Veteran’s Medical Claim Held Up at VA

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I was recently medically discharged from the Army with a preliminary 100 percent disability. I was stationed at Fort Polk in Louisiana and was under the VA’s care for 200 days prior to being discharged. My claim is being held up over a picture of my neck scar.

I was told a VA contractor in Louisiana was unable to take the picture of my neck because I was discharged to my home, in Pennsylvania. The VA is arranging for another contractor in Pennsylvania to provide this picture.

I don’t know why the picture is so important, but it’s holding up my compensation check. Additionally, I’m paying a $500 co-pay for my medical treatment. I would be most appreciative of any assistance you can provide in order to straighten this mess out.

Thank you,
Eric B.
Harrisburg, Pa.

Dear Eric:

I referred your missive to those in the know at the VA Central Office. I am sure that by now you have heard from them and have been awarded the compensation that you so richly deserve. Thanks for your service and sacrifice.

Shaft notes

• U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, Pennsylvania Democrat, recently sent a letter to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden and asked him to re-check its report listing 32 cases of Legionnaires’ disease it found that occurred in 2011 and 2012 during an outbreak at Pittsburgh’s Veterans Affairs hospital, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

Mr. Casey’s letter was in response to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story that said a sixth death may be tied to the Legionnaires’ outbreak at VA facilities, the paper reported.

The CDC report, released in February, listed five deaths, the paper said.

“I believe it is important to ensure all cases have been accurately reported, and I request the CDC conduct a thorough review of the Post-Gazette’s findings,” Mr. Casey said, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story said it found that the CDC’s review of the death of Frank “Sonny” Calcagno, 85, may have wrongly been classified as a non-hospital acquired case that did not originate at the Pittsburgh VA.

• The new national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) says Congress’ failure to reach a budget agreement has forced the Department of Defense to actively plan to power down in size, capability and scope.

“We downsize our military after every war, but at least we used to wait until the war ended before doing it,” William A. Thien said. “Congress’ inability to compromise on a budget deal will gut our current force as well as future forces, all because of partisan politics that doesn’t put America at the top of their agendas.”

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

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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


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