Support “Blue Water” Vietnam Veterans

As a lifetime member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), I am motivated to act upon issues that affect my fellow veterans.    This is an action request for American citizens to send to your Senators urging them to support a measure to provide health care to eligible Vietnam veterans,  so-called “Blue Water Veterans”.  We know of the exposure to Agent Orange and others by troops on the ground, but there are those whose exposure is  from the handling, transport and storage of defoliant offshore, as well as use in the Korean DMZ and elsewhere.

Background: During the Vietnam War, veterans who served in the offshore waters of Vietnam drank, bathed in, and cooked with water contaminated by Agent Orange. They are now arbitrarily and unjustly denied benefits for illnesses associated with Agent Orange exposure. On July 25, 2018, the House of Representatives unanimously passed H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2018. This bipartisan legislation would end the injustice of denying care and benefits to veterans who suffer from life-threatening health conditions.

Please copy and send the following letter via email,  or print and send.  Your Senator ‘s contact information is found here.

 

SUBJECT:  Please Take Action on Blue Water Navy Bill

Honorable Senator ______:

As your constituent, I write to request you to urge the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs and the full Senate to swiftly pass H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2018. This bipartisan bill was unanimously approved by the House of Representatives nearly three months ago and would end the injustice of denying care and benefits to veterans who suffer from life-threatening health conditions.

Recent statements by the Department of Veterans Affairs dispute scientific evidence that veterans who served in the coastal waters of Vietnam during the Vietnam War were exposed to Agent Orange, a toxic herbicide that has been found to be associated with the development of rare cancers and other health conditions. However, the National Academy of Medicine (formally called the Institute of Medicine) study entitled Veterans and Agent Orange (Update 2014) found that existing evidence shows possible routes of exposure for Blue Water Navy veterans, which means existing evidence should not be used to exclude Blue Water Navy veterans. One thing is undeniable: thousands of Blue Water Navy veterans are suffering and dying from the same conditions as veterans who served in-country during the Vietnam War. Time is running out for many Blue Water Navy veterans. The Senate must not delay further while Blue Water Navy veterans sicken and die from diseases related to exposure to Agent Orange.

The brave men and women who wear the uniform of our nation are asked to serve in the roughest and most dangerous environments on Earth. When they are injured or made ill as a result of such service, a grateful nation must provide them the care and benefits they need to cope with their disabilities. The Senate must do the right thing by passing H.R. 299 before the end of the year.

Sincerely,

<your name / mailing address>

 

VA Pensions

Are you, or do you know someone who served in the U.S. military, at least some of which was during a period of wartime, and has financial and/ or physical hardship?   Do they know that they may receive assistance from the Veterans Administration?

Reprinted from the VA website

Veterans Pension

Supplemental Income for Wartime Veterans

VA helps Veterans and their families cope with financial challenges by providing supplemental income through the Veterans Pension benefit. Veterans Pension is a tax-free monetary benefit payable to low-income wartime Veterans.

Eligibility

Generally, a Veteran must have at least 90 days of active duty service, with at least one day during a wartime period to qualify for a VA Pension. If you entered active duty after September 7, 1980, generally you must have served at least 24 months or the full period for which you were called or ordered to active duty (with some exceptions), with at least one day during a wartime period.

In addition to meeting minimum service requirements, the Veteran must be:

  • Age 65 or older, OR
  • Totally and permanently disabled, OR
  • A patient in a nursing home receiving skilled nursing care, OR
  • Receiving Social Security Disability Insurance, OR
  • Receiving Supplemental Security Income

Your yearly family income must be less than the amount set by Congress to qualify for the Veterans Pension benefit. Learn more about income and net worth limitation, and see an example of how VA calculates the VA Pension benefit.

Additional Pension Allowances

Veterans or surviving spouses who are eligible for VA pension and are housebound or require the aid and attendance of another person may be eligible for an additional monetary payment.

How To Apply

You can apply for Veterans Pension online or download and complete VA Form 21P-527EZ, “Application for Pension”. You can mail your application to the Pension Management Center (PMC) that serves your state. You may also visit your local regional benefit office and turn in your application for processing. You can locate your local regional benefit office using the VA Facility Locator

To apply for increased pension based on A&A or Housebound payments, write to the PMC that serves your state and provide medical evidence, such as a doctor’s report, that validates the need for an increased benefit.

Who better to lead

When I chose to make the military my career,  I vowed to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.  Never in my nearly sixty years of age, did I think that, disagreements on policy priorities and governance aside, that our two-hundred forty year old nation would be so divided internally, and so poorly governed.

Since the first Gulf War, in 1991,  the members of Congress in particular, and the Government bureaucrats and advisers, generally, with military service -especially wartime combat service have declined.  With a world view fueled by lifelong academics with little to no experience abroad,  the men and women who are seeking to “fundamentally transform America” ( then-candidate Barack Obama) do not have American interests, nor practical American foreign policy concerns at heart.

Whether it is the shortsighted foreign policy objectives  or the politically-encumbered execution of military operations in the Middle East and Southwest Asia,  military men and women have been sent into harm’s way.  And the bureaucrats, industrial lobbyists, politicians, academics, and news media corporations, all vie for primacy while the American soldier, sailor, airman, marine, and our border enforcement agents all are treated shabbily.

When I heard today that Jeff Bezos of Amazon donated millions to a PAC, With Honor,  I started to look into it.   The idea that military, particularly combat-veterans, should run for political office and senior bureaucratic offices at all levels of government, cheers me.  It sounds intriguing.  I have served with some who have held offices in state governments and have brought a lot of wisdom and value to serving their constituents. But with electoral campaigns running into the millions of dollars, few can compete without well-connected benefactors.  There needs to be effective support systems that are independent of party affiliation.  And with veterans in the workings of government, there may be better opportunity to provide well-earned services to our veterans,  and to provide some sober judgement about policies that may send others into harms way.

More to come.

DoD Announces Policy Change on Transfer of Post-9/11 GI Bill Benefits

Via DoD Announces Policy Change on Transfer of Post-9/11 GI Bill Benefits:


CTMCS (ret) Summary: DOD has changed policy to increase retention, mandating service members must be under 16 years TAFMS (or Selected Reserve), to elect a transfer to spouse or kids,  and must have 4 years service obligation remaining in order to transfer benefits.

The Defense Department issued a substantive change today to its policy on the transfer by service members in the uniformed services of Post-9/11 GI Bill educational benefits to eligible family member recipients.

Effective one year from the date of this change, eligibility to transfer those benefits will be limited to service members with less than 16 years of total active-duty or selected reserve service, as applicable.

Previously, there were no restrictions on when a service member could transfer educational benefits to their family members. The provision that requires a service member to have at least six years of service to apply to transfer benefits remains unchanged in the policy.

Focus on Retention

“After a thorough review of the policy, we saw a need to focus on retention in a time of increased growth of the armed forces,” said Stephanie Miller, director of accessions policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. “This change continues to allow career service members that earned this benefit to share it with their family members while they continue to serve.” This change is an important step to preserve the distinction of transferability as a retention incentive, she added.

If service members fail to fulfill their service obligation because of a “force shaping” event — such as officers involuntarily separated as a result of being twice passed over for promotion or enlisted personnel involuntarily separated as a result of failure to meet minimum retention standards, such as high year of tenure — the change will allow them to retain their eligibility to transfer education benefits even if they haven’t served the entirety of their obligated service commitment through no fault of their own.

All approvals for transferability of Post-9/11 GI Bill continue to require a four-year commitment in the armed forces and, more importantly, the member must be eligible to be retained for four years from the date of election, officials said.

The policy affects service members in the uniformed services, which includes the U.S. Coast Guard as well as the commissioned members of the U.S. Public Health Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

editor: emphasis added 

Combat-injured veterans tax relief

undoing the added insult to injury

Of all the things that politicians do that gets people’s dander up,  then-President Obama signed into law  a bill that rights a wrong for combat-injured veterans.   For more than a hundred-thirty thousand  veterans whose combat injuries ended their careers,  the government has ended taxing their severance pay.  The veterans affected served from 1991 (Desert Storm) through the present.

The IRS bulletin :

The Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act of 2016, enacted December 2016, allows certain veterans who received lump sum disability severance payments additional time to file a claim for credit or refund of an overpayment attributable to the disability severance payment. The law directed the Secretary of Defense to identify disability severance payments paid after January 17, 1991, that were included as taxable income on Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, but were later determined to be nontaxable and to provide notice of the amount of that payment. The Department of Defense is mailing letters to affected veterans (letters 6060-A and 6060-D) in July 2018.

What this means for some veterans

Veterans discharged from military service due to medical disability may receive a one-time lump sum severance payment. Disability severance pay is taxable income unless the pay results from a combat-related injury or the service member receives official notification from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) approving entitlement to disability compensation.

Anyone who received a disability severance payment that was taxed and determines later that the payment qualifies under one of the rules above can file a claim for credit or refund for the tax year in which the disability severance payment was made and was included as income on a tax return.

For veterans who received a lump sum disability severance payment after January 17, 1991, the Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act of 2016 may provide additional time to claim a credit or refund for the overpayment attributable to the disability severance payment.

What you need to do

You must complete and file IRS Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, for the tax year the disability severance payment was made carefully following the instructions in the notice mailed by the Department of Defense in July 2018. You must mail the claim generally by the later of:

  • 1 year from the date of the Department of Defense notice, or
  • 3 years after the due date for filing the original return for the year the disability severance payment was made, or
  • 2 years after tax was paid for the year the disability severance payment was made.

If you did not receive the notice from the Department of Defense and you received a disability severance payment after January 17, 1991, that you reported as taxable income, you can still file a claim as long as you attach the necessary documentation to your Form 1040X. You may contact the Defense Finance and Accounting Services to obtain your documentation for submission with the required Form 1040X. See the FAQs for additional information.

Text of the 2016 law:

https://www.warner.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2016/12/senate-passes-bill-to-end-taxation-of-combat-injured-veterans-severance-payments

veterans: a hand UP

Good news!

home loans

The VA has released guidelines for 100 percent financing, up to $35K, for work to rehabilitate- repairs a home including energy-efficiency upgrades.  Work has to be completed within 90 days of start.  Courtesy of the SourceWeekly.

in-home care

The Medical Care Foster Home program.  With all the news about homelessness, Government bureaucratic failures and indigent veterans,  some good news for aging veterans.  But why do you have to DIG to find out about it?  In an Iowa-based online journal, a report that looks at a Maryland veteran’s residence that fosters other veterans.  An alternative to nursing homes and  living on the street  Foster care in a private home.  It’s a $20M annually-funded program that is currently in 42 states and Puerto Rico.   And it has oversight- the licensed caregivers can shelter no more than 3 individuals in a home, and meet strict guidelines, are reviewed, must have various certifications and annual recertification/ training, and each veteran fostered is part of a VA-funded healthcare program, with onsite visits and audits. (Not at all like that story in Southern California years ago where a “caregiver” with a criminal past cheated an older veteran out of his savings – in his own home- until he died from neglect.  She’s serving time in prison.)

quality of life

If you look through Google News for specific topics, one can find good things in all the noise that is generated these days.   And services that individuals and universities -or their employees do to help encourage veterans.   As a thankyou to local veterans,  the Laramie Boomerang  reports that the University of Wyoming in Laramie, is holding a second -annual Vets to Nets clinic on its tennis courts this weekend (June 23 – 24, 2018).

 

tip-top VA nursing care

With all the promised “hope and change” from the last President’s Administration,  care for veterans by the VA was plagued by abyssmal failures across the nation.   In the last two years, there have been some very significant changes, when leadership down throughout a facility are focused on quality care.   One story that highlights superior care and service to veterans is a VA nursing home in Poughkeepsie, New York.