Saturday, January 03, 2015

From Veterans And Friends Of Puget Sound:
New Veterans Compensation Benefits Rate Tables went into effect on December 1, 2014. However it is all handled by human beings, so if your check did not change, consider contacting your service officer.

There are a lot of details, but here's the basic information below. For more information, see the official announcement.

10% - 20% (No Dependents)

30% - 60% Without Children
Dependent Status30%40%50%60%
Veteran Alone$407.75$587.36$836.13$1,059.09
Veteran with Spouse Only$455.75$651.36$917.13$1,156.09
Veteran with Spouse & One Parent$494.75$703.36$982.13$1,234.09
Veteran with Spouse and Two Parents$533.74$755.36$1,047.13$1,312.09
Veteran with One Parent$446.75$639.36$901.13$1,137.09
Veteran with Two Parents$485.75$691.36$966.13$1,215.09
Additional for A/A spouse (see footnote b)$44.00$59.00*$74.00$89.00

70% - 100% Without Children
Dependent Status70%80%90%100%
Veteran Alone$1,334.71$1,551.48$1,743.48$2,906.83
Veteran with Spouse Only$1,447.71$1,680.48$1,888.48$3,068.90
Veteran with Spouse and One Parent$1,538.71$1,784.48$2,005.48$3,198.96
Veteran with Spouse and Two Parents$1,629.71$1,888.48$2,122.48$3,329.02
Veteran with One Parent$1,425.71$1,655.48$1,860.48$3,036.89
Veteran with Two Parents$1,516.71$1,759.48$1,977.48$3,166.95
Additional for A/A spouse (see footnote b)$104.00$118.00$133.00$148.64

30% - 60% With Children
Dependent Status30%40%50%60%
Veteran with Spouse and Child$491.75$699.36$976.13$1,227.09
Veteran with Child Only$439.75$630.36$890.13$1,124.09
Veteran with Spouse, One Parent and Child$530.75$751.36$1,041.13$1,305.09
Veteran with Spouse, Two Parents and Child$569.75$803.36$1,106.13$1,383.09
Veteran with One Parent and Child$478.75$682.36$955.13$,1202.09
Veteran with Two Parents and Child$517.75$734.36$1,020.13$1,280.09
Add for Each Additional Child Under Age 18$24.00$32.00$40.00$48.00
Each Additional Schoolchild Over Age 18 (see footnote a)$78.00$104.00$130.00$156.00
Additional for A/A spouse (see footnote b)$44.00$59.00$74.00$89.00

70% - 100% With Children
Dependent Status70%80%90%100%
Veteran with Spouse and Child$1,530.71$1,775.48$1,995.48$3,187.60
Veteran with Child Only$1409.71$1,637.48$1,840.48$3,015.22
Veteran with Spouse, One Parent and Child$1,621.71$1,879.48$2,112.48$3,317.66
Veteran with Spouse, Two Parents and Child$1,712.71$1,983.48$2,229.48$3,447.72
Veteran with One Parent and Child$1,500.71$1,741.48$1,957.48$3145.28
Veteran with Two Parents and Child$1,591.71$1,845.48$2,074.48$3,275.34
Add for Each Additional Child Under Age 18$56.00$64.00$72.00$80.52
Each Additional Schoolchild Over Age 18 (see footnote a)$182.00$208.00$234.00$260.13
Additional for A/A spouse (see footnote b)$104.00$118.00$133.00$148.64

Tables from the Past:
2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010-2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 | 1999

Friday, January 02, 2015

#JobGate: Conspiracy To Create Jobs Discovered!!!

A crack team of investigators from Fox News and the Republican Party have discovered a conspiracy to bring down America by creating jobs.
"The Obama Administration has overseen the creation of more private sector jobs in six years than their predecessors did in eight," explained a Fox News detective. "In fact, the number of jobs created in the last year was greater than the number created during the entire Bush Administration. What possible motivation could Obama have for this except to America make worse off by increasing prosperity?"
"Americans with no income don't pay income tax," warned Republican  Senator Mitch McConnell. "Putting them to worse results in an increase in tax collections. This is just a Democrat scheme to raise taxes"
"Who benefits the most from new jobs?" asked Bill O'Reilly of Fox News. "Unemployed Americans, who have not been contributing to the economy. Why should they be rewarded with a job when they have not been working?"
"We tried to prevent job creation," said Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner. "We blocked jobs for veterans, we demanded reduced spending on job creation and we cut more than half a million government jobs. The conspiracy to increase employment among Americans just went too deep. 55 months in a row of private sector job creation is enough to make me cry!"
Republicans across the political spectrum, from far rightwing to insanely rightwing, pledged to stop job creation as soon as they take control of Congress. "To save America from the nightmare of jobs," pledged Republican leader Karl Rove, "It may be necessary to destroy it."

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Half Price Books Donates Again To VAPS - and I helped...

Notice the Lobby Book Cart is Almost Empty....
...Thank You Half Price Books!
On New Year's Day 2015,  I distributed another load of books donated by Half Price Books in Tukwila.
This store has been very generous, donating up to 50 boxes of books in the last quarter of 2014!
Every day, many thousands of veterans and their family members go through the VA Puget Sound Health Care facility in Seattle, and a lot of them spend time waiting between appointments. Reading material makes the time friendlier and less stressful, as you probably know if you've been there.
Half Price Books is not doing it for the publicity, but it's only fair that when you are thinking of shopping, keep in mind that Half Price Books has been supporting veterans with deeds.

P.S. Don't forget that when you come to the hospital, you're free to bring a few books for the cart as well! Paperbacks are preferred because they take less space, but when in doubt - bring it in! As long as it's in good condition, someone will want to read it - after all, didn't you read it?

Are LEDs A Good Investment For My Home Office?

A light in my office burned out and I wanted to see if replacing it with an LED "bulb" with the same light output made sense. Surely the energy savings is a good thing to do, from the standpoint of preserving our planet for future generations, but do I have to make a financial sacrifice too?
Short answer: No. I just have to have a long enough planning horizon - that is, I have to think ahead!

I replaced a 50 watt (w) Halogen bulb, rated to last 2,000 hours, with a 6 w LED Bulb, rated to last 25,000 hours.
At the outset, let's look at replacement costs. The LED cost me $20.77 (which includes Washington State sales tax - our very regressive alternative to income tax - but that's another topic) whereas another halogen would be around $1.90 (with the same tax, so it's a wash.) The LED lasts 12.5 as long as the halogen, so I multiple $1.90 by 12.5 and get $23.75. Just by making this purchase, I'm saving $2.98, although I have to invest $20.77 for more than a decade to get it. This is not necessarily a smart investment on a cash basis, but it's not a stupid one either. But that's not all.

The basic rate for my home office is $0.0506  per kilowatt hour (there's a higher rate if I go above a limit, which I never reach.). On average, the light is on 3 hours a day: (more in winter, less in summer.) 3 hours/day for one year is 3x365.25 = 1095.75 hours (The .25 is for leap years - don't you hate it when people forget leap years?). As a reality check, this is more-or-less consistent with the MTF of the battery of halogens in my office (of the battery of six, only two are still working.)

Now, accepting my arm-waving assumptions for a moment, let's do some simple math:

50w - 6 w = 44w.
1095.75 hours x 44 w = 48213 wh = 48.213 kwh.
48.213 kwh x $0.0506 = $2.44 saved per year.
$20.77/$2.44= 8.5
The energy savings pays for the LED bulb in 8.5 years.

Now let's combine the two kinds of savings.

Buying a halogen every 2nd year is basically saving 95 centers a year. Add that to the energy savings:
$2.44 + $0.95 = $3.39
$20.77/$3.39 = 6.1

The two kinds of savings pays for the LED bulb in 6.1 years, or roughly a return of 16%. Not bad! And this investment is rated to continue paying you for about 25 years! Wow! Too bad it's only a few bucks. I sure could use a million dollar investment that pays 16% a year for 25 years - couldn't you?

Now there are other factors.
  • It costs money to lock up my $20.77 for that 6.1 years (although it's really more like 3.05 years since I get the use of some of the money back with every electric bill). With interest rates so low right now that cost is negligible so long as my overall debt remains manageable. 
  • There may be tax benefits; check your 1040.
  • The halogen bulb is noticeably hot - probably much of the energy savings comes from emitting visible light instead of infrared. While the heat may be helpful in winter ... incandescent bulbs are in some sense just an inefficient space heater ... it's an annoyance in summer, so I don't feel I should credit that.
  • The color spectrum of the LED's light may differ from that of incandescents or compact florescents. I think this is manageable by changing the color scheme in my lit areas; I have yet to find a source of artificial light that really satisfies the way that the Sun does (...and nothing matches moonlight!...) so it's important to decorate to compensate for the colors that are lacking.
  • There's the effort of bulb replacementis only a few minutes (assuming that I combine the purchase with other chores) but it's all wasted time, and that's the one commodity we have a limited supply of.
  • Finally, let's get back to the issue of leaving our planet a better place for the next guy who comes along. Cutting energy waste is just good manners, and since LEDs are now economically competitive with the alternatives, we have here a case of "Doing Well While Doing Good"!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Goodbye 2014; Welcome 2015!

2014 was dominated by changes in my personal life, specifically, the ongoing drama of Kris' dumping me and urging me to abandon my home. We have reached an accommodation, and it remains to be seen how stable that is, but I am hopeful.
Professionally I am very pleased to have won my first (and so far only) case before the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. For 2015 I intend to seek another client and win another case.
However, my professional endeavors acquired a new focus with Veterans and Friends of Puget Sound. I had been reluctant to assume the directorship of the organization, until I realized that I was merely being shy. The mission needs someone to step up and there's no reason why I can't do it. The first step is to convene an annual meeting in January and have the Board agree to a plan encompassing the things we've been doing anyway plus those we plan to do.  As Roberto Zamora said, in the beginning he didn't know what he was doing but it had to be done so he went ahead. That's what I want to do.
This evening I am deliberately going out and socializing, because I want to. Highland Park Improvement Club should be a good venue. I'll be back in 2015!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Federal Reserve Proposes New Holiday: Bankermas !

Last year, nearly one penny out of every dollar spent in the United States of America went for salaries and bonuses at Wall Street firms, prompting demands for a new federal holiday: Bankermas!
"Many holidays, such as Christmas or Thanksgiving, include gestures of helping the less fortunate," explained one banker. "But are these really significant? America's 1,085,000 federal minimum wage workers, all together, made $26 billion in 2013. That same year, America's 165,200 investment bankers awarded ourselves $127 billion in total compensation (salary and bonuses). That makes us more than five times as important as the working poor; our paychecks are nearly one percent  of the $16 Trillion GDP! (technically: 0.75%). We deserve a celebration: Bankermas!"
 Pundits cheered this accomplishment, "Every time you buy a 99 cent hamburger, what happens to that other penny?" one asked. "Don't worry, it's not lost; one way or another, it ends up safely in the pocket of a Wall Street banker! If you spend $100 on groceries, 75 cents of of that goes to the people who helped collapse the economy. If you spend $10,000 on a used car, $75 that goes to Wall Street - almost enough for a champagne lunch or half an hour with one of their hookers."
On television, a blonde in a short skirt explained, "George Washington gets a holiday for something he did over two hundred years ago. Why shouldn't Wall Street bankers get a holiday for something they're doing right now?"
Congress is expected to act quickly on the proposal. "There's an election every other November," said one campaign manager, "And we all know that a happy Wall Street banker is a generous Wall Street Banker!"
(see: )