Dear Sgt. Shaft:
Thank you for your assistance.
Via the Internet
The answer to your question is yes. The only reason you are splitting your retired pay is due a court order to a designated person. If the designated person dies first, your retired pay is restored to you.
• On July 17, nearly 100 surviving spouses, including members of Military Officers Association of America’s (MOAA) Auxiliary Member Advisory Committee (AMAC); MOAA staff, joined by members of the Gold Star Wives, American Legion, Society of Military Widows; and various surviving spouse support groups attended a “Storming the Hill” event, sponsored by MOAA.
The purpose was to educate the 113th Congress and their legislative and military assistants on the Survivor Benefit Plan/Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (SBP/DIC) offset issue.
The day began at the Rayburn Building at a congressional breakfast with Rep. Joe Wilson, South Carolina Republican, addressing the group. Two surviving spouses, Traci Voelke and Suzanne Gerstner, each spoke about their husband’s deaths and gave very different but compelling testimonials of the struggles each of their families face as a result of the offset.
MOAA’s government relations team presented a quick brief to the congressional assistants in the group focusing on the SBP/DIC offset issue.
“In order to fully understand the importance of complete elimination of the SBP/DIC offset, it is vital they understand the issue and its impact on surviving spouses and families,” said Vice Adm. Norbert R. Ryan Jr., USN (Ret), president of MOAA. “The ultimate goal is complete elimination of the SBP/DIC offset, and I am proud of this group of surviving spouses for their advocacy and determination.”
Under current law, the surviving spouse of an active-duty or retired member, who dies of a service-connected cause, must forfeit $1 of military SBP annuity for each $1 received in DIC. DIC is presently set at $1,215 monthly and is paid only to survivors of veterans whose death is determined to have been caused by service. This dollar for dollar offset wipes out most of the SBP payment for the vast majority of survivors.
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Rep. Wilson have introduced S. 734 and H.R. 32, respectively, which would repeal the offset of DIC payments from SBP annuities, in the belief that when military service causes the death, the VA indemnity payment should be added to the normal SBP annuity, not subtracted from it.
After a congressional breakfast, the “stormers” met with their legislators and staffs to discuss the issues, provide fact sheets and brochures, and ask them to end the SBP/DIC offset.
“Even in a budget-constrained environment, fair treatment for survivors of service members who gave their lives for their country must not be a low funding priority,” Vice Adm. Ryan concluded.
The Sarge urges members of Congress to treat these survivors fairly by passing this important legislation.
• The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently acquired 247.4 acres of land in Morovis, Puerto Rico, to prevent the loss of burial benefits to Puerto Rico’s veterans when the Puerto Rico National Cemetery, located in Bayamón, closes to new casketed interments sometime in 2022.
“Veterans in Puerto Rico have earned the right to burial in a national shrine,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki said. “We are committed to replacing Puerto Rico National Cemetery so that veterans will continue to have a final resting place and lasting tribute to their service and sacrifice for years to come.”
VA closed on the Morovis property, located off PR Route 137, in March for approximately $7.6 million. The replacement site is located about 28 miles from the existing cemetery. There is no possibility for expansion adjacent to the original cemetery because the property is surrounded by commercial and residential development.
Puerto Rico National Cemetery became a national cemetery on July 12, 1948. The cemetery serves approximately 107,480 Veterans in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Situated on 108.2 acres, of which 99 have been developed, the cemetery accommodates casketed and cremated remains.
More than 1,700 burials were conducted in fiscal year 2012.
Puerto Rico National Cemetery is the only national cemetery located outside of the United States. More than 56,000 Veterans and family members are interred there.
Veterans with a discharge issued under conditions other than dishonorable, their spouses and eligible dependent children can be buried in a VA national cemetery. Also eligible are military personnel who die on active duty, their spouses and eligible dependents. Other burial benefits available for all eligible veterans, regardless of whether they are buried in a national cemetery or a private cemetery, include a burial flag, a presidential memorial certificate and a government headstone or marker.
Families of eligible decedents may also order a memorial headstone or marker when remains are not available for interment.
In the midst of the largest expansion since the Civil War, VA operates 131 national cemeteries in 39 states and Puerto Rico and 33 soldiers’ lots and monument sites. More than 3.8 million Americans, including veterans of every war and conflict, are buried in VA’s national cemeteries.
Information on VA burial benefits can be obtained from national cemetery offices, from the Internet at www.cem.va.gov or by calling VA regional offices toll-free at 800-827-1000. To make burial arrangements at the time of need at the Puerto Rico National Cemetery, call 787-798-8400 or 8413, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
To make burial arrangements at any other open VA national cemetery, call the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at 800-535-1117, seven days a week, between the hours of 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. CDT. For more information on Puerto Rico National Cemetery, call the cemetery office at 787-798-8400.
• 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Bipartisan legislation will improve quality of educational programs for servicemembers and veterans