Veterans Benefits Information guide to VA benefits

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Veterans Benefits Information

GE focuses on veteran employment

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General Electric, wanting more veterans among its ranks, has announced an initiative to hire 5,000 veterans over the next five years while funding a joint-externship program with the U.S. Army Reserve’s 807th Medical Command. The hiring initiative is part of GE’s partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, with whom the Legion is also partnered, and the externship program is a product of its relationship with the Army Reserve, which the Legion also has close ties with.

The initiative to hire 5,000 veterans will support the Chamber’s “Hiring Our Heroes” program, which brings veteran job fairs to cities around the country. The Legion works closely with the Chamber to arrange the job fairs, often using posts as sites for the festivities. GE has agreed to sponsor 400 fairs this year and will provide training and job-search services to veterans in 50 of those cities.

GE will hire veterans from all parts of the country and will match them with its various branches nationwide. Veterans interested in applying can go here.

“GE is proud to count among our employees thousands of military veterans whose leadership skills and training supports our culture of dedication and commitment,” said Richard Neff, vice president and general manager of service for GE Healthcare in U.S. and Canada. “We are pleased with the results of this pilot program and look forward to expanding our efforts to provide career opportunities to our service men and women.”

GE Healthcare’s externship program with the Army Reserve provides training and fosters career development within the health industry for Reservists in the 807th Medical Command. Participants in the program gain professional qualifications for advancement in their civilian and military careers. The program gives them an opportunity to get “hands-on” experiences at GE’s regional medical concentration sites.

Last month, the program graduated its first class of seven Reservists. A second class is currently halfway through, and a third wave will begin in the near future.

Reservists who are Biomedical Equipment Specialists are eligible. Those interested should contact the Army Reserve for more information.

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Legion testifies at Senate field hearing

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William Schrier, past national vice commander of The American Legion, testified as a witness at the April 4 Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (SCVA) hearing in Tacoma, Wash. He also submitted written testimony on behalf of the Legion that addressed the hearing’s topic, “Washington’s Veterans: Helping the Newest Generation Transition Home.”

The Legion’s testimony noted that mistakes were made in how America treated returning veterans from the Vietnam War, but that the country has “a groundswell of support to ensure we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.” Congress “can’t pass a law to make citizens welcome veterans back home into their communities,” yet leaders of those communities can be role models for the proper treatment of men and women who have served America in uniform.

During the Vietnam era, “the public narrative of the Vietnam veteran emerged as a group of angry, alienated loners. Media portrayals over the years were negative, and a clear picture emerged that the war had destroyed a young generation of men sent to fight.” This stereotype of Vietnam War veterans persisted in popular culture, despite polls that showed 90 percent of those veterans were proud to have served in Vietnam and about 65 percent would serve there again.

The American Legion advised the SCVA that America runs the risk of creating another unfair stereotype of returning veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress (PTS), “when the vast majority of those who suffer from these hidden wounds lead normal and productive lives, dealing with their scars and adjusting as they would to any other injury.” Community leaders need to reinforce the positive realities experienced by most young veterans. “We need to actively take away the stigma of wounds such as PTS.”

Returning veterans who do suffer from PTS “must be able to expect just treatment for the wounds they suffer, be they visible or invisible.” The Legion used Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma as an example of a facility where “there has been a concerted effort to minimize these wounds, and deny veterans the treatment they deserve.” Such occurrences are not isolated. According to the Legion’s testimony, many veterans initially diagnosed with personality disorders “have been sent back for reevaluation (and) have been more properly diagnosed as PTS.”

Any veteran who believes that he or she is suffering from PTS, and has been misdiagnosed with personality disorder, is encouraged to call the Warrior and Family Hotline at (800) 984-8523.

In its testimony, the Legion noted the new Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) is being implemented by the departments of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA). While IDES is an improvement over previous methods, its pilot program seems to have worked better than the current expanded version. The pilot program dropped disability evaluation times from an average of 500 days to about 300. Since the program has been expanded, Legion field representatives are reporting that processing times have gone up to about 410 days. “We cannot allow any successes of the pilot to be lost as the program becomes expanded nationally.”

IDES also continues to have problems with its joint evaluation process. The Legion testified that Army medical records, in particular, are creating unnecessary delays. “There is still confusion in some locations over disparities between DoD and VA evaluations, despite the use of a common model, and the overall complexity of dual adjudication continues to represent a challenge.”

Besides having to wait a long time for their disability evaluations to be processed, the Legion said returning veterans also “have to wait three to four months after discharge before seeing the first of their disability checks from VA .... There needs to be a way to close the gap for these transitioning veterans. Given the uncertain job market they will face upon discharge, maintaining some level of continuity of pay is vitally important.”

As veterans seek to enter the civilian work force, they will be helped by an improved, mandatory Transition Assistance Program (TAP). Although it’s still too early to tell how effective the new TAP will be, the Legion said early indications “point towards a great improvement in providing useful information.” Veterans will also be helped in their job searches with wider recognition of their military skills and training among civilian employers. The American Legion has been working with licensing and credentialing authorities nationwide to make it easier for returning veterans to get private-sector jobs.

Last February, the Legion co-hosted with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce a two-day National Credentialing Summit in Washington, D.C., where experts gathered to discuss and work on complex issues in licensing and credentialing. In its testimony, the Legion noted “the boundaries between state and federal certification can be confusing, and it is far more complicated to equalize across the states than it would appear on the surface.” Washington’s state legislature has passed a bill that allows military training and experience to satisfy equivalent requirements for civilian jobs.

The American Legion reminded SCVA that it supports the Veterans Skills to Jobs Act of 2012 (S. 2239), introduced in the Senate on March 27. If enacted, the bill would allow federal agencies to grant job-related licenses to any veteran whose military training or certification satisfies “any training or certification requirements for the license.” S. 2239 would affect at least 80 licenses or credentials issued by federal agencies, and echoes the spirit of measures passed by eight other states: Utah, Washington, Colorado, Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia.

“It’s a simple fix, and long overdue,” the Legion testified, saying it was confident it could work with SCVA, the rest of Congress, and state governments to ensure “the vital skills our veterans learned in the military are translated to the civilian world. It’s the right thing to do.”

In its testimony, the Legion encouraged the country to “focus on the basic things — help welcome veterans into the community without fear; help veterans receive treatment and compensation for their wounds of war; help veterans translate their military successes into success in the civilian job market. We will be winning the fight to ensure just treatment for the brave men and women who serve us in war.”



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Legion hosts luncheon for women veterans

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A group of women veterans gathered for the Women Serving Women luncheon on March 30 at The American Legion’s Washington office to celebrate the service and sacrifice of women in America’s armed forces, and to discuss key issues that affect women while on active duty and after they have returned to civilian life.

Terrie Fuller, assistant director for women veterans outreach in the Legion’s Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation (VA&R) Division, addressed the group. She noted that, out of 1.9 women veterans in the country, less than 500,000 are receiving health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). And that one in three women returning from deployments test positive for military sexual trauma (MST).

"When we realize how widespread MST is in the military, we start to think more about how our leadership determines what MST is, and what types of programs and processes they put in place to make sure this type of sexual harassment doesn’t take place," Fuller said. "And I’m not just talking about the military. I’m talking about the veterans facilities that cater to us as well. In fact, a large part of (MST) happens at VA facilities."

Last week, Fuller attended a meeting of VA’s Advisory Commission on Women Veterans where information was shared about health-care programs for women. "A lot of the commission’s recommendations were directed toward medical care, making sure that we take care of ourselves," Fuller said. "Statistics show that the average women veteran takes about two years before she realizes that she needs some help, particularly for those with PTS (post-traumatic stress)."

Rina Shah, a retired Army captain, also spoke to the group. She served as an attorney with the U.S. Army Legal Services Agency, working on cases involving government contracts and procurement fraud. She negotiated settlements and devised litigation strategies to protect the financial interest of the Army, and represented the Army in complex, multi-million dollar litigation before the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals and also the Government Accountability Office.

On July 28, 2011, Shah retired from the Army because of injuries sustained in a combat zone.

Verna Jones, director of the VA&R Division, commended Shah as an example of "how women make a strong contribution during their military service, and how their service sometimes takes them into harm’s way. We can’t forget the sacrifices they make in uniform, and that is why we’re holding this event for them today."

Jones said that Fuller’s position was specifically created to strengthen the Legion’s outreach efforts for women veterans. Last year, the Legion conducted an online survey of more than 3,000 women veterans, gauging their experiences and opinions about VA and private-sector health care. Review the women veterans survey here.  

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2012 Oratorical contestants finalized

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On April 13, 52 high school students from across the country will convene in Indianapolis at the University Place Conference Center & Hotel to compete in The American Legion’s 75th High School Oratorical Scholarship Program, "A Constitutional Speech Contest." The contest will get under way with quarterfinals on April 14 at 9:45 a.m. (EDT), followed by the semifinals at 2:45 p.m. During both sessions, the participants will present a rehearsed eight- to 10-minute oration on an aspect of the U.S. Constitution in front of judges, as well as a three- to five-minute speech on an assigned topic discourse – a phase of the Constitution selected from Articles and Sections.

The top three semifinal winners will advance to the championship finals on April 15 at 10:00 a.m. (EDT). Tune in to to watch the live streaming as the three top contestants vie for first place by repeating their rehearsed oration and speaking on a new assigned topic discourse.

The following are the 52 participants competing in the Legion’s 75th High School Oratorical Scholarship Program:

Moriah Hagel, Wetumpka, Ala.

Hannah Ekblad, Fairbanks, Alaska

Rachel Moses, Cave Creek, Ariz.

Caitlyn Crowder, Heber Springs, Ark.

Audrea Taylor, El Cajon, Calif.

Tayanna Todd, Monument, Colo.

Sarah Luft, Westbrook, Conn.

Alina Ehsan, Newark, Del.

Yisehak Abraham, Washington, D.C.

Christian Fernandez, Miami

Kilian Liptrot, Stuttgart, Germany

Timothy Moore II, Woodstock, Ga.

Lanson Hoopai, Aiea, Hawaii

Charles Baines, Meridian, Idaho

Athena Saldanha, Schaumberg, Ill.

Rebecca Frazer, Morgantown, Ind.

Erica Grubbs, Davenport, Iowa

Lydia Gibson, Topeka, Kan.

Zachary Frederich, Pineville, Ky.

Justin Magrath, Mandeville, La.

Rebecca Richards, East Winthrop, Maine

Logan Jackonis, Darnestown, Md.

Joshua Wolfsun, Amherst, Mass.

Aaron Mukerjee, Saline, Mich.

John Donaldson IV, Eden Prairie, Minn.

Milton Hickson, Pascagoula, Miss.

David Rogers, Warrensburg, Mo.

Mark Schmutzler, Clancy, Mont.

Alex Whitney, Minden, Neb.

Jake Bayliss, Carson City, Nev.

Patrick Doolittle, Hampstead, N.H.

Raina Searles, Hainesport, N.J.

Benjamin Davis, Springer, N.M.

Caitlin Kennedy, Dix Hills, N.Y.

Jonathan Elliot, Jr., Linden, N.C.

Anjali Lall, Fargo, N.D.

Caroline McKenzie, Wilmington, Ohio

Shawnie Marvin, Chelsea, Okla.

Jessica Glaser, Scio, Ore.

Christopher Anderson, Spring City, Penn.

Carlos Melendez-Garcia, Villalba, Puerto Rico

Rachel Moyer, Wakefield, R.I.

Brittany Cleveland, Sisseton, S.D.

Nicholas Lotz, Franklin, Tenn.

John Brown, Graham, Texas

Taylor Greenwell, Kaysville, Utah

Emilee Trudo, Vergennes, Vt.

Ryan McDonald, Chesapeake, Va.

Sidney Reynolds, Pullman, Wash.

Anthony Braxton, South Charleston, W. Va.

Emily Wilson, Appleton, Wis.

Dakota Frederick, Guernsey, Wyo.

View the 2012 contest pairings here. And look back at past Oratorical national winners by visiting




















































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New York post to honor Commander Wong

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On April 10 at 6 p.m., American Legion Post 754 of the New York Athletic Club is hosting a cocktail and dinner reception for The American Legion National Commander, Fang A. Wong. Staff from National Headquarters will be attending the event, which will address the importance of education and jobs for veterans.

The event is designed to gather New York American Legion members, as well as local business, government, labor and academic communities to focus on the challenges of returning servicemembers transitioning to civilian life.

The dinner reception will be held on the ninth floor of the historic New York Athletic Club and cost is $75 per person. Checks can be made payable to American Legion Post 754 and mailed to Helen Pairazaman, Membership Services at New York Athletic Club, 180 Central Park South, New York, N.Y., 10019.

For further information, please call or email Post 754 Commander Richard Sweeney at (917) 621-5666/ This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or Helen Pairazaman at (212) 767-7168/ This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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