At Your Service
For and about Hawaii's military

By Gregg K. Kakesako

Sunday, September 23, 2001


Calendar & Deployments
For Your Benefit

Final decision to delay duty
for reservists rests with military

As 35,500 reservists begin to report to active duty, their employers can ask commanders to temporarily defer employees for later duty on a case-by-case basis, but the final decision rests with military authorities.

Under the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Re-Employment Rights Act of 1994, Guard and Reserve members can perform military duty for up to a five-year accumulative limit and receive job reinstatement when they return. While Reserve service members enjoy job protection, the job they pick up upon return might not necessarily be the same job that they left behind. The law protects members from financial loss due to their military service and states that they are entitled to the same salary held just before going on active duty.

The reservists are expected to provide port security, medical services and engineering support. They also will beef up ground maintenance and air traffic control at Air Force bases so jets can respond more quickly to threats of attack.

The Pearl Harbor-based nuclear submarine USS Asheville (SSN 758) paid tribute earlier this month to a patrol gunboat that was overwhelmed and sunk by the Japanese in the Indian Ocean 59 years ago. The warship USS Asheville (PG 21) was steaming south on March 3, 1942, toward the safety of Australia unescorted. Hampered by engine trouble, the patrol boat was sunk after a 30-minute gunbattle. Only one member of the 160-man crew survived the battle. However, the survivor never saw his home again, dying in an enemy prisoner of war camp.

Cmdr. Kerry Ingalls, Asheville's commanding officer, lowered a floral wreath into the Indian Ocean at sunset Sept. 1, paying tribute to the 159 men entombed more than 2,000 fathoms below.

"It has been 59 years since a warship named Asheville steamed through these Indian Ocean waters, 240 miles south of Java," said Ingalls. "As Americans we value our patriotic heritage. As sailors we treasure the legacy of honor, courage and commitment established by our predecessors."

The sub was the fourth ship to be named Asheville and was commissioned Sept. 28, 1991, and is deployed to the Indian Ocean.

Halfway into their six-month Middle East deployment, the VP-9 P-3 Orion subhunters (Golden Eagles) from Kaneohe Bay have hit the ground running. The Navy squadron is primarily based out of Diego Garcia, known as Dodge, with aircrews and maintenance personnel rotating throughout the different sites. In Masirah, Oman, crews are flying armed surveillance missions in support of the USS Constellation carrier battle group and providing intelligence to the 5th Fleet. Out of Bahrain, crews have been contributing to naval efforts to patrol the Persian Gulf and assist the ships of the carrier battle group to monitor activities within Iraq and Iran.

The squadron flew with the Saudi military in a bilateral exercise. The aircrew was able to gain experience in joint operations and enjoyed a glimpse into Saudi culture. Recently, several crews and maintenance personnel flew to Kuwait and endured the searing heat and harsh environment while living in tents in the middle of the desert. Their primary mission has been to monitor activity across the Iraqi border to ensure Iraq's compliance with international sanctions. The squadron also has taken part in seven medical evacuations in Singapore and participated in a search and rescue operation out of the Seychelles Islands off the coast of Africa.

Moving Up

Kaneohe: Cmdr. Robert Lally to command Patrol Squadron Nine, relieving Cmdr. Timothy Brewer.


Sept. 29: TRICARE for Life briefing. 9 a.m. Schofield Barracks' Sergeant Smith Theatre. TRICARE for Life is a new entitlement for Medicare-eligible Uniformed Services retirees, eligible family members and survivors.


Veterans can appeal
benefit rejections

Question: I am not satisfied with the Veterans Affairs' decision on my disability claim. Is this decision final, or do I have the right of appeal?

Answer: Veterans and other claimants for VA benefits have the right to appeal decisions.

Issues that are typically appealed are disability compensation, pension, education benefits, recovery of overpayments, medication copayment debts and reimbursement for medical services that were not authorized.

A claimant has one year from the date of notification of a VA decision to file an appeal. The first step in the appeal process is for the veteran to file a written notice of disagreement with the VA regional office or medical center that made the decision.

There is no special form required, just a written statement that you disagree with the VA's claim determination and that you want to appeal it.

Once the written notice is received, it is possible that the local VA office will change its original determination and allow your claim.

If that doesn't happen, it will prepare and mail to you a statement of the case and a blank VA Form 9.

The statement of the case describes what facts, laws and regulations were used in deciding your case, and gives you the local VA office's reasons for making the determination you appealed.

Within 60 days of the date when the local VA office mails you the statement of the case, you need to submit a substantive appeal.

However, if the one-year period from the date the local VA office mailed you its original determination is later than this 60-day period, you have until that later date to file the substantive appeal.

If you submit new information or evidence with your VA Form 9, the local VA office will prepare a supplemental statement of the case that addresses the new information or evidence you submitted. If you are not satisfied with the results from the supplemental statement, you have 60 days from date the statement was mailed to you to submit, in writing, what you disagree with.

You can ask for a personal hearing at the local VA, present your case in person and present testimony and other evidence supporting your case.

If the local VA office stands by their decision, your appeal will be referred to the Board of Veterans' Appeals in Washington, D.C.

If you disagree with the board's decision, you have the right to appeal the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, an independent court, not part of the Department of Veterans Affairs. If still no satisfaction, you can continue your appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the federal circuit and ultimately seek review in the U.S. Supreme Court.

During the appeals process you can be represented by a Veterans' Service Organization or the state of Hawaii Office of Veterans Services.

The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, American Ex-POWs and state Office of Veterans Services all have trained personnel who specialize in providing help with claims and appeals.

They do not charge for their services and do not require you to be a member of their organization. All of them occupy offices on the ground floor of the VA at Tripler Army Medical Center.

You can hire a lawyer, who will charge you, to represent you.

If you have questions about your benefits as a veteran, call Fred Ballard at the Veterans Affairs at 433-0049 or the Star-Bulletin at 529-4747.

Gregg K. Kakesako can be reached by phone at 294-4075
or by e-mail at

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