Vet's widow seeks Agent Orange compensation

Dear Sgt. Shaft,

My husband served in Vietnam and was rated 100% disabled by the VA for neuropathy, type 2 diabetes, and partial foot amputations due to the exposure of Agent Orange. He received his 100% rating in 2005, and passed away quite suddenly of colon cancer that spread to his liver in 2009.

I applied for DIC but was denied because colon cancer is not on the list. I am going to appeal again, can you advise me of anything before I appeal again. I am receiving CHAMPVA and have been told that having diabetes leads to a higher rate of colon cancer.

I appreciate any help.

Thank you very much,
Catherine K
Via the internet

Dear Catherine,

I referred your missive to those in the know at the Department of Veterans Affairs and they have assured me that they will review your claim. Please keep me informed.

Shaft Notes

• There have been some recent changes in the VRAP program. This is what I hear from VA:

"The bottom line, given that the statute directs VA that we do not have the authority to pay VRAP benefits after 31 March 2014, the decision was made to compute and distribute a lump sum payment for those Veterans still enrolled in March 2014 to enable them to complete their current term of instruction between now and June 30th. It does not provide anyone more than the original program's 12 months of benefits.

"We have begun to compute those lump sum payments already. So, for example, if a Veteran is currently enrolled with a term/enrollment completion of 10 May 2014 — that individual would receive a lump sum for the month of April + 10 days in May. If a Veteran's term ends on 15 July, that individual would get a lump sum payment for April + May + June — and not the 15 days in July. These payments will not be made for enrollment periods that begin after March 31. Again, this lump sum payment does not provide additional VRAP benefits beyond 12 months."

As you know, VRAP was established by the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 and began July 1, 2012. So far, we have provided more than $740 million in retraining assistance for more than 75,000 unemployed Veterans between the ages of 35 and 60 years.

School Certifying Officials must submit all VRAP enrollment certifications to VA on or before March 17, 2014 and must continue to review enrollments and report changes to VA for training pursued after March 31 through the end of the current enrollment period.

VRAP participants must verify attendance on or after March 31, 2014, for training pursued in March to receive payment. Attendance may be verified via VA’s Web Automated Verification of Enrollment (WAVE) at https://www.gibill.va.gov/wave/index.do or via the toll free Interactive Voice Response (IVR) telephone line at 1-877-VA-ECERT (1-877-823-2378).  Participants should report any changes in enrollment that occur on or after April 1, 2014, to their school certifying official and to VA at 1-888-GI Bill-1 (1-888-442-4551).  A reduction in training or withdrawal may result in an overpayment.

Military spouses, servicemembers, and veterans are invited to attend the free 2014 Military Spouse Symposium “Keeping a Career on the Move®,” in Old Town Alexandria, Va., hosted by the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), Wednesday, March 26, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., at the Hilton Alexandria Old Town, 1767 King St. Check-in and a complimentary breakfast begin at 8:15 a.m.

The executive sponsor for this award-winning event is JP Morgan Chase & Co.

Military spouses looking for a job now or preparing for a future career can attend informative workshops and speak with experts and employers who can offer assistance. Five-minute résumé critiques and professional LinkedIn photo shoots will be available throughout the day.

The symposium opens with the Spouse & Policy Panel focusing on tips and information about state policies and national programs that assist military spouses to advance their career opportunities.

Concurrent session workshops include:

  • “Résumé Writing and LinkedIn Strategies for Military Spouses”
  • “Your 30-Second Commercial: How to Work a Networking Event or Career Fair”
  • “Military Spouse Life Coaching”
  • “Dress for Success”

The keynote address will be delivered by Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, an accomplished legislator, a mother of three and a military spouse.

During lunch, a “Real Spouses, Real Stories” panel will highlight how fellow military spouses have navigated a wide variety of industries and strategic volunteerism opportunities to keep their careers on the move.

At the conclusion of the conference, conference attendees will receive a special gift from Stella & Dot.

To register and learn more about the symposium, visit www.moaa.org/spousesymposium.

• Congressman Bob Latta (R-Bowling Green) today led a bipartisan letter, which was co-signed by several of his colleagues from the Ohio Congressional Delegation, to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Shinseki regarding the backlog at the Cleveland VA Regional Office. According to county Veterans Service Officers, the Cleveland VA Regional Office is currently processing veterans’ disability claims appeals with a waiting time of five to ten years, causing many of our nation’s heroes to suffer additional hardships.

“The current backlog at the Cleveland VA Regional Office is unacceptable,” said Latta. “Our veterans have made significant sacrifices in service to this country, and the VA must make sure their needs are taken care of in a timely manner. For many, a five to ten-year backlog could last a lifetime and will only bring further hardship to these heroes and their families. Therefore, it is imperative that Secretary Shinseki and the VA address this backlog and institute measures to ensure this trend does not continue.” 

The letter asks that Secretary Shinseki provide reasons for the current backlog, the corrective action the VA and the Cleveland VARO are taking to remedy the situation, and ways Congress may be helpful.

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.