Rejoining service after false diagnosis

Dear Sgt. Shaft,

I found your name during a recent web search where I came across a dated correspondence you had with a vet about ROTC service. I’m at a dead end and wondered if you might have any counsel. To make a long story (somewhat) short, I was on the path for a military career but was cut short before it began. As a battalion commander in my JROTC program I received a 3-year scholarship from the Army. In 1997, I successfully completed all four years of ROTC with high marks. Unfortunately, a month prior to my commissioning I was diagnosed with ulcerative proctitis; one of those items on the Army’s no-go list. Fast forward to 2011, I underwent a colonoscopy to see how things were going. Low and behold, I don’t have proctitis and the doctor confirmed I never did. Apparently, in 1997 the doctor used an out of date procedure to diagnose me and made what is today recognized to be a common mistake from back then. Despite the years, my desire to serve is still very high

I’ve visited with guard recruiters and a local ROTC PMS but this is too far out of the ordinary for them to do anything with. So how does one re-enter the military at the ripe but physically fit age of 39 without starting from square one (basic enlistment). Any thoughts or suggestions would be helpful.

Charles
Via the internet

Dear Charles,

Yours is such a unique case and at this point, I don’t have an answer. Hopefully, however, by highlighting your letter in this column, a person that had a similar experience will contact me.

Shaft Notes

• Congratulations to the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) on their expansion of support of veterans and survivors and their families by adding Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) claims assistance to its suite of transition services. The new status was officially announced on Thursday, Jan. 9, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at MOAA headquarters in Alexandria, Va. Retired Brig. Gen. Allison A. Hickey, under secretary for benefits at the VA, was the guest of honor.

“MOAA felt we could not stand on the sidelines of the VA claims backlog without supporting the VA’s good-faith efforts by being part of the solution, “MOAA President retired Navy Vice Adm. Norb Ryan said. “We are helping to file fully developed claims, providing VA with the information they need to adjudicate the claim and shorten the wait time for the veteran. We are very proud to attain recognition as a Veterans Service Organization (VSO) and believe that providing this new service is meeting an important need of the military community.”

Due to the significant backlog of VA claims, causing disabled veterans long waits for benefits, the VA has invested in people, processes and technology, all of which is designed to process veterans’ claims more quickly and accurately. The claims process is complex, and about 50 percent of veterans do not use a VSO for help. MOAA is seeking to serve the veterans who do not already have a representative and will provide detailed articles, worksheets and resources for self-help that are available free online at www.moaa.org/vso.

MOAA has two full-time employees and seven accredited representatives dedicated to the effort, and though not as large as some of the other VSOs, MOAA expects to complete 2,000 claims a year. MOAA will begin taking claims in the National Capital area before moving nationwide. Through its claim representation efforts, the MOAA VSO staff is learning how to improve access to veteran and survivor benefits. MOAA has created a MOAA Claims Assistance blog and discussion forum to inform and educate the military community about veteran and survivor benefits. MOAA’s government relations team has made this issue a top priority and, as top advocates on the Hill, will provide comments and suggestions on proposed laws and regulations.

Veterans in need of claims assistance do not need to be a member of MOAA or its subsidiary Voices for America’s Troops to take advantage of these services. Those interested can schedule an initial consultation by calling MOAA at (866) 739-3046 (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern) or emailing vso@moaa.org. The claims service will be provided at MOAA headquarters office in Old Town Alexandria and a satellite office at the Pentagon. An appointment is necessary.

MOAA also announced their receipt of a grant from JPMorgan Chase & Co. that will help create three regional military spouse symposia in 2014, beginning in San Antonio Feb. 12. The second will be in the Washington, D.C., metro area, and the third location is under consideration.

The grant enables the expansion of MOAA’s seven-year initiative to conduct an all-day professional-development conference titled “Keeping a Career on the Move®.” This program offers a unique opportunity for military spouses to engage with employers and attend informative workshops specially designed for local military spouses who are looking for employment or preparing for a future career.

“MOAA is extremely appreciative of JPMorgan Chase’s generosity that allows us to expand our spouse symposia program,” MOAA President Vice Adm. Norb Ryan said. “We know this program delivers information and support to military spouses who want to create, continue or enhance a career in this mobile lifestyle. MOAA is known for providing personal, face-to-face support to all military spouses, and this grant helps us deliver our award-winning program across the country.”

“JPMorgan Chase is committed to hiring and retaining military spouses from all armed services, and we are proud to partner with MOAA to create better career opportunities for them,” said Maureen Casey, head of military and veterans affairs at JPMorgan Chase. “We understand the challenges military spouses face as they try to balance careers with the unique demands of military life, and we want to help position them for success."

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.