Dear Sgt. Shaft:
My ex-husband served in the Army for two to three years. I was married to him for 11 years. Am I entitled to any VA benefits? I was recently diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and was wondering if I am entitled to medical benefits.
Via the Internet
The answer provided to me by the Department of Veterans Affairs is that you are not entitled to any benefits based on the service of your former husband.
• Kudos to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki who recently announced the award of $299,056,370 in homeless prevention grants to 319 community agencies in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
Several private, nonprofit agencies in the Washington DC VA Medical Center’s catchment area of D.C., Northern Virginia and Southern Maryland will receive a large portion of the grants to provide services to very low-income veteran families living in — or transitioning to — permanent housing.
“With these grants, we are strengthening our partnerships with community nonprofits across the country to provide veterans and their families with hope, a home and a future,” Mr. Shinseki said.
“The work of Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program grantees has already helped us prevent and end homelessness among tens of thousands of homeless veterans and their families, but as long as a single veteran lives on our streets, we have work to do,” he said.
Local organizations such as: Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, Three Oaks Homeless Shelter, Community Council for the Homeless at Friendship Place, Housing Counseling Services, U.S. Veterans Initiative and Operation Renewed Hope will receive a total of $6,708,179 to serve approximately 2,000 homeless and at-risk veteran families.
These community organizations will provide a range of services that promote housing stability and play a key role in connecting veterans and their family members to VA services such as mental-health care and other benefits.
Community-based groups can offer temporary financial assistance on behalf of veterans for rent payments, utility payments, security deposits and moving costs.
This is the third year that the Department of Veterans Affairs has provided the SSVF grants. Last year, VA provided about $100 million to assist approximately 50,000 veterans and family members.
The grants are intended to help Veterans Affairs accomplish its goal of ending homelessness among veterans by the year 2015.
Veteran homelessness has declined 17.2 percent since 2009, according to the 2012 Point-in-Time Estimates of Homelessness.
Through the homeless veterans initiative, VA committed more than $1 billion in fiscal year 2013 to strengthen programs that prevent and end homelessness among veterans.
• The Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) warns Washington’s lack of progress to repeal ongoing budget sequestration actions will threaten the fundamental capabilities of our nation’s armed forces amid an ongoing war.
“Threatened sequestration budget cuts under the 2011 Budget Control Act were designed to be so onerous, so senseless, that a budget deal would have to be struck to prevent mindless budget slashing targeting the Department of Defense to take 50 percent of the cuts,” MOAA President Vice Adm. Norbert R. Ryan Jr. said.
“Yet a budget deal was never reached. Here we are, halfway through the first year of cuts, and there is woefully little discussion or movement toward securing a bipartisan agreement to avoid harmful sequestration effects for not only fiscal year 2014, but for the next nine years,” he said.
Without an agreement, the Pentagon faces yet another $52 billion in across-the-board cuts in fiscal year 2014 alone.
“Unfortunately, media outlets make it appear that sequestration has had little or no impact. The Washington Post recently ran an article, ‘Budget Cuts, But No Chaos,’ stating sequestration was milder than forecasted,” Vice Adm. Ryan said. “MOAA completely disagrees with these perceptions. People are going to suffer long-term morale problems across the DOD community; including DOD civilians, as well as uniformed service members and their families.”
Vice Adm. Ryan said MOAA members report sequestration is already taking a toll on our military families who have endured more than 12 long years of war. Families are genuinely worried and anxiety is building as there is no immediate resolution in sight.
Children in defense schools will lose five instructional days at the beginning of the 2013-14 school year alone. Commissaries are closing more days per week, which affects all families, but especially those overseas.
Summer recreational facilities and programs have been cut back or canceled. Many parents rely on these programs heavily to balance the needs of their families.
Families say ignoring the impact on their morale is simply callous.
Additionally, for the past several months, the nation’s military readiness has suffered and will continue to diminish if nothing is done.
The Air Force has already slashed flying hours by 30-percent, greatly reducing the opportunity to maintain pilot proficiency.
The Navy has canceled the deployment of at least six ships and renegotiated critical procurement contracts.
And if sequestration continues, the Army and Marine Corps will likely see additional large personnel force cuts.
The Pentagon has imposed 11-day furloughs affecting more than 600,000 DOD civilian employees and TRICARE is expected to run out of money in August, so health care access for more than 9.6 million beneficiaries will be reduced.
Recently, the Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, and ranking member James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, asked DOD to outline what future cuts might have to take place.
On July 10, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel released a statement that outlines the following harmful impacts if sequestration remains in effect for fiscal year 2014:
* Acceleration of force drawdowns;
* Reductions in flying hours and training drills;
* 10-percent reductions in operations and maintenance accounts;
* 15- to 20-percent cuts in modernization accounts;
* Involuntary reductions-in-force to cut civilian personnel costs
* Hiring freezes;
* Halting all accessions;
* Ending all permanent-change-of-station moves;
* Stopping discretionary bonuses;
* Freezing all promotions.
• 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 email@example.com.
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.