A vet needs answers with April 2012 claim

Dear Sgt Shaft,

My claim with the VA has been on file since April 2012. I sent them everything that they need and still no answer.

Sincerely,
Michael D
Via the internet

Dear Michael,

The VA sent a follow-up request for medical records on November 27, 2013, to the Houston Pain Association, Texas Ortho, and Methodist Hospital. I understand that you were contacted on December 17, 2013, and advised VA that you have copies and would submit the records that they need.

Shaft Notes

• The Sarge dittos The American Legion commander Daniel M. Dellinger in his criticism of handwritten Christmas cards from schoolchildren which were denied distribution to veterans at the Dallas VA Medical Center this week because they referenced the holiday by name. The Commander is not happy about this, and neither is the Liberty Institute, which has sided with the Legion in opposing a number of other attempts to prevent free expression of speech and religion.

Also this week, the VA hospital in Augusta, Ga., announced a new policy that turned away high school students who intended to sing Christmas carols to veterans, as they traditionally have in past years. And in Iowa City, American Legion members were told they could not hand out presents to veterans if the wrapping paper said Merry Christmas, a problem they solved by filtering the gifts through the VA chaplain.

The American Legion has asked VA Central Office for an explanation of why it appears that Christians are being singled out for restrictions, especially when the holiday honors the birth of Jesus Christ.

"First of all, VA's decision to prohibit the delivery of Christmas cards that mention Christmas is ludicrous," Dellinger said today after Texas teacher Susan Chapman was told Monday that her students' cards would not be delivered to veterans. "Second of all, VA has been down this road before, and recently. VA has been warned through a federal court decree to stop denying freedom of religious expression at its facilities. It's pretty obvious the Dallas VA did not get that memo."

When high school singers arrived last Friday at the Augusta, Ga., VA Medical Center, officials reportedly gave them a list of 12 approved, secular holiday songs. Unprepared to sing them, the students opted not to perform. "That's censorship, pure and simple," Dellinger said of the rejected carolers. "Every Christmas, every religious holiday, Christians are more and more often targeted for censorship and restriction at VA facilities. Veterans in these hospitals fought to protect such freedoms."

Chapman, the wife of a U.S. military veteran, has requested that the Dallas VA Medical Center immediately rescind its discriminatory policy and allow her and her students — and any others in the future — to distribute Christmas cards that say "Merry Christmas" or "God Bless You" or mention Jesus. Writing to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and VA North Texas Health System Director Jeffery L. Milligan, Liberty Institute set a deadline of Friday, Dec. 27, for confirmation in writing "that Mrs. Chapman and her students may distribute cards that contain the phrase 'Merry Christmas,' 'God Bless You,' or that contain other religious references to veterans at the Medical Center and at all other VA hospitals, and that the holiday card policies of the Department and the Medical Center (are) brought in line with applicable law."

"Of course, for this year's schoolchildren, it's a little late, and that's really disappointing," said Dellinger, who leads the 2.4-million-member American Legion, the largest veterans organization in the country. "VA needs to let those children deliver cards to the veterans now, and those who wrongly banned them owe an apology to the children, the teacher and the veterans who were supposed to get them Monday. This is a clear case of discrimination on the basis of religious expression; the courts have already ruled that such policies are unconstitutional. The American Legion fully concurs with that interpretation."

• Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) recently announced that she will be an original co-sponsor of the Military Retirement Restoration Act, a bill that would repeal planned cuts to  military retiree cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) that were included in the Bipartisan Budget Act last week. The Military Retirement Restoration Act would replace the cuts to military retiree benefits by closing loopholes and preventing companies from avoiding U.S. taxes by abusing overseas tax havens.

"It is unacceptable to backpedal on the commitment we have made to our men and women in uniform who raise their hand to serve and put their lives on the line for us," said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. "While it was far from perfect, the Bipartisan Budget Act was a modest step in the right direction to help us avert preventable government crises; however, we cannot pay for the agreement by short-changing our military retirees. The Military Retirement Restoration Act would:

  • Repeal the provision in the Bipartisan Budget Act (Section 403) that modifies the annual cost-of-living adjustment for working-age military retirees by making the adjustments equal to inflation minus one percent. This provision, which is scheduled to go into effect in December 2015, would result in a benefit cut for working-age military retirees. The Bipartisan Budget Act modifies the annual cost-of-living adjustment for working-age military retirees by making the adjustments equal to inflation minus one percent. At age 62, the retired pay would be adjusted as if the COLA had been the full CPI adjustment in all previous years, and the service members would receive the full COLA from then on. The provision would have saved approximately $6 billion over ten years.
  • Prevent companies from avoiding paying their fair share of U.S. taxes. The repeal would be fully offset by stopping companies incorporated offshore but managed and controlled from the United States from claiming foreign status and avoiding U.S. taxes on their foreign income. It would require these companies to be treated as U.S. domestic corporations for tax purposes. This provision and is expected to raise over $6.6 billion over ten years.

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.