Veterans Benefits Information guide to VA benefits

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Veterans Benefits Information

Commander Rohan reflects on visit to the nation’s capital

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American Legion National Commander Denise H. Rohan met with various congressional leaders and federal government officials while visiting Washington, D.C., Oct. 1-4 to seek continued support and advocacy for important legislation that will serve in the best interests of the military and veteran community.

“When you look at Capitol Hill and you think nothing is getting done, a lot of work is getting done on behalf of the veterans. I am so proud and thanking them for all the work they’ve done with the Appeals Modernization Act, the GI Bill, and accountability for our veterans,” Rohan said.

Rohan met with Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and other lead government officials including Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Ranking Member Jon Tester, D-Mont.; House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.; House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe, R-Tenn., and Ranking Member Tim Walz, D-Minn.; House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.; House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health Ranking Member Julia Brownley, D-Calif.; and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa. Discussions included the Veterans Choice Program, issues facing women veterans at VA hospitals, and more.

Thanks to Legionnaires’ sense of obligation to their community, state and nation, Rohan said having a family-like support system is essential for the Legion as it helps create honest advocacy on behalf of all veterans.

“To all veterans, male and female, whatever war era you happened to have served in – give The American Legion a try,” she said. “There’s a family of people out there that care about you. We want you to be a part of our family and help us support all of the work that’s going on in Washington, D.C.”​

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Senator: Passage of coin bill a sign of respect for American Legion

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Before it was passed Sept. 25, the House version of The American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 2519), had garnered more cosponsors (385) than any other coin bill authorized in the past decade.

That kind of support for the legislation, which was signed into law Oct. 6 by President Donald Trump, is proof to U.S. Sen Todd Young of the respect members of Congress have for the Legion.

“This commemorative coin bill, like all commemorative coin bills, is not exactly easy to get through Congress,” Young told Legionnaires and the media during an event Oct. 10 at the Legion’s National Headquarters in Indianapolis. “Commemorative coin bills require at least 67 senators to cosponsor, and at least 290 members of the House of Representatives to cosponsor before they can be considered before either chamber.

“When’s the last time you saw 67 senators agree on anything? Or 290 members of the House? That really tells you something about how highly regarded the Legion is on Capitol Hill.”

The Indiana senator was joined at the event by American Legion National Commander Denise Rohan, who praised Young for his role as lead sponsor of the legislation in the Senate, where it had 75 cosponsors. “When asked to lead this veterans-centric effort, it took him all but 10 seconds to say yes,” said Rohan.

Rohan also thanked House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (HVAC) Chairman Rep. Phil Roe, HVAC Ranking Member Rep. Tim Walz, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, Sen. Joe Donnelly, Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (SVAC) Sen. Johnny Isakson and SVAC Ranking Member Sen. Jon Tester for their support, as well as the president for signing the bill.

Young, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and member of The American Legion Department of Indiana, praised his colleagues in both parties in the House and Senate for their support and efforts. “Politics is a team sport, and you cannot get consequential things done unless you’re working in a bipartisan way on behalf of the common good,” he said.

Passage of the coin bill was possible, Young said, because of all that the Legion does for the nation. “The American Legion is a critical advocate for veterans, and for promoting patriotism and service,” he said. “Legion members are instrumental in the betterment of our communities and our nation as a whole. Through your commitment, collectively and individually, to supporting and caring for our veterans, protecting our national security, promoting patriotism and American values, and providing valuable programs for our children, The American Legion reminds us of what is best about America.”

The legislation requires the Department of Treasury to mint and issue gold, silver and half-dollar clad coins in celebration of the centennial of the Legion, for one year, beginning in January 2019. All surcharges received from the sale of The American Legion centennial coin will help raise money for Legion programs that support veterans, servicemembers and their families, as well as commemorate important aspects of American history and culture.

The funds gained from sales will support caring for those who served and are currently serving in the armed forces, and programs that maintain patriotic values, strong families and assistance for at-risk children.

Congress only authorizes the minting of two new coins each year.

“There are those who question why The American Legion put so much energy and focus into passing a centennial coin bill,” Rohan said. “The answer is rather simple and veteran-centric: The funds generated from the coin will directly help our nation’s heroes and their families.

“Without Legion family members getting active, calling their members of Congress – and sometimes it was more than just once – this would have never happened.”

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Don’t give flu a fighting chance; get the flu shot

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Influenza presents a novel disease threat almost every year, and annual immunization continues to be the best way to avoid that threat.

There are many different strains of flu virus, and they can often mutate quickly, presenting a challenge in keeping everyone healthy and maintaining optimal immunity, and making it necessary to get immunized annually.

The three vaccines contracted by the Department of Defense for the 2017-18 season are quadrivalent, meaning they will contain four flu strains recommended by the World Health Organization, said U.S. Air Force Col. Tonya Rans, Chief, Defense Health Agency Immunization Healthcare Branch.

“Through influenza immunization, an individual’s immune system may better defend against natural exposure to influenza disease,” Rans said. “Influenza can cause serious illness, especially among seniors, infants, and others with medical conditions such as asthma.”

The recommendation for pregnant women to be immunized is unchanged despite a recent journal article that found an association between doses of a certain flu vaccine and the risk of miscarriage in early pregnancy.

“The CDC and American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology have reviewed the article and still recommend annual flu vaccination for pregnant women during any trimester,” Rans said. “Another study is underway to better investigate their findings. We encourage those who have concerns about this study, influenza vaccine, or any other vaccine, to consult with their physician for individual clinical decisions.”

As with last year’s flu season, the intranasal vaccine known as FluMist will not be available in DoD due to questions about its effectiveness in preventing influenza among certain age groups. FluMist is not recommended by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, and will not count toward military members’ readiness requirement. While DoD’s vaccine supply is all quadrivalent for the 2017-18 season, immunization with a licensed trivalent vaccine will still meet readiness requirements.

DoD’s goal is to have 90 percent of the total force immunized by December 15. Active duty personnel should have already started receiving notifications that they’re due for an annual flu shot.

A significant change in this year’s vaccine supply is that the dose of one of the two FDA-approved pediatric influenza vaccines, FluLaval Quadrivalent, is 0.5 mL, while Fluzone Quadrivalent is 0.25 mL. In a study comparing the two vaccines, safety and side effects were similar. To minimize human error, as there are two different doses which can be given, depending on the vaccine used, Rans recommends parents ensure they verify the dose and brand their child is receiving prior to injection. If it is a child’s first time receiving flu vaccine, they should still get two doses separated by 28 days, regardless of the vaccine they receive.

There are also two flu vaccines licensed specifically for people 65 years and older. One uses an adjuvant, a substance that aids and enhances immune response to the vaccine, and the other is a high-dose vaccine, containing four times more antigen than other flu vaccines.

“It is very important for older adults to get vaccinated because the immune system weakens with age, and they are at higher risk for severe complications from flu,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Heather Halvorson, Deputy Chief, IHB. “Currently the ACIP does not recommend any specific vaccine for older adults – any age-appropriate vaccine is acceptable. Getting vaccinated is the most important thing.”

Since DoD’s vaccine supply is entirely injectable, the CDC recommends the following steps to ease the fear of needles and pain associated with the injection process:

  • Have the patient lie down is there is a fainting concern.
  • Breastfeeding, swaddling or use of sweet-tasting solutions for infants up to 12 months old.
  • Changes to injection technique (aspiration or slower injection).
  • Injecting the most painful vaccine last (if administering multiple vaccines simultaneously).
  • Stimulating the skin near the injection site prior to and during the vaccination.
  • Distraction.
  • Simultaneous administration of vaccines at separate injection sites.

For information about coverage of influenza immunizations, please visit TRICARE’s website or call TRICARE Customer Service at 877-363-1303.

To speak with a healthcare provider or for counseling before or after immunization, call the Worldwide DHA Immunization Healthcare Support Center at 877-GETVACC (438-8222), Option 1.

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Register for 2017 Legion Scouting conference

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The American Legion's Americanism Division will conduct its Department Scouting Chairman’s Conference Oct. 28-29. This year it will be held at the Boy Scouts of America Scouting U in Westlake, Texas. A telephone conference is available for all American Legion Scouting department chairmen and/or their designees who cannot attend.

The conference gets underway at 8 a.m. on Oct. 28 and 9 a.m. Oct. 29. Registration is required at

The conference call is free and the number is (888) 278-0296; access code is 4629567.

View the agenda here.

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Mint unveils World War I centennial coin

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On Monday, the U.S. Mint unveiled its commemorative silver dollar marking the centennial of American involvement in World War I.

Acting Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy hosted the event at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C. He was joined by T.V. Johnson, the Mint’s director of corporate communication, and Terry Hamby, chairman of the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission.

“This is a great day, because it is an opportunity for us to remember the 4.7 million American men and women who served 100 years ago as soldiers, as sailors, as Marines, as airmen and as Coast Guardsmen during World War I,” McCarthy said. “Their service, their inspiring legacy, is our nation’s heritage. It is our gift to future generations of Americans.”

The collectible coin will be available for purchase from the Mint in January. A portion of the proceeds will go toward construction of the new National World War I Memorial at Pershing Park, a block from the White House.

The coin’s artist is LeRoy Transfield of Orem, Utah, who will receive $10,000 as the winner of the Mint’s open design competition.

“On a personal level, as an artist, it’s fulfilling to have your work accepted for something as important as this,” Transfield said. “I did the best job I could, but it was my first attempt at a coin design, so I didn’t expect to win. It’s a wonderful thing to be part of.”

The obverse design of the coin is titled “Soldier’s Charge,” and depicts an American soldier gripping a rifle above strands of barbed wire. On the reverse side is “Poppies in the Wire,” which features abstract poppies among barbed wire. The wire represents trench warfare, while poppies are the symbolic flower of veteran remembrance, a tradition that began during the war.

A sculptor, Transfield has designed war memorials in four Utah cities: Orem, Salem, Santaquin and Springville.

“The Mint had a conference call where we could ask questions,” he said. “I asked, ‘What are some of the common mistakes a beginner makes when designing a coin?’ The most common error is putting in too much detail because the coin is going to be only an inch and a half wide. I realized I was going the wrong direction and cropped my design a lot.”

For the obverse, Transfield began with the image of a doughboy, then added a rifle, then barbed wire. The reverse side took more time.

“I started with an eagle, then tried a carrier pigeon, but it wasn’t working,” he said. “A day before I had to finish it, I came up with the poppies and barbed wire. When I saw it, I was really happy with it. It was a design I could be proud of and didn’t second-guess.”

Transfield is originally from New Zealand, where two of his relatives were veterans of the Great War: his great-uncle, Huriwhenua Taiaroa, and his grandmother’s cousin, Te Oti Taiaroa. They were Maori and served in New Zealand’s native contingent.

The coin was authorized by Congress in 2014, via bipartisan legislation sponsored by Reps. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., and Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., in the House and Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., in the Senate.

“This new coin will help us to remember the stories, and the lessons, from the people who served in that war,” Cleaver said. “It will help to preserve their legacy.”

This is the Mint’s first commemorative coin program memorializing the Great War; in the 1990s, coin programs supported the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the 50th anniversary of World War II and preservation of Civil War battlefields.

“World War I was the war that changed the world,” Hamby said. “Millions of families across our country were impacted by this war, and we all continue to be touched by it every day. This coin is a tangible way for those families, and for all people, to be a part of this special centennial period.”

Surcharges of $10 per coin sold will be paid to the U.S. Foundation for the Commemoration of the World Wars, which supports the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission in commemorating the war’s centenary. The commission will use these funds to build a memorial in the nation’s capital.

The American Legion supports the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission by resolution. Jack Monahan of Connecticut is the Legion’s representative on the commission.

Read more about the World War I commemorative coin here.

Read more about the National World War I Memorial at Pershing Park here.

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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.