Dear Sgt. Shaft,
G W USN (ret) fVia the internet
I sent your missive to the VA and received the following response:
"Can you send me a phone number and SSN? We need to talk to him. If he is talking about his disability pay, no, his wife will not continue to receive it. If he is talking about his retirement pay, no she will not continue to receive it, unless he enrolled in Survivors Benefits Plan when he retired, then she would receive a percentage of his retirement depending on what he signed up for. In addition his wife maybe eligible to receive other income based benefits. To give a really good response we need to look him up in the system."
I am sure that they will contact you and provide you with the correct information.
• U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) recently released the following statements after the United States Senate approved the Fiscal Year 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, which includes their bipartisan legislation to provide victims of sexual assault in all military branches with a Special Victims' Counsel (SVC)—a trained and certified military lawyer to assist victims throughout the legal process. The defense bill, which passed the Senate by a vote of 84-15, also includes dozens of major reforms to protect and support victims of sexual assault, boost prosecutions, and hold military commanders accountable.
"Today we have taken a major, unprecedented step toward finally eliminating the plague of sexual assault in our nation's military," said Senator Murray. "Thanks to the voices of countless victims, the work of thousands of advocates, and the bipartisan cooperation of my colleagues, we have shone a light on an issue that for too long has left so many of our nation's heroes in the shadows. I'd especially like to thank Senator Ayotte for her partnership as we worked to enact this reform, which truly gets at the heart of effectively addressing the tragic epidemic facing our men and women in uniform. I look forward to President Obama's signature on this legislation and in the coming months will work closely with Secretary Hagel and the incoming Director of the Department of Defense's Sexual Assault and Prevention Office, Major General Jeffrey Snow, to ensure swift implementation of our legislation."
"Providing sexual assault victims with their own military lawyer takes a major step toward empowering victims and making sure they get the guidance they need," said Senator Ayotte. "The special victims' counsel provision will help encourage victims to come forward to seek justice, and it will help ensure that perpetrators are held accountable for their crimes. I appreciated the opportunity to work with Senator Murray on this bipartisan measure, which is part of a broad package of reforms to address sexual assault in our military."
In August, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel directed immediate implementation of several measures to "gain greater consistency of effort and enhance oversight, investigative quality, pretrial investigations and victim support" in cases of military sexual assault. Among other measures, the directive includes implementation of a special victims' advocacy program to assist sexual assault victims in all branches through the legal process, similar to the legislation introduced by Senators Murray and Ayotte.
Senators Murray and Ayotte have worked for much of the year to advance legislation to prevent sexual assaults in the military. Last month, Senators Murray and Ayotte joined a bipartisan group of female Senators on the floor to speak out against sexual assault in the military and call on their colleagues to support some of the historic changes being made to prevent this scourge.
A Look Back:
"Senators introduce bill to address military sexual assaults" (The Hill, 5/7/2013)
"A strategy to combat military sexual assaults" (POLITICO, 5/22/2013)
"Lawmakers see own ideas in Pentagon's new sex assault measures" (The Hill, 8/15/2013)
"Murray Speaks Out Against Military Sexual Assault" (11/19/2013)
The VA has provided the following comments on the backlog in VA claims processing:
- In 2013 we continued to execute our plan to end the compensation claims backlog, which has been reduced by about 36% since March. This year we've completed claims for Veterans who have waited the longest, deployed our electronic claims system to every regional office ahead of schedule, and increased our accuracy to about 90%.
- We have reduced Veterans' homelessness by 24% since 2010 with the tremendous help of our partners at the federal, state and local level. The story below follows a team of Veterans, some formerly homeless themselves, who help get fellow Veterans into housing and off the streets.
While we've made tremendous progress, we know there is more work to be done for the Veterans we are privileged to serve. We're looking forward to another productive year and wish you all a happy and healthy 2014.
• 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.