Dear Abby:

I am 16 years old and a ward of the court. I have a horrible social worker who never looks at any of the positive things I do. I have good grades and barely ever do anything wrong. Recently I have been doing things that they call "acting out." I am not acting out!

At our last court appearance, her report stated that I'm a juvenile delinquent who is in need of serious help. I am consistently told by the people at the group home where I live that I am none of those things.

How do I tell my social worker that she needs to see the positive things I am doing and not just look at the negative? Please help me. I am going nuts. I need to know if it is me or her.

Confused in Redwood City, Calif.

It's possible that the problem isn't all yours or all hers, but a combination of both. The caseload social workers must manage these days is overwhelming, which means that, much as they might wish otherwise, they are often unable to give each client a lot of personal attention.

"Acting out" is misbehaving and expressing angry feelings in inappropriate ways. When a child is separated from home, school, family and friends, that's a good reason to be angry. However, if you and the people at your group home feel that the social worker is mistaken, then the administrator should write a letter to the court explaining that fact. I'm sure the judge would take it into consideration. (I know I would.)

P.S. If the social worker thinks you need "serious help" -- which I assume to mean psychological counseling -- go for it. Almost everyone can benefit from having a trained person listen to his or her concerns, pains and problems. It is considered to be a huge benefit, not a punishment.

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

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 is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.

(c)2004, Universal Press Syndicate