Memorial Day services
The annual Memorial Day services will start at 10 a.m. May 29, at the Kauai Veterans Cemetery in Hanapepe.
USO salute to the military
The United Service Organization (USO) will sponsor a Waikiki parade (A Salute to Our Troops) on Saturday. The recently-returned Hawaii Army National Guard members will be flown to O‘ahu and participate. The parade route is from Fort De Russy, through Kalakaua Avenue and on to Kapi‘olani Park. With approximately 10,000 marchers, this is anticipated to be one of the largest USO production in decades. The parade will be followed with festivities at Kapi‘olani Park featuring top-name entertainment.
The event will honor all active-duty military personnel, the National Guard and the Reserves.
Members of the Kaua‘i Hawaii Army National Guard will be recognized in a “Freedom Salute” ceremony on May 13 at the Kauai Veterans Center. The Freedom Salute is the official National Guard welcome-back ceremony, designed to publicly recognize the soldiers, their families and community members who supported them during their deployment.
A ceremony is being held separately on each island. The program was launched by the Hawaii Army National Guard in December 2003. The returning soldiers are recognized for their services and sacrifices in the cause of freedom.
Employment and training outreach The unemployment rate in Hawai‘i is below 3 percent. There are hundreds of vacant positions throughout the island.
All veterans, including recently-discharged Hawaii Army National Guard and Hawaii Air National Guard members seeking employment should contact the Veterans Employment and Training Counselor at the Workforce Development Division of the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, at 3-3100 Kuhio Hwy., Suite C-9, in Lihu‘e. Members encountering difficulty in securing the jobs they left prior to being activated should contact the counselor as soon as possible.
In January 2006, the eligibility for veteran preference in hiring was revised. It included those who served on active duty for a period of more than 180 consecutive days from Sept. 11, 2001, and until the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom. This applies to any veteran no matter where the person served in the world.
Women in military service memorial
Women veterans can be forever memorialized. A memorial honoring them was officially opened to the public on Oct. 20, 1997. Visitors can locate any registered woman veteran in its registry. The memorial site is located at the ceremonial entrance to Arlington National Cemetery. Registration may be done on line at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, call toll-free 1-800-222-2294, or 1-703-533-1155.
VA grave-site locator
Veterans may locate the graves of their past comrades if a grave marker was provided by the Veterans Affairs (VA). The burial locations of more than five million veterans are available on the Internet at http://gravelocator.cem.va.gov. VA recently added 1.9 million records of veterans buried in private cemeteries. The grave-site locator previously carried records on three million veterans buried in VA national cemeteries since the Civil War, in state veterans cemeteries, or interred at the Arlington National Cemetery since 1999. The newer records date from January 1997, the earliest time for which electronic records existed.
TRICARE retiree dental fees
TRICARE dental fees will increase tomorrow to $40.09 for the retired member, or $70.87 with one dependent. Eligibility includes retired members of the uniformed services and retired Reserve/Guard members to include those under age 60 (i.e., “gray-area” reservists who are entitled to retired pay but do not actually begin receiving it until age 60).
Registering with the VA
Veterans, especially those who served in Iraq or Afghanistan, are encouraged to register with the VA. Younger veterans tend to believe their present healthy conditions do not warrant registration at this time. The determination whether an illness is military-related becomes difficult as the veteran ages. An Army study revealed that soldiers who served in Iraq are nearly 53 times more likely to suffer hearing problems than those who did not. Studies have also shown that Gulf War veterans are more likely to suffer from a variety of health problems than non-deployed veterans.
Medicare Part D
As previously reported, veterans have until May 15 to decide whether to enroll in the new Part D Medicare, prescription- drug coverage. Veterans should evaluate their present coverage to determine whether participation in Medicare Part D is necessary. Veterans should be aware that, if eligible, TRICARE coverage can be lost if they stop payments on their Part B premiums.
TRICARE fee increases
There have been a large number of news articles concerning the U.S. Department of Defense proposal for steep increases in TRICARE fees for military retirees. The proposal would affect military retirees under age 65. There are two bills to remove or restrict the DOD’s authority, and place future increases in the hands of Congress.
The Military Retirees’ Health Care Protection Act, House Bill 4949, was introduced, and there were 50 co-sponsors within 24 hours. Both Hawai‘i representatives, Ed Case, D-Neighbor Islands-rural O‘ahu, and Neil Abercrombie, D-urban O‘ahu, co-sponsored the bill. A similar bill, S2617, was just introduced in the Senate, with five co-sponsors.
Warning by the VA
An organization called the Veterans Affairs Services (VSA) is gathering personal information from veterans under a VA-services Web site. Although there is a similarity in names, the organization is not affiliated with nor endorsed by the Veterans Administration.
• Johnny Rabasa, a Hanama‘ulu resident and Kaua‘i High School graduate, served for 30 years in the U.S. Army, retiring as a command sergeant major. He served in Vietnam. He also retired from the U.S. Postal Service, was postmaster at the Kaumakani post office, and worked at the Lihu‘e post office. He writes this monthly column exclusively for The Garden Island.