Veterans Benefits Information guide to VA benefits

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Veterans Benefits Information

CWF recipients empower children in need

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In 2010, The American Legion Child Welfare Foundation (CWF) awarded grants totaling $666,670 to 21 non-profit organizations who work to improve the overall well-being of children. Two of the grant recipients, Our Military Kids and The National Children's Cancer Society (NCCS), spoke during the 2011 American Legion National Children & Youth Conference.

Our Military Kids, based in McLean, Va., provides children ages 3-18 of deployed National Guard and military reserve personnel, along with children of wounded warriors in all branches, with grants that pay for participation in an extracurricular activity. The grants helps ease financial burden that extracurricular activities may inflict on families with a deployed parent.

Our Military Kids has been serving military children nationwide since 2006, awarding nearly 32,000 children with $500 grants for participation in one activity. These activities have included camps, tutoring, fine arts and much more. One grant is offered per deployment, with a goal to honor second grants because "we know how important it is to maintain consistency in a child's schedule during deployment," said Linda Davidson, executive director of Our Military Kids.

The Child Welfare Foundation awarded Our Military Kids $50,100 for the production of a video and a brochure that promotes the organization's mission: helping children effectively cope with deployment. The funds were also used toward the creation of "Top Secret" award packets.

"Top Secret" packets are sent to every child who receives a grant. The packet contains a letter congratulating him or her on the award, a certificate of appreciation, dog tags and a patch, bandana and bracelet featuring "Our Military Kids" logo.

In March, 642 National Guard families whose child(ren) received a grant from Our Military Kids completed a survey. Results showed that nearly 80 percent saw more stress and anxiety in their child(ren) during a deployment. However, nearly every respondent believed that their child(ren) was positively impacted by the grant and that it contributed to improved moral for the child(ren) and the entire family.

"We have heard that our program is one of the most valuable services during deployment because it gives children an opportunity to pursue their unique dreams," Davidson said. "Deployed servicemembers are stressed and busy, yet we still receive letters and calls thanking us for remembering their children."

To learn more about Our Military Kids, apply for a grant or donate, click here

Additionally, there are more than 300,000 childhood cancer survivors in the United States, but the long-term effects of cancer are oftentimes never discussed. That's why The National Children's Cancer Society in St. Louis shares about the late effects that may come as a result of cancer and treatment. The organization succeeds with its mission by serving as a financial, emotional, educational and medical resource for children with cancer.

With the help of a $25,000 grant from CWF, NCCS recently launched a survivor video that coincides with its survivor program, "Beyond the Cure." The video educates and inspires childhood cancer survivors to embrace their future and successfully handle challenges that may be ahead of them, and it outlines the areas of support NCCS provides.

"Once kids are done with their cancer treatment, they are not really done with their battle. The ‘Beyond the Cure' video lets children see other cancer survivors and how they succeeded," said Lexi Chopp, a junior at Butler University in Indianapolis and a cancer survivor who understands the long-term battle. Chopp has been in remission for 14 years, but her radiation treatments as a child stunted her growth and is now causing thyroid complications.

Click here to watch the survivor video.

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Freedom Car coming to Indy

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Touting nine top-five finishes and six victories this year, driver Jerick Johnson brings The American Legion/David Law Firm 76 Freedom Car to Lucas Oil Raceway Indianapolis Saturday and Sunday for the Champion Racing Association Fall Brawl.

Pits open at 9 a.m. Saturday, and practice begins at 12:20 p.m. Qualification runs begin at 2:10 p.m. On Sunday, the pits open at 10 a.m., and racing begins at 1.p.m.

The American Legion name and emblem has adorned the 76 Freedom Car at tracks across the country since 2005.

"What a great opportunity for us and The American Legion," Johnson said. "We get to race and at the same time raise awareness to our fellow Americans about what The American Legion stands for, the important veteran programs they support, and to help recruit the next generation of the American Legion family members."

The 76 Freedom Car brings with it a new associate sponsor, Great American Prairie Jerky. The company provides a turnkey fundraising program with easy, simplified ordering. For more information call (651) 747-5045.

Great American Jerky joins associate sponsors Plasma Energy Drinks and US Coin Boards. Plasma Energy is a Minnesota based company offering their products to all members and posts nationwide. For more information or to order, go online or call (612) 998-3560. US Coin Boards manufactures fundraising games for non-profit organizations. For more information, either email or call (717) 795-1936.

The David Law Firm, a prime sponsor of the 76 Freedom car since 2009, has helped thousands of veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer obtain compensation. For more information go online or call (800) 998-9729.

"It is important to note that The American Legion does not provide direct financial support to the 76 Freedom Car," Johnson said. "Team Johnson Motorsports has exclusive marketing rights to raise funds through member donations and associate sponsorships. Our association with The American Legion helps provide us the opportunity to race and to also promote The American Legion family and its programs. It is a win-win partnership."

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Helping Veterans Adapt

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A reader responds to an article about families who must struggle with physical and emotion injuries when veterans return home.

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Entrepreneurship 101

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Chris Cancialosi left the Army National Guard in late 2005 after being deployed to Iraq. Shortly after returning home, Cancialosi found it difficult to transition back into his previous job, so he started his own business. He's a partner in the New York-based gothamCULTURE, which provides leadership and team development services, as well as organizational culture and change services.

But despite being a part of an already established business, Cancialosi didn't balk at a recent opportunity to share one-on-one time with corporate and business CEOs. He was one of more than 100 veteran business owners and military spouses who attended the Inc./Joining Forces Military Entrepreneurs Mentoring Fair in Washington, D.C. The fair, which received support from The American LEgion, is collaboration between Inc. magazine and Joining Forces - a national initiative led by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden to support the military community. Fifty business CEOs from throughout the country gave current and potential business owners the opportunity to quiz the CEOs on growing their existing businesses or starting one.

"It was invaluable," Cancialosi said. "I wish it would have been longer ... so we could have dived into some details. I think the biggest thing I learned was more of a confirmation that what I'm doing is the right direction. We're setting the stage to really expand quite exponentially in the next couple of years."

Cancialosi said that he, like many servicemembers, found the going sometimes rough when moving back into the civilian world. "I went back to a job, but the transition was extremely difficult, just mentally and emotionally," he said. "And I think that's (what) precipitated my desire to start a business almost immediately after coming home."

Not just open to veteran business owners, the mentoring fair also invited military spouses to attend. One of those - Misty Leinberger, the wife of U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Dana Leinberger - is the owner of Integrated Administration Solutions, which provides bookkeeping, administrative and overflow management services in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia.

Leinberger said one of the biggest benefits of the mentoring fair was being able to "bounce some ideas off of someone other than my husband. I definitely got a lot out of this. I can really see the potential in a program like this and the benefits that come with it. It was a valuable afternoon for me."

It was beneficial for the mentors as well, said Bill Wydra, president of Ash/Tec Inc. in Hegins, Pa. Wydra's company is a contract manufacturer of machined and fabricated parts.

"We just love giving back," Wydra said. "We spend a lot of time in our own community giving back to students. This was a real opportunity to give back, and it was nice to spend time with veterans and families of veterans and really engage them. I was inspired by the ideas they had. It gave me a lot of energy, and I think it gave them a lot of energy and a lot of ideas to move forward."

Giving back was also why Dan Frank - the CEO of Three Wire Systems in Falls Church, Va. - chose to serve as a mentor. Three Wire Systems recently was ranked No. 516 on the 30th annual Inc. magazine's 500/5000, a ranking of the nation's fastest-growing private companies. An IT solutions company, Three Wire Systems has experienced a sales growth of 649 percent in the past three years.

But Frank remembers when he was just starting the company in 2006 and why he chose to spend the afternoon with new or soon-to-be business owners.

"I just go back to having been in their shoes five years ago," Frank said. "I'm fortunate that I have the time to try to help out these entrepreneurs - specifically these military entrepreneurs and these veteran business owners. It's a chance to give back. If this were a non-military event, I likely wouldn't be sitting here today."

During the program, the fair's attendees heard from Dawn Halfaker, the founder of Halfaker and Associates, a company that provides national security devices to the federal government. An Operation Iraqi Freedom U.S. Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient, Halfaker has grown her company to more than 160 employees nationwide; when she started, Halfaker had one employee - herself.

"The first thing I really want to convey is the importance of having well thought out business strategy and strategic plan," Halfaker said. "People really want to be focused around an idea ... but there's so much else that has to go into that. Just because someone has an idea, making it happen is a completely different story. That's really what a business plan or a strategic plan is. It's telling the story of how you're going to make this happen."

Cancialosi called the mentoring session a big success. "It would be nice to have something like this once a month," he said. "Wherever you are, whatever stage of business you're at, this is applicable. I rarely have the opportunity to talk to other business owners who have been through what I'm going through. To pause from the hectic day-to-day and do this is invaluable."

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Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs honors Wheaton resident as its ‘Veteran of the Month’

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CHICAGO –The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) this Thursday (September 29th) will honor Ken McNatt, a Wheaton resident and U.S. Naval Reserves veteran, as its September 2011 “Veteran of the Month” during a ceremony at the Milton Township offices in Wheaton, Ill.

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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.