Veterans Benefits Information

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Veterans Benefits Information

75-percent target date approaching

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Each membership year, The American Legion establishes 10 target dates for achieving certain percentage of each department’s membership goal. Target dates fall on the second Wednesday of the month unless there is a holiday on that day or at the beginning of that week. The final target date is 30 days prior to the national convention; delegate strength for the convention is determined on that date. Below are the remaining target dates for the 2011-2012 membership year: • Pearl Harbor Day - Dec. 14 (75 percent) • Mid-Winter - Jan. 19, 2012 (80 percent) • President’s Day - Feb. 8, 2012 (85 percent) • Legion Birthday -March 14, 2012 (90 percent) • Children & Youth - April 11, 2012 (95 percent) • Armed Forces Day - May 9, 2012 (100 percent) • Delegate Strength - 30 days prior to national convention Dec. 14 also is the renewal notice cutoff date. Members who already may have paid their dues will receive another renewal notice if National Headquarters has not received the transmittal by this target date.

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Videos explain women’s military experiences

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The Department of Veterans Affairs has released a series of videos in which women veterans describe their experiences serving in the military, ranging from their significant contributions to national safety and security to the challenges they faced during their service and after returning to civilian life. The three- to five-minute videos are part of VA’s ongoing “Rethink Veterans” campaign to increase awareness of women veterans and their vital roles in our nation’s history. The videos can be viewed at www.womenshealth.va.gov or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/VeteransHealthAdmin. The four stories just released were recorded during the July 2011 Women Veterans Summit in Washington, D.C. Women from all eras, conflicts, and service branches were invited to share their experiences. VA plans to release several video vignettes over the next few months. The first four videos include an Army Reservist who served nine years stateside before deploying to Iraq post-9/11, a Vietnam War era nurse who returned from combat with a new sense of family, a Navy veteran who advocates for expanded roles for women in the military, and Brig. Gen. Wilma Vaught, the first woman to deploy with a Strategic Air Command bomber unit. The videos are meant to increase awareness of women’s roles in the military among VA staff and the public. Women veterans make up 1 percent of veterans, 15 percent of active-duty servicemembers and nearly 18 percent of guard and reserve forces. As the number of active-duty women increases, so does the number of women veterans using their VA benefits. VA is working to enhance access and services for women veterans at all VA facilities and change VA culture to be more understanding and accommodating of women veterans. In addition to the videos, VA recently released a 60-second public service announcement about women in the military. The PSA is available for viewing on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_profilepage&v=BOP5DCgjxPE and at www.womenshealth.va.gov. Broadcast organizations interested in obtaining a broadcast-quality version of the PSA should contact VA’s Office of Public Affairs (202-461-7600). For more information about VA programs and services for women veterans, please visit: www.va.gov/womenvet and www.womenshealth.va.gov

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VA offers new tool for job seekers

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Veterans now have on-demand access and can download official data about their military training and experience, which can be used to help them find jobs and continue their careers. Their service data can be uploaded to job search and networking sites to help identify employment opportunities. Veterans can use the VA’s online My HealtheVet portal (www.myhealth.va.gov) to see official information about their military service, including deployment data, in-uniform experience, and Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) codes that define the type of work performed and skills learned during their tour of duty. Veterans can electronically download that information to their personal computers by using an enhanced version of the Blue Button. This new capability is the latest addition to a growing suite of job-hunting tools announced by President Obama on Nov. 14. Several industry partners have signed up to create – or have even already implemented – third-party applications that can read military specialties or classification codes in Blue Button format, automatically translate those codes into civilian descriptions, and identify openings and other resources for veterans. Military job information available to veterans under this program will depend on discharge or retirement date. • All veterans discharged after 1980 will see military specialty or classification codes; • Some veterans discharged between 1975 and 1980 will see military specialty or classification codes; • Some Gulf War veterans may see combat pay and deployment periods; and • All Post-9/11 veterans will see combat pay and deployment periods. Veterans enrolled in VA health care can access their military service information through My HealtheVet. Veterans who have not yet signed up for My HealtheVet access can register for a My HealtheVet account at any VA medical center by completing a one-time identity-verification process to help assure their data privacy.

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Outreach critical to suicide prevention

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In a sometimes emotionally charged Congressional hearing on Dec. 2, participants agreed that better outreach by both the Department of Veterans Affairs and fellow veterans is needed to stop the alarming number of suicides among those who have served in the military. Eight panelists, including four from veterans service organizations, testified before the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health. Among the experts addressing the session on “Understanding and Preventing Veteran Suicide” was Margaret C. Harrell of the Center for a New American Security. According to her organization, veterans took their own lives at a rate of one every 36 hours from 2005 to 2010. VA puts the figure even higher: one veteran suicide every 80 minutes, with one-third of the victims under VA care. VA was represented at the hearing by Dr. Jan Kemp, RN, Ph.D. She is the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) national suicide prevention coordinator. With obvious distress, she admitted that although VA mental health care is making strides in suicide prevention, “we are not meeting our own goals. The bottom line is that veterans are still dying. We have to do better. And, we will – I promise.” Kemp then lauded VSOs for their concern with and work toward suicide prevention, emphasizing the need for better outreach to at-risk veterans by VHA and – critically – through vet-to-vet dialogues. Subcommittee chair Ann Marie Buerkle, R-N.Y., a registered nurse herself, commended Kemp for “speaking from the heart. We get so tired of people just sticking to their scripts.” In the end, committee members agreed that VA is working diligently on the issue of suicide, but in Kemp’s words, “much is left to be done” in gathering useful data on the issue and, most importantly, providing the resources to assure preventive mental health care for those suffering the “invisible wounds” of war.

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Vet entrepreneurs focus of New York forum

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Officials from The American Legion’s Economic Division will sit as panelists on a small business forum in New York City, Dec. 10, to advise legislators on drafting policies and laws that will cater to the needs of veteran business owners and entrepreneurs. The Legion will join representatives from VA, the federal Small Business Administration, the Departments of Homeland Security and Treasury, and officials from the private sector to provide input on how state legislators can improve the economic outlook for veteran entrepreneurs. The event, which was coordinated by Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), will be attended by Reps. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), Peter King (R-N.Y.), Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.). Specifically, the group of legislators will hear presentations on improving access to federal funding opportunities, technical assistance programs available to veteran business owners, and improving veteran access to capital during tough economic times. The event will be organized into panels, including one on advisement for drafting legislation to assist veterans in starting and expanding businesses. The American Legion has been tasked with leading the discussion at this panel. Legion officials will also be on hand for a question-and-answer forum with the legislators. The event takes place in Brooklyn Borough Hall from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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