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Veterans Benefits Information

Gaining awareness, and members

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The name “American Legion Department of France” is a bit of a misnomer; the department also includes posts from Ireland and Germany, from Thailand and one operating “in exile” from China, and more. With such vast distances within the organization, messaging is crucial.

Department membership chairman “Charlie” Brown reports that a Sept. 1 awareness drive by Post GR06 in Stuttgart, Germany, netted 26 new members and three renewed members, and even a member for another post – 27 new members in all.

But behind those numbers is a process that is followed. This includes attendance by both post officers and general members; one member whose sole job is to help new recruits fill out paperwork; always having Legion banners and colors displayed; welcome packets on hand with a variety of post and department contact information and brochures; and even a tradition of photo ops if the new member would like one.

As of Nov. 23, eight posts in the Department of France had already joined the 100 Percent Club for 2019. And Post GR06 is on its way.


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'Long haul' awaits those recovering from Hurricane Michael

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Relief efforts continue in the Florida panhandle after October’s Hurricane Michael, with members of the American Legion Family doing what they can to help.

“You can see that they’re trying to get some form of normality back, but it’s going to take years,” said Stephen Shuga, past commander of the Department of Florida.

Shuga, department disaster preparedness chairman Bill Hoppner, department chaplain Barry Roberts and others have been making regular trips to the area devastated by Hurricane Michael over the past month-plus, delivering supplies and support to Legion members and other veterans impacted by the storm.

“Each time we go in, we make sure we go in with supplies,” Shuga said. Initially those supplies included food, water and hygiene products; as winter looms, coats have been added to the list.

“We still have people living out in tents,” Shuga said.

While the Legion isn’t designed to build houses, Shuga said building supplies such as tools, roofing, drywall and paint will be necessary as the recovery continues.

There are health issues to contend with as well. Shuga was told by a resident of the Panama City area that there was “black mold growing all over the place.”

Some Legion posts have been able to reopen to help their communities, while others were destroyed by the Category 4 storm. But Shuga said even some of those destroyed, such as Post 375 in Southport, Fla., “they are not letting the destruction of their post home prevent them from helping veterans and the community, they have been diligently trying to do what they can.”

The extensive damage to Legion posts in the area serves as a harsh reminder for other posts to check their insurance coverage now, Shuga said, before they have to find the money to cover rebuilding later.

For Shuga, a past post and district commander in the area, seeing the destruction firsthand has been challenging.

“One of the other guys had to take the vehicle because I was having a rough time,” he said.

But the people of the panhandle “are going to rebuild, they’re resilient. It’s just going to take awhile. …

“We know this is going to be a long haul. Getting the supplies is one thing, transporting them over there is another. We’re all being tested,” he added.

The Department of Florida is still accepting monetary donations for the Hurricane Michael relief efforts. Those donations can be made online at https://www.floridalegion.org/news-events/hurricane-relief/.

Donations can also be made to the Legion’s National Emergency Fund (NEF) at www.legion.org/emergency. The NEF is available for American Legion and Sons of The American Legion members who have been impacted by the hurricane as well as Legion posts. The NEF provides up to $3,000 for Legion and SAL members with an active membership who have been displaced due to damages to their primary residence, and up to $10,000 for posts that have been damaged by a natural disaster and whose programs and activities within the community are impacted. To apply for an NEF grant, please visit www.legion.org/emergency.


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Legion Family lends helping hands after deadly wildfire

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Even after losing their own homes in the Camp Fire that destroyed much of Paradise, Calif., earlier this month, a group of veterans and Sons of The American Legion members are working to provide other veterans left homeless from the fire a glimmer of hope.

“We’re striving to make sure this doesn’t hurt so hard,” said James Holmes, detachment commander of Squadron 259 in Paradise.

The death toll stood at 88 Tuesday night, with another 158 people still missing. The fire burned over 153,000 acres and destroyed nearly 14,000 homes and approximately 4,800 businesses before being contained.

Holmes and his family lost their home in nearby Magalia when the Camp Fire broke out on Nov. 8, barely escaping the inferno. Even so, he’s spent most of the time since helping gather donations and finding shelter for veterans who also lost their homes.

Members of SAL Squadron 259 and Disabled American Veterans Post 106 have formed Butte Vet Help Outpost to collect donations of gift cards, including gas, grocery and retail cards; money; and clothing for those displaced by the fire in Butte County.

Holmes said the gas cards are necessary because “people are living in their car and they’re leaving it running all night” because of the cold. And the gift cards provide some “retail therapy” for the fire victims.

Holmes said the area was already facing a homeless crisis before some 51,000 residents lost their homes to the fire.

District 4 Commander John Leach said a relief fund is being operated through Post 45 in Corning, where he is also the post adjutant.

“What we’re doing is we’re meeting in Oroville with veterans and members of the Legion Family, so we’re able to donate monies to them individually,” Leach said, noting that relief is limited to $300 per person.

Those donations are not part of the National Emergency Fund (NEF) contributions that Legion Family members and posts are entitled to. The National Emergency Fund is available for American Legion and Sons of The American Legion members who have been impacted by the wildfires as well as Legion posts. The NEF provides up to $3,000 for Legion and SAL members with an active membership who have been displaced due to damages to their primary residence, and up to $10,000 for posts that have been damaged by a natural disaster and whose programs and activities within the community are impacted. To apply for an NEF grant, please visit www.legion.org/emergency.

Leach said the non-NEF relief efforts have raised a little over $26,000 to help those veterans impacted by the Camp Fire. And those who are eligible are being encouraged to apply for NEF relief.

Donations can also be made to the NEF at www.legion.org/emergency. Donations to Post 45’s Camp Fire Relief Fund can be made by sending a check or money order to American Legion Post 45, P.O. Box 773, Corning, CA 96021. Include “Camp Fire Relief Fund” on the memo line of the check or money order to ensure the money goes to the proper account.


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Holiday Donor Blood Drive underway

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The annual American Legion Holiday Donor Blood Drive is underway. From Thanksgiving through Dec. 31, Legion Family members and posts are encouraged to give blood and host blood drives for this life-saving cause.

The American Legion Blood Donor Program honors those departments that best participate in blood-donation efforts, recognizing departments in two areas: for post participation and individual Legionnaire participation. Post participation awards are given to departments with the highest number of participating posts. Individual participation awards are given to departments with the highest percentage of individuals giving blood to the program.

Legionnaires can give blood by making an appointment for a donation at The American Red Cross' website. Posts interested in hosting drives can set up a blood drive by visiting the Red Cross' blood drive registration page. Members and posts can also contact the American Association of Blood Banks, their local American Blood Commission or American Blood Resources Association, or the Council of Community Blood Centers. Local hospitals and medical doctors can also help coordinate community blood drives.


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New membership incentives for departments and posts

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As an incentive to reach 100 percent membership department wide in celebration of The American Legion’s 100th anniversary, posts and departments have a chance to earn money. American Legion National Commander Brett Reistad has announced two new Team 100 membership awards that provide an opportunity for departments and posts to earn financial means to support their programs while growing membership at every level of the organization.

Departments:

• $2,500 will be awarded to each department that achieves 100 percent of its established 2019 membership goal by the Armed Forces Day (May 8, 2019) 100 percent target date.

• $5,000, in addition to the $2,500, will be awarded to each department that achieves 105 percent of its established 2019 membership goal by the delegate strength target date (30 days before start of national convention)

Posts:

• $5 for every expired 2014, 2015 and 2016 member that renews for 2019 will be awarded to posts.

The expired members can be found by following these four steps:

1. Sign into www.mylegion.org

2. Click on “Reports/Labels” located on the left side of the page

3. Click on “Post Reports” folder

4. Open the “Revitalization” folder. Inside this folder you will find three reports where you can select expired members for letters, labels and rosters (“Unrenewed_Letters,” “Unrenewed_Labels” and “Unrenewed_Roster”).

If your post does not have access to MyLegion.org, visit www.mylegion.org and click on “Authorization Form” at the bottom of the page and complete the registration process. If you need assistance please call 800-433-3318 or send an email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

To receive credit for renewing a 2014, 2015 or 2016 Legionnaire, they must renew in your post and you have to use their current membership ID number. The ID number will be on the expired listing downloaded through MyLegion or provided by your department. If the expired Legionnaire was not a member of your post, please transfer them into your post and then process their dues payment.

Additionally, the national commander is designating the week of The American Legion's 100th birthday, March 10-16, as "Week of Personal Engagement." He is calling on Legionnaires to make contact with veterans in their community to ask them join and be a part of Team 100.

"The American Legion soared from zero to 685,000 members in its first eight months," Reistad said. That was without direct mail or internet. "The Legion was built on personal contact and engagement. Let's do our founders proud by moving with strength and momentum into our second century."

There are two new public service announcements from Reistad about these new membership incentives and personal engagement week. View and share on social media here.


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