A vet wants to transfer her GI Bill benefits

Dear Sgt. Shaft,

I retired from the Air Force in 2006, with 22 years of service. I retired before the Post 9/11 GI Bill existed. I realize that I can use it. What don't understand is why I am not able to let my child use it. I wasn't given an opportunity during my 22 years to use a GI Bill. (It didn't exist for me, I didn't sign up for VEAP, we all know why!) I really don't need to use it myself, but my daughter would definitely use it and she wants to go into the military. I was just wondering if there was some way that I could transfer my benefit to her, because I don't really need it and I hate to see it wasted. I completed my degree while I was Active Duty. I do not plan to go back to school. Is there any way possible to do this?

Deanna A MSgt, USAF (retired)

Dear Deanna,

To qualify for transfer of entitlement under the Post-9/11 GI Bill an individual must have been a member of the Armed Forces on 8/1/2009.

Shaft Notes

• The Department of Veterans Affairs will sponsor their annual salute to women veterans at the VA medical center in Washington DC. This annual event, offers women Veterans an opportunity to explore gender-specific health care services offered at the DC VA Medical Center. This year’s event is special because the DC VA Medical Center will be opening a Women’s Health Pavilion where women Veterans can receive all of their health care and specialty needs in one space of the Medical Center, offering a feeling of comfort and confidence. The night will consist of hand massages, make-up application and technique, acupuncture, acupressure, Reiki and a walk on the Freedom Labyrinth. Women will also have the opportunity to meet personally with health care providers to discuss gender-specific health care needs and opportunities.

Female veterans can RSVP at (202)745- 8000 ext. 55297 or email Woman.Veteran@va.gov. Ladies’ Night will be held on Friday, November 22, 2013 at the Atrium of the DC VA Medical Center.

• The Sarge joins Chairman Jeff Miller in his support of House passage of S. 893, The Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2013. The bill would authorize an increase for Department of Veterans Affairs disability compensation, clothing allowance and survivor benefits equal to this year’s Social Security COLA – a 1.5 percent increase.

"House passage of S. 893 on the first legislative day following Veterans Day is a timely tribute to the service and sacrifice of so many of our country’s heroes. Disabled veterans and families of the fallen are now one step closer to a suitable benefits increase. I thank my colleagues in both the House and Senate for the bipartisan work it took to send this legislation to the president’s desk. I look forward to the president signing this bill into law so America’s veterans and their families can benefit from this well-deserved adjustment.”

• Daniel M. Dellinger, national commander of The American Legion said he is “appalled” by conditions at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical center in Jackson, Miss.

A Nov. 13 congressional hearing focused on a variety of serious, ongoing problems at the G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center (VAMC), including poor sterilization procedures, understaffing, misdiagnoses and poor management practices.

“The VA facility in Jackson has failed in its responsibility to protect veterans who depend on it for their health care,” Dellinger said. “When pieces of bone are still attached to surgical instruments that are being used on other patients, putting the lives of our veterans at risk, it is time to overhaul the entire hospital and remove – not transfer – the responsible parties.”

The hearing, held by the House Veterans Affairs’ Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations, examined a variety of serious problems at the Jackson VA center and featured testimony by two “whistleblowers”: Dr. Phyllis Hollenbeck, M.D. and Dr. Charles Sherwood, M.D. Hollenbeck is a former physician of family medicine at the Jackson VAMC, and Sherwood was chief of ophthalmology there.

Each witness described a situation at the Jackson facility plagued with deficiencies. Hollenbeck alleged the Jackson VAMC had about 19 nurse practitioners (NPs) in its primary care unit, but only three doctors (including her). She estimated that about 85 percent of primary-care patients were getting medical care from NPs instead of physicians – and that patients were frequently unaware they were not being seen by doctors.

A July report made by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) found that 75 percent of the Jackson VAMC’s primary-care staff were NPs (the average VA-wide is 25 percent).

“We’ve got a VA medical center in Jackson that has about a three-to-one ratio of nurse practitioners to physicians in its primary care unit,” Dellinger said. “According to OSC, that ratio at comparable facilities is one nurse practitioner for every three doctors. How did things get so grossly incompetent in Jackson?”

A Nov. 12 story by CNBC focused on poor sterilization procedures at the Jackson medical center that left bone fragments on instruments. The allegations were made by an orthopedic surgeon who used to work at the facility; he spoke to CNBC on the condition of anonymity.

“When you have VA medical staff who are afraid to reveal their identities to the public, you know that a culture of fear and reprisal probably exists in the Jackson medical center,” Dellinger said. “That is no way to honor the memory of Sonny Montgomery, one of the strongest advocates for veterans to ever walk the halls of the Capitol.”

Dellinger noted that VA gave bonuses last year to Joe Battle, the Jackson VAMC’s director, and to Rica Lewis-Payton, who directs the South Central Health Care Network (of which the Jackson facility is a part). “This is rubbing salt into the wounds of our veterans being treated in Jackson.”

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.