Veterans Benefits Information

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Veterans Benefits Information

Who will fill the gap?

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A strong American Legion membership means a stronger voice in the nation’s capital when it comes to lobbying on behalf of U.S. servicemembers and veterans. Financially, it means a stronger bottom line for the organization. But a lack of a strong membership and a plan for future growth means the multitudes of Americans impacted by Legion programs may have to look elsewhere for help, said American Legion National Adjutant Daniel S. Wheeler. Speaking to the Legion’s National Membership & Post Activities Committee, Wheeler said that a declining American Legion membership will negatively impact communities across the nation. “Think about the services that will be gone,” Wheeler said. “When people ask, ‘Why should I join The American Legion?’ I think too often we don’t have at our fingertips the many things The American Legion has done for America to make a difference in the lives we all have today. “For one thing, there would probably be no middle class in America (without the GI Bill of Rights, authored by American Legion Past National Commander Harry Colmery). Look at the thousands of kids who come off the streets and participate in American Legion youth programs. If The American Legion hadn’t been there – if the local post hadn’t been active – these people wouldn’t have become the leaders they came. They wouldn’t haven’t become the solid, hard-working, middle class Americans who are the backbone of our country. “Think of the children that wouldn’t be fed or clothed or housed if it weren’t for The American Legion’s Temporary Financial Assistance. Who would take our place in doing that?” Wheeler added that without American Legion service officers, veterans would struggle getting their disability claims approved, VA wouldn’t have advanced appropriations, and today’s military wouldn’t have the voice of support it has in the nation’s capital. “We can honestly say that the things we do ... we do for the sole reason of they’re the right things to do,” he said. “Where would America be without that? Only The American Legion can do something in your neighborhood. And everybody does it because they’re volunteering and believe it should be done. “That’s why membership is important. Membership is important to insure this American Legion legacy lives on.” During the meeting, National Commander Fang Wong tasked members of the committee to poll Legion departments on membership tactics that are working or failing. He said he’d ask the Legion’s national vice commanders to take a similar approach with department commanders. “My hope ... is that we can learn from this year’s membership program by understanding what has changed, what has not changed, and what has worked, what has not worked,” he said. “Hopefully by the time we get to the Washington Conference (Feb. 26-29) we can get some kind of feedback as to how you’re doing. In order to do that, we need to come up with some sort of standard for what we want them to tell us. “What do we really want to know? What do you really want to know from each department? How are they doing this year so far? What have they learned, have they tried? What do they think they’re doing well? Once we get that information from them ... we can do a year-end report card (at the National Membership Workshop in July). If this particular committee can do that consistently through the year, we’ll build up a lot of information we can pass on each successive year to each commander as they come along. Lessons learned.” Leading candidate for 2012-2013 national commander Jim Koutz explained the membership incentive program, Lucky 13, that he’ll implement if elected in September. Legionnaires who renew five members, sign up three new ones, transfer three members from a headquarters post and reinstate two former members will receive a Lucky 13 pin. Dan Dellinger, the committee’s Legislative Commission consultant and a former M&PA Committee chairman, said the way to bring recently transitioned servicemembers into the organization is to focus on their needs. “They’re thinking about having a job and getting an education so they can raise a family and be a productive member of our society,” he said. “ “I’m a believer in membership,” Koutz said. “Let’s make it happen.” National Internal Affairs Commission Chairman Larry Besson told the committee that 36 Legion departments had achieved the Jan. 19 80-percent target date goal, and that another 10 could hit the mark by the date. “We need to keep this rolling along,” he said. “We need to keep energized, and we need to keep enthused.” The committee also was briefed on the MyLegion.org program (www.mylegion.org), the newly developed American Legion Extension Institute online presence and online renewals. Greg Roth, director of Membership Support Services, said that to date, more than 120,000 Legionnaires have renewed online.

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Help Available for Drivers Who Have Wartime Trauma

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Erratic driving by returning troops is being identified as a symptom of traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder — and coming under greater scrutiny.

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Largest Annual Wheelchair Sports Event in the World Returning to Richmond this June

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Registration is open for the 32nd National Veterans Wheelchair Games, the largest annual wheelchair sports event in the world. More than 500 Veterans from across the United States, Puerto Rico and Great Britain are expected to compete in the Games, taking place June 25-30, 2012, in Richmond, Va. - the site of the very first National Veterans Wheelchair Games held in 1981.

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New Law Change Increases Insurance Coverage for Veterans

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Some Veterans covered under the Veterans Group Life Insurance program (VGLI) now have the opportunity to increase their coverage to the current maximum coverage under the Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI) program.

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Comfort from a canine friend

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Thanks to a $49,500 Child Welfare Foundation grant, the GI Josh Dog program is about to touch a lot of military children’s lives. Created by Sons of The American Legion’s Detachment of Arizona, the GI Josh dog is a stuffed animal wearing a camouflage bandana, meant to comfort the child of a deployed servicemember. Each dog comes with a book titled “I’ll Be OK.” Currently, GI Josh dogs can be purchased online at www.joshandfriends.com, but they’ll soon be available exclusively through the Legion – in a box bearing the Legion’s emblem – for $26, including shipping and handling. During the National Executive Committee’s Fall Meetings, the CWF voted to award grants to 18 nonprofit organizations that contribute to the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being of children, including the Legion’s Department of Arizona and SAL’s Detachment of Arizona for the GI Josh Dog program. The grant covers the GI Josh program’s start-up costs. Detachment of Arizona Adjutant Jeff Frain came up with the idea for GI Josh about two years ago. and Since then, SAL members have raised enough money to donate nearly 1,000 dogs to military personnel scheduled for deployment. “The positive response from both the troops and their families is overwhelming,” said Frain, who belongs to Squadron 27. “They are grateful that we care about their children’s well-being.”

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Did you know?

A veteran’s family must request a United States flag.

A flag is provided at no cost to drape the casket or accompany the urn of a deceased veteran. Generally, the flag is given to the next of kin. Only one flag may be provided per veteran. Upon the request of the family, an “Application for United States Flag for Burial Purposes” (VA Form 21-2008) must be submitted along with a copy of the veteran’s discharge papers. Flags may be obtained from VA regional offices and most U.S. Post Offices.