Veterans Benefits Information guide to VA benefits

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Veterans Benefits Information

National commander calls for House to pass Legion coin bill

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The American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act, which passed the U.S. Senate on Aug. 3, is picking up momentum in the House of Representatives. The legislation, H.R. 2519, had 322 co-sponsors on Sept 6. Congress only authorizes the minting of two commemorative coins per year, an honor that the nation’s largest veterans organization deserves, according to American Legion National Commander Denise H. Rohan.

“Next year The American Legion will hold its 100th National Convention, an historic commemoration of a great century of service,” Rohan said. “It would be fitting for The American Legion to enter that historic gathering in Minneapolis with a collectible commemorative coin worthy of the great Legionnaires who dedicated themselves to service during the last one hundred years. We salute the United States Senate for passing The American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act. We call on the House of Representatives to do the same. I call on all members of The American Legion Family and friends of The American Legion to ask their representatives to co-sponsor H.R. 2519 and pass this act now.”

Once it passes the Senate, it would advance to the White House for the president’s signature.

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Reaching the next generation of veterans

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Robert Munson sees the relationship between Benjamin A. Fuller Post 64 in Pittsburg, Kan., and the Student Veterans Organization at Pittsburg State University as a blessing.

It’s also a relationship he’d love to see at other Legion posts nationwide.

“Those guys there, they’re members of the Legion here too, and they’re always there (to help). It’s a good group of guys," said Munson, the commander of Post 64. "I’d like to see other Legions that have colleges in their town to reach out to see if they can get the student veterans."

“We try to provide new members and keep (the post) active so it doesn’t fall from an attrition rate itself,” said John Bloemer, president of the SVO. “And we’re able to go in there and actually do the muscle work that the older veterans are no longer able to do. I feel like it’s a pretty good relationship.”

Bloemer said the current SVO replaced an earlier iteration that didn’t recruit new members and thus came to an end. He said this iteration started about 2 and a half years ago and has about 30-40 members two weeks into the current semester at Pittsburg State.

Bloemer said the SVO’s mission is to get student veterans more involved in their community — to “keep people out of their basement,” he said.

“When (the student veterans) get out of the military, (they can) find there’s other people that understand them,” Bloemer said.

Bloemer has found that at the Legion.

“I have found, especially with a couple individuals there more than others, that they’ve actually been through similar things, had similar experiences, and are capable to guide me in the way that I should go,” Bloemer said. “Having somebody that has experienced things I have around here is kind of rare, especially somebody that’s been around a little bit more. It’s really helpful.”

The SVO’s mission syncs perfectly with Munson’s goal of keeping Post 64 a key member of the community. That was reflected in the Post’s Community Day event on Labor Day, an invitation to the Pittsburg community to see “what The American Legion can do for them, and what they can do for us.”

Bloemer and other SVO members did their part, joining Munson at the post at 5 a.m. to set up flags and tents. They also set up and oversaw games for the kids, including Nerf guns and ring toss.

“The whole point of today is just to get the community to realize that the veterans have a part in the community,” Bloemer said.

Munson said the Community Day event was first held last year and has grown. Monday’s event included a National Guard inflatable obstacle course, vehicles from the Pittsburg police and fire departments, and a Life Flight helicopter, among other vendors and informational booths.

Those community ties are important.

“When I was (Kansas) department commander, every post that I went to, I brought up the same thing about going to the colleges and reaching out to the firefighters and reaching out to the police department, because there’s a lot of veterans in those departments that nobody thinks about,” Munson said.

“It’s not just a place where old people go,” Bloemer said. “It’s actually a group of people that become a family.”

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Legion invites Ohio area veterans to discuss VA care

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The American Legion invites all Columbus, Ohio, area veterans and their family members to discuss their VA care at a town hall meeting.

The meeting will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 12, at 7 p.m., inside the Don Gentile American Legion Post 532, located at 1571 Demorest Road, Columbus, Ohio. 

The town hall event is one of about a dozen that the Legion will conduct around the United States this year. The Legion hosts these events to hear feedback from veterans about the quality of health care they receive at their local VA facility. 

Staff from The American Legion National Headquarters office in Washington, D.C., The American Legion Department of Ohio, as well as representatives from VA and members of the Ohio congressional delegation will be in attendance.

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MLB Hall of Famer Joe Morgan named Legion’s Good Guy

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For the third consecutive year, The American Legion Past Department Commander’s Club chose a Major League Baseball Hall of Famer to honor at the organization's annual National Convention luncheon.

All-time great Joe Morgan was named the 2017 James V. Day “Good Guy” Award recipient, following former Cincinnati Reds teammate Johnny Bench in 2016 and former New York Yankees manager Joe Torre in 2015.

“Contrary to recent trends, the Good Guy is not a baseball award. It just so happens that a lot of baseball players are good guys,” American Legion Past National Commander Charles E. Schmidt said at the Aug. 21 luncheon in Reno, Nev. “Many have charitable foundations and contribute enormous time and financial resources to various communities. So it certainly is no coincidence that so many of our Good Guy award winners over the years have been baseball players. But as great as players as these men have been, and we’ve had some all-time greats, they are even better people.”

A two-time National League Most Valuable Player, Morgan has supported numerous charitable causes in his San Francisco Bay Area hometown and the Cincinnati area where he made a huge impact as one of the greatest second baseman to ever play the game. He founded the Joe Morgan Youth Foundation, which provides college scholarships and financial support to programs that are instrumental in the development of youth. After retiring as a player, he began a successful broadcasting career and is the owner of the Joe Morgan Honda dealership in Monroe, Ohio.

Known for his outstanding defense at second base, he was a pivotal cog in the team nicknamed the “Big Red Machine,” which won back-to-back world championships in 1975 and 1976. His habit of flapping his left arm while awaiting a pitch seemed harmless to opponents but certainly did not hurt his effectiveness as he hit for average, power and amassed 1,865 walks over his big league career. Bench told The American Legion in 2016 that Morgan was the best player that he had ever seen.

Morgan spoke with John Raughter, the Legion’s deputy director of media relations prior to the luncheon.

Q: What are your memories of American Legion Baseball and how did it help you develop as a player?

A: Every league that I played in helped me develop as a baseball player. I played Babe Ruth League, I played semi-pro and I played American Legion Baseball (Post 471, Oakland, Calif.). And every league helped me develop as a player. We had some good teams. I think The American Legion helped me advance because it was better than Babe Ruth League and every step I went to a higher league and I was playing against better players. And it helped me progress.

Q: You played on some very special teams, most notably the “Big Red Machine.” What made that team so special?

A: Well everyone wants to look at the talent we had on the team, the players. But the thing that in my mind made us the best was that it was the smartest team I ever played for. We would go weeks at a time without making a mental mistake. We might make a physical mistake – didn’t make many of those either – but, we just didn’t make mental mistakes. We didn’t throw to the wrong base. We didn’t get doubled off on a line drive, we didn’t get thrown out trying to stretch a single to a double or whatever. And I credit (manager) Sparky Anderson for that because he will never get the credit he deserves for being a great manager because a lot of people said if you put down (Johnny) Bench, (Pete) Rose, Morgan, (Tony) Perez, you know all these guys every day, you’re supposed to win. Well, that’s not true, it doesn’t work that way.

But Sparky was able to get all of us and our egos pointing in the same direction. And we learned to really enjoy playing with each other and, again, we all left our egos at the door when we came in. But you have to have an ego to be a good player. I don’t ever say I didn’t have an ego because I did. Bench had one. Perez. Rose. Everybody. I always felt like every day I stepped on the field, I went out there to prove I was the best player on the field. I’m sure Bench felt that way. Rose, Perez. Everybody felt that “Hey, I’m the best player. I have to do this for the team, we’ll get it done.” But again, the thing that made us great is that they were intelligent enough just to know the ins and outs of the game, know what it took to win and were always willing to do it. That’s what made us a great team and that’s why I always said we were the best team that’s ever played. And I don’t care, people can argue with me about that and that’s fine. But I will take those guys and I will play anybody for seven games and I guarantee we are going to win four. But, when I look at that team, also we were such a great defensive team. We knew how to handle the best pitchers. The Tom Seavers of the world, the Steve Carltons. All those great pitchers of our era. We knew how to deal with them. They beat us sometimes, but never easy. We made them work and we knew how to work them, so it worked out great for us.

Q: What would you change about today’s game, if anything?

A: Well, I wouldn’t change anything except the baseball. The ball is juiced up. And now everybody wants to hit home runs. And along with those home runs go a lot of strikeouts. And the ball is not in play a lot. You don’t hit and run, you don’t bunt. You don’t go (from) first to third very often, you don’t do all of the things that made the game great. But it’s hard to tell a guy not to hit the ball out of the ball park when he’s going to get paid a lot of money if he hits 25, 30 home runs. But along with that goes guys striking out 200 times, guys striking out 170 times. And the new analytics say that a strikeout is not any worse than an out, which I have a real argument with. A guy can’t score from third on a strikeout but he can score from third with less than two outs on a fly ball or a ground out. A strikeout is not just another out. It’s a strikeout. Nothing happens. Nobody moves. So I don’t like that part of the game. But I will say this—fans love the long ball. And, they seem to enjoy it.

Q: Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, A-Rod (Alex Rodriquez). Do they belong in the Hall?

A: Well, I won’t answer that because I’m vice chairman of the board at the Hall of Fame. Someone could take me as speaking for the board and I can’t and I won’t. But I will say this, people that cheated the game or did things wrong, I think should be penalized. Now what that is, that is not for me to decide – that’s for the commissioner and other people. But I do think people should be penalized.

Q: Tell me about the Joe Morgan Youth Foundation. How did it start and what does it do?

A: It started about 1970 or somewhere around there. It started because California passed Proposition 13. They took a lot of money from the schools, the athletic programs and after school activities at the playgrounds and kids didn’t have a way to play. I thought it would be a great idea to give young kids the same opportunity that I had. So I started with a golf tournament and made some donations myself along with other people into the youth foundation, so we started providing athletic equipment for the schools. I think the proudest moment was when the girls basketball team called me and said that they didn’t have uniforms and it wasn’t just the guys at that point. And my youth foundation was able to provide uniforms for the girls. We provided uniforms for the guys. Bats, balls for the schools. And I saw how much affect it had on these kids and so I felt very happy to continue to do it. And I continued and then I expanded it to scholarships.

I have a scholarship at Cal State Heyward – that we have maybe $300,000 in the bank that the interest is used for kids going to Cal State Heyward; not for P.E., baseball or basketball but for the education part of it. Kids who want to be physical education majors, we help them get through that. But the education thing is every important to me now. I don’t know how many I’ve given over the years but I give two specific scholarships to Castlemont High School, now, that’s where I went to high school. But we have two people there that I give scholarships to every year. I’m there to help them but if they need more than scholarships, we find a way to get it for them.

To give you an example, I just decided that some of the kids I’m going to give more money. Because I felt like some of these kids are going to be going off to college and they might not have the clothes to wear that they need to blend in. So I just decided I would give them each a thousand dollars apiece extra to buy clothes or whatever they wanted with it other than the scholarships for books and tuition. That’s kind of how the foundation has changed and grown over the years. Not just in Oakland but in San Francisco, throughout the Bay Area.

Q: How do you feel about being the 2017 American Legion Good Guy?

A: You know, I said this when they put my sculpture in Cincinnati, that you get in the Hall of Fame because you have numbers and you do things that warrant you being a Hall of Famer. But when they put a statue of you in front of a stadium it means that you were more than just a player. And anytime someone recognizes that I wasn’t just a baseball player, it’s important to me. So it’s important from that perspective. And it’s important from some of the people that you already honored. You’ve honored some of the greatest athletes and some of the greatest people in this country. So I feel honored to be one of them.

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Every donated NEF dollar goes directly to help victims

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One-hundred percent of every donation to The American Legion National Emergency Fund (NEF) directly helps veterans and their families recover from natural disasters, American Legion National Commander Denise Rohan said Tuesday.

Contributions to the NEF for victims of Hurricane Harvey and the floods that followed last week exceeded $100,000 since an email went out last Wednesday, she said. “We are extremely grateful for that first wave of donations, which will provide immediate cash assistance to veterans and families who have been left homeless, or whose homes have been devastated,” Rohan said. “Those who give can rest assured that their contributions are not used on advertising or administration. It all goes directly to recovery efforts. The American Legion has been conducting natural disaster relief since the 1920s. We know where money needs to be used in times of crisis – on those whose lives have been turned upside-down by tragedy.”

Rohan said more help is needed as cleanup efforts are just getting underway from Harvey and as another major storm, Hurricane Irma, is barreling toward Puerto Rico, Florida and the Gulf Coast, also as wildfires continue to destroy homes and displace veterans in the West.

American Legion National Headquarters has sent a truck loaded with relief supplies donated by the American Legion’s Department of Indiana to southern Texas for distribution there this week and will be helping veterans in need with NEF funds while on site. “We are in touch with authorities and American Legion Family members there and know what they need,” Rohan said. “That is why it’s best for folks to make a financial contribution online, in cash or by check to the National Emergency Fund, rather than try to guess what is needed and sending material goods that may not be necessary. We need to be sure we are operating as efficiently as possible and not trying to find homes for supplies that were not requested.”

Rohan said tax-deductible donations to the NEF may be made online here or by sending a check to: American Legion National Emergency Fund, P.O. Box 1954, Indianapolis, IN 46206.

“I thank everyone in The American Legion Family for doing what we do best – helping others through difficult times. That’s a good example not only of who we are and what we do, but why we are here.”

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