Divorce risks benefits

Sgt. Shaft

Dear Sgt. Shaft,

A woman married a retired military man. Then they got divorced. She is already drawing Social Security. What benefits does she get, if any, by being married to him for nine or 10 years? I've heard she can keep her identification card, if not remarried, and Tricare for life. Does she lose her Tricare for life? Any benefits at all? I'm wondering if being married to him 10 years or any certain time frame means anything.

Thank you
Doris, via the Internet

Dear Doris:

My sources tell me that she loses everything. If a spouse is married to a military member fewer than 10 years, she retains no benefits. If she was married to him for 20 years while he was earning credit toward retirement she could retain her ID card and Tricare. Marriage of any length in retirement does not guarantee retention of benefits following divorce.

Shaft notes

President Obama broke a long-standing tradition last month when he became the first newly sworn-in president since 1953 to not attend the Salute to Heroes Inaugural Ball.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his wife, Jill, received a heartfelt response from the 50 Medal of Honor recipients and other American heroes, families and guests when they arrived at the ball at the Renaissance Hotel.

Kudos to retired Army Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, who recently took the oath of office as the nation's seventh secretary of Veterans Affairs, assuming the leadership of the Department of Veterans Affairs following confirmation by the Senate.

"The overriding challenge I am addressing from my first day in office is to make the Department of Veterans Affairs a 21st-century organization focused on the nation's veterans as its clients," Mr. Shinseki said.

Mr. Shinseki plans to develop a 2010 budget within his first 90 days that realizes President Obama's vision to transform the VA into an organization that is people-centric, results-driven and forward-looking.

Rep. Bob Filner, California Democrat and chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, offered his congratulations: "I believe the confirmation of General Eric Shinseki as secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs goes a long way in restoring confidence in the VA.

"Confidence in an agency must be earned, and will only come when there is accountability, transparency and results. Over the years, little by little, veterans have lost faith in the VA. Now, we need to reinvest in our veterans and prove to them that we will fight for them just like they fought for us.

"Throughout Secretary Shinseki's long and distinguished career in the Army, he produced real results and proved that his character is of the highest caliber. I am certain that he understands the hard work and dedication necessary to make VA stand for 'Veterans Advocate,' instead of what many believe the VA has become - 'Veterans Adversary.' "

Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, Hawaii Democrat and chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, stated in a recent hearing on the Shinseki nomination: "General Shinseki is an honest, distinguished and capable veteran, who is well-equipped to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. He has a daunting task ahead of him, and I look forward to working with him and the... president to help veterans receive the care and services they have earned through their service.

High five and "semper fi" to retired Marine Corps Gen. Richard I. Neal of Washington for his election as chairman of the board of directors of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), the nation's largest veterans organization for active duty, National Guard, Reserve, former, and retired military officers and their surviving spouses.

Gen. Neal was elected Nov. 19 at MOAA's annual meeting in Arlington and will serve for two years as head of MOAA's 36-member board.

The association promotes a strong national defense by advocating for equitable benefits for those who serve and have served their country in the military, including health care, pay, allowances and family issues. Founded in Los Angeles on Feb. 23, 1929, MOAA has approximately 370,000 members.

Before his election, Gen. Neal served for four years on MOAA's board, serving on the Member Services and Investment committees, and as the chairman of the Finance and Audit Committee.

Following graduation from Northeastern University in Boston in 1965, he was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in the Marine Corps. For the next 35 years, he commanded at every level: battery, battalion, brigade and division. He served two tours in Vietnam and was the deputy director of operations during Desert Storm. Gen. Neal´s last assignment was as assistant commandant of the Marine Corps.

Congratulations to Tammy Alvarez and Terry Saunders for their receiving of the Freddie Award honoring the production of the film, "Fighting for Life."

This honor is given to individuals and organizations that create a greater public awareness of health-related concerns.

The Freddie Awards honor the best in the year's health and medical productions and are considered the "Oscars of Health and Medicine." The MediMedia Foundation will host the awards with a star-studded black-tie affair to honor award-winners.

• 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 e-mail sgtshaft@bavf.org.