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Veterans Benefits Information

Legion commends VA’s draft proposal of CARE Act

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In an effort to improve veterans’ experiences with and access to health care, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced on Oct. 16 that it has released the draft proposal of its Veterans Coordinated Access and Rewarding Experiences (CARE) Act to Congress.

According to the VA news release, the bill aims to clarify and simplify eligibility requirements, set the framework for VA to continue to build a high-performing network, streamline clinical and administrative processes, implement new care coordination support for veterans, and merge and modernize community care programs.

“The American Legion applauds the secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs for his efforts to improve health care for veterans by streamlining out-of-system community treatment options while strengthening care at VA facilities nationwide,” said National Commander Denise Rohan.

The CARE Act would replace the current 30-day/40-mile system, under the Choice Program, with patient/provider-centric decision making. The new criteria would

• Place veterans and their physicians at the center of the decision process on how and where to get the best care available;

• Ensure VA is improving medical facilities and staffing levels to meet veterans’ needs in areas where VA care is substandard; and

• Offer options for veterans to use a network of walk-in clinics for minor illnesses and injuries.

“The Choice program, implemented in the wake of the 2014 wait-time scandal, was never intended to be a permanent program,” said Rohan. “For many months, The American Legion has advised the VA on ways to provide better, more timely care to veterans based on the feedback of our 2 million members around the world.”

In addition, the bill includes proposals for new workforce tools to assist maintaining and strengthening VA’s world-class medical staff, a number of business process enhancements to improve financial management of the Community Care Program, and provisions that would strengthen VA’s ability to partner with other federal agencies and streamline VA’s real property management authorities.

VA Secretary David Shulkin said the administration wants veterans to work with their physicians to make informed decisions that are best for their clinical needs, whether in the VA or in the community.

“This bill does just that, while strengthening VA services at the same time,” he said.

When it comes to delivering improved health-care options and outcomes for veterans nationwide, Rohan said the Legion looks forward to working with Shulkin and his team to make the VA more efficient, transparent and effective.

“Medicine and the delivery of medical services in America is evolving, and we expect the VA to evolve as well,” said Louis Celli, director of the Legion’s National Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Division. “Delivering 21st century health care to American veterans needs to be our No. 1 priority, and this CARE plan starts to take steps in that direction. The American Legion will continue to work with the department and lawmakers to ensure VA remains at the heart of veterans’ care as it evolves to meet those demands.”


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Department of Alaska sponsors Honor Flight homecoming

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On Oct. 14, The American Legion Department of Alaska sponsored an Honor Flight homecoming ceremony at Fairbanks International Airport.

The attendees returning from visiting war memorials in Washington, D.C., were World War II veteran Urban Rahoi and Vietnam War veteran Walter Gelines. The two were presented with quilts. Many Legion Family members were in attendance, including past department commander Steven Huisman.

Lisa Williamson, who posted photos of the ceremony on her Facebook page, commented, “Each time we welcome the return of our Interior Alaska veterans after their trip on an Honor Flight, the crowd and enthusiasm grows. If you've never had the opportunity to see these heroes return from this awesome trip, you're missing out.”


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Events nationwide for National Veterans Small Business Week

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Events are scheduled nationwide as part of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s annual National Veterans Small Business Week, Oct. 30-Nov. 3.

Entering its fourth year, National Veterans Small Business Week aims to raise awareness of veteran business ownership; encourage communities to support veteran- and military-owned businesses; inspire business support and mentorship within the veteran and military community; and connect business owners to entrepreneurship resources administered through SBA’s Office of Veterans Business Development.

Among the events scheduled in conjunction with National Veterans Small Business Week:

• American Legion Post 64, 601 S. Holt Road, Indianapolis, will host a free National Veterans Small Business Week Training Seminar from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Oct. 31. The U.S. Small Business Administration Indiana District Office, in conjunction with The American Legion, and a panel of small business experts will connect service members and veterans with resources and training programs to launch or grow a business, sell to the Federal Government, secure financing and implement best practices for small businesses.

• Missouri University of Science and Technology’s Small Business and Technology Development Center will host a free Veterans in Business Lunch & Learn from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 1. Attendees will become more familiar with what it takes to start or grow a business and learn about veteran loan programs, veteran hiring programs and other free resources available to assist those with their own small business.

• American Legion Post 298, 228 North 20th St., Battle Creek, Mich., will host a free Boots to Business Reboot course from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 1.

• American Legion Post 365, 1022 Vandalia St., Collinsville, Ill., will host a free Small Business Connection event from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 1.

More information, including how to register, are available at the links above.

For more information on National Veterans Small Business Week, including a list of events nationwide, go to https://www.sba.gov/about-sba/sba-initiatives/veterans-small-business-week.


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A flying tribute to World War I

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Anyone with a flagpole – or a plot of grass – can commemorate the 100th anniversary of the United States’ involvement in World War I, and help get a national monument to the conflict built at the same time.

The United States World War One Centennial Commission is coordinating events and activities commemorating the U.S. centennial of The Great War, including building a permanent memorial at Pershing Park in Washington, D.C. One method of raising funds is selling commemorative merchandise. The website shop.worldwar1centennial.org displays everything from poppy kits, to clothing and accessories, to signage and coins, as well as centennial flags in two sizes.

A 3X5 nylon flag with grommets sells for $49.95; one of these flags has flown outside The American Legion National Headquarters in downtown Indianapolis. A 8X12 nylon flag with wooden dowel sells for $7.95; posts or departments looking for the graves of founding commanders and other officials can make the display of these smaller flags part of the ceremony.

Shipping is separate. A portion of the proceeds from merchandise sales will go toward the Pershing Park project. A certificate of authenticity as official merchandise of the United States World War One Centennial is included.


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Veterans outreach effort headed to Illinois

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American Legion national staff is heading to Illinois next week to assist department Legionnaires in a district revitalization and membership outreach effort.

Veterans in the area are invited to get information about American Legion programs and Department of Veterans Affairs and other veterans benefits.

The outreach effort will take place over four days at American Legion Post 365, 1022 Vandalia St., Collinsville. The hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Oct. 26-28 and 1-5 p.m. Oct. 29.

A veterans service officer will be available at both locations to assist with VA claims and other benefits questions.


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