Veterans Benefits Information guide to VA benefits

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
Veterans Benefits Information

Bells of Peace and Franklin D’Olier

E-mail Print PDF

The church of The American Legion's first national commander, Franklin D’Olier, will toll Bells of Peace on Nov. 11 as part of the commemorations related to the World War One Centennial.

St. Mary's Episcopal in Burlington, N.J., will begin ringing its bells at 11 a.m. local time when the fighting stopped a century ago. D'Olier, who died in 1953, is buried in the St. Mary's church yard in his hometown of Burlington.

The World War One Centennial Commission is calling on communities nationwide to participate in its Bells of Peace program so that Nov. 11 commemorates the 100-year armistice. Hundreds of American Legion posts, churches and other civic organizations plan to participate.

D'Olier entered the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps in April 1917 as a captain. In August, he received orders to France as part of the American's first salvage service. In July 1918, he was sent to Lyon to open a second salvage depot. He oversaw the salvage operations of 1.5 million men and was promoted to major, then to lieutenant colonel. In April 1919, he was discharged.

He was among 20 men who initiated The American Legion in France at the request of Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt Jr. First, D'Olier attended the original caucus in Paris on March 15, 1919. After his discharge, he began to devote his time to launching the Legion.

D'Olier organized The American Legion's first national convention, which took place in Minneapolis in 1919, when he became the organization's first national commander. His acceptance speech was short and straightforward: "My word is simply this. We came here to work. Let us keep working and not listen to speeches. I thank you."

And work he did. He worked without payment of any kind as he worked for his vision to obtain disability benefits and job training for wounded veterans. He also worked for an adjusted compensation to provide pay on par with what they would have made had they not served in the war. His stance on adjusted wage whether from the taxpayer or employer made him many enemies. D'Olier refused reelection being he thought the position should be a single one-year term. He returned to his yarn business and later became president of Prudential Insurance.

Read More

National commander comes home to Old Guard

E-mail Print PDF

It may not have been his official homecoming, but American Legion National Commander Brett Reistad certainly felt in familiar surroundings when he delivered the keynote address at the reunion of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment in Arlington, Va., on Sept. 29.

A veteran of the Presidential Salute Battery of the legendary Old Guard, not only did Reistad complete his Army tour at Fort Myer, Va., he made the area his post-military home, retiring as a lieutenant with the Fairfax County Police Department and eventually serving as the commander of the American Legion Department of Virginia.

“The one common ingredient or bond that all Legionnaires share is that we are military veterans,” Reistad told the Old Guard Association. “It’s a place where a veteran of the Old Guard, such as you and I, could work side by side with a retired Air Force officer or a member of the Coast Guard. From the beginning, Legionnaires have checked their rank at the door. Founder Teddy Roosevelt Jr., insisted that it be that way. By World War II, Teddy Junior would become a brigadier general – but he wanted The American Legion to view all of its members equally – whether you were a general or a private, a Legionnaire is a Legionnaire. And also, a veteran is a veteran.”

Reistad pointed out that wartime veterans could always join The American Legion regardless of race, religion or gender – which was considered very progressive in 1919 when the military was still 29 years away from integrating and women were still prohibited from voting for president.

“I think about that as we look forward to another 100th anniversary – the centennial of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in 2021,” Reistad said. “They are known ‘Only to God’ but forgotten by no one in this room. And who knows what race or religion comprise the remains in that tomb? More importantly, who cares? The only thing we know or really care about is that those remains belong to an American hero who sacrificed everything for this country of ours.”

While Reistad is believed to be the first American Legion national commander to have served in the Old Guard, The American Legion has a long history of support for the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment and its hallowed mission at Arlington National Cemetery. When The American Legion turned 50, the organization raised $200,000 to permanently light the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the amphitheater Temple Façade at Arlington. More recently, The American Legion bestowed its highest award, the Distinguished Service Medal, to the Old Guard in 2016.

While acknowledging the 100th anniversary of the World War I armistice and the current centennial celebration of The American Legion, Reistad said that honor has even longer legacy. “One hundred years is a long time. More than the average life span. But legacies of honor last much longer. And that is why we continue to watch over and meticulously care for the hallowed tombs, the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery and burial places of our fallen around the world.”

“It matters not which war our heroes fought in,” Reistad later added. “Arlington is full of reminders that America has always had men and women who were willing to serve a cause greater than themselves. And for that we will always be grateful.”

During the reunion, Reistad became the newest veteran of the Old Guard to be awarded the National Infantry Association’s Order of St. Maurice, an honor given for “loyal support of the infantry…and demonstrating selfless support embodied by the American Infantryman.”

Read More

A 'Pharmacy Phamily' team effort recognized at Naval Hospital Bremerton

E-mail Print PDF

There might not be an ‘I’ in team, but there is a ‘ph’ in family with Naval Hospital Bremerton’s (NHB) Pharmacy.

That notion of ‘phamily’ is the primary reason why NHB’s Pharmacy, which includes Branch Health Clinics (BHC) Bangor, Everett and Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNS), has been selected for the 2018 Navy Pharmacy Team Award.

“This was truly a team effort. Truly no one individual can take the credit. The ‘phamily’ came together to ensure the success of the pharmacy and the best care possible to our patients,” explained Navy Lt. Cmdr. Dean Kang, NHB Pharmacy Department head.

There were overlapping trials and tribulations – primarily an intensive renovation project and the deployment of the Department of Defense’s new electronic health record (EHR) MHS GENESIS – over the last fiscal year that the entire staff had to handle which actually brought them even closer together than before as a team.

With NHB identified as one of the Initial Operating Capability test sites for MHS GENESIS, the pharmacy was charged with consolidating multiple legacy medical informatics systems into a single integrated EHR to process inpatient and outpatient pharmacy services. There were glitches identified in training and workflow challenges, as well as a host of medication/formulary modifications that had to be updated. The driving theme behind such attention to detail during the roll out was patient safety.

“Patient safety has always remained our number one priority. During the most trying periods of our remodel and our initial implementation of MHS GENESIS, part of the reason our delays became exceedingly high were due to the fact that we needed to ensure the patient was still getting safe care. During the early stages, it unfortunately came at the sacrifice of wait times,” Kang stated.

The renovation project included doubling the window operating capacity from six to 12, increasing shelf space by more than 50 percent, reconfiguring the outpatient pharmacy work area, and adding new pharmacists and pharmacy technicians.

For pharmacy technician Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Shealie Brown, her command being acknowledged as the top Navy Pharmacy Team for 2018 was validation for their effort during the past year.

“It feels good for us all to be recognized for what we do, and for what we went through for months and months. We were a ‘phamily.’ Everyone was checking on everyone else. There was a lot care and concern for others. Even our trainers became a part. It did feel like everything piled on at once. There were times we weren’t sure when we’d leave. I remember one time we had 96 people waiting in outpatient pharmacy for their prescriptions. But we were not going to leave until everyone got their medications. It took a long time there for a while until we got it all worked out,’ related Brown.

“Our goal has always been to give our patients the best service, in the timeliest manner, as we can. The ongoing construction and the new electronic health record did slow our services. Some of our patients were understandable about the delay in getting their orders processed but some weren’t. We understood their frustration because we also felt the same. There were some mornings where we would have people lined up an hour before we opened to get their tracking ticket trying to avoid a possible wait of several hours. Those were our dark days. When we added new staff, opened more windows, and got better hands-on with MHS GENESIS, it really greatly improved our service,” added Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Seth Meshach, pharmacy technician.

Going through those dark days did have a positive. It brought the entire pharmacy team together to weather the storm of frustration.

“There just was this team mentality that developed. We could tell when someone needed a break. We would step in. We learned the new system, adapted to dealing in a stressful environment, and we still managed to smile,” Meshach said.

And the ‘pharmacy phamily’ nickname?

“I think it’s great. Being away from home in the Navy, this is like my second family. I completely embrace the concept and enjoy it,” said Meshach.

The prescription numbers alone are a testament to the pharmacy’s continual team effort. From January through September 22, 2017, there were 489,181 outpatient prescriptions filled – with 28,057 at BHC Bangor, 44,741 at BHC Everett and 1,113 at BHC PSNS – and another 75,526 inpatient medications orders verified. On a daily basis, there was an average of over 2,390 prescriptions and medication orders processed, along with providing around-the-clock service to NHB’s Urgent Care Clinic, Labor and Delivery, and Multi-Service Unit.

Additionally, the pharmacy team further defined the position description of Navy Medicine’s ‘Navy Comprehensive Pain Management Program’ by originating clinical pharmacist capability to schedule appointments, conduct/document ambulatory encounters, and document point-of-care testing results to improve patient-health outcomes.

They also implemented an intricate labeling system throughout the command as part of a Defense Health Agency-led pilot program to support Barcode Medication Administration to improve accurate medication identification and proper documentation for patients in wards and clinics.

The pharmacy became a test site as well for the Navy Pharmacy Management Analytics Program to be successfully incorporated that provided electronic connectivity with patients by being able to send advance text messages and patient-centric information and data to enhance both customer satisfaction and their top priority of patient safety.

“The pharmacy team has adapted and overcome numerous workspace and workflow challenges this year. Their resilience and innovation with respect to the new EHR is leading the way for future roll outs. What our pharmacy team has accomplished this past year is nothing short of phenomenal. We have always known about your exceptional work and dedication to improving our services, and your commitment to our patients. Now those outside the command are also recognizing your achievements and your invaluable contributions to the enterprise as a whole,” said Capt. Jeffrey Bitterman, Naval Hospital Bremerton commanding officer.

Disclaimer: Re-published content may have been edited for length and clarity. Read original post.     




Read More

'We say that Boys State changes lives, and it does'

E-mail Print PDF

The 51st session of American Legion Tennessee Boys State was held this past May with about 450 rising high school seniors. Forty-five of those young men were sponsored by American Legion Post 46 in Cookeville.

“For any young man who wishes to go to Boys State, I’m going to send them to Boys State because it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Post 46 member Richard Buford, a Tennessee Boys State alum and District 4 Boys State coordinator. “And I have seen for many young men how it has really changed their lives in a positive direction and it opened doors of opportunity for their future.”

A few years ago, Buford received a phone call two days before Tennessee Boys State was set to start. A young man had withdrawn from attending the program and Buford was asked if he had a replacement. “I said give me 30 minutes.” Buford called the principal of a small school who said there was a young man who wanted to go but “didn’t think he was good enough.” Buford visited with the young man and his mother, a single parent working two jobs. “I talked to them about an opportunity,” Buford said.

“This young man beat every expectation at Boys State; he shined above everyone else” and because of that, he received the Boys State director’s red cap. At graduation, “I put the cap on the young man and his mother and older brother started crying. A couple months later I got a phone call from his high school principal and she said, ‘What did you do to him?’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ She said his grades were shooting through the roof. He had self-confidence, and he had a goal.”

That young man received a scholarship to Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville where the department’s Boys State program is held. Buford said he had not even thought about college prior to attending Boys State and now, the young man has been on the dean’s list the past four semesters and upon graduation he plans to be a nurse in the U.S. Army.

“We say that Boys State changes lives, and it does. It is a wonderful program that gives us hope and direction with our future leaders,” Buford said.

Post 46 raises over $35,000 a year to send young people to Boys State and Auxiliary Girls State. This is fulfilled by post members visiting local companies and doctors’ offices, hosting post fundraisers, and promoting through media outlets – Buford talks about his need for sponsors over the radio. Within minutes of finishing a radio promotion last year, Buford received a phone call from a 1936 Boys State alum who shared about his experiences and donated $2,000 to the program. “It’s all about sharing our traditions at Boys State,” Buford said.

The Boys State delegates sponsored by Post 46 represent three schools, as well as those homeschooled, in the Cookeville area. The first step Buford takes is contacting the schools and talking with the counselors about Boys State and the young men they are looking for. Buford said they look at academic scores, organizations the young men are involved in, and the family’s military history. As for reaching homeschooled youth, Buford leaves Boys State brochures at churches and with school superintendents.

Buford said he likes to visit small schools where there may not be a lot of opportunity for students, as well as students who may not receive many opportunities due to family situations, because “Boys State opens doors of opportunity for scholarships for many of our students. It changes lives.” Post 46 sponsored a young man from a small school who was later selected to attend West Point and became the first student from his school to ever attend a U.S. military academy and credits this to attending Tennessee Boys State.

As to promoting the Tennessee Boys State, efforts go beyond visiting schools, radio time and newspaper publicity. Post 46 has a table set up at its Veterans Day program specially for Boys and Girls State to identify students early on who wish to attend the program to ensure that the post has enough sponsors to support the need. And Buford recruits young men before they are even of age to attend.

“When I see a family in the supermarket and I’m wearing my American Legion Boys State shirt I’ll say, ‘How old are you young man?’ If they had not heard of Boys State I will tell them. Just last week I met a young man who is a sophomore (in high school) and he said, ‘My older brother went to Boys State, and I’m definitely going to Boys State!”

Read More

Boys State directors urged to prepare crisis plans

E-mail Print PDF

The American Legion’s Boys State programs have fortunately not had to face a major critical incident.

But given the nature of the world today, it’s important for each program to have a critical incident plan in place — not only to keep individual Boys State programs safe but to ensure that the program nationwide is not left flat-footed if something does happen.

“If something happens in the smallest (Boys State) program … within hours, the media will be at our doorsteps (elsewhere),” Tim Aboudara, chief counselor at California Boys State, said Saturday at the Boys State Directors Conference in Indianapolis.

Aboudara and California Boys State city counselor Nathan Rice — who’s also a police officer at California State University Sacramento, which hosts the California Boys State program — discussed their program’s critical incident response plan and some of the lessons they learned Saturday morning at the conference. Aboudara emphasized that the presentation wasn’t aimed at telling other programs what to do, but “to provoke some thought, to get you thinking, so again, you don’t wake up one morning and you’re dealing with a crisis.”

While conceding that it’s impossible to be completely prepared for every eventuality, Rice said, “If we know what our potential risks are and we plan for them, we’re able to minimize the impact on any of the campuses or locations where we’re going to be.” He showed a map of the Sacramento campus, which is bordered by the American River, a potential flooding risk, and train tracks. And he noted that, with many Boys State programs taking place on college campuses in May and June, there are opportunities for potential crises in the form of protests or other demonstrations.

He also emphasized the difference between disasters, such as fires and earthquakes, and crises such as shootings and attempted suicides.

Rice said it’s important for Boys State staff members to “know what your (response) plan is, what their role is, and how to implement that.”

And it’s critical to be aware of how teens react to their changing lives, which can serve as stressors and create crises.

“We need to be aware that their lives are different than what our lives were when we were young,” Rice said. “We need to figure out what they’re experiencing, what they’re going through, and how can we address that and support them.”

It’s also important to consider the impact social media can have on the perception of how a Boys State program handles a crisis, Aboudara said.

“If we have an incident, the world is going to know about it before we’ve even started to get our arms around the situation (because of social media),” Aboudara said. “… How we conduct ourselves is going to impact the perception of the outside world, and our parents of our delegates, and the future support we get for it.”

Louisiana Boys State operations manager Micah Scott also addressed disaster preparation by presenting on his program’s citizen disaster management activity. A scenario takes place in which a hurricane is headed toward the state, forcing the Boys State citizens to prepare for the storm and deal with its aftermath.

Other presentations by Boys State departments at the conference included Missouri on the importance of data and information management; Louisiana on providing an immersive educational curriculum; Kentucky on using awards and recognition to boost the morale of volunteers and alumni; South Carolina on ensuring a diverse and inclusive Boys State delegation; and Wisconsin on training and transitioning staff.

Read More

Page 9 of 2305