Veterans Benefits Information guide to VA benefits

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Veterans Benefits Information

American Legion: Thank you Sen. Isakson for serving veterans

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The American Legion extended its gratitude to Sen. Johnny Isakson, who today announced his plans to retire.

“His commitment to his home state of Georgia and to this nation has been exemplary,” American Legion National Commander Brett P. Reistad said. “From his military service in the Georgia Air National Guard, to his service in the Georgia House of Representatives and Senate, and in the U.S. House and Senate, he has demonstrated the highest ideals of integrity, service and excellence. As the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs' Committee, he helped usher through significant reforms. He will be very much missed.”

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Montana Men Must Hold ‘I Stole Valor’ Signs for Misrepresenting Military Service

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In an unconventional sentence, the two men must also write out the names of thousands of Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Roosevelt IV urges adjustments without forfeiting foundation

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American Legion 100th Anniversary Honorary Committee Chairman Theodore Roosevelt IV, a two-tour Vietnam War Navy veteran, told thousands gathered in Indianapolis Aug. 28 that with each new war era, the organization his grandfather helped establish in 1919 has made adjustments over the decades, while holding true to timeless values.

“Honoring our history should not be an impediment to speaking to our present and future vets,” Roosevelt IV said at the 101st American Legion National Convention. “In fact, honoring our history requires that we stretch, adjust and do what it takes to stay on mission.”

He told the crowd that one thrust of the honorary committee has been to explore ways to maximize relationships with such post-9/11 groups as Student Veterans of America, Team Red White and Blue, Team Rubicon and The Mission Continues. The National Executive Committee passed a resolution in May 2015 that originated with the national 100th anniversary committees encouraging local posts to coordinate and work with those groups wherever feasible. In many communities throughout the country, American Legion posts have, for example, sponsored young veterans to attend the annual SVA national conference, and many have offered their post homes to SVA chapters for meetings and other gatherings. Many Legion posts have also conducted community-service, disaster-relief and fitness activities with The Mission Continues, Team Rubicon and Team RWB.

“Engagement with the newest generation of veterans – communicating across generational lines, across technologies, across cultures – is essential,” Roosevelt IV said. “We can’t understand younger vets unless we are hearing directly from them, and that means their generation needs leadership roles in The American Legion.”

Roosevelt IV explained that he and his fellow veterans “seemed to speak our own language” when they came home to restart their civilian lives after the Vietnam War. “It felt as though our DNA was changed in ways only ‘Nam vets understood.

“Other vets from other generations were our comrades, but we needed acknowledgement of what was specific to Vietnam, what was left behind there, what remained an obstacle to a healthy return for so many,” he said. American Legion-driven initiatives after the Vietnam War to demand government accountability for Agent Orange exposure, establish recognition and treatment programs for post-traumatic stress disorder and to honor women who served in Southeast Asia through support for the Vietnam Women’s Memorial in Washington, D.C., are examples of ways in which the organization adjusted to serve his generation without compromising fundamental values.

Roosevelt IV encouraged his fellow Legionnaires to make the most of social media and to continue engaging with the newest generation of veterans through such focus groups as the organization’s 21st Century Task Force under the national Internal Affairs Commission.

“I have full faith in the timeless foundation that was laid by those who returned from World War I and by each subsequent generation of the Legion,” he said. “The mortar of this association is our devotion to one another. It is the gift of The American Legion.”

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Raising the visibility of women veterans

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The only major national memorial honoring all women veterans, The Women In Military Service For America Memorial, has among its features the opportunity for women veterans to register as a member of the memorial.

But when Ret. Maj. Gen. Jan Edmunds, chairwoman of the memorial’s foundation, encounters a woman veteran during her travels and asks her to register, she told American Legion National Convention delegates that oftentimes the answer is the same.

“Most of the reason that’s given for not registering is ‘oh, I didn’t do anything important,’” Edmunds said. “Except that every single person, man and woman, who has served did something immensely important. Every one of you did something immensely important. You raised your right hand and said ‘I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend.’

During her Aug. 28 address in Indianapolis, Edmunds said it’s her goal to change that kind of thinking of woman veterans themselves and alter the overall impression of woman veterans.

“Sadly, far too many members of the general public don’t think of women when they hear the words ‘veteran’ or ‘bravery’ or 'courage,’” Edmunds said. “There are many (women veterans) … who don’t see themselves as veterans. As a result, the contribution of women who have served goes under-recognized and under-recorded, making the women who served end up feeling invisible.”

“Ultimately, if we’re successful, we’ll change the face of courage in the minds of the American public, so that when you say the word ‘veteran’ or ‘courage’ or 'service,’ people will think of a woman as well as a man. That’s our goal: to make sure that every woman veteran is included and every story of service is remembered.”

Edmunds thanked the American Legion Family for its support of the memorial, which is located at the Ceremonial Entrance to Arlington National Cemetery, and praised The American Legion for allowing women to join a year before they were allowed to vote.

“In fact, it was the women who served in uniform in World War I that were the tipping point for women finally getting to vote,” Edmunds said. “Women have never had to fight to be included in The American Legion. Obviously, kudos to The American Legion for leading history, but we cannot rest on these laurels. Until the word veteran automatically means men and women, we have work to do.”

Edmunds took advantage of her time to ask the woman veterans in the audience to register with the memorial. “If you’re not yet included, I hope you’ll take your rightful place in history,” she said. “I ask everyone here, if you know of a woman veteran – be they your mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, a neighbor – make sure they’re included. Make sure they’re part of our history … so that we can make sure that history always remember their name.”

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Pence says American Legion ‘makes a difference for veterans’

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Vice President Mike Pence lavished praise on The American Legion during his speech to delegates Aug. 28 during the organization’s 101st National Convention in Indianapolis.

“The American Legion is making a difference for our veterans.”

It was a bit of a homecoming for Pence, who was governor of Indiana before becoming vice president. “I'm awfully proud to stand with all of you,” he said, blocks from the Indiana Statehouse. “The American Legion is the largest and most influential veterans organization in America, and it's headquartered right here in Indiana.”

Pence vowed the White House would continue to support the nation’s veterans, including the delivery of their benefits.

“We stood by our veterans, giving them the benefits and the care that they deserve,” he said in his 35-minute address. “Under this president and this administration, we will always stand by our American flag. We will always stand for our national anthem. And, just like The American Legion, we will always defend the freedom and sacrifice they represent.”

He noted the change in holding VA accountable for the treatment it provides veterans. A few years ago, several high-profile issues called into question how some VA medical centers were run.

“Scandal after scandal at the VA revealed a cold indifference to the fate of our veterans,” the vice president said. “But those days are over.”

He specifically mentioned the VA Mission Act, calling it the “most sweeping VA reform law in half a century.”

More than 7,000 VA employees have been fired for negligence, Pence said. “The era of abuse at the VA is over. We're not going to put up with it anymore.”

Pence, the son of a Bronze Star recipient from the Korean War and the father of a U.S. Marine, has a long association with The American Legion. In 1977, he won The American Legion Department of Indiana’s Oratorical Contest.

During his address, Pence praised the Legion for its support of children and youth activities.

“You've been busy teaching our young people principles to make our country great, whether it's through the Boy Scouts, American Legion Baseball or The American Legion Oratorical Contest. It was in that American Legion Oratorical Contest that my love affair for the Constitution of the United States of America began. And you have my thanks.”

Pence also hit on a number of other topics important to veterans:

• ISIS: “We've taken the fight to radical Islamic terrorists on their soil,” Pence said. “Five years ago, the so-called ISIS caliphate actually controlled nearly 35,000 square miles in Syria and Iraq. They subjected 5 million people to unspeakable barbarism and oppression. Today,

thanks to the courage of our armed forces and the leadership of our commander in chief, earlier this year the last inch of territory controlled by ISIS was captured. Extraordinary accomplishment for our troops.”

• Korea: Pence said that the U.S. is no longer threatened by North Korea. “Three historic meetings have taken place. North Korea's leader also promised to return the remains of all fallen U.S. servicemembers in the Korean War.”

• Repatriations: More than two dozen Korean War veterans have been identified and returned home. “We will not rest until we bring all our boys home from the Korean War.”

• National defense: Pence said the Army will soon have nearly 300 new M1 Abrams tanks, the Navy will deploy an advanced class of aircraft carriers and the Air Force will receive hundreds of new Joint Strike Fighters, the F-35. “And tomorrow (Aug. 29), the president will install four-star General John Raymond as the first commander of U.S. Space Command. And very soon, we will stand up the sixth branch of our armed forces, the United States Space Command.”

• Homeless veterans: Pence said that the administration has helped 30,000 homeless veterans find permanent housing. “There should be no homeless veterans in America.”

In closing, Pence thanked Legionnaires for their service.

“Thank you for your service. Thank you for your courage. Thank you for doing your part in uniform and standing by our military.”

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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.