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Veterans Benefits Information

Legion opposes defense cut proposals

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The American Legion's National Executive Committee unanimously passed an official statement today that the Legion "encourages Congress and the administration to cease all efforts to reduce the defense budget from its current level."

The American Legion strongly believes that proposed cuts to the Department of Defense and veterans benefits would not only hurt the economy, it would also cause irreversible and irreparable harm to the U.S. military's capability to defend the nation.

Officials in both The American Legion and the Department of Defense are extremely concerned about the work of the congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. The bicameral "super-committee" is charged with coming up with $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion in overall federal deficit reductions over 10 years. If the bipartisan group does not agree to a plan by Nov. 23, automatic spending cuts are triggered, including $1 trillion in defense spending.

Those cuts "would leave us with the smallest Army and Marine Corps in decades, the smallest Air Force in history, and the smallest Navy since (William) McKinley was president," former Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn said last week to the Center for American Progress. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called the potential cuts "catastrophic."

"It is unconscionable to consider cuts to defense while we are engaged in three wars," American Legion National Commander Fang Wong said. "Throughout our nation's history, every time we cut defense we have paid for it with American blood."

Lynn pointed out that the first engagement of the Korean War, "Task Force Smith," came after a major drawdown following the defeat of the Axis Powers in World War II.

"Teenagers fresh from basic training, led by officers who lacked combat experience, found themselves facing a numerically superior North Korean force. With only 120 rounds of ammunition each, two days of C rations (and) six antitank shells, our forces were simply unable to stop the North Korean advance.

"Each time we reduced the defense budget, we created holes in our military capabilities that we had to buy back later at great cost," Lynn continued. "When we were lucky, that cost was in dollars. When we were not lucky, that cost was in the lives of our troops."

The official statement by the Legion, Resolution 1, points out that Panetta stated a $1 trillion cut in national defense would increase unemployment by one percent. "Even if this unemployment increased by only one-third of one percent, it would equate to approximately 500,000 jobs lost," the Resolution states.

Wong, a Vietnam War veteran, warned that proposed cuts to the military's retirement pension and health care systems will also hurt America's ability to retain the forces that it needs. Some have proposed that future military pensions be converted into 401(k) plans.

"Comparing military retirement benefits with what is available in the private sector isn't comparing apples to oranges. It's comparing apples to peanuts, which are what our troops are paid," Wong said. "If our leaders in Washington are intent on making military life like the private sector, then that's the path our young people will choose - the private sector! ‘Grandfathering' benefits for today's military, while cutting benefits for tomorrow's warriors, guarantees that America will be less prepared to fight the next war. As it is, only about one-half of one percent of the U.S. population is currently serving in the military, meaning that veterans are already making a disproportionate sacrifice in fighting the Global War on Terrorism.

"We all understand that America has an enormous national debt," Wong continued. "Yet, we have no debt larger than what is owed to our veterans and those still serving in uniform. They have already paid their share. Cut the budget elsewhere."

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VA Launches Outreach Campaign to Eliminate Homelessness Among Veterans

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As part of its drive to end homelessness among Veterans by 2015, the Department of Veterans Affairs is launching a nation-wide outreach initiative, 'Make the Call,' to spread the message about its special programs to help homeless Veterans and their families to 28 communities across the nation in October.

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IDVA to host ‘Helping Our Hometown Heroes’ veterans benefits fair October 14th in Marion

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SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) is hosting a free Helping Our Hometown Heroes benefits fair for veterans on Friday, October 14th at the Marion VFW Post 1301 at 201 E. Longstreet Road in Marion, Ill. The fair will bring federal, state and local agencies and organizations together in one location.

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Geiger’s vision now etched in stone

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John H. Geiger served as national commander of The American Legion from 1971 to 1972. Nearly 30 years later, he was instrumental in the planning and construction of the Legion's facilities at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis.

This morning, Geiger's vision was recognized, as the facility that houses the Legion's Information Technology, Emblem Sales, Fundraising and Membership Services Divisions was renamed the John H. Geiger Operations Center. Geiger, a former architect, passed away Jan. 10.

"John had many visions - not only for this facility, but going back to his architectural experience and many changes in our Washington office and our Indianapolis office," said Past National Commander Jake Comer, a close friend of Geiger. "We are so fortunate ... we had someone like a John Geiger that could be there to handle our present and look to our future with his vision."

The well-attended ceremony also featured remarks from Department of New York Adjutant Dick Pedro, another close friend of Geiger. "He's looking down, and he's got to not only be very proud of this gathering, but of this facility," Pedro said.

Emblem Sales previously was housed in the National Headquarters building in downtown Indianapolis. It's now one of the four divisions located in the 64,500 square foot facility named for Geiger.

"This facility has proven to be what Mr. Geiger envisioned it to be," said Jeff Brown, executive director of the facility and the former director of Emblem Sales. "Past National Commander Geiger's handiwork, his vision, his thoughts and I believe his heart, are embedded in this facility. The staff is proud to now have Commander Geiger's name on this facility, and the staff will endeavor to make sure that Past National Commander John H. Geiger would be proud to have his name here."

"This Operations Center will be a testament to the logistical and organizational vision and talent of this great Legionnaire," National Commander Fang Wong added. "We all know that this magnificent center would not have been built without the support, leadership and vision of PNC Geiger."

Ellen Rosborough, one of Geiger's six children, attended the ceremony, along with her sister, Vivienne Hilderbrand. "Over the years we know how much the Legion meant to our father," Rosborough said. "We thank you very much."

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VA to Build Polytrauma-Blind Rehabilitation Center in Palo Alto

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The Department of Veterans Affairs has awarded a $98.8 million contract to build a new rehabilitation facility located on the campus of the VA Palo Alto Health Care System.

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