Interring a military spouse at Arlington

Dear Sgt. Shaft,

Our family would like to have my Aunt Alice’s ashes interred at Arlington with her husband Harold Stone. I have been waiting since early December to hear back from the staff at Arlington regarding the schedule.

We would like to have the service for Alice Stone on May 7th, 2014.

I was told after Mrs. Stone died that I could call and schedule 150 days in advance and when I actually called to schedule I was told that this is no longer the case.

It is important that we schedule this as soon as possible as we are trying to get family and friends from both coasts to attend the ceremony and the scheduling window is very small if everyone is to make the trip.

Any help you can provide would be much appreciated.

Thank you very much for your help with this.

Karen H
Via the internet

Dear Karen,

I notified the folks at Arlington cemetery about your missive and this is the response that I received:

Arlington National Cemetery handles cases on a first-come, first-served basis. It is very important to the leadership of the Army and to ANC that we ensure all our eligible veterans and family members receive the dignified honors they have earned through their sacrifice. Ms. Hardcastle's case was received on December 5th. There are currently over 100 cases in front of her case. She should receive a call to schedule in 3 to 4 weeks. We understand that she is looking for May, however, we are not scheduling out that far yet. Currently we are only scheduling until the end of March. I hope this answers Ms Hardcastle's concerns.

Thank you for your support for Arlington National Cemetery.

COL Michelle J. Stewart
Chief of Staff
Arlington National Cemetery

Shaft Notes

• Rep. Mark Takano and Sen. Tom Carper commended the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense as they unveiled their new complaint intake website for student veterans who feel that they have been deceived, abused, or otherwise taken advantage of by colleges.

Rep. Takano said, "I am very pleased to see the VA and DOD take up this issue. Many for-profit colleges specifically target veterans, using aggressive recruitment tactics that intentionally invoke pain and fear to pressure veterans into enrolling. This website will provide a space for our student veterans to report these abuses."

"I believe we have a moral imperative to ensure that those who have sacrificed for our country obtain the best education possible, one that will equip them with the skills they need to find a good job, repay their college loans, and go on to live productive lives," said Chairman Tom Carper. "That's why we must focus on how we can fix problems within the higher education system and encourage all schools to deliver a higher quality education to our military and veteran populations. This common-sense initiative will give our service members and veterans who have been subjected to questionable recruitment practices, deceptive marketing, and substandard educational instruction an opportunity to share their experiences in an effort to curb these unacceptable and abusive tactics."

Investigations into for-profit colleges have found massive amounts of waste, fraud, and abuse in the industry, including deceptive and aggressive recruiting of students, false or inflated job placement rates, and dismal completion rates. According to a report by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions, for-profit colleges spend more of their budget on marketing and recruitment – 22.7 percent – than on student instruction – 17.2 percent.

• Kudos to Brian Hawkins, Director of the Washington DC VA Medical Center and his cadre of volunteers for their recent successful program to aid homeless veterans.

The Washington DC VA Medical Center’s Atrium was crowded on January 25 with a record number of homeless and at-risk Veterans. More than 700 Veterans, including 72 women, attended the 20th annual Winterhaven Homeless Stand Down to receive one-on-one assistance with health care, benefits, employment and housing. Many received something they didn’t expect, hope.

Winterhaven is the Department of Veterans Affairs’ proactive outreach event to engage Veterans in rehabilitative activities, programs and services to propel them to a better quality of life. According the CEO and Medical Center Director Brian A. Hawkins, hope is a powerful tool in helping Veterans help themselves. "Being here and seeing how many community and government agencies are committed to eliminating homelessness, gives Veterans the hope they need to improve their situations," said Mr. Hawkins.

Winterhaven is a true community effort. More than 70 community and government agencies joined forces for the major outreach event. Nine area employers participated in the mini-job fair, offering on-site access to employment opportunities. The Medical Center’s partnerships with Zips Dry Cleaners, Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), and Atlas Research assisted with providing over 500 new and slightly used coats. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) conducted their fourth annual "Walk in their Footsteps" campaign and provided 700 pairs of shoes and boots. Volunteer student-barbers with Bladensburg Barbers offered over 70 haircuts; over 700 comfort kits were issued to Veterans; and the American Postal Workers Union (AWPU) provided 550 backpacks filled with survival materials to all participating Veterans as they left the event.

More than 400 volunteers were on hand, including U.S. Marines from Henderson Hall, to help Veterans access resources to avoid foreclosure and learn about financial management and education and career opportunities.

Health care providers from the Medical Center conducted health screenings, mental health care, psychosocial services, eye and dental exams. Flu and pneumonia shots were offered as well as consultative services such as podiatry, infectious diseases and women’s health.

Winterhaven is a major component of the Department of Veterans Affairs mission to end homelessness by the year 2015. For more information about VA programs to help homeless and at-risk Veterans, phone the Community Resource and Referral Center, 202-636-7660.

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.