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Veterans Benefits Information

Legion helps college student focus on academics, soccer

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While playing in the girls soccer state championships her senior year of high school, Naomi Falkenberg fractured her face as the goal keeper. But it didn’t stop her from finishing the last five minutes of the game and then on to see her high school win. That “perseverance, resilience, being the best you can be” are qualities she learned from her father, Jason, a retired Army veteran and Legionnaire with an illness that has impacted his quality of life.

Even with his illness, “my father is always pushing through and I think that’s an admirable quality that I’ve taken because in sports I’m not one to back out, even if I’m hurt,” said Falkenberg of Sutton, Mass. “As a kid I was always inspired and impressed by everything he did. I thought he was the coolest man in the world and I still do. He is really a hero for me.”

Falkenberg is finishing her freshman year at Smith College in Northampton, Mass., where she was recruited to play on the soccer team as the starting goal keeper. Her ability to juggle academics of studying to be a doctor and playing soccer with six practices a week has been made easier thanks to The American Legion’s Legacy Scholarship. Falkenberg’s hero, her father, made her eligible for the scholarship.

The Legacy Scholarship is available for children whose parents lost their lives while honorably serving on active duty on or after 9/11, as well as for children of post-9/11 veterans with a combined 50 percent or higher VA disability rating. The renewable scholarship will award up to $20,000 for the expense of graduate or post-graduate tuition, books, room and board, meal plans, transportation and other supplies needed to achieve a higher education.

The 2019 Legacy Scholarship application deadline is April 15. Apply here.

“When I got (The American Legion Legacy Scholarship) I was just so excited and grateful. The scholarship made it easier to play soccer, and it really allows me to pursue my academics rather than having to think about getting a part-time job,” Falkenberg said. “My father was so happy and relieved because (the Legacy Scholarship) takes financial stress off him. It was just a relief of wanting the best for me. And the fact that he was able to help me in some manner that way, I feel like it filled him with a lot of pride and happiness.”

Through her studies of becoming a doctor, Falkenberg hopes to help others, like The American Legion, the way they have helped her.

“When you have a cause like The American Legion and the (Legacy) scholarship surrounding it, it’s an act of selflessness and generosity that I feel like myself and others are extremely grateful for this opportunity,” Falkenberg said. “Being able to pay back, what comes around goes around, putting a little bit of investment into somebody else to make them grow is just such a big part of helping each other reach our goals and be able to form this community that can help everyone thrive.”


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Chairman Takano Delivers Opening Remarks before Hearing Assessing Key IT Solution Implementation

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (CA-41) delivered opening remarks before the full committee oversight hearing entitled “MISSION Critical: Assessing the Technology to Support Community Care.” Below is a link to the video of the Chairman’s opening statement and his remarks as prepared:   [[{"fid":"49","view_mode":"full","fields":{"format":"full","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false,"field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":false},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"full","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false,"field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":false}},"attributes":{"style":"height: 351px; width: 500px;","class":"media-element file-full","data-delta":"1"}}]]   Good afternoon. I call this hearing to order. Today, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is gathered to assess the implementation status of the Community Care requirements under the MISSION Act, including the technology that will support the program.  The impetus for this hearing is a report prepared by the U.S. Digital Service at the request of Dr. Melissa Glynn, of the Office of Enterprise Integration.  Before we discuss the report, I want to establish a few items for the record. First, I had hoped that the U.S. Digital Service would be here today to discuss both the work it is doing at VA in general, and specifically its work on this report.  I want to be clear that I believe USDS is doing good work at VA, and in other federal agencies.  USDS is filled with very talented individuals who have heard the call of public service and are attempting to help fix very challenging technology problems.  Although the Administrator of USDS was invited, it appears that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) had a role in Mr. Cutts, or his staff , not being here today.  I’m disappointed in this result, and I urge OMB to reconsider whether its bureaucratic internal processes are actually serving the government and the taxpayer well.  If Congress is prevented from conducting legitimate oversight because of unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles then it is a real problem.  I hope we will have an opportunity to hear from USDS at a future hearing and to learn more about the work the digital services team is doing at VA. Second, I understand that there are sensitivities involved in USDS’s role in advising agencies on technology.  We want agency staff to speak freely to USDS and for USDS to be able to provide unvarnished advice because we want agencies to succeed at their technology projects.  We want agencies to have the room to fix known problems before it endangers an entire program.  The Committee understands that this report was not meant for the public, but it is now in the open. And as the Committee responsible for overseeing the implementation of one of the most significant pieces of veterans legislation, we are compelled to ask questions about it.  That is what brings us here today. Third, I want to be clear that this is a fact-finding hearing.  We have invited VA leadership here in order to exchange information and to have a robust discussion about that state of implementation.  I want you to understand, Dr. Stone, Dr. Glynn, and Mr. Gfrerer, that I want to have an open and honest conversation, and IF there are things that the Committee needs to know about – such as resources, implementation timelines, or the real state of the technology – this is the time to share that information.  We want transparency. Veterans expect and deserve transparency. This is because when we talk about technology at VA we are talking about more than technology.  Information systems at VA support the very backbone of the mission of VA.  These are systems that directly impact veterans’ lives, their health, and their ability to access the benefits they have earned. The MISSION Act is a big mandate and we need to get it right.  If the technology experts say that VA should cease development on the Decision Support Tool and for VA to rethink its approach to implementation we want to understand those recommendations and what VA is doing about them.  If a veteran-centric vision is not guiding this implementation then we need to figure out what needs to change. Our veterans deserve nothing less. I thank the witnesses for being here and I look forward to their testimony.   ###

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American Legion coin prices increase on April 15

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The American Legion's 100th anniversary commemoratives coin series was released March 14 by the U.S. Mint with introductory pricing. On April 15 after 3 p.m., regular pricing will take effect.

Visit www.legion.org/coin for purchases, pricing details and more information.

The coins pay tribute to the nation’s largest veterans service organization and its impact on communities across the country.

More than 67,400 American Legion commemorative coins have been sold, according to unaudited numbers from the U.S. Mint. Top sellers include the Three-Coin Proof set and the silver dollar. Don't miss out on your opportunity to purchase a set before they're sold out, or individual coins before prices go up.

Proceeds from each sale will contribute to The American Legion’s legacy of supporting veterans, servicemembers, their families and their communities throughout our nation. The funding will support programs that aid veterans in need, mentor children and so much more.


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Chairman Takano Delivers Opening Remarks before FY 2020 Budget Hearing

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (CA-41) delivered opening remarks before the full committee oversight hearing entitled “U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2020.” Below is a link to the video of the Chairman’s opening statement and his remarks as prepared:   [[{"fid":"48","view_mode":"full","fields":{"format":"full","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false,"field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":false},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"full","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false,"field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":false}},"attributes":{"class":"media-element file-full","data-delta":"1"}}]]   Good Afternoon. I call this hearing to order. First I would like to welcome Secretary Wilkie, and our Veteran Service Organizations: The American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars to this hearing on the President’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget request. This budget reflects the Administration’s priorities, many of which we can all agree upon. The fact that we can agree on so much is a bright spot in the function of this chamber and our government. However, in some cases, we continue to see the same proposals from this Administration that we will never support—proposals like taking disability benefits from veterans by rounding down the cost-of-living adjustment—to pay for other veterans’ programs.  VA’s budget does not contain the proposed cuts to its programs and benefits that we see in other parts of the President’s fiscal year 2020 budget request. Yet, we cannot forget that cuts to important safety net programs like SNAP benefits, Medicare, and Medicaid, and the agencies responsible for providing them have serious impacts on the lives of veterans and their families who depend on those benefits, and place a greater strain on VA’s resources when they are not available to veterans in need. Although VA’s budget reflects an overall increase of 9.5 percent over fiscal year 2019 appropriated levels, I remain concerned about whether this budget reflects appropriate levels of funding to implement the VA MISSION Act, address VA’s Information Technology needs, provide the blue water navy veterans exposed to Agent Orange disability and healthcare benefits, make student veterans affected by the most recent for-profit school closings whole, and address veteran suicide—including an alarming trend of veterans committing suicide on VA campuses. We are all aware of the significant challenges at VA. Our task today is to ascertain whether this budget request goes far enough to address these challenges, and whether funding has been prioritized to best support the needs of veterans. For example, with passage of the MISSION Act, implementation of the law and providing coordinated community care has been a focus of the Department. However, funding for this program and the prioritization of this program must not be done at the expense of addressing VA’s significant workforce and infrastructure needs. Based on the Congressional Budget Office’s cost projections, we do not know if this budget request goes far enough to cover the projected cost of this program—an estimated $47 billion over 5 years—without pulling resources from other VA programs.  The hasty roll out of IT systems and programs like medical surgical prime vendor without involving the clinicians and users of these systems or having the leadership and governance in place has led to disruptions in services, and we are afraid problems with the delivery of care and benefits to veterans may continue without the appropriate leadership commitment, expertise, and resources. Most recently we witnessed this with a disruption to student veterans’ GI Bill housing stipend benefits.  VA includes a hefty increase of $426 million to prevent veteran suicide. Yet, last year, VA spent only $57,000 on suicide prevention outreach to veterans. It took oversight from the Inspector General and this Committee to get VA back on track. The budget request includes an additional $15 million for suicide prevention outreach, and if VA receives this funding, I intend to closely monitor spending of these funds to ensure every last cent is spent to get the word out to veterans in crisis. If we are to be successful in preventing 20 veterans from taking their lives each day, veterans must have easy access to VA mental health care, and they must know that VA is ready and immediately available to help when veterans need it most.  VA must be prepared to provide disability benefits and healthcare to the blue water navy veterans who have been waiting over 40 years for their benefits. It must invest in its workforce—including recruitment of providers to fill the 48,985 vacancies in the Department—and address severe morale issues at some facilities. VA contracting has now been added to the Government Accountability Office’s High Risk List, and the Veterans Health Administration has remained on the list since 2015. These challenges play out each day at the D.C. VA Medical Center—practically footsteps from the White House. The D.C. VA was in the news again last night because of low morale, severe understaffing, and a dysfunctional medical supply chain. Meanwhile, the clinicians and front line staff at that hospital make due with limited resources and support to provide high-quality and timely care to veterans. We want to know which funds in the budget are requested to address these challenges.     Student veterans who have been robbed of their GI Bill benefits and time by predatory for-profit schools must be made whole. The recent closings at Argosy campuses have left thousands of veterans in limbo. Congress was forced to step in two years ago to restore benefits to veterans affected by for-profit schools closing like ITT Tech and Corinthian, and we may have to do it again—but the Department has a role in preventing these schools from taking advantage of veterans in the first place. We need to know how VA’s budget addresses this problem. Finally, we need to understand the Administration’s rationale for the proposed $17 million cut to VA research, and 45 percent cut to VA’s construction budget which is contrary to what our veteran service organizations recommend. I have invited them here today so that they can weigh in on what they believe to be the appropriate funding levels and priorities for VA. These challenges I are not insurmountable. As I said in our last hearing, we are here to work with VA as a partner to ensure VA can meet these challenges now and in the future. To do that, we need transparency from VA so we can have an open and honest dialogue about the resource needs of the Department. Today we are here to conduct oversight so that Congress, veterans, and the American people understand our investment in VA, and ensure the funds we provide are used to support the needs of veterans.   I now recognize Ranking Member Roe for 5 minutes for any opening remarks he may have.     ###  

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USAA Tips: How military training maintains an ethical focus at work

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Content provided courtesy of USAA | By Chad Storlie

In the military, no matter the branch of arms or the occupational specialty, an ethical foundation of action and decision making is central to all operations from peacetime to conflict. In brief, ethics are the personal beliefs that shape the foundations of our actions. To be ethically driven is to use knowledge of right, wrong, and what is best for the organization to drive your decisions and actions.

Here are five questions to ask as you determine how best to leverage your military ethics at work:

Are your ethics part of your demonstrated leadership? Demonstrated leadership is how you create, enact, and perform the leadership tasks assigned directly and indirectly to you for a group sized from one other person to tens of thousands of people. Demonstrated leadership must contain and use clear evidence of positive ethical actions for genuine support within the organization. Leaders must clearly show their organizations how acting in the best interests of stakeholders, employees, customers, suppliers and others is not only the right decision but the best decision.

Do you act in the best interest of the organization? Organizations are composed of employees, customers, shareholders, and other groups. Organizations also have mission statements that define and reinforce the purpose behind what they do, day-in-and-day-out. Therefore, when a leader acts in the best interest of an organization, they have to consider the mission of the organization, customers, employees, shareholders, and others that the organizations supports directly and indirectly. Rarely, if ever, does the best interest of the leader, at any level, supersede the best interest of the organization and employees.

Do you view employees as the most valuable asset? Great companies are based upon a sustainable value proposition of creating and maintaining value for a variety of stakeholders. Customers find the products or services the company produces to be satisfying to meet their needs, stockholders find the return that the company produces to be equal to the comparable risk – reward ratio of other similar ventures, and employees find the time spent at the workplace to be engaging, interesting, and rewarding. When any one of these three elements fails, the company usually fails. The central driver for success in business is the employee. Employees create products, satisfy customer needs, meet financial obligations, and make the critical decisions to guide the company to success. Therefore, in my opinion finding and keeping the finest employees is the most crucial decision for a company.

Are ethics part of your decision-making criteria? When I planned missions in the US Army for Special Operations Forces (SOF), there was a final check on every mission before it was sent to the commander for approval, based on the SOF Truths:

  • Humans are more important than Hardware.

  • Quality is better than Quantity.

  • Special Operations Forces cannot be mass produced.

The use of the SOF truths was an ethical check for our planning because it placed people and our employees first and made us focus on the result to the population that we were trying to protect and make their lives better. Good organizations have ethical checks and focuses to all their activities.

Do you teach your ethics to others? Great leaders do not have daily lectures on the aspects of ethics. Great leaders teach, mentor, and demonstrate to others how ethics are incorporated into daily operations to show peers, subordinates, and others how ethical decisions can be made and supported that create value for customers, employees, the organization, and other stakeholders. Teaching how to use and create ethics in the midst of difficult decision making is a critical task for leaders.

The military’s central concepts of ethically driven operations are encased in a belief that every individual is valued while understanding that all missions must be accomplished. Therefore, military ethics matter for business ethics.


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