Veterans Benefits Information guide to VA benefits

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Veterans Benefits Information

Talk to your national commander

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Want to make contact with the American Legion national commander? Turn on your HF gear for the 80m band and point your antenna to K5TAL, American Legion Post 1992 in Gautier, Miss., on Wednesday, Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. Central time (0100 UTC). National Commander Brett Reistad will be visiting Post 1992, and given a chance after dinner to make a few announcements during their regularly scheduled 80m net that evening. Reistad would be pleased to have a chance to make a few QSOs over the K5TAL station at Post 1992; he is fully supportive of TALARC and appreciates the chance to communicate directly to members over ham radio.

This is becoming something of a tradition; in 2018, then-National Commander Denise Rohan visited Post 1992 and made her own entry onto the ham waves.

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USAA Tips: Smart ways to spend your tax refund

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Content provided courtesy of USAA | By Angela Caban

If you’re expecting a tax return this year, chances are you are already thinking about how to spend it. Have you thought about where this additional money can put you financially? Think of your tax return as just another paycheck that comes in, and give that money a purpose.

Here are some smart ways to spend your tax refund:

Start or add money to your emergency fund

If you don’t already have an emergency fund, perhaps this is the perfect time to get one started. You never know what life could throw your way, and many of us are one paycheck away from being in a serious financial crisis.

Pay down/off high-interest debt

If you have any loans or credit cards with high interest rates, pay them down or off completely. This will surely put your refund to work and help relieve some of those high monthly payments.

Apply a principal payment to your mortgage

You could potentially save thousands of dollars in interest when you make an additional payment straight into principal. Check with your mortgage company first to ensure there are no additional fees or penalties.

Home repairs/improvements

Perhaps you have a home improvement project you have been wanting to start, but just didn’t have the fund to cover it. Making repairs is not only good for you in the sense that you get to cross it off your to-do list, but it will also boost the value of your home.

Invest in you

While all of the above are ways to help you succeed and get ahead financially, you also need to remember that it is okay to invest in yourself. Whether that is taking a portion of your refund to invest in your education or health, those are two investments that you will reap the benefits of for years to come. Also, don’t be afraid or feel guilty about treating yourself out to dinner, or perhaps a date night with your spouse. You’ve worked hard and we all deserve a break.

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American Legion GI Bill exhibit headed to Georgia

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The Department of Georgia’s 12th District will host The American Legion’s traveling GI Bill exhibit from Feb. 16 through March 12.

“The Greatest Legislation: An American Legion Centennial Salute to the GI Bill,” will be on display for the public at the Satilla Regional Library, 200 S. Madison Avenue, Douglas, Ga. The display will be located in the library’s Genealogy Room. Hours of operation are Mon.-Thurs., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

American Legion Riders will escort the exhibit to the library prior to the welcoming reception. Georgia’s 12th District will host a welcoming reception on Feb. 16 at the Satilla Regional Library from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

The American Legion’s exhibit documents the story of the “greatest legislation,” which The American Legion originally drafted and pushed to passage in 1943 and 1944. Originally drafted by American Legion Past National Commander Harry W. Colmery in the winter of 1943, the GI Bill transformed the U.S. economy in the second half of the 20th century.

However, the original legislation nearly failed in June 1944 when a conference committee was deadlocked on a 3-3 vote until American Legion leaders led a frantic search for Rep. John Gibson of Douglas, Ga., who represented the swing vote to pull the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act out of committee. Gibson, who was rushed from rural Georgia through a rainstorm in the middle of the night to cast the swing vote, is rightfully remembered as an essential figure in the bill’s passage.

The GI Bill exhibit features illustrated panels, video kiosks and artifacts that show the dramatic story of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, the massive effects it had on U.S. society and the ongoing effort to continue improving it for new generations, through to the passage of the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 – the “Forever GI Bill.”

The exhibit has been touring the country since its debut in June 2017 at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. It has also been on exhibit at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas; two Student Veterans of America national conferences; Bob Hope Patriotic Hall in Los Angeles; the Montana Military Museum in Helena, Mont..; the Iowa Gold Star Museum at Camp Dodge, Iowa; the 100th National Convention in Minneapolis; and the Student Veterans of America National Conference in Florida.

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'I know what my vest means to me'

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In September of 2017, U.S. Army veteran Roger Kraatz was given a motorcycle vest found by his friend in a ditch along I-135 in Kansas between Salina and Lindsborg. Since then, Kraatz has made it his mission to return the vest back to its original owner.

Kraatz put photos of the size XS leather vest (pictured above) on his own Facebook page, with the image getting shared more than 50,000 times. He’s also messaged “every patch group that I can find on social media,” and posted it on other riding social media sites.

“I know what my vest means to me,” said Kraatz, a Legionnaire and American Legion Rider from Post 174 in Ellsworth, Kan. “It tells a story of what I’ve done (and) where I’ve been. I’m proud to wear it. And I feel if someone takes the time to pick out patches that they’ve earned or worked to receive, and they take the time to put it on their vest and wear it proudly … I know if I lost mine I’d want someone to try to get it back to me because of what it means to me. And I know a lot of people feel the same way as me.”

If you are the owner of the vest or know who is, please contact Kraatz via Facebook. Getting the vest back to its owner “will feel great,” Kraatz said. “When I set out to do things, I want to complete them 100 percent. I don’t want to halfway do it. It would feel great to accomplish that, and hopefully the person is missing it and wanting it back.

“My main goal is to make sure the original owner receives it. It’s part of that person, and I just want to do my best to try to get it back to them.”

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Legionnaire’s mobile app gives voice to legislative issues

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As a former lobbyist, Jennings DePriest found that those looking to effect legislative change couldn’t communicate with their government officials through grassroots advocacy. “Which is unfortunate because part of the way our government was designed to function is by the input of the people,” said the 25-year-old DePriest, who is serving in the Army National Guard and is a member of American Legion Post 13 in Tallahassee, Fla.

However, through technology, DePriest found a way to connect lawmakers with the American people so their voices could be heard.

RallyWise is a grassroots advocacy mobile app that keeps its users updated on legislative issues that matter to their association and connects members to their legislators with one click. There’s one annual fee for an unlimited number of users. The American Legion Department of Florida recently invested in the app, making it free for all Legionnaires in the state to use. Currently, more than 300 Florida Legionnaires have downloaded the app. “There are a lot of bills in Florida that affect veterans. We want to ensure that the Legionnaires of Florida have their voices heard by their legislators throughout this session,” DePriest said.

RallyWise mobile app is available through the Apple Store or Google Play Store. Through the app, the Department of Florida leadership has the ability to put in bills important to them. These bills will then be tracked throughout session and when a bill comes up for a vote, Legionnaires who downloaded the app will receive:

  • A push notification that the bill is scheduled for a vote and whether or not the Department of Florida supports or opposes the bill;

  • Talking points on the Department of Florida’s position on the bill; and

  • Three ways to connect with local legislators (or the chair of the committee if the user doesn’t have a local legislator who’s on the committee) before every vote, which is by phone, email or Twitter.

RallyWise can then track the number of Legionnaires who contacted their legislator about the bill so department leadership can then say to the committee before a vote, “We know this many Legionnaires contacted you on this issue, we really hope you’re going to vote with us today,” DePriest said.

“The people who have defended our state and our nation are the people who should really be involved with the way our legislators pass bills,” he added. “And that’s something that RallyWise helps accomplish.”

RallyWise tracks legislative issues in all 50 states; however, its current focus is on the Florida legislative process. For more information about RallyWise, contact DePriest by email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or visit

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