Veterans Benefits Information guide to VA benefits

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Veterans Benefits Information

Soldiers Come Home to Hit the Books

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Going to college after going to war; it’s a very different world of continuing education.

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War-film groundbreaker honored by Legion

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Dale Dye came back from the Vietnam War with three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and the experience of having survived no fewer than 31 major combat operations. That was 1970. Forty-two years later, the retired U.S. Marine Corps captain and top military adviser for such blockbuster movies as "Saving Private Ryan," "Platoon" and "The Pacific" has received the prestigious National Commander’s Public Relations Award for his efforts to bring realism to Hollywood war films.

"I’ll just presume that this great award … means that in some way I have made a little bit of accomplishment in my mission, which is to burnish, to polish and to expose to the public the true nature of America’s military people, and of our veterans," Dye told about 1,000 gathered in Washington Wednesday for the annual ceremony that closed The American Legion’s 52nd Washington Conference.

Dye, who worked on the editorial staff of "Soldier of Fortune" magazine following his 1984 retirement from the Marine Corps, took his wealth of battlefield experience to Hollywood in the mid-1980s and launched a company called Warriors, Inc., to provide actors an understanding of the real warrior spirit.

American Legion National Commander Fang A. Wong told the crowd that Dye’s work "has provided a needed perspective in the art and entertainment industry."

In a short film clip that was presented as part of the ceremony, "Saving Private Ryan" star Tom Hanks credited Dye for capturing the essence of what it’s like to play the part of a combat soldier at war. "You have to understand we are essentially playing guys who are tired and miserable and want to go home, of whom great physical things are being demanded constantly," Hanks said in the clip. "We couldn’t have done that without having gone through something like what Dale Dye put us through."

"I’m truly humbled when people tell me that I may have changed the way Hollywood makes military movies," Dye said, a member of American Legion Post 40 in North Carolina. "If I ever had an epitaph, it would be that … I believe that America, our America, deserves a little fact with its fiction when it comes to motion pictures and television. If ever there has been a time with young Americans, this is it, to use popular media to tell them, to teach them, where we came from, what our ideals are, and what we believe in."

Dye joins such national figures as Tom Brokaw, Lee Greenwood, Red Skelton, Paul "Bear" Bryant, Karl Malden and Lou Dobbs on a list of National Commander’s Public Relations Award recipients, dating back to 1961. Click here to see a complete list of past recipients.

To learn more about Dale Dye and Warriors, Inc., including current projects in film, television and books, visit

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NCAA decertifies a Marucci bat

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Until further notice, the 33-inch Marucci 2011 Cat 5 Squared adult baseball bat has been decertified by both the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFSH). As a result, the 33-inch Marucci Cat 5 Squared is a non-compliant bat with leagues that adhere to NCAA or NFSH rules, which includes American Legion Baseball.

The elimination of this bat during competition is effective immediately as the NCAA has found, during testing, that it does not meet the BBCOR (Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution) Bat Standard.

Because the decertification only affects the 33-inch model of the Marucci Cat 5 Squared, customers can contact Marucci to return their decertified bat. For information on how to return the bat, visit  



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Ex-Marine Facing Gun Charge Had Bad Record, Manhattan Prosecutor Says

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Ryan Jerome, a cause célèbre among gun rights advocates, was arrested last fall at the Empire State Building, and has refused a plea deal.

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An investment in the nation

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Citing his own case as the perfect example, Army Capt. Dan Berschinski told attendees at The American Legion’s Washington Conference Commander’s Call that the cost of military health care is well worth any price tag. Speaking to a full house of Legion family members on Feb. 28, Berschinski told his story: how he stepped on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in August of 2009 while leading his platoon on patrol, costing him both legs. Yet through state-of-the-art prosthetics and rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center Berschinski not only is walking again – the first servicemember to do so after having both legs amputated above his knees – but also has started his own plastic manufacturing and distribution company. “I consider myself to be pretty lucky,” said Berschinski, a West Point graduate who will retire from the Army in April. “I have one thigh left, and on my right side I actually have no femur left at all. Yet here I am, walking in front of you and standing at the podium to speak. That is a testament to our health care. The health care in the military medical system, and at Walter Reed specifically, is phenomenal. It is, bar none, the best in the world. The legs I am standing on at this very moment are available only to DoD amputees. These legs are designed to allow one-legged soldiers to return to combat if they so desire. “The nurses were amazing, the doctors were amazing, the therapists are amazing. But really, one of the key contributors to my success has been the atmosphere that I have rehabbed in... with many other wounded veterans. It makes all the difference in the world because we have a support network.” Berschinski said funding DoD medical care is an investment in the future. “If anyone doesn’t understand why you should take the time and spend the money to give me surgery, to give me rehab, to give me legs, I will tell you it will all get paid back down the road when I have this successful business and am hiring more Americans,” he said. “That goes for everybody. As soon as you can get us back to work, it benefits the entire nation.” W. Scott Gould, deputy secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, updated Legion family members about VA’s budget and the claims backlog. Gould said the fiscal 2013 VA budget, along with the 2014 advanced appropriations, will, “uphold our joint commitment to care for those citizen-soldiers who have borne the battle, and for their families.” The 2013 budget request is $140.3 billion – an increase of 10.5 percent from the 2012 budget. The department’s combined mandatory and discretionary budgets have increased by 50 percent since 2009. “There are unprecedented increases in our budget,” Gould said. “And they are matched by unprecedented improvements in our financial management at VA to make sure we spend that money wisely.” Gould said that while VA still has to work through its claims backlog, a new automated system will process every VA claim within 125 days at a 98-percent accuracy rate. Gould thanked the Legion for its role in providing a place for veterans to share their experiences. “Organizations such as The American Legion go a long way toward... providing a safe place for veterans,” he said. “The American Legion provides safe places across the country for veterans. You leave no veteran behind in your around-the-clock work to make sure that veterans health care, benefits and memorial services are fully funded and staffed by VA employees and supported by Legion volunteers who have only one mission: caring for our veterans.” U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., received a strong reception when he criticized the partisanship often involved in congressional action – all while men and women are dying while serving their country. He read the names of four U.S. servicemembers killed in action in recent days. “Think of the sacrifices these people made to allow us the privilege and honor of self-governing ourselves,” Walz said. “We better start reflecting what we do (in Washington) to reflect the type of sacrifice, service and commitment to country that these four made.” While addressing budget cuts to the Department of Defense, Walz said that during a trip to Afghanistan, U.S. servicemembers he spoke to expressed concerns over their families’ health care and their pensions. “We can make tough decisions, but don’t you dare put those on the front lines first on the chopping block,” he said. Walz – a retired National Guard command sergeant major and the highest-ranking enlisted soldier to ever serve in Congress – thanked the Legion for its lobbying efforts. “Every time The American Legion’s in town or every time your folks are on the Hill, I rest a little easier because I know they’re getting it right and for all the right reasons,” he said. “There are many places you can be. There are places you can take your talent, your resources. There’s one very simple reason why you’re doing this: you love this country with all your heart, and you recognize that if you’re not here doing it, no one else will.” U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire, D-Pa., was recognized for being one of four members of Congress who introduced legislation that, after passing, amended the Legion’s congressional charter. The House measure picked up 432 co-sponsors – the most for any piece of legislation ever – and passed in six days. Altmire said both the House and Senate measures got more support than any bill in history. “When your leadership here at The American Legion came to me during the summer of last year and said, ‘Can you pass this modernization?’ it came at a time when we weren’t getting along on anything,” Altmire said. “There was nothing that the Congress could agree on. There was no bill that could come up that there wasn’t an argument or heated debate. “When I started to take this bill around to solicit co-sponsors and make sure we could bring it to floor, what I found is that there was at least one thing we could all agree on, and that’s you: the men and women who have served this nation so honorably.”

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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.