his military service. Are these guys nuts? He was exposed to up to 150 decibels constantly with no hearing protection back then. Isn’t that a presumptive slam dunk for compensation?

Mike Day
Service Officer
Disabled American Veterans Chapter 2
Lafayette, LA

Dear Mike:

The New Orleans Regional Office reports that this veteran’s notice of disagreement was received on April 10, 2013, for the issues of service connection for bilateral hearing loss and intraocular foreign body with cataract of the left eye. The De Novo letter, or letter of disagreement, was sent to him on April 15, 2013. They contacted him on May 2, 2013, and advised him that his NOD (Notice of Disagreement) was received and verified the issues he was appealing.

They also advised him that appeals are worked in date of receipt order, and that there is a substantial backlog. They said they will make a decision as soon as possible based on the date of receipt of the appeal. He appeared to accept our explanation and said he would wait to hear from us.

Shaft notes

• A Hawaii television station, America’s newspaper and a war correspondent’s video on the website of the nation’s “newspaper of record,” will receive The American Legion’s Fourth Estate Award during the organization’s 95th National Convention in Houston, Texas, on Aug. 29.

The Fourth Estate Award has been presented annually by the American Legion since 1958 for outstanding achievement in the field of journalism. Nominations were considered in three categories: print, broadcast and new media (Internet).

Taking top honor in the print category for a second time was USA Today. A 14-month investigation of more than 460 forgotten lead factory sites, including tests of more than 1,000 samples of soil in 21 neighborhoods by reporters Alison Young and Peter Eisler, found significant lead poisoning risks.

Failures by the EPA and state regulators had left thousands of families across the country in harm’s way for more than a decade.

The series, “Ghost Factories,” drew calls for action from seven U.S. senators and has led the EPA to re-examine health risks at all 464 sites nationwide. More than a dozen states have launched their own investigations and several sites have already been targeted for cleanup.

Hawaii’s KITV-TV brought closure to a long and dark phase of history with the production of a one-hour documentary on the life of Marianne Cope, just canonized by the Vatican for her work on the Kalaupapa peninsula in the mid-1800s. Of the more than 8,000 people torn from families and left to die in the leprosy settlement of Kalawao and Kalaupapa, only 18 remain today.

With the disease no longer a threat, these elderly and frail patients traveled to Rome for the canonization. For them, her sainthood validated that their suffering and sacrifice have not been in vain. KITV’s Pamela Young, Rex Von Arnswaldt and Gary Sprinkle poignantly closed out a dark phase of history with a story of hope, faith and courage.

In the Internet (new media) category, freelance war correspondent Alex Quade won her second consecutive Fourth Estate Award for her video report, “Chinook Down,” for The New York Times website.

Her short documentary revealed the full story and human toll behind a WikiLeaks headline of a Chinook helicopter shot down by a surface-to-air missile in Afghanistan, killing all onboard.

Ms. Quade was supposed to be on that helicopter. She survived to report firsthand on the firefight and recovery.

For five years, she gathered material on the attack, interviewing pilots who provided air support to rescue teams on the ground, obtaining previously unreleased Pentagon documents via Freedom of Information Act appeals, and video. The result of her investigation was a 10-minute video for The Times that brought closure to the families; as one soldier who had long suffered from PTSD told her, “You helped me come home from the war.”

“These outstanding journalists have gone above and beyond the works of their peers; Each of them has exhibited the highest commitment to excellence in the research, writing and production of masterful reports that have truly made a difference for the better in our world,” said James E. Koutz, national commander of the 2.4 million-member American Legion.

“These journalists are among the best of the best,” he said. “I will be honored to present each of them with our highest recognition of journalistic accomplishment, the American Legion Fourth Estate Award.”

Previous winners of the award include Dateline NBC, C-SPAN, United Press International, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Indianapolis Star, the Detroit News, Fortune Magazine, ABC News and Life Magazine, among others.

• The Pentagon Federal Credit Union Foundation (PenFed Foundation), a nationally recognized nonprofit organization working to meet the unmet needs of military members and their families, said Marine Corps veteran, American Idol finalist and country music recording artist Josh Gracin will serve as the guest entertainer at its Ninth Annual Night of Heroes Gala. The event will take place on Thursday, May 23, in Washington, D.C., honoring the men and women of our military.

“We can think of few performers to better honor the men and women of our military than Josh Gracin, a fellow veteran who’s well-known for his country music,” said Col. (Ret.) Robert W. Siegert, chairman of the PenFed Foundation board. “We are honored he is taking time out of his busy touring schedule to perform at this year’s gala.

“We are touched that Josh Gracin is donating his time to make the gala an evening to remember,” he added. “He is a talented performer who served his country well and I know our gala attendees will love him.”

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

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About

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.

In addition to writing the column, John Fales is President of the Blinded American Veterans Foundation. 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.

You can find Sgt. Shaft at www.bavf.org.

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