Of Note

NCA Benefits Often Unknown

Veterans and their families may sometimes be unaware of the benefits available to them through VA’s National Cemetery Administration (NCA), according to a newly designed brochure circulated by VA in early 2007.

The information clarifies that burial in a national cemetery is open to all members of the Armed Forces and veterans who have met minimum active service duty requirements and been discharged honorably. Their spouse, minor children, and, under certain conditions, dependent unmarried adult children, are also eligible for burial, even if they predecease the veteran.

Members of the reserve components of the Armed Forces who die while on active duty or while performing training duty, or who have 20 years of service in reserve components of the Armed Forces creditable for retired pay, may also be eligible for burial.

Burial benefits include a gravesite in any of 140 national cemeteries with available space, the opening and closing of the grave, a government headstone or marker, a burial flag, Presidential Memorial Certificates, and perpetual care of the grave at no cost to the family.

NCA is responsible for 124 of the 140 national cemeteries. The National Park Service maintains 14 while the Department of the Army maintains two, including Arlington National Cemetery.

National cemeteries date back to 1862 when Congress enacted legislation authorizing President Lincoln to purchase cemetery grounds to be used as national cemeteries for those losing their lives in service of the country. Fourteen cemeteries were established that first year.

Compensation Facilitated By New Claim Form

Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC), a Department of Defense benefit providing dual compensation for eligible military retirees, has significantly revised its claim form. The revisions have made it easier to understand who is eligible for the compensation and what information veterans should provide on the form.

CRSC helps 20-year military retirees by providing a monthly tax-free compensation (full concurrent receipt option) that supplements VA disability and military retired payments. The retired veteran must have a 10 percent or greater VA disability rating and must be able to prove that the disability is combat-related—i.e., training that simulates war, hazardous duty, an instrumentality of war, or armed conflict.

Even with the improvements in the form, veterans may still have questions. An enhanced website, www.crsc.army.mil, addresses some of the questions. Once at the site, users should click on the link labeled “Retired Veterans” to obtain information on eligibility criteria, the claims process, and answers to frequently asked questions. Claim forms can also be downloaded.

Veterans can also call the CRSC Service Center at 866-281-3254 or send an email to crsc.info@us.army.mil.

Ceremony to Commemorate Korean War Ending

Government officials and representatives from more than 20 nations, accompanied by military service organizations, veterans groups, and honor guards will gather July 27 at the Korean War Memorial in Washington, DC. The occasion will mark the 54th anniversary of the armistice that ended the Korean War.

The general public is also welcome to attend the 10 a.m. formal ceremony, which will be preceded by a musical program at 9. The commemorative tradition will continue with an afternoon memorial service at Arlington National Cemetery.

For information about accommodations, veterans and their families should contact Jack Cloman at phone 410-676-1388, fax 410-670-3898, or email connienjack@msn.com.

Task Force Evaluates, Recommends Actions

A presidential task force reviewing federal benefits and processes for changes that could quickly improve veterans’ access to services and programs has completed its study.

According to VA Secretary Nicholson, chairman of the task force, a report listing 25 recommendations was submitted to President Bush on April 19.

The task force brought together top officials from DoD, VA, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Education, the Office of Management and Budget, the Small Business Administration, and the Office of Personnel Management.

The focus of the group was on improvements that could be made in individual departments or agencies using existing resources, specifically targeting health care, benefits, employment, education, housing, and outreach activities.

The task force report is available on VA’s website, www.va.gov, and includes a fact sheet.

AFB Launches "Senior Site"

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) has created the first-ever proactive, virtual vision center that encourages older adults to live independently and productively with sight loss.

The center's webpage, www.afb.org/seniorsite, seeks to assist the some 6.5 million Americans over age 65 who are currently experiencing age-related vision problems. Over the next two decades, rates of vision loss from diseases like age-related macular degeneration are expected to double as the nation's 78 million baby boomers reach retirement age.

Senior Site focuses on common sense, daily living solutions to help seniors who are beginning to experience vision loss better adjust to their changing eyesight. It contains inspiring video testimonials, message boards, blogs, and support group links designed to foster a sense of community among seniors with vision loss. It can also be of help to families of those losing their vision.

Free Directory Assistance

Blinded veterans needing quick directory assistance may use a service that is entirely free of charge. The number, 800-FREE-411 or 800-373-3411, allows free directory information from almost any telephone.

Simply follow the recorded prompts when calling. If the computerized service does not understand the caller’s question, a live operator will enter the line.

Beyond being free, the only other difference between this service and nationwide 411 is that a short, pre-recorded ad message is placed on the call before the requested information is provided.

The service is possible through the assistance of thousands of national and local sponsors. Advertising and technology executives who had previously pioneered successful advertising solutions in online media were the primary founders.

A previous attempt to inform Bulletin readers of this service in the audiocassette version of the Autumn 2005 issue was met with some confusion when the word “F-R-E-E” in the aforementioned toll free number was mistaken for the numeral 3.

Online Bookstore Offers Braille

Associated Services for the Blind & Visually Impaired (ASB) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has announced the grand opening of an online Braille bookstore.

The new service has resulted in worldwide access to a vast collection of Braille books, including nine categories and more than 100 books ready for immediate sale. With updates each week, the catalog should contain more than 300 books at any one time.

The ASB Braille Bookstore currently houses classics such as Lord of the FliesThe Call of the WildCajun Cooking and several books from popular authors like Stephen King, Clive Clussler, Dean Koontz, and Sandra Brown.

For more information, go to www.asb.org/bookstore.htm.

Author Donates All Book Proceeds

War fiction writer Trish Edmisten, concerned about the quality of care received by veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, is donating 100 percent of the royalties from her new book, Letters from Linc, to the country’s military hospitals.

“I always hoped this book would make a difference in someone’s life, and I’ve finally found the way to do that,” she said.

Letters from Linc is a love story related through a series of deeply personal letters written by a recently deployed Marine. When tragedy strikes within the story, the two protagonists must find out if the foundation laid by their letters was sufficiently strong to salvage their marriage and their lives.

For additional information, go to www.trishedmisten.com.

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