Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Man's Ex Won't Fade Away So He Can Focus on Future

DEAR ABBY: I am in an uncomfortable spot. I met a great woman last month and have developed feelings for her. I'll call her Carmen.

Every time I try to focus my energy into starting this relationship, my ex, "Rita," pops back into the picture. Most recently, she was calling about a cell phone we had when we were together.

Carmen is aware that I got out of a 5 1/2-year relationship six months ago, but every time Rita does something to upset me, Carmen tells me she thinks I am not over Rita. Abby, I feel the relationship with my ex is over. I sincerely want to explore things with Carmen.

I have talked to Rita a few times to get everything squared away so there will be no more reasons for further contact, but something else always keeps coming up. I don't want Carmen to be scared off. What should I do? -- READY TO MOVE ON IN DULUTH

DEAR READY: If you allow it, Rita will always find an excuse to maintain contact. It is time to put your past firmly behind you and move on. This means making a clean break with Rita. Tell her that communicating with her is causing problems for you, so you won't be doing it anymore. Then keep your word -- no phone calls, no e-mails, no visits.

DEAR ABBY: In the past, survivors drawing Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) from the Department of Veterans Affairs because their spouse died from a service-connected cause, lost this benefit if they remarried.

Effective Dec. 16, 2003, qualifying spouses who remarry after age 57 retain the DIC benefit. Those who remarried after age 57 but before the new law took effect can have their DIC benefit restored -- but only if they apply for DIC reinstatment by Dec. 15, 2004.

To apply, these surviving spouses should submit a written request for restoration of DIC along with a statement of dependence (VA form 21-686c). The form is available on the Web at www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/21-686c.pdf. Applications should be mailed to the nearest regional VA office. To find the nearest office, go to www.va.gov and click on Facility Locator. -- VICE ADM. NORBERT R. RYAN JR., USN (RET.), MILITARY OFFICERS ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA

DEAR ADM. RYAN: Thanks for this important alert, which could mean a significant amount of money -- $967 or more a month -- for some people who could really use it. So, readers, if you know any widows or widowers who lost their spouse because of a service-related cause, and who might have missed reading today's column, please be an angel and call this to his or her attention. If the VA receives the application later than Dec. 15, restoration of DIC benefits must be denied.

This one-year application period does NOT apply to other surviving spouses whose remarriage on or after reaching age 57 followed enactment of the law.

For more information, call: (800) 827-1000 or visit the nearest VA regional office, the location of which can be found in the blue pages of local telephone directories. People with hearing impairment should call: (800) 829-4833 using their TDD device.

Time is growing short, so don't procrastinate.

DEAR ABBY: I am one of your older readers -- age 90 -- but I don't look a day over 70. I recently told my sister that I wear hip-huggers, and she asked me if I'm going senile. She thinks it's awful. I say hip-huggers are comfortable in the summer heat. What is your opinion? -- "HIP" IN CASSELBERRY, FLA.

DEAR "HIP": I know women 30 years younger than you who are reluctant to bear their midriffs because their skin is no longer taut. However, since you are comfortable wearing hip-huggers, the choice should be yours and your sister should refrain from making any more catty comments. (Could she be jealous?)

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600