Veterans Benefits Information guide to VA benefits

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Veterans Benefits Information

National Commander Rohan: Don’t let America forget Dec. 7

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“December 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy.”

That famous proclamation from President Franklin D. Roosevelt still stands true today. But as 76th anniversary events take place this week in Pearl Harbor, there is a noticeable shift from the large-scale commemoration activities that occurred a year ago for the 75th remembrance services.

This year, fewer media outlets will be in attendance. Fewer guests will be in Hawaii to honor those who defended democracy amid the surprise attack by the Japanese on that Sunday morning so long ago. And, sadly, there will be even fewer Pearl Harbor survivors than in the past.

The number of survivors will continue to dwindle every year.​

But we cannot – we must not – let their heroism fade from the memories of Americans. It is our duty as patriotic citizens to educate future generations on what the Greatest Generation did, starting with repelling the attack on Pearl Harbor. After all, it’s embedded in the DNA of our organization, “To preserve the memories and incidents of our associations in the Great Wars.”

I am honored to be a part of the commemoration ceremonies this year at Pearl Harbor. For those who are unable to attend, the ceremonies will be streamed live on Facebook, YouTube and the website of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument’s website. A schedule, details and more information can be found here:

Join me in honoring our commitment to “never forget” by honoring those heroes on Dec. 7. And be sure to engage your communities, your local schools and others in remembering and honoring the date that will indeed live in infamy.

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USAA Tips: How to protect new mobile devices

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Content provided courtesy of USAA.

It’s no secret that shiny new mobile phones and tablets will be high on many wish lists this holiday season. Protecting the devices you and your loved ones unwrap is one resolution that shouldn’t be too hard to keep, thanks to tips from the USAA Security Center.

Lock it

Don’t leave your tablet or phone vulnerable. Keep it secure with a passcode, PIN or biometrics, says Robert MacDonald, a USAA security advisor.

“One of the challenges with security is convenience versus security,” he says. “Biometrics helps to make that experience less of a hassle.”

Stay current

Operating systems, applications and devices cycle out of date fairly rapidly. Making sure to update your operating system — and your device when it no longer supports operating system updates — means you will benefit from security patches created to fix known vulnerabilities, MacDonald says. Even if you just purchased a device, don’t assume it uses the most current operating system or will for very long.

“It’s more critical when you are dealing with apps that handle financial transactions and medical and health information,” he says. “You should always check. When you get a new device, you don’t know when that device was packaged.”

Be password savvy

Never store your passwords on your device, and avoid using the same password for multiple accounts and profiles.

Consider using a password phrase rather than a hard-to-remember string of letters and numbers, MacDonald says.

“That helps ensure you have strong passwords,” he says.

Beware of public Wi-Fi

Although it’s tempting to jump on free public wireless while out and about, be aware that you could be an open book to fraudsters looking for a target.

“People can eavesdrop on the traffic and a lot of things go over the Wi-Fi network unencrypted, so you have to be very cautious about it,” MacDonald explains. “They could be sitting in the parking lot where you don’t even see them.”

Be proactive with settings and security features

Encrypt your device’s data whenever possible. Some operating systems encrypt automatically and others offer it as an option. If yours does, use it. Back up your data in case you decide to remotely wipe your device’s data because of a possible lost device.

Likewise, be picky about permissions and which applications you allow to share your location settings, camera, contacts and other information. Don’t share more than necessary.

Check notification settings. If your device falls into the hands of someone with bad intentions, don’t make it easy for them to see sensitive notifications on your screen.

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American Legion memorial database hits 1,500 mark

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Just over a year after its release, The American Legion’s Veterans Memorial Identification Project database has hit the 1,500 mark. That makes for an average of 125 entries each month, from around the country and the world.

The project encourages American Legion Family members to locate, document, photograph and upload information about veterans memorials and monuments in their local areas. It was instituted via Resolution 10 at the 2016 Fall Meetings. Sites from any war era are welcome. The page is designed to easily upload photos and information via smartphones, even while at the site. This makes it easier to do multiple submissions at one time, as Legion Family and associated community groups comb an area for sites. Entries will be made public after review.

Most of the states, and several foreign countries, are represented in the database; users can search by state to see what has already been submitted before embarking on recording expeditions. The most recently added are listed first.

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Legion posts step up for communities, military on Thanksgiving

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For around 25 years, Emmette J. Shields Post 55 in Hannibal, Mo., has put on a community Thanksgiving dinner that now includes delivering meals and providing carryout services. And for 15 years, current Post Commander Tammy Harr has been a part of the annual tradition.

It makes for a long day – and long week – leading up to the meal, which this year provided 450 carryout and delivery dinners and approximately 150 sit-down dinners. But Harr said the dinner has become a part of what Post 55 is.

“It’s quite a source of pride for us,” Harr said. “We’ve done this for so long that I just don’t know anything different.”

Most of the money and food items for the meal are provided through Post 55 Legion family member donations. “A lot of Legion members donate turkeys. A certain gentleman donates the money for noodles every year,” Harr said. “It’s been a tradition that they donate something for years, and they continue to do that. We have a lot of internal support. We really haven’t had to go out and solicit money.”

Surprisingly, planning for the meal doesn’t really begin until the end of October. “We’ve been doing it long enough that we have notes from previous years (and) shopping lists from previous years,” Harr said. “The same gentleman has cooked for the last 20 years. His son-in-law does it now. I’ve been doing it about 15 years.

“It sounds like a lot. It’s just a matter of coming in … and getting to work.”

Volunteers are not hard to come by. “Every year we have quite a few (volunteers),” Harr said. “We actually had some in from St. Louis this year. We work with a core group of probably 15-20, and that expands out. Probably by the time we’re all done we have about 30-50 volunteers that come in and out.”

Dinner is open to the public and includes local residents who receive a weekly meal from a local nutrition center. People call to order meals, and delivery is made within 10 miles of the post.

“It’s quite an honor for us to be able to put this together,” Harr said. “And when you deliver a meal to someone that may have had nothing more than a can of soup, and you cook them a whole meal … that’s special.”

Post 55 wasn't the only Legion family helping out others over the Thanksgiving weekend. In Fountain, Colo. Legion Riders Chapter 38 teamed up with local police to deliver 100 Thanksgiving baskets to families in need the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Fountain Police officers identified families, veterans and seniors who were needing a little extra help this holiday season.

Fundraising efforts by both the Riders and the entire Post 38 Legion family pay for the baskets. The Riders also fund an annual community Thanksgiving dinner.

"This mission is very important to the community of Fountain,” Chapter 38 President Dean Noechel said. “Our community is comprised of veterans, active-duty (military) and senior citizens, and our help with the baskets helps them to have a dinner with their families and not have to worry about the financial burden that it may cause. This is our way of giving back to our community and to let them know that we care and are here to help and assist them.”

And in Des Plaines, Ill., Post 36 teamed up with Sam’s Club to provide more than 125 turkey dinners to families in need. The giveaway started five years ago with 35 families. The families are referred to the event by Des Plaines Elementary School District 62.

"A lot are families who are working really hard and just trying to do the best for their children," Jessica Becker, a social worker at Orchard Place Elementary School, told the Daily Herald. "To be able to offer them the opportunity to have something that makes it just a little bit easier is really powerful for them. It's really nice to be connected with The American Legion because they are doing such amazing work out in the community, raising the money to be able to do this."

Some Legion posts opened up their doors on Thanksgiving to those just starting out their military careers. Clark-Eliason Post 352 in Somers Points, N.J., hosted 45 Coast Guard recruits from Training Center Cape May. In addition to being provided dinner, the recruits watched football games, played corn hole and made phone calls to friends and family.

“It’s a good feeling to give back,” Post 352 Commander Bob Frolow told The Press of Atlantic City. “We want to welcome them, treat them good and allow them to relax. We want to let them know they are not alone.”

Three Illinois posts hosted recruits from Naval Station Great Lakes near Chicago. American Legion Post 690 in Palatine hosted three dozen recruits for dinner while providing them with computers and phones to talk with family and friends.

"I remember how difficult it is for these young men and women -- their first major holiday away from family," Post 690 member Fred Hall told the Daily Herald.

T.H.B. Post 187 of Elmhurst also provided an opportunity for recruits to call or email their loved ones, in addition to offering a light breakfast, a full Thanksgiving dinner, and sandwiches and pies later in the evening.

The recruits also were provided a motorcade escort from the naval station to the post that included local and state law enforcement and firefighters. "Most of them don't know where they're going," Past Post 187 Commander Bob Daniels told "They're in shock when they get off the bus. It's really something to see."

And Morton Grove Post 134 brought in close to 50 recruits for a meal.

Others Legion posts providing Thanksgiving events for their communities included:

• Post 510, Laceyville, Pa. The post hosted a dinner for veterans from the Gino J. Merli Veterans Center in Scranton and the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center. At the dinner the veterans were greeted and served by students from the Tunkhannock Area Middle School.

• Post 182, Little Elm, Texas. Member of the post join other volunteers in delivering dinners provided by the community to shut-ins.

• Posts 231 and 29, Sherman, Texas. Members of both posts join up with other veterans organizations to provide a Thanksgiving meal to veterans and their families, and anyone in the community wanting to enjoy a meal.

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USAA Tips: What 5 classic holiday movies can teach about winter safety

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Content provided courtesy of USAA.

The holidays are a time for decorations, gifts and travel, especially for military members stationed far from home. They’re also a time when many of us gather around the TV to enjoy some of our favorite movies.

Because winter weather can be hazardous, the holidays are a reminder to be prepared at home and on the road. There are more than 200,000 snow-induced car crashes in the United States each year, according to the Federal Highway Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports about 1,200 annual cold weather-related deaths.

This year, while you’re watching your favorite holiday films, think about the important safety lessons you can learn from them:


An engine mishap caused Santa’s sleigh to crash-land in “Elf,” nearly ruining Christmas. Avoid that fate by inspecting your vehicle. Take time to check tire tread, air pressure and fluid levels, and make sure you have an ice scraper and an emergency kit with blankets, water and a battery-powered radio.

Lesson: Prepare and maintain your vehicle — whether car or sleigh — for winter weather.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

With fog as thick as pea soup and peanut butter, even Santa — a pro in snow — was going to delay his trip because of the weather until Rudolph saved the day. Unless you have a flying reindeer of your own, don’t travel in potentially dangerous conditions. If you must drive, slow down and be cautious.

Lesson: Leave traveling in ice or snow to the professionals.

Home Alone

Nothing attracts thieves like a pile of holiday gifts visible through the window. But you don’t have to go to the extremes that 8-year-old Kevin did to protect your house. Keep presents out of sight, and don’t let your post-holiday recycling become a cornucopia of high-end electronics packages. Instead, discard a little at a time to avoid becoming a target.

Lesson: Protect your stuff from burglars without booby-trapping your home.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Holiday meals and decorations are a big part of most celebrations, but you don’t want to overload your electrical circuits like Clark Griswold. Don’t leave stoves, candles and other open flames unattended. Be sensible with twinkly lights, and remember to water your tree.

Lesson: Light up your holidays without burning down the house.

A Christmas Story

You may feel like Ralphie’s bundled-up brother, but wearing appropriate clothing outside is the easiest way to prevent frostbite and hypothermia. Take it easy with new activities like skiing and skating to avoid injuries. And never lick a frozen flagpole, even if someone triple-dog-dares you!

Lesson: Stay warm and be careful outdoors — even if you can’t put your arms down.

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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.