Eight-year vet looks for benefits

December 4, 2012

Sgt. Shaft

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I am way out of touch with possible benefits after being honorably discharged in 1977; I actually enlisted in 1971 after serving in Camp Lejeune and also on the MSG program, serving at the American Embassy in London for some three years inclusive.

I currently live in the United Kingdom, where I married here and brought up our two daughters.

Please give me some help and guide me on any benefits that I can claim, retirement or some other financial benefit. I also have a copy of my DD214 if ever required.

Thank you in advance for your help.

Regards,
Robert B.
Via the Internet

Dear Robert:

Unfortunately as my sources tell me, there are no retirement benefits for you as an eight-year veteran, and further that your GI Bill benefits expired 10 years after your separation. If you have a service-connected disability, you may qualify for compensation and health care for the disability. Finally, you will have the opportunity to be buried in a VA or state veteran's cemetery in the U.S. That's probably all there is for someone in your situation.

Shaft notes

* The Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, a nonprofit organization, is now accepting submissions for its annual awards program. Each year, the foundation presents awards honoring the outstanding, creative work of individuals in preserving and promulgating the Marine Corps' history, traditions and culture. Marines and civilians alike may submit their own entries or the distinguished work of others for award consideration. Awards will be presented at the foundation's annual ceremony on April 20, 2013.

Submissions deadline is Jan. 9, 2013.

From active duty and retired Marines to civilians, the awards program draws entries from a broad spectrum of individuals interested in portraying or recognizing some aspect of Marine life, culture, history or work. The foundation recognizes superior achievement in literature, art, photography, videography and museum exhibits. Award categories include historical scholarship, journalism, and letters and arts for a total of 15 awards. The awards submissions will be reviewed by a distinguished and diverse panel of editors from major regional and national media outlets, as well Marines, authors and noted photographers.

"Our annual awards ceremony spotlights the creative achievements of civilians and Marines alike," said Lt. Gen Robert R. Blackman Jr., president and CEO of the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation. "The foundation applauds all those who have created work that depicts advances and preserves Marine Corps history, traditions and culture. We strongly encourage individuals to submit their own work or submit work on behalf of others. It is important for these works to be celebrated."

Dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Marine Corps history, the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation supports the historical programs of the Marine Corps in ways not possible through government funds. The foundation provides grants and scholarships for research and the renovation, restoration, and commissioning of historical Marine Corps artifacts and landmarks.

For a detailed list of the awards as well as the submission requirements, please visit: http://www.marineheritage.org/Awards.asp.

* The powers that be have been focusing on the global impact of conflict on the lives of our nation's veterans. One of the unexpected and little-noted consequences of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been an increase in the number of service members whose battlefield wounds leave them unable to have children.

One apparent reason is the type of combat: When troops on foot patrols are struck by improvised bombs, they are particularly vulnerable to pelvic injuries that damage their reproductive systems. Military records show that since 2003, more than 1,800 service members in those wars — the majority of them Army troops — have suffered such wounds.

Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, chairwoman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, has introduced a bill that would expand access to fertility treatments for disabled veterans who need them. Their spouses and surrogates would be covered as well.

The most significant change involves access to in vitro fertilization (IVF) — though the Veterans Affairs Department now offers some fertility services, like counseling, testing and a form of artificial insemination, it does not allow IVF, which can cost patients many thousands of dollars from private providers. The bill would put the V.A. on par with the Defense Department, which provides IVF and other fertility services to active-duty service members who are severely wounded in combat.

Ms. Murray's bill has other provisions to help young families, like creating child-care programs at Vet Centers so that parents are able to seek counseling and other mental health services there, and improve outreach to women at the veterans call center.

At a legislative hearing in June, V.A. officials said the department wanted "to restore the capabilities of veterans with disabilities to the greatest extent possible," but did not take a position on the bill. It should not be difficult for the V.A. to support Ms. Murray's legislation, whose provisions for covering fertility treatments are sensible and welcome; even this Congress should be capable of a bipartisan agreement to pass it.

In more than a decade of combat overseas, the military and V.A. have continually had to adjust to the challenges of new traumas with new treatments, as with the epidemic of brain injuries and post-traumatic stress. Adapting the V.A. health system to better meet reproductive-health needs should be part of that response. It is one compassionate way to fulfill the country's duty to wounded veterans.

* 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.