Veterans Benefits Information

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Veterans Benefits Information

War Has Ripple Effects

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I am a military widow. I know what the true cost of conflict is.

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Legion Commander: ‘Learn from the Minneapolis death’

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The leader of the nation’s largest veterans organization has called on health care administrators to study the findings of a recent VA inspector general’s report to ensure that circumstances that contributed to a veteran’s 2018 suicide do not re-occur.

“One veteran suicide is one too many,” said American Legion National Commander James W. “Bill” Oxford. “But what happened in Minneapolis should have been prevented. A patient committed suicide in a VA parking lot just hours after a nurse overheard the veteran giving away property and mentioning impending death in a telephone conversation. We do not know the name and the gender of the patient profiled in the report but that isn’t what’s important. What is important is for people to learn from it. The IG found deficiencies in care coordination, internal review effectiveness and sufficiency and Patient Safety Committee and Quality Management Council.”

Oxford pointed out that the Minneapolis patient had a history of substance abuse and tried to decrease their use of opioids.

“Medications alone will not solve this crisis among veterans. In many cases, they contribute to the problem,” Oxford said. “The American Legion has been on the record for many years supporting the use of alternative and nontraditional therapies to help veterans recover from depression, PTSD and other issues with which they may be struggling.

"An estimated 20 veterans a day take their own lives. Every one of these instances are tragic. More veterans die from their own hands than are killed by our nation’s enemies. We must do a better job of embracing and listening to these men and women.”

Veterans who are in crisis or have had thoughts of suicide should call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-8000-273-8255. They can also chat online at veteranscrisisline.net/chat or text 838255.


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No Charges in Assault Complaint at V.A. Hospital, and a Public Fight Erupts

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A cabinet secretary, a House committee chairman and an inspector general are at odds after a congressional staff member said she was sexually assaulted.

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Veteran brains committed, more needed

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In less than four weeks following distribution of the January 2020 American Legion Magazine, no fewer than 333 veteran and military brains have been pledged for research through the Concussion Legacy Foundation. The online portal to pledge one’s brain can be found at www.concussionfoundation.org/programs/project-enlist.

The January magazine cover story, “Wanted: Your Brain,” explored the need for donated brains to advance research to help veterans with traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and athletes with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The research, led by Dr. Ann McKee of VA and Boston University, depends on commitments from veterans, former athletes and others to the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank, which has studied and influenced changes in football and other sports to reduce concussions and is advancing science regarding brains of those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, as well.

McKee explains her work and the importance of donated brains in the above video, recorded during October interviews for the magazine article at the brain bank attached to the Jamaica Plain campus of the VA Boston Healthcare System.

“Since The American Legion Magazine article was published, the number of weekly brain pledges from members of the military has increased by 16 fold. We have had more military pledges in the last month than we had in the previous year,” said Chris Nowinski, co-founder of Concussion Legacy Foundation and author of “Head Games.”

The former pro wrestler and college football player said the key to prevention and treatment is research, which means brains. “We can never have enough brain pledges, so we hope they continue,” said Nowinski, who battled with the effects of repeated concussions after his wrestling career ended in 2003. “Brain donations are a critical driver of new discoveries about TBI, PTSD and CTE. The more pledges we have, the faster brains are donated, the faster we’ll have better treatments for those suffering.”

The original article is now online, the first in a series titles “Mysteries of the Mind.”


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Bronze Star awarded to family of World War II POW and Legionnaire

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Last spring, Edward Ucinski III conducted a military records check on his late grandfather, Edward Uciski Sr. who was a prisoner of war in World War II and a longstanding member of The American Legion. It was Edward’s way of passing on his grandfather’s legacy of service to his own son, Edward Ucinski IV, so it wouldn’t be forgotten.

“When I received the (military records) letter in August 2019, I was in disbelief,” said Edward III, Department of Missouri’s 10th District commander and a member of Post 400 in Fenton. Edward Sr. was eligible for an award that neither he, nor his family, knew about.

The letter referenced that besides the Prisoner of War Medal, his grandfather was awarded the Bronze Star following the end of World War II, thanks to the efforts of Gen. George C. Marshall. Edward explained that Marshall made it possible, retroactively, for any soldier who earned a Combat Infantry Badge or a Combat Medic Badge to be awarded the Bronze Star without citation. “It was something truly incredible that many do not know about,” he said.

However, the Bronze Star was never presented to Edward Sr. following the end of the war. It wasn’t until Veterans Day 2019, 22 years after his passing, that the long overdue recognition was presented. And the great-grandson of Edward Sr. accepted it on his behalf.

During the Rockwood Summit High School Veterans Day ceremony Nov. 11, 2019, Army Sgt. 1st Class Lagermann presented the Bronze Star to Edward IV. He is a Sons of The American Legion Squadron 400 member and the Department of Missouri’s Eagle Scout of the Year for 2019.

“As for my family, we thought that receiving this Bronze Star was something noble and honorable,” Edward III said. “It is something that honors my grandfather and his sacrifices. I always said that my grandfather deserved something for what he endured.”

Edward Sr. shared his war story in 1990 with Edward III for a high school project.

Born in St. Louis in 1914 to parents who emigrated from Europe, Edward Sr. was a first-generation American. After being drafted in 1943, he served with the U.S. Army 9th Infantry Division, Company K, 39th Infantry Regiment as a BAR gunner and deployed for war, leaving behind a pregnant wife and a 1-year-old son, Edward Jr., who would go on to serve in the Army 6th Infantry during the Vietnam War.

After landing on Omaha Beach in Normandy following the historic invasion, Edward Sr. fought in the Battle of the Bulge and was captured. He was transported by train to the POW camp Stalag VII-A in Moosburg, Germany, where he was used as a laborer in areas damaged by airstrikes.

Edward Sr. was liberated on Easter Sunday in 1945, and joined The American Legion a few years later, eventually resulting in three generations of Legionnaires.

“It’s a tradition and an honor that started back in 1949 at Missouri Post 472,” Edward III said.

Edward Sr. became commander of Post 472 in 1951, and then transferred to Post 302 where served as the post commander in 1968.

“My grandfather believed in the mission of The American Legion and was a firm believer that everyone who served, even if it was stateside, contributes to the overall success of the mission,” Edward III said.

American Legion Post 302 closed sometime after the passing of Edward Sr. in 1998. But Edward III is in the process of chartering a new Post 302, to be named after his grandfather. The post will serve as a place for all to remember Edward Sr.’s sacrifice and service through the keepsakes that Edward III holds, such as the Bronze Star medal, his World War II uniform and American Legion membership cards.

“My grandfather was truly deserving of this Bronze Star,” Edward III said. “However, I do not believe that he would have cared that he earned it. But we as his family do appreciate it and will pass it on, just as we will his memory and his sacrifices for this great nation of ours.”


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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.