Veterans Benefits Information guide to VA benefits

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Veterans Benefits Information

Coronavirus prompts urgent call for blood donors

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The American Legion has supported The American Red Cross throughout the history of our organizations. In fact, the American Legion Blood Donor Program has existed officially since 1942 to encourage donations.

Once again there is a critical need for healthy blood donors to step forward.

“As our nation faces the coronavirus emergency, the Red Cross is experiencing a severe blood shortage,” said American Legion National Commander Bill Oxford, who to date has donated more than 8 gallons. “The coronavirus pandemic could affect millions of Americans, meaning fewer people are eligible to donate. At the same time, the Red Cross is noticing an uptick in the number of cancellations of blood drives. There is an urgent need for blood now.”

As the coronavirus pandemic has grown here in the United States, the number of blood drive cancellations has escalated. As of March 18, more than 4,500 Red Cross blood drives have been cancelled across the country due to coronavirus concerns, resulting in about 150,000 fewer blood donations.

The Red Cross is looking for other organizations to host community blood drives throughout this crisis so they can continue with this essential and vital community service. The Red Cross advises American Legion members that donating blood remains a safe process and donations will help keep the blood supply stable.

“You served your country admirably,” said American Red Cross National Partnerships Director Donna M. Morrissey. “We need your help again during this crisis.”

Remember that only healthy people can donate blood. Many donors complete the questionnaire portion of their donation at home and would be deferred before arrival if they were sick. At each blood drive, the Red Cross has implemented pre-screening protocols to check the temperature of donors before they enter the blood drive. Social distancing is used to space donors and meet local regulations. Red Cross employees also follow thorough safety protocols including wearing gloves, wiping down donor-touched areas after every collection, using sterile collection sets for every donation, and arm scrubbing. These mitigation measures help ensure the safety of all.

In addition, please note that there are no data or evidence to show that this coronavirus can be transmissible by blood transfusion, and there have been no reported cases of transmissions for any respiratory virus including this coronavirus. Nonetheless, the Red Cross has implemented new blood donation deferrals out of an abundance of caution, asking individuals to postpone their donation for 28 days if they meet certain risk criteria like travel to highly effected areas.

If you are able to host a blood drive, please reply online at A representative from the local office will then get back to you shortly.

To schedule an appointment to donate, please visit


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USAA Tips to help take charge of debt

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Content provided courtesy of USAA

Just because you can borrow money doesn't mean you should.

"That's not what our consumption-oriented society wants to hear," says JJ Montanaro, a certified financial planner at USAA. To make matters worse, a growing number of households are getting deeper into debt.

However, with the right plan, it's possible to become financially fit and ready to meet life's challenges. These five tips may help you lower your reliance on credit and put you on a path toward financial freedom.

Make a plan — and stick to it.

Make a budget, and don't spend money unless it's in the budget. Get a plan together to assess, avoid, and attack any debt you have.

Know what you owe.

Review all your statements and highlight current balances, interest rates and minimum payments due. Decide on a plan of attack by focusing on the highest interest rate debts first. Communicate with creditors if you are past due or are close to being past due on any bills.

Establish an emergency fund.

If you're working hard to get out of debt, you don't want to let something beyond your control mess it up. Start by setting a goal to save $1,000 before starting to pay off debt. Your ultimate goal should be to have three to six months' worth of living expenses available in savings in case of an emergency.

Find extra cash.

Until your debt is paid down, consider what services you can cancel or items you can sell. A penny earned can be a penny that fights debt. Put any extra cash toward your shrinking credit card bills or loans.

Get support.

Digging out of debt can be a major undertaking and that may mean you need to enlist the help of others. Financial counselors at your military installation or organizations affiliated with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling may be able to help you get out of debt and stay on track. You might also consider sharing your plans with a friend or family member and ask them to hold you accountable.

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Legion cancels oratorical contest due to coronavirus

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The American Legion has cancelled its 2020 National Oratorical Contest in an effort to keep all competitors, volunteers, judges and others safe amid the coronavirus pandemic. The contest had been scheduled for April 17 to 19 in Indianapolis.

The cancellation follows recommendations issued by local, state and federal authorities to reduce the growing number of coronavirus cases by instituting “social distancing” policies.

For updated American Legion information and resources related to the coronavirus, visit and For updated information about the pandemic itself, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at and the World Health Organization website,


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Legion Family offers meals to children affected by school closures

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Each day news around the coronavirus involves closures. This includes schools nationwide.

As schools are shutting their doors to prevent children from catching and spreading the coronavirus, this means many kids will go without food.

But American Legion Auxiliary Unit 192 in Canton, Kan., is doing what it can to provide lunches to children in their district.

Since Wednesday, March 15, Unit 192 members have offered a sack lunch to children ages 1 to 18 (or 12th grade) filled with a sandwich, fruit, vegetable, snack and water. Auxiliary members are at Post 192 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. to hand out the lunches, and will continue to do so until schools re-open to provide meals.

“We seek to be proactive and not wait and listen as folks wonder how to provide for their children,” said Unit 192 President Debbie Evans.

Money to purchase food to fill the lunch sack have come from individual donations and proceeds from the post’s recent baked potato bar dinner.

Evans' quick action to support the children in her community is partly a result of what she heard immediate Past Department of Kansas Commander Dan Wiley say during a recent American Legion birthday dinner.

Evans said Wiley asked two questions that “struck a chord” with her: When people in your town think of The American Legion, what do they think? If your American Legion closed, would your community miss it?

“I want my community to see us as a vital part of it,” Evans said. “And see us as a resource and an asset by what we do and how we serve.”

Weimer-Widder American Legion Post 549 in Beach City, Ohio, has opened its post home to the local school district to use as a lunch distribution service for children who need meals because of closures. The district is using the post’s parking lot to distribute the meals via a bus.

“We do emergency preparations in case of local disasters. We’ll close our post and offer it to the community for situations like this,” said Larry Glasgow, 10th District 1 first vice commander and past commander of Post 549.

If your American Legion Family is supporting community needs during this time of uncertainty, please share on And stay informed on messages from American Legion National Commander James W. "Bill" Oxford and other news stories regarding the coronavirus at

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What the COVID-19 pandemic means for VA health care facilities

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As our nation’s largest health care system braces to handle the increasing demands placed on it by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) officials released information regarding access to VA facilities and what to do if you are exhibiting symptoms of the coronavirus.

Call before you go.

If you’re currently experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, call your VA medical center or 1-844-MYVA311 (844-698-2311). You may also login to My HealtheVet and send a secure message.

You will be asked screening questions.

All staff and visitors will be screened upon entry to VA facilities. VA asks that you allow extra time to go through the screening process.

Visitation is being restricted.

VA medical centers will only be permitting ONE visitor per patient for veterans who require assistance to get to and from an appointment, in-patient veterans in palliative or hospice care, and veterans who are having major procedures. Each visitor must be symptom-free for 14 days and must not have travelled outside of the United States during the past two weeks. Absolutely no visitors under the age of 18 will be allowed to enter VA health care facilities, nor will they be allowed to wait in common areas.Visitor access will be evaluated on case-by-case basis.

As of March 18, some VA facilities have cease non-urgent elective procedures.

Contact your VA medical center to see if this change applies to you.

For the latest VA updates on coronavirus and common-sense tips on preventing the spread of disease, visit

Stay informed on message from American Legion National Commander James W. "Bill" Oxford and other news stories regarding the coronavirus at

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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.