Veterans Benefits Information guide to VA benefits

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Veterans Benefits Information

Use TRICARE Online Tools to Help You Choose a Health Plan

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If you’re eligible for TRICARE, you can choose from a variety of plans. This gives you options for where and how you seek medical care. But how do you decide which plan or plans are best for you and your family members? The TRICARE website can help you learn what health plans you may be eligible for and compare plan features and costs. This will help you choose the right TRICARE plan for you and your family.

Find a TRICARE Plan

If you aren’t sure what health plans you may be eligible for, start by using the TRICARE Plan Finder. Answer a few simple questions, and the tool will display the choices of plans you may be eligible for based on who you are and where you live. You can do this for yourself or for family members. Remember that different family members may be eligible for different plans.

Compare Plans

If you want to compare several health plans, you can compare their features side-by-side using the Compare Plans tool. Simply select the plans you’re interested in learning more about. The results will display in a table, allowing you to compare the main features and costs of each plan, including:

  • Cost for a primary or specialty care visit
  • Annual deductible
  • Maximum out-of-pocket costs
  • Enrollment requirements
  • Annual fee
  • Locations where the plan is available

Take command of your health by making informed decisions about your TRICARE benefit. The TRICARE Plan Finder and Compare Plans are just two helpful tools that make it easier to determine the right health plan for you and your family.

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Nashville Post 5 to host York Centennial Celebration

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A century after Alvin York took on a machine gun nest and almost singlehandedly captured 132 Germans in the Argonne Forest, American Legion Nashville Post 5 will host a state and national celebration of the life of Tennessee’s most decorated World War I soldier.

The Oct. 27 event is open to the public and starts at 11 a.m. on the grounds of the Tennessee State Capitol, at the York statue on the corner of Charlotte Avenue and 6th Avenue North.

“Our program is not only a celebration of Sgt. York and what he did, but an opportunity to educate young people on the sacrifices made in that war,” says Charles Harrison, chairman of the Sergeant York Planning Committee and past commander of Post 5. “There are some people who have never heard of him, even in Tennessee. A hundred years is a long time.”

On Oct. 8, 1918, York – then a corporal – was part of a patrol ordered to take out a German machine-gun emplacement preventing his regiment’s advance. When half the men were killed, York took command, advancing alone as the survivors stood guard over a handful of prisoners. He drew on his hunting skills to pick off at least 20 German gunners, prompting others to surrender; by the time they made it back to the American lines, they had 128 men and four officers in tow. For his actions, York received the Medal of Honor. Gen. John Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces, called him the “greatest civilian soldier” of World War I. By an act of the Tennessee General Assembly, a statue was erected in York’s honor and dedicated in 1968.

When Tennessee State Rep. Sam Whitson approached Post 5 about hosting a York centennial event last spring, Harrison and the post’s executive committee immediately accepted the challenge. In four months, they’ve raised nearly $20,000, largely through the efforts of former businessman and Post 5 member Henry Davis, who spent hours calling contacts from coast to coast. Other contributors include Brentwood Post 156, Columbia Post 19 and Jamestown Post 137, near York’s hometown of Pall Mall.

The program will include music from the 129th Army Band, a reading of York’s Medal of Honor citation and “In Flanders Fields,” and a wreath-laying by local Eagle Scouts. Soldiers from the Southeast Area Medical Support Group Headquarters Nashville, Army Reserve Medical Command, will present the colors.

Special guests will include at least 20 members of the York family. Retired Army Col. Gerald York, York’s grandson, will be keynote speaker. Deborah York, York’s great-granddaughter and executive director of the Sergeant York Patriotic Foundation, will also deliver remarks.

Harrison says Post 5 is honored to organize the event, which will pay tribute not just to York’s military exploits but his determination to bring education to the Upper Cumberland area where he grew up. In the decade after the war, York was tireless in raising money to build an agricultural institute, which operates today as a public high school in Jamestown.

“It’s what he did when he came back from serving that really distinguishes him from lots of other veterans who received medals and other recognition,” Harrison says.

Norman Nuismer, a past commander of Tennessee's 6th District and Nashville Post 5, agrees.

"For Sgt. York to do what he did on the battlefield is one thing, but what he did afterward is even more special," he says. "There are some folks who think heroes come from the big cities, but they don't. For Sgt. York and other veterans in our state to give so much, coming from little spots on the road, is amazing."

York was present in Paris when The American Legion was founded in 1919 and was one of the organization’s charter members. In 1925, he was the honored guest at the Department of Tennessee’s convention, which convened in Nashville’s brand-new War Memorial Building. Local Legionnaires were given a 100-year lease for offices there, which they still occupy. Four posts merged to form Nashville Post 5, which was chartered April 21, 1926.

Read more about Alvin York’s legacy in an April 2017 American Legion Magazine feature.


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Minneapolis award recipients

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A multitude of awards are given out at each American Legion national convention, and the 100th convention in Minneapolis in August was no exception. Below is a list of 2018 awards and their recipients, whether given onstage or off.

Distinguished Service Medal

Hon. Elizabeth Dole

National Law Enforcement Officer of the Year

Brett Walsh

National Firefighter of the Year

Damon Faust

Ralph T. O’Neil Education Trophy

For greatest activity in use of American Legion School Medal awards

Department of New Mexico

Daniel J. O’Connor Americanism Trophy

For best all-around Americanism activities

Department of Virginia

National Recruiter of the Year

David L. Witucki, Houston

Race to the Top winners

Given to district commanders who attain at least 100 percent of the district’s assigned membership objective by March 31

Ronald F. Bradstreet, Hoover, Ala.

Holly Lewis, Colliers, W.Va.

Jimmy L. Mitchell, Fresno, Texas

Gregory A. Spight, Detroit

Consolidated Post Report winners

Departments of West Virginia, Alaska, Colorado, Vermont, Connecticut, Kentucky, Idaho, Wyoming, Ohio and Maryland

Frank N. Belgrano Trophy

For support of Boy Scouts of America

Department of Missouri

Garland D. Murphy Jr. Award

Based on actual contributions received during the 2017-2018 American Legion Child Welfare Foundation (CWF) year

Department of Florida

U.S. “Udie” Grant Legacy Award

Based on total combined donations of American Legion Family to the Child Welfare Foundation

Department of Florida

Child Welfare Foundation Meritorious Achievement Award

Given for the highest increase in per-capita giving to the CWF

Department of Kansas

William F. Lenker National Service Trophy

For best supporting and implementing programs to benefit veterans and their families

Department of Montana

Fourth Estate Awards

Broadcast: KARE-TV, Minneapolis, “Disconnects, Delays and a Pattern of Denial”

Print: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Mexico Blackouts”

New Media: The War Horse, “Marines United”

O.L. Bodenhamer Trophy

No. 1 in membership at June report

Department of West Virginia

Employer of the Year

For companies and businesses dedicated to hiring veterans

Small: Allied Universal Security Services (Raytheon Account), Rowlett, Texas

Mid-Sized: Gallery Furniture, Houston

Large: Southwest Airlines, Dallas

Employer of Older Workers Award

ESW Inc., Crown Point, Ind.

Michael Guty Homeless Veterans Outreach Award

Department of New Jersey American Legion Family

Employment Service Local Office Award

IDES Sterling, Peoria, Ill.

Local Veterans Employment Representative of the Year

Spencer Horton, Georgia

Disabled Veterans Outreach Program Specialist of the Year

Samuel L. Denson, Pensacola, Fla.

Color Guard Contests

Military: Fountain Hills (Ariz.) Post 58

Military Open: Harrisburg Post 472, Houston

Open: Shooting Stars Unit 14, Flora, Ill.

Advancing/Retiring Colors: SAL Detachment of California District 12

Band Contest

American Legion Band of the Tonawandas, Tonawanda, N.Y.

Spirit of Service

Air Force: Staff Sgt. Robert P. Andrews

Coast Guard: Machinery Technician 2nd Class Brian Gogo

Marine Corps: Sgt. Molly Hampton

Army: Sgt. Drew Hunnicutt

Air National Guard: Staff Sgt. Heather J. Hyon

Navy: Petty Officer 2nd Class Sha’nae Wilson

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Civil defense and Raspberry Pi

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Each May since 2014, officers of The American Legion Amateur Radio Club (TALARC) have traveled to Ohio’s Hamvention – America’s largest amateur radio convention, with an annual attendance between 20,000 and 25,000 – in order to both take in what’s new and exciting in the ham world, and reach out to operators via their own information booth to join TALARC and even the American Legion Family.

TALARC Vice President Bill Sloan considers the 2018 convention “very successful in getting our name out … we signed up 25 new TALARC members and a handful of new Legion and SAL members as well.” Club members attending on their own took shifts staffing the booth to pass out TALARC pamphlets, “Why You Should Belong” membership pamphlets and copies of The American Legion Magazine.

In this fifth year of appearance, the club’s efforts to tap in to the deep connection between veterans and ham radio continued to bear fruit – Sloan reports seeing several attendees wearing American Legion Amateur Radio shirts from Emblem Sales. Appreciation for the national club, and its national nets, was expressed by booth visitors, many of whom joined the Legion through TALARC at previous conventions and do not have clubs near their homes.

As with any convention/trade show, the newest technology and products were on display. The trend in 2018 seems to be portability, with handheld digital radios, “go boxes” that contain station equipment in a briefcase, and microcomputers that can incorporate multiple connections to do lots of things in very small spaces – a popular and inexpensive example is the Raspberry Pi.

Sloan attended forums conducted by the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA – which are placing a new focus on emergency preparedness at the local level – and got up to date on the latter’s Incident Command System (ICS) system. FEMA’s website describes ICS as “a management system designed to enable effective and efficient domestic incident management by integrating a combination of facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures and communications operating within a common organizational structure.” Its main purpose is to enable those involved in response to an incident to focus on necessary details/problems while not losing sight of overall operations. Sloan characterizes the system as “a huge opportunity for our posts whether they form radio clubs or not, particularly in the Gulf Coast states and within Tornado Alley from Oklahoma to Ohio.

“If it sounds like a return to Civil Defense days, well, it is. Only with federal resources that many posts will be able to take advantage of. We have our thousands of posts across the United States. That is attractive to FEMA.”

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Legion discusses flag etiquette during extreme inclement weather

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Images of U.S. flags being ripped from high winds caused by Hurricane Florence on the East Coast spread throughout social media and online. Jill Druskis, The American Legion's director of Americanism and Children & Youth, spoke with The Weather Channel on Sept. 18 about U.S. flag etiquette during extreme inclement weather, such as a hurricane or powerful storm.

Watch the interview here.

Druskis, a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy, said that when a U.S. flag is identified as unserviceable (tattered, ripped, torn or faded), it should be replaced as soon as possible. However, "we do certainly understand that during extreme inclement weather such as a hurricane, personal safety definitely needs to come first. As soon as it is safe to do so, we request that it would be replaced with a serviceable flag."

The question of do you take the U.S. flag down or leave it up during a hurricane because it can sometimes give people hope or pride when "going through a really hard time" was also addressed.

"The U.S. Flag Code does say that during inclement weather that the U.S. flag should be removed from display unless it's an all-weather type material of a flag. However, it's been our experience that in the most extreme of inclement weather, even an all-weather flag will have difficulty being durable enough to withstand high winds," Druskis said.

She also shared that unserviceable U.S. flags can be taken to a local American Legion post "for proper and dignified disposal befitting our nation’s honored symbol of pride and liberty."

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Did you know?

Military Funeral Honors ceremonies must be scheduled in advance.

The law requires that every eligible veteran receive a military funeral honors ceremony, which includes the folding and presentation of the United States flag and the playing of “taps,” upon the family’s request. This Department of Defense program calls for the funeral director to request military funeral honors on behalf of the veteran’s family.