Veterans Benefits Information guide to VA benefits

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Veterans Benefits Information

Hiring fair, credentialing summit scheduled for national convention

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Veterans, servicemembers and military spouses can find new careers and learn best practices for credentialing and enhancing civilian career prospects at The American Legion’s national convention in August.

The Indianapolis Military Hiring Fair with The American Legion will take place Aug. 22 at the Indiana Convention Center, 100 S. Capitol Ave. Check-in for job seekers and employers will begin at 8:30 a.m., with each employer presenting a short overview of their open positions from 9:15 to 11:15 a.m. The hiring fair takes place from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The event, promoted by Hiring Our Heroes and The American Legion, is free and open to active duty servicemembers, Guard and reserve, veterans and military spouses.

For more information and to register for the event, click here.

On Aug. 28-29, The American Legion’s National Credentialing Summit will bring together experts from the private and nonprofit sectors, the armed forces and federal agencies to share best practices for credentialing and enhancing career prospects for veterans, servicemembers and military spouses. The summit will be held at JW Marriott Indianapolis, 10 S. West St.

The summit will help to identify strategies for key decision-makers to use at companies and organizations nationwide in order to expand upon recent progress and promote wider awareness of the credentialing issue. The summit will also help attendees to collaborate with one another in breaking down credentialing barriers that affect veterans and the military community.

To register for the summit, click here.

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Cy Young Award winner reflects on Legion Baseball experience

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When Randy Jones saved the 1975 Major League Baseball All-Star Game for the National League, the final out was a fly ball to left fielder Gary Carter, who played the majority of his career at catcher.

For Jones, it was an even more unique and special putout. When he pitched for The American Legion team in Fullerton, Calif., Carter was the team’s batboy.

“It was pretty classic that you're shaking everybody's hands and here comes Gary Carter out of left field, and hands me the baseball, after catching it,” recalls Jones, who pitched most of his career with the San Diego Padres. “And I just thought, ‘How surreal is that? It’s come full circle.’ Those are memories I'll never forget.”

Carter, who broke in with the Montreal Expos in 1974, reunited with Jones during batting practice before a Padres-Expos game.

“Both of us had the biggest grins on our face, because of what we went through and the relationship we had in Legion Baseball,” Jones recalled. “It was just phenomenal because we had been friends forever. That started in American Legion Baseball. I just could not believe how special that was.”

Carter is among 81 American Legion Baseball alumni who have been enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. Jones, too, had an impressive MLB career, notably winning the National League Cy Young Award in 1976 when he won 22 games with a 2.74 earned run average for the Padres.

Today, Jones is still affiliated with the Padres and American Legion Baseball (ALB). In fact, he has helped grow ALB in San Diego County where the number of teams has grown from zero two years ago to 22 now.

“The memories I have of American Legion Baseball and those times are special,” he said. “They were special for me and I understand how special they are for these kids today.”

Steve Busby, who also played in the 1975 All-Star Game, was a teammate on the Fullerton Legion team. “Steve and I have been friends all these years. I love running into him when I can,” Jones said. “I'll never forget those days. They were magical.”

Jones remembers playing several times a week, always against strong competition. “I'll never forget those years that I played Legion ball and how much I learned,” he said. “They'll always be special, and that's why I'm involved now. That's why I want to give back to these kids and make sure that a lot of them have the opportunity that I had.”

The Randy Jones Foundation supports children of military veterans. It’s another way that Jones gives back to those who supported him as a teenaged pitcher who never thought he would appear in the major leagues.

“I know we can make a difference in a lot of these kids’ lives to give them the opportunity to chase their dreams,” he said. “We're creating better citizens, better people for our country. Hopefully, if they do that and that they do have a passion and love of the game, they'll get that college scholarship or that opportunity to play in college. I just want to make sure that they have every opportunity.”

The Padres “have been very supportive, as far as in what we're trying to do and what we're trying to achieve in San Diego,” he said. Notably, all 22 Legion Baseball teams wear Padre-themed uniforms.

Jones himself sells one-pound bags of coffee for $15, one-third of which goes to fund ALB in San Diego. He encourages all teams to contribute to the sales effort. “That'll make all the difference in the world. All of a sudden you've raised $15,000-$16,000 for American Legion Baseball, here locally in San Diego. And we can do that, and then go to regionals and compete, and do the things that you really want to do.”

His experience as an ALB player helped Jones continue on as a pitcher with Chapman University before being drafted by the Padres. It was a life-changing experience for sure.

“Legion Baseball gives you an opportunity to continue to play and get better at your game,” he said. “And that's what this game's all about. It's a game of failure, is what baseball is. It's how you handle failure, how you learn from your failures, and that's how you become a really good baseball player. It gives these kids an opportunity to fail and learn to get better. If that burning desire is there to chase that dream, then let's enhance that. Overall, what I see is these kids continue to chase the dream. That's what it's all about.”

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Do Service Dogs Help Treat PTSD? After Years of Research, the V.A. Still Doesn’t Know

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The V.A. was mandated to study the use of service dogs as a mental-health treatment for veterans almost a decade ago. But repeated setbacks have held up the results.

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Older Old Glory provides a teaching moment

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In the Southern Minnesota city of Austin, American Legion Post 91 is known as the place to drop off U.S. flags for disposal. Six-time Post Commander Roland Hanson estimates that 2,000 flags are disposed of properly during ceremonies conducted by the post on Veterans Day at nearby VFW Post 1216 and on Flag Day at Post 91.

During the most recent disposal ceremony, Hanson came across a special flag – one that allowed him to give a history lesson to the Boy and Girl Scouts who annually assist with the ceremony.

While prepping the flags for disposal – some already folded and ready to burn by the Scouts – Hanson noticed a flag that was a little different than the rest of the inventory. But it was one he was well familiar with, having said the Pledge of Allegiance to it many times in high school.

“As soon as I picked it up out of the box and held it up, I said ‘oh boy,’” said Hanson, a Vietnam War Army veteran. “I saw six stars going down and eight stars across. I knew this was something that I had pledged to for many, many years myself.”

The flag was the symbol of the United States from 1912 – after New Mexico and Arizona were granted statehood – until 1959 with the addition of Alaska. It had the second-longest life of any version of the U.S. flag; the current 50-star version has been in place since Hawaii was granted statehood on Aug. 21, 1959.

“I held it up and I asked (the Scouts), ‘What do you think is wrong with this flag?’” Hanson said. “They said ‘wow, that’s in pretty good condition. Why would we want to retire that?’ I said, ‘Well, we do have to retire it because there’s only 48 stars on this flag.’ They were all in awe. They’d never seen one before.”

That provided Hanson the opportunity to teach the Scouts a bit more about the flag. “I wanted to do a little bit of education,” he said. “It was probably one of the greatest moments in my (American Legion) career. I like to teach our youth what Americanism is all about. And obviously taking care of our American flag is one of them that’s top of the list in my book.”

Hanson said the flag was still attached to part of a staff and that he’d like to try to locate the rest of the staff. After that, he’s going to donate the flag to the Mower County Historical Society in Austin.

Properly disposing of U.S. flags is a responsibility Post 91 takes seriously. Hanson said a local car club built flag disposal bins for the post that he said “look like post office boxes. Sometimes we have to empty our bin four or five times and put them in boxes in storage until either Flag Day or Veterans Day.”

Conducting two ceremonies a year allows the post to “retire our flags with dignity,” Hanson said, “so that we don’t find them in ditches and garbage cans … to disgrace our flag.”

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Honorary centennial chairman Roosevelt IV reflects on values

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Theodore Roosevelt IV, chairman of The American Legion’s 100th Anniversary Honorary Committee, reflected Saturday on a World War I veteran his grandfather revered: Sgt. William Henry Johnson of the famed 369th U.S. Infantry Regiment, the all-black combat unit known as “Harlem’s Hellfighters.”

Roosevelt IV, whose grandfather Theodore Roosevelt Jr. was a prominent founder of The American Legion, said one of the most important values of the early organization was established to prevent the fate that would eventually befall Johnson, who was wounded 21 times and died just 10 years after the war’s end.

“I suspect that grandfather would not be surprised in the least at the endurance of this organization, founded as it is on a fundamental principle – that a veteran is a veteran,” Roosevelt IV told more than 300 who gathered in St. Louis for the Department of Missouri’s 101st Convention, a weekend-long centennial celebration. “Ted Jr. only saw the soldier, nothing else, because nothing else mattered. Not race, rank or duty station. Not social position, education, money or gender. The only things that mattered then and now were service, comradeship and loyalty. For grandfather and all the founders, this was clear.”

At a time long before desegregation in the U.S. military, Johnson and the Harlem Hellfighters (a unit of which was commanded by another American Legion founder, Hamilton Fish of New York) distinguished themselves on the battlefield. The regiment spent 191 days fighting on the front, including one instance when Johnson and another soldier were on watch in “no man’s land” when the Germans ambushed them. The other soldier was quickly wounded, and Johnson’s rifle jammed. So the South Carolina former train porter, used the butt of his weapon and a knife to kill four enemy attackers and is believed to have held off more than 30, securing his position and protecting his comrade. Johnson’s courage was immediately recognized with the Croix de Guerre avec Palme, France’s highest decoration for valor.

However, said Roosevelt IV: “Our nation failed him. William Johnson only received (the Medal of Honor and Purple Heart) after his death. Even worse, he was badly injured in battle, but the injury never made it into his military records. He had a plate in his foot and could no longer work as a porter as he had done before the war. He died unacknowledged and penniless. TR Jr. came home from World War I, one of the most brutal wars ever fought, and he could not place a period on his service, a period that could leave the returning soldier, such as William Johnson, without comfort and aid.

“He knew that their service demanded more of all of us. It demanded that we remember our veterans and their families with concrete action – concrete action that does not falter, that does not waiver, that is not subject to the whims of politics, that belongs to neither party and to no ambition other than to memory and duty. The American Legion’s founders believed that mission came ahead of party politics.”

The American Legion has continued to fight for fair benefits and treatment of veterans, regardless of race, gender or rank, throughout the last century. Roosevelt IV told of his grandfather’s encounter with Sgt. William Patterson, who was recovering from wounds at an Army hospital in France during the war. Patterson told Roosevelt Jr. that his plan after discharge was to “go home and start a veterans association for the good of the country.”

Sgt. Patterson did not survive the war, but Roosevelt Jr. and his comrades fulfilled his vision by starting The American Legion in 1919, which included the St. Louis Caucus of May 8-10 that year where the Preamble to The American Legion Constitution was written, committees established and filled from every state, and the organization’s priorities came into focus.

“They began with no paid members, no departments or staff, and virtually no money. But they had a purpose – to strengthen our nation after a horrific war. Their focus was entirely on their mission and on the welfare of returning veterans. There was no time or place for personal ambition or grandstanding.”

That initial principle, carried forward over the decades, led to massive American Legion accomplishments from rural communities to urban centers, including advancement of civil rights, democratization of higher education and home ownership, a better-prepared system of defense, healthy programs for young people and, foremost, support for veterans who came home facing readjustment difficulties after wartime service. “A healthy VA for the future must always be a priority for The American Legion, regardless what century it is. But most importantly, we give ourselves this – our association, our comradeship, our devotion to one another.”

All of these actions – from support for needy children to federal accountability for military exposure to Agent Orange in the Vietnam War – have built up what Roosevelt IV explained is “social capital” between veterans and their communities. “Social capital is an extraordinary glue that holds this country together. I believe firmly that The American Legion provides great glue in holding communities together. I believe the role of The American Legion, both in urban America and in rural America, (is) essential. The great French historian Alexis de Tocqueville remarked on the ability of Americans to create associations that get things done. That’s a tremendous aspect of The American Legion, and it’s so important.”

Roosevelt IV said it is vital that The American Legion reach out and engage the post-9/11 generation of veterans to join the organization’s second century. As veterans, he said, “We know the cost of a lack of discipline. We know what it takes to storm a hill or hold a bridge. We know what it takes to get it done. So we did, and so we will continue to do, because we must. We have The American Legion because of the World War I doughboys and doughgirls who came home from war and remembered … their comrades in arms so well that they have shielded, comforted and lifted up more generations than they ever knew. We are the children who most of those soldiers never met. I never met my grandfather. But we are their legacy. It is not just about those bonds to grandfathers, It is about the obligation we must feel to grandsons, even those who we may never meet. Together, we struggle to ensure that a William Henry Johnson will never again be abandoned. Today, we honor our mutual resolve, our comradeship, our loyalty.”

Following his remarks, members of Quentin Roosevelt American Legion Post 1 in St. Louis presented Roosevelt IV, a Vietnam War Navy veteran, a plaque “in recognition of the honorable service of the entire Roosevelt family.”

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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.