A Veteran Salutes Washington DC Fisher House

Dear Sgt. Shaft,

I want to recognize the staff or the newly dedicated DC VA Hospital Fisher House for the hospitality they rendered to my wife. I had an appointment at the hospital and was admitted and could not take her home and she does not drive. I want to thank the Fisher House staff for making my wife's stay comfortable which made my stay easier.

Aaron S Via the internet

Dear Aaron,

Kudos to the Fisher family for building not only this Fisher House, but others similar facilities throughout the nation.

Shaft Notes

• I was happy to attend a recent special gala sponsored by the Armed Services YMCA where five heroic medics and corpsmen were recently honored as ‘Angels of the Battlefield’. The two women and three men were chosen for their exemplary talents as life-saving military personnel and their dedication to service. The “Angels” represent each of the five service branches of the U.S. military, and were chosen by their respective Service Chiefs. More than 300 guests, including senior military and enlisted service members, gathered at the Four Seasons in Washington, D.C. to honor the 2014 heroes at the 8th annual gala.

“Thanks to remarkable advances in battlefield and post-battlefield medical care, a great many warriors will be with us for decades to come.  But it’s the faces behind the care that our wounded recognize as lifesavers . . . the heroes of the heroes,” remarked, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral James A. “Sandy” Winnefeld, Jr., who delivered the keynote address.

The 2014 Angels include:

  • SrA Taylor Renfro, a 23-year-old Air Force medic from Jacksonville, IL, who has both provided life-saving treatment, and received it. She was saved by another medic when her vehicle was hit by an IED (improvised explosive device) in Afghanistan.
  • SGT Kristopher Ritterhouse, a 26-year-old Army medic from Bullhead, AZ, who continued to provide medical treatment for others, after being seriously injured himself in a battle in Afghanistan.  Despite his own injuries, he returned to search for more casualties while under-fire.
  • HM1 Kevin Toland, a 32-year-old Marine corpsman from Atlanta, GA, who triaged and treated patients saving many lives, when an IED (improvised explosive device) hit a local bazaar in Afghanistan.
  • HM2 Michael Marchante, a 26-year-old Navy corpsman from Murrieta, CA, who treated a severely wounded soldier in Afghanistan while under active fire.  Marchante used his body to shield the victim from further injury.
  • HSN1 Janet Combs, a 31-year-old Coast Guard corpsman from Miami Beach, FL, who has treated hundreds of patients including two rescued from the water when their helicopter went down, a critical stroke victim, and many others. She is known for motivating her personnel and compassion for her patients and their families.

The gala featured entertainment by country music star Savannah Berry, finalist from NBC’s The Voice, and Grammy Award winner Kristian Bush. They performed two songs written to show support for service members and their families.

“These are the men and women that risk their lives each day, so our service members make it home to their families,” says Mike Landers, President and CEO of Armed Services YMCA “Recognizing them for their sacrifices and tremendous sense of valor is one small way to demonstrate how grateful we are for their service.

• The 2014 American Legion World Series championship game will be televised live and available to 80 million viewers on the ESPNU network in August, officials announced yesterday. Preliminary games will be available on the Internet service ESPN3. The agreement between The American Legion and ESPN is for five years. The games will be held Aug. 14-19 in Shelby, N.C. The last time an American Legion World Series championship game was televised live was 35 years ago.

“The extended contact (with ESPN) to televise the championship game of the World Series is testimony of the perseverance and commitment of all involved to maintain our reputation as one of the most successful and tradition-rich amateur baseball programs in the world,” said Richard Anderson, chairman of The American Legion National Americanism Commission.

Nearly 80,000 young people play American Legion Baseball in the United States and Canada. Major League Baseball greats Yogi Berra, George Brett, Chipper Jones, Albert Pujols, Don Mattingly and Justin Verlander are just a few of the notable big leaguers who have played American Legion Baseball. For more, visit www.legion.org/baseball.

• House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller and Rep. Jackie Walorski recently introduced H.R. 4102, legislation that would make an award of VA benefits issued on or after the date of a veteran’s death payable to the veteran’s estate.

Under current law, only a veteran’s spouse, children under the age of 18, and parents are eligible to receive retroactive VA disability benefits compensation in the event of a veteran claimant’s death. Historically, approximately 2.6 percent of veterans with pending VA disability benefits compensation claims die while awaiting a claims decision, according to the department.

The bill was developed in response to the experience of Indianapolis veteran Shelton Hickerson and his daughter Sharon Hickerson Thurman. Shelton Hickerson filed a VA disability claim in 2000 that the department initially denied. After a more than a decade long appeal process, VA awarded Hickerson a 100 percent disability rating, with retroactive pay of $377,342 June 27, 2013. Unfortunately, Shelton Hickerson passed away the same day, and Sharon Hickerson was not eligible to receive the retroactive compensation because she was over the age of 18 and not otherwise dependent on her father.

This legislation would allow payments issued on the date of the veteran’s death to be awarded to the veteran’s estate, consistent with general principles of estate law.

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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