Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A Trip to the Wall

I've been to the Wall in Washington DC a couple of times and the sight of all those names representing hopes, dreams, contributions, and families haven't ceased to leave me in tears.  For those who haven't been able to make the trip to Washington DC, some are fortunate to be able to witness a presentation of the traveling wall.

Ken Feador, who lives in Medina, Ohio had to travel only 6 miles to view the 'traveling wall.'  An emotional experience, he'd tried to see it back in the late 90's and it took him 6 tries to get from the parking lot to the wall.

Here's one of the pictures he took.  More can be found on a GooglePhotos album.

During his fourth trip, he had an exceptionally bad time when he learned his second wife's cousin was listed on the wall.  She didn't realize that he had died in Vietnam.

This trip, Ken took the time to find all of the guys from the 70th who are listed on the wall:


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Aid and Attendance Program for Wartime Veterans

by Betsy Barbeau


I'm trying to get the word out to any of the 70th Engineers who might need this!  It is a crying shame, but the V.A. isn't telling vets about the Aid and Attendance program for those who have (even minor) ongoing health issues.  I help them get those benefits.

I have attached an overview and some FAQs about the program.  I work with an accredited claims agent, trained by the V.A. to do this but she does not work for the V.A., so she doesn't drag her feet, as they tend to do!

Jackie has a phenomenal record of getting very high awards for veterans, on the first try and has NEVER had one returned for something she neglected.  There was a case in Raleigh NC last year of a 91-year-old widow whose full widow's benefit from this program was cut from $1,149/month to $32/month because something was filed incorrectly.  I called Jackie to see if there was anything we could do – this widow was not one of Jackie's clients – but learned that once an award has been made, no changes or corrections can be made.  That is why Jackie is SO meticulous about making sure all i's are dotted and all t's crossed, before she submits the formal application.

The V.A. is "behind" on processing claims, so it can be 3 to 4 months before the veteran hears from them about their award.  They are paid for that waiting period though, so if a married vet is awarded $2,000, using round numbers for math's sake, and it takes 3 months for the V.A. to respond, their first check will be $6,000.  Out of that check, Jackie will be paid her one-time administrative fee of $2,500, leaving the vet $3,500.  (If there is no award – which has only happened once because a vet neglected to reveal all of his stocks and bonds – there is no fee owed.)  I can assure you that if someone tries to do this on their own, as with the 91-year-old did, they will either have an award reversed, as hers was, or they will not get nearly as high an award.  Jackie's fee is well worth it!

I welcome any questions you might have about this.  My number is 919/795-9509.  If you have to leave a message, please leave your name, number and a good time to call, and I will call you back!

Congress passed the Aid and Attendance program benefit in the 1950s for wartime veterans that served our great nation. The benefit provides a Tax-Free pension that can help offset the costs of:

  • Assisted Living Homes
  • Nursing Homes
  • Care for your Spouse
  • Care in a senior community
  • Other needs

Qualified Veterans are eligible for up to:

  • $2,120 per Month for a Married Couple
  • $1,789 per Month for a Single or Widowed Veteran
  • $1,149 per Month for the Widow/Widower of a Veteran


Tip: Do not file any forms directly with the VA. Find a "VA Accredited Claims Agent" (ACA) - if something goes wrong, the VA ACA can help you. Veterans who file without a VA ACA average thousands of dollars less per year than Veterans that have a VA ACA. Aging Warrior Advocates is a VA Accredited Claim Agent! Contact us at 919/795-9509.

Qualification requirements of the Veteran’s Administration:

  • Veteran, spouse or widow/widower served during wartime, including those who served stateside.
  • Served at least 90 days of active service with one of those days being during wartime. Eligible dates are: 04/21/1898 to 07/15/1903, 05/09/1916 to 11/11/1918, 12/07/1941 to 12/31/1946, 06/27/1950 to 01/31/1955, 08/05/1964 to 05/07/1975, 08/20/1990 to present.
  • Received an honorable discharge - need to provide a copy of the Discharge Papers with the application.
  • A spouse must not have divorced the veteran.
  • If the veteran has died and the widow/widower remarries, there are some situations where they would still qualify.
  • Must need some assistance with at least two activities of daily living such as bathing, meal preparation, etc. This assistance does not mean that they require complete physical assistance - activities such as cuing with dressing, reminders to bathe, med monitoring, and “needs supervision” would qualify.
  • Applicants must be receiving assistance or have a doctor’s order before they can apply.
  • Benefits are retroactive to the application month date.
  • If on VA Disability, cannot also get this, but will be able to choose whichever pays more.

There are some financial qualifications for those applying. HOWEVER, it is based on an adjusted income NOT the gross income. To figure the adjusted income, regularly-recurring medical expenses, insurance premiums, and even the cost of the community where they are residing is taken into consideration. Assets not included (exempt) are the applicant’s home, pensions, small life insurance policies, prepaid funeral expenses, and annuities in payout status. There is no look-back period at this current time. This is where the VA Accredited Claims Agent will be of assistance. These Agents are very well versed in what is and is not allowed for income qualification purposes.


VA AID AND ATTENDANCE / IMPROVED PENSION BENEFIT
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Q: I have power of attorney for my elder. Can I sign these VA forms for him?
A: The VA will not recognize the signature of a power-of-attorney. We are required by law to submit the original signature. If the elder is unable to sign their name, an "X" witnessed by two people with their address is accepted.

Q: I can’t find the Social Security Award Letter. What can I do?
A: You may request another letter from SSA: 800-772-1213.

Q: I can’t locate the discharge papers. How do I get them? Do I have to before I can apply?
A: You can request an undeleted report of separation from www.archives.gov. This is a free service from the National Archives and Records Administration. You don’t have to wait to receive them to apply, but it is best and will shorten the processing time. If you decide not to wait and want to apply, please provide us with as much of the following information as possible:

  1. DOB
  2. Place of birth
  3. Date and place of entry into active service
  4. Date and place of separation, branch of service, organization, grade, rank at time of discharge
  5. If the veteran served under a different name, we need the full name
Q: I found something that looks like a discharge paper, but it doesn’t say DD-214. Will this work or do I need the DD-214?
A: The DD-214 was not standard issue until the 1950s, so you may have a different form, especially if the veteran served in WWII. Some alternate forms include: DD Form 256CG, WD AGO 53, WD AGO 55, WD AGO 53-55, NAVPERS 553, NAVMC 78PD, NAVCG 553, and NA Form 13038 Certification of Military Service.

Q: With medical expenses, what counts? Do insurance premiums include car and auto?
A: The VA will only count recurring, fixed out-of-pocket medical expenses. Medicare deductions (e.g., Part B and Part D) and Medicare supplement (e.g., AARP Insurance) are considered. Prescription, incontinence supplies, boost, and other consistent expenses are counted at the end of the year and not with the original application, but they are helpful to submit with the claim. Non-medical expenses including life insurance do not count.

Q: How long will it take until the check arrives?
A: The VA takes approximately 6-8 months to make the decision; the direct deposit or check should be mailed within 15-days after the decision award letter is received. Remember, the VA pays retroactively to the first month following application.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Van Shipe Honored by Hometown Paper, the Standard Journal

Van Shipe, a member of C-Company in 1965-66, recently had an article posted in his local paper, the Standard Journal, in an article published February 13, 2016 about his service:

— by Chris Brady, Standard Journal

A member of the 70th Engineer Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division, which earned the Presidential Unit Citation, Van Ship was a key cog in the unit that laid much of the groundwork for operations in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam in 1965 and 1966.

Photo by Chris Brady / Standard Journal
Van Ship with some of the honors he received for his service in Vietnam in the mind- to late-1960s
While he rode atop a bulldozer for much of his time, he was shot and and under threat much of the time, he worked to clear land for runways and operational areas for the 1st Cavalry Division.

On August 23, 1965, via landing craft, Shipe and the men of the 70th Engineer Battalion pulled up to the bcach at Qui Nohn. The area had been secured by elements of the 173rd and 10lst airborne divisions.

Just days earlier, he had no idea he'd be headed to Vietnam. Shipe enlisted in October 1963, an 18-year-old from Sunbury, fresh out of high school. Basic training was at Fort Jackson, S.C. and in January he trained at Fort Belvoir, Va. , as a heavy equipment mechanic and operator.

He spent a year in Korea as a diesel mechanic, returned stateside, took leave and returned to
Fort Campbell, Ky., where he was assigned to Charlie. Company, 70th Engineer Battalion.

By August he was headed to the Philippines, where he'd learn it was then on to Vietnam. "No one talked about Vietnam," he said. "There were a lot or things unbeknownst to the public."

The engineers arrived and got to work immediately, pulling 12-hour days,then pulling additional security detail.

"There were 900 to 1,000 men there," he said of his first couple of days on Vietnamese soil. "The 1st Cavalry was sending in 12,000 troops and 500 helicopters. Our job was to build an airstrip and eight miles of road around the perimeter. I was running a bulldozer in a quarry."

Soon the men headed up Highway 19 to An Khe. The convoy was supported by helicopters overhead.
There the men could pick up Radio Hanoi through their transistor radios.

"They said we were surrounded by three battalions of Viet Cong and that the same thing that happened to the French would happen to us," remembered Shipe. "We wondered how they knew we were there and what we were doing there."

They were set up at the end of an old French airstrip and Shipe worked 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Snipers routinely took aim at the men working in the area.

Thousands of local South Vietnamese were hired to assist with the clearing of brush. More than a few proved curious to the men and their curiosity proved to be warranted. Shipe remembered the mammoth anthills and the occasional anteater that would emerge as a bulldozer would plow through them.

"If the bulldozer didn't kill them the locals would,'' he said. "They considered (the anteaters) a delicacy."

He saw some of the locals look as if they were stepping off distances. Later mortar rounds would hit those areas.

"You never could trust anyone," said Shipe. ''They later found out the leader of the group was a Viet Cong. He was turned over to the South Vietnamese."

Finding time to sleep was tough. If you were able to lay down, you had to ensure your net was up to fend off the mosquitos as malaria was a problem. Soldiers had to check their cots and blankets for snakes as well. A cobra was killed in one of the mess halls while Shipe was there.

By Sept. 30, the unit was moved for the fourth time, to Camp Radcliff, at the base of Hong Kong Mountain, notorous for its tunnel systems constructed by the Viet Cong.

In November, the 1st Cavalry was air assaulted into the Ia Drang Valley, which would be the site of the first combat action pitting a U.S. unit against North Vietnamese Army regulars. More than 300 Americans were killed over the four-day battle in one of the bloodiest battles of the 10-year war.

Shipe remembers seeing the choppers leaving to support activity in Central Highlands.

"To see them take off, it was like geese flying south," he said. "They flew. close together. We saw the helicopters going out and coming in. I was near one of the landing areas and saw the helicopters coming back. They were so f'ull of blood, they were washing them. out with buckets of water."

At midnight on New Year's Eve, Shipe recalled a fierce firefight with the Viet Cong atop the mountain, sparked in part by some 84 incidents on Christmas, when the Viet Cong were supposed to take part in a 30-hour truce.

'The 1st Cavalry decided to let them have it on New Year's Eve," he remembered.

As the new year arrived, Shipe noticed he was developing blisters on his feet, though he couldn't understand why. Others complained as well. Agent orange was used extensively in the area to defoliate the dense jungle prior to the 1st Cav's arrival.

His tour was extended in April. Work continued on a roadway over and around Hong Kong Mountain. Guard towers were constructed at the base of the mountain to keep Viet Cong out of the area. A rubber-based airstrip, designed to allow planes to land in nearly any weather, was constructed in three days and involved the entire 70th Engineer Battalion.

Sleep was tough to come by and hot showers were few and far between. Months went by before Shipe enjoyed one in country.

On June 21, he enjoyed his 21st birthday while working on Highway 19, where the VC had blown up a bridge.

The daily grind of working in the sun took its toll on Shipe's arms and hands as they became bruised and sore. Docs there told him he'd be fine when he returned stateside.

He finally left Saigon on Sept. 10, having served more than the year normally assigned to soldiers.

When he returned, he became the first Vietnam veteran to serve with the American Legion in Sunbury. He soon felt he wasn't welcome by all the members and faced criticism from some of the older members

Shipe was there in 1982 when the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C. He remembered seeing the demonstrators, and the feelings that stirred.

Agent orange claimed the lives of both the men that trained him on the bulldozer as well as the man Shipe trained prior to his departure from Vietnam. Shipe today suffers from the effects of agent orange in his legs and feet.

Shipe remains a staunch supporter of veterans to this day as his son, Andrew, graduated from West Point and served with the 82nd Airbome Division before retiring. His grandson, Kevin, also graduated from West Point and served with an artillery unit in Afghanistan. His daughter. Cathy, went through ROTC at Syracuse and was a nurse, earning the rank of captain. as did both his son and grandson. He also had another daughter, Wendy, and three additional grandchildren.

His father, Sinary, was a medic in the 190th Field Artillery Unit that served in Europe during World War II.

Chris Brady is managing editor at the Standard Journal.  He can be reached at chris@standard-journal.com.