Veterans Benefits Information guide to VA benefits

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Veterans Benefits Information

Did Hell Freeze Over? My Republican Dad Is Voting for a Democrat

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Senator Jon Tester is less of a cookie-cutter Democrat and more of a Bull Moose wild card, “a Montanan who understands Montana.”

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Navy Medicine leads the way in 3D mammography

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CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — The word “cancer” has a way of stopping patients in their tracks. Early detection is key to beating breast cancer, catching it when it is treatable.

Navy Medicine is leading the way when it comes to early detection of breast cancer with the use of a sophisticated combination of breast tomography, or 3D mammography, and 3D biopsy system. According to Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune’s Chief of Radiology, Navy Cmdr. Matthew Rose, the 3D biopsy system, “is the first of its kind in the Navy.” The new biopsy system is in use at NMCCL and provides the capability to biopsy lesions not seen on ultrasound or 2D imaging.

Lead mammography technologist Christine Davidson explained the biopsy system allows tissue sampling in a more patient-sensitive manner by utilizing a memory-foam table top. “Having a 3D biopsy system allows us the capability to perform biopsies of lesions that were only seen on 3D in the least invasive way possible,” said Davidson. “Without this capability, a patient may have to go through a more invasive procedure to determine the pathology of the lesion.”

Utilization of both 2D and 3D imaging are crucial to “early detection of breast cancer, when it is treatable,” said Rose. The use of these technologies is more than just beneficial in detecting cancer early. “It (3D imaging) has the potential to reduce emotion harm by having few call backs for addition imaging,” said Rose. “Patients get very worried that the test is positive if we call them back for more images. The systems takes multiple images of the breast and formats them to be viewed as a stack of images.”

Both mammography units passed multiple American College of Radiology and Food and Drug Administration accreditations, in September, just in time for Breast Cancer Awareness month. The units are certified for the next three years, according to the ACR.

“The most important part of Breast cancer awareness month truly is the awareness part,” said Navy Capt. Shelley Perkins, NMCCL Executive Officer. “Every woman should talk to her doctor about the risk of breast cancer and have a discussion about how best to screen for cancer and the timing of imaging, such as mammograms. Mammograms saves lives with early detection.”

These accreditations are due to a major process improvement project the mammography unit underwent three years ago. A process improvement project created an effective system that streamlined scheduling for both screening and diagnostic mammography, Rose explained.

Still, many beneficiaries choose to be seen outside of NMCCL for their breast health needs. Due to the nomadic lifestyle many of our beneficiaries have, maintaining a regular schedule of breast health screenings can be difficult outside of a military treatment facility.

“We maintain excellence and a standard of care and the patient’s images can be easily sent to any Department of Defense facility so their mammograms can follow them with every PCS (permanent change of station) or move to a DoD facility,” said Rose. “[Being seen at NMCCL] improves the ability to share prior exams with other DoD facilities, which can make a difference in earlier detection of breast cancer.”

“NMCCL has state of the art diagnostic equipment, a dedicated team of imagers who have years of experience, and highly trained, board-certified radiologists who can find tiny changes in a mammogram, years before they would ever be felt on an exam,” said Perkins. “If you do have a breast concern or have a change in your exam, talk with your primary care provider. Women save their own lives every day by speaking up.”

Disclaimer: Re-published content may have been edited for length and clarity. Read original post.

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How to help, and how to get help, in Hurricane Michael's aftermath

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One of the most powerful hurricanes to ever hit the continental United States, Hurricane Michael, roared ashore near Mexico Beach, Fla., on Wednesday, killing at least two people and leaving thousands without power.

“Due to the frequency and the power of hurricanes which have occurred during the last couple of years, it is possible to become de-sensitized to these natural disasters. I implore people to avoid that mentality,” National Commander Brett P. Reistad said. “Each of these storms are deadly and if it is your house that is under water or ravaged by devastating winds, the sense of loss and despair can be unimaginable. Those who are in harm’s way, please make personal safety priority one. Items can be replaced, but people cannot. Together, we will get through this."

Michael was downgraded to a tropical storm as it crossed Georgia overnight, but it was still expected to cause plenty of damage as it moved across the Carolinas Thursday on its way to the Atlantic on Friday. North and South Carolina are still recovering from September’s Hurricane Florence.

The American Legion’s National Emergency Fund (NEF) provides immediate cash grants for Legionnaires, posts and Sons of The American Legion members who are impacted by natural disasters such as hurricanes and flooding.

“Local American Legion posts have always stepped up and assisted their communities during times of disaster, and I have faith that they will continue to do so," Reistad said. "No matter where you live, some type of natural disaster can strike. We remain committed to helping the people of the southeastern United States recover from these storms.”

How you can help

In advance of the storm, the Department of Florida updated its home page to include links to hurricane relief and was already asking for monetary donations at That page also includes links on how to apply for assistance as well as how to help those affected by the hurricane.

To donate to The American Legion’s National Emergency Fund, go to

How to get help

NEF funds are available for American Legion and Sons of The American Legion members who have been impacted by the hurricane, as well as Legion posts. NEF provides up to $3,000 for Legion and SAL members with an active membership, and up to $10,000 for posts that have been damaged by a natural disaster.

For individual NEF grants submitted for Hurricane Michael, applicants:

• Must have been displaced from their primary residence which sustained damages from the hurricane and/or flooding.

• Should have receipts for out-of-pocket expenses (i.e., temporary housing, food while displaced, and other essentials to survive during the displaced period). The intent of the NEF grant is not to replace household goods or the living facilities, as these are insurance items. The grant is to be used to offset expenses needed in order to survive during the disaster period.

• Should have photos of damaged home, as well as hotel, gas and food receipts, or testimony from post, district or department officers attesting to damages or extraordinary circumstances.

For American Legion post NEF grants, posts must state why they will cease to perform their duties and activities in the community due to losses sustained. Legion posts that served as community service centers during the disaster may also be eligible for a grant to offset their costs in providing food and other services to members of their community during these disasters.

To apply for an NEF grant, please visit

Since Jan. 1, 2018, the NEF has provided more than $166,000 in grants. These grants are made possible by donations to the fund. To donate, visit

Additionally, The American Legion's Temporary Financial Assistance (TFA) program is available to help meet the basic needs of minor children of eligible veterans. These needs include shelter, food, utilities, clothing and health expenses. TFA grants are available to children (17 years or younger) of active-duty servicemembers or American Legion members. No child can be considered eligible until a complete investigation is conducted at the post or department level, a legitimate family need is determined, and all other available assistance resources have been utilized or exhausted.

To apply for a TFA grant, contact your local American Legion post or department (state) headquarters. For post/department contact information, click here.

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Legionnaires watch rocket launch into space and back

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On a hillside near Vandenberg Air Force Base a crowd of space enthusiasts, scientists, engineers and journalists roared with excitement, then fell silent as the Falcon 9 rocket blasted into space. The sunset mission created an artful sky visible throughout Southern California with each phase of the launch as the rocket moved up and through the atmosphere.

The Falcon 9 rocket was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Lompoc, Calif., at 7:21 p.m. PT on Oct. 7, to deliver a satellite for Argentina. The Falcon 9, a product of SpaceX, is named for its nine rocket engines using liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene propellants to deliver cargo to space. The missions include supplying the International Space Station and putting satellites into orbit.

SpaceX is a private company that was started in 2002 with a mission to decrease the cost of space flight and colonize Mars. Sunday’s flight marked the 17th one for SpaceX this year.

The mission put a SAOCOM 1A satellite into orbit. This microwave observation satellite is the first of two, SAOCOM 1A and 1B, equipped with polarmetric synthetic aperture radar to help predict, monitor and mitigate natural disasters.

With the satellite deployed, the Falcon 9 returned as dramatically as it left replete with a sonic boom and flames just a few hundred meters from where it took off. Most remarkable for this particular launch is that part of the Falcon 9 returned to Vandenberg Air Force Base to be refurbished and reused. This is the first land recovery on the west coast. There have been now 30 successful booster recoveries accomplished by SpaceX in other parts of the country, including 11 at Cape Canaveral in Florida and 18 on ocean-going deck barges called drone ships.

"Sonic boom warning. This won't be subtle," SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted just before the launch. We are booming into a new phase of space exploration and occupation as technology has come very far since the spectacularly memorable walk on the moon all those years ago on July 20, 1969. “If you go back a few hundred years, what we take for granted today would seem like magic,” Musk said.

The people around Lompoc are so used to rocket launches that they all sit around comparing the number they have witnessed, many with numbers over 100. With the clear night sky of this particular launch it was visible far beyond those who knew what it was. In order to help squash some of the conspiracy theories, Legionnaire and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted a photo of the rocket, "Nope, definitely not aliens. What you’re looking at is the first launch and landing of the @SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on the West Coast."

Vandenberg Post 125 Adjutant Harley Santos Jr., has personally and professionally witnessed much of the growth in the aerospace industry, including watching the launch of Falcon 9. Santos enlisted in the Air Force and started as a propellant transport systems specialist and worked on the Atlas D missile at Vandenberg Air Force Base. The SM-65 Atlas was the first operational intercontinental ballistic missile developed by the United States and the first member of the Atlas rocket family.

“I started out in ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles), with the Atlas D missile, working for the office of aerospace research, testing nose cone ablatives for our missiles,” he said. “From there I went on to the Titan II’s, which were silo born missiles, ICBM’s. I cross trained into aircraft avionics, spent a lot of time in aircraft avionics.”

Once Santos retired from the Air Force he worked for a major aerospace corporation and spent 20 years as an engineering manager for systems safety. Santos continues to use his expertise to support this community by being a member of The American Legion’s National Aerospace Committee, a subcommittee of the National Security Commission.

“What we do on the National Aerospace Committee is to try and ensure that there’s enough funding to ensure that the military, and in particular the Air Force and the air components of the other services, have enough funding to maintain their aircraft and their infrastructure,” Santos said. “As well as ensure that NASA has correct funding to continue on with its exploration of space.”

Santos still embodies the tangible love for space flight that envelops the entire area around Vandenberg Air Force Base. He stays informed of when the launches take place and can actually see them from his front porch. “I get up at 2 o’clock in the morning some mornings to watch a launch and its pretty nifty as the rocket is heading down south for a polar orbit,” Santos said.

There are a lot of veterans working at Vandenberg Air Force Base who have transitioned from the military and use their skill sets in the civilian sector. “A good example is there are a lot of people in propellants, oils and lubricants who have transitioned into fuel systems out here on the base,” Santos said.

SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell is responsible for day-to-day operations and company growth and said SpaceX does not plan to slow down, and has in its sights on Mars.

“I hope to be doing hop tests next year with the second stage, the spaceship, and make an orbital flight in 2020,” she said. “We would like to put large cargo on the surface of the moon by 2022. And we have our eyes on the prize to send people to Mars in 2024.”

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Colorado post basks in community service, camaraderie

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As a child, Kendra Ryan and her military family moved frequently. For the past 19 years, Ryan has served her nation, currently as a captain in the Navy Reserve.

Ryan found her community at American Legion Post 119 in Estes Park, Colo., where she is assistant services officer and hosts a weekly yoga and stretching class.

“I never had a community that others might call their community,” Ryan said. “I went to seven different schools growing up, and moved seven times in my first five years in the service. I never had a sense of community until I moved to Estes Park. It was the first time I was able to experience what a community is all about, and The American Legion within that community is an even more special smaller group of individuals that I feel very fortunate to be a part of.”

Terry Rizzuti, a former commander, lured Ryan in by convincing her that the post was passionate about community service.

“One of the main reasons that I joined the Legion is to have a mission, or a continued obligation, of service,” she explained. “Once I do retire eventually, I would like to continue my service to my community and to the larger country. The American Legion post is a great way to do that.”

The post — chartered in 1920 — has sponsored Boy Scout Troop 8 since its founding 80 years ago. More recently the post began to support the troop’s Explorers club. “A young lady expressed how much she enjoyed the club last year,” said Loren Shriver, commander of Post 119. “We’re thrilled to be a part of it.”

During October, Post 119 hosts a haunted house for children. After Thanksgiving, its Tiny Tots program allows children to visit Santa Claus. It also sponsors a Legion baseball team and is looking to add a second one next year. A Riders chapter has been launched with 17 members ranging in age from their 20s through 70s.

Post 119 was not always this engaged in its community. The post’s resurrection began to take shape when Rizzuti took office as post commander a few years ago. A 13-year resident of Estes Park, he was concerned about the post’s declining stature in the community but was optimistic for the future.

“I liked what I saw for the future but I didn’t like what I saw right then,” he says, noting the post was turning into a bar and away from its community. “I began to look at programs — what is the post doing? And I was stunned.”

Under Rizzuti’s leadership, the post prioritized its programs. “I believe that is what The American Legion is here for,” he said. “It’s not to operate a bar. The bar is to go and celebrate what we accomplished.”

The post has not only grown membership and become a more integral part of its community, it found a creative source for revenue. Four food truck owners now rent the post’s kitchen. “That brings in some income,” he said.

Post 119 is the only veterans organization in Estes Park, which sits at 7,500 feet of elevation about a 90-minute drive from Denver.

“I have always thought veterans were a cornerstone of the community and I feel that way about this post. We are not only a cornerstone in terms of people, we are a cornerstone in terms of location,” Rizzuti says, noting the post sits in the middle of town at the intersection of two main highways. “We are extremely visible to almost every visitor who comes into this town.”

Shriver credits Rizzuti for envisioning the post’s role in its community. Support for veterans, their families and the community is a prime mover of the post now.

“Our veteran and family support is now more noticeable,” Shriver said. “Membership has gone up for the post. We are getting more and more information about other veterans in the area. We'll go work on them a little bit and see if we can interest them in joining.”

Dick Life is among the post members charged with recruiting. “We want everybody — American Legion members, Auxiliary, Sons and Riders — to be recruiters,” he said. “Not just the three of us whose names are on the list.”

Life and Ryan talked about the importance of personal relationships with potential members. “Especially in our small town, it’s about building relationships,” she said. “Many of us already know so many veterans who are not members. When I think about how I joined the post, it was someone reaching out on a personal relationship and continuing that conversation.”

When Ryan joined the post she wanted to make a difference. Her weekly yoga classes are a combination of movement, breathing and meditation exercises that promote well-being among her comrades who participate.

Called Yoga for Resiliency, the six-week sessions began when another post member asked if Ryan would lead them. As a yoga practitioner for 19 years and instructor for a decade, she jumped at the opportunity.

“Yoga for Resiliency is about finding and learning techniques, breathing, movement and mindfulness techniques to overcome the stresses in our life, whether those were past stresses from the wars or current stresses that we face in our daily lives,” she said. “Our members are finding that just with an hour a week, they're learning these new techniques that they can take then out into their daily lives. It's not just about doing yoga on the mat or in the chair. It's about taking it, and applying it through your day to increase resiliency to those stresses we face.”

Ryan is resilient herself, balancing a young family, her yoga business, Navy duties and her American Legion volunteerism. Once she understood Post 119’s mission, she committed to the Legion Family community.

“It's a funny question when we ask ourselves, ‘Why do we continue to serve,’ and why we served in the first place,” she pondered. “I think it's something that's innate into us. There's just a driving mission to continue to serve. It feels great to do, and I love the relationships, and the community building, but it just feels like something I have to do. It just wasn't a choice.”

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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.