Veterans Benefits Information guide to VA benefits

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Veterans Benefits Information

Boys Nation 2018 begins Friday in D.C. area

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The 72nd session of American Legion Boys Nation begins Friday as 100 rising high school seniors arrive in Washington, D.C., to represent their respective states in one of the Legion’s premier youth programs.

The group will include two delegates representing the District of Columbia, which has hosted a Boys State program each of the past three years after a nearly 50-year hiatus. This is the first year since the program’s rebirth in D.C. that D.C. Boys State has sent delegates to Boys Nation.

Hawaii is the only state that does not have a current Boys State program, although the state does have a Girls State program sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary.

The delegates will be assigned to either the Federalist or Nationalist party upon their arrival at Marymount University in Arlington, Va. Over the course of the next week, the young men will conduct party conventions and senate sessions, elect a president and vice president, introduce and vote on bills submitted by their peers, and hear from guest speakers. Activities off campus include a tour of the National Mall, meetings with elected officials from their respective states, and dinner at Greenbelt Post 136 in Maryland with special guest National Commander Denise H. Rohan.

View the 2018 Boys Nation agenda here, which is subject to change. And follow the young men throughout the week on, which will feature stories, videos and photos highlighting the program, as well as on social media using the hashtag #2018BoysNation.

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3 bad habits to avoid during job interviews

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Interviews are stressful for many job seekers, especially transitioning servicemembers who may have never been in one. As a result, some interviewees can inadvertently show their nerves throughout their interview by having nervous tics.

Nervous tics can range in appearance but are generally a nervous reaction to an event that can cause unnatural, repetitive behavior or movement. Nervous tics can become distractions to employers and interview teams if they are overly obvious.

Below is a list of common nervous tics human resource managers see in interviews. It is important to be mindful of these movements and to manage them as much as possible during an in-person and video interview.


Be aware of hair during the interview process. Tucking hair back behind ears, playing with longer hair, or constantly brushing hair out of eyes can become a nervous habit if done repeatedly during the course of the interview. Instead, keep hands clasped gently or gesture naturally. Women can keep hair pinned back or put up to avoid touching it during the interview if this is a nervous habit.


When interviewing, avoid consistently scratching the face, nose, or resting hands on a chin (which can come off as looking bored). In this case, it is again wise to avoid bringing additional attention to nervous habits.


Some job seekers become so nervous about their interviews that they bounce their legs or tap their shoes on the floor. During an interview, it may be easy to let off nervous energy this way, but employers can hear the movement (or sometimes feel it!). Bouncing can become distracting. Instead, focus on keeping two feet firmly on the floor and sitting up straight. An interviewee will seem much more confident in this posture.

To have a successful interview, it's important to be professional at all times. Other annoyances for hiring managers can include chewing gum at an interview, drinking water excessively during a meal or interview (avoid having to get up repeatedly to take a restroom break), and eating food without proper etiquette.

In general, be aware of movements during an interview and practice potential responses in advance to help calm nerves.

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Restoring honor

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When Jordan Houghton stopped for a closer look at Evergreen Washelli Cemetery in northwest Seattle in April, he was surprised to find the veterans’ headstones covered in road grime, moss and other debris. So the former combat medic and Afghanistan war veteran mobilized members of William C. Stacey American Legion Post 206 in Seattle.

Using power washers, brushes and backbreaking labor, these Legionnaires are going row by row, headstone by headstone, restoring this sea of white markers. By late June, a handful of volunteers had cleaned nearly 2,000 of some 5,000 veteran headstones. It’s slow going, Houghton acknowledges, but speed is not the objective. “There’s no point in doing it quickly and not doing it well,” he says.

Families of the fallen are noticing their work.

“It really meant a lot to me to see what you were doing – straight from my heart,” Naomi Sexton wrote in a thank-you note that included a newspaper clipping and vintage pictures of her brother, Doyle Smith, who was killed in the Korean War in September 1950 while helping a wounded comrade. Other families have stopped to thank The American Legion volunteers in person when they are out cleaning headstones.

Evergreen Washelli officials say Post 206’s offer of help came just as cemetery staff was dealing with equipment breakdowns and the month-long push to get the grounds in order for Memorial Day ceremonies. “It was really great that Jordan reached out to us,” says Brenda Spicer McCoy, cemetery office manager. “There was no way we were going to get to the markers.”

The cemetery was established in 1884. General Manager Clinton Harley, a Spanish American War veteran, set aside a large section for veterans and spouses in 1927. The cemetery board’s goal was to make it the “Arlington of the West,” according to the Evergreen Washelli website. The American Legion donated a flagpole and the body of World War I veteran Thomas McElderry was reinterred here as part of the cemetery’s 1927 Memorial Day ceremony, an annual event that continues today.

Although the 5,000 plots in the veteran’s section were filled about a decade ago, families continue to bury loved ones who served in the military in other sections of the cemetery. All told, there are more than 8,000 servicemembers at Evergreen Washelli.

Cleaning their headstones provides members of Post 206 a connection to their brothers and sisters in arms. Houghton was struck to find the headstone of a World War I Army nurse, who may be one of the first females to serve in combat, as well as a soldier who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Joey Hernandez feels a bit of kinship when he’s scrubbing the markers of fellow Navy combat veterans and he’s been captivated by the stories of the Medal of Honor recipients buried here.

The project also helps fulfill Post 206’s community service focus and determination to defy stereotypes about The American Legion. “I want people to know that we’re not just sitting around sulking and drinking,” says Hernandez, who serves as senior vice commander as he juggles two day jobs, college and family. “We’re out trying to make a difference for veterans and for our community.”

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USAA Tips: The power of positive interaction

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Content provided courtesy of USAA | By Chad Storlie

Businesses, governments, and people interact and build relationships that empower, inspire, strengthen and sustain. The vast majority of our daily interactions with people, social media, businesses, government, and other organizations are characterized by short, immediate, and seemingly inconsequential interactions. Conversations with teachers, repair people, grocery clerks, store attendants, and responses on social media are all important, but usually singular, daily interactions. The vast majority of people either disregard or do not understand the importance of these singular interactions. These singular interactions clearly define the people we are and the type of person we aspire to become – they are vitally important to do well.

The military really taught me the importance of singular interactions and how they define your character. When I was in Iraq, I was just coming out of the chow hall with breakfast after an all-night planning and re-planning effort to try and halt some of the then new IED attacks. I was distraught, dead tired, frustrated, hungry, and ready to rest for a few minutes. I ran into a young Marine that had just driven for hours from southern Iraq with some prisoners for interrogation. The Marine passed off his prisoners and then had to guard his vehicle. Without him saying anything, I asked if he had eaten anything. He said “No,” and with no more words between us, I gave him my breakfast, and headed back to another 18 hours of work. I never saw the Marine again.

In the military, events like this are common, unspoken, and far from unusual. In the military, every interaction that you have with any person is an opportunity to help another person, make them better, and demonstrate yourself as a leader.

In our daily lives, we need to better act, better understand, and better appreciate how we can make singular interactions better for others.

The Power of Polite, Positive and Civil Conversation.

Polite conversation is the foundation of a positive interaction with everyone and any person. Today, no matter what you do, everyone is rushed, overburdened, tired, and often at wit’s end to get everything done. These circumstances are why polite manners and positive conversation are vital, because it sets people at ease and makes even stressful conversations easier. Finally, manners, polite conversation, please and thank you show appreciation for the hard work and effort of others.

Are People Better Off After Reading Your Social Media?

Social media is another area where we can be polite in person and absolutely scathing in our digital interactions. Instead, adopt a rule that if people just read one social media interaction from you in a year, what would it say about you? Positive and productive interactions with people we do not know on social media are a way to take politeness, civility, and personal leadership into the digital space.

Did You Help Someone at Work?

Helping others be successful at their jobs is another idea that few people take the time to do. Holding the door for someone, helping set up a meeting room, stapling copies and pointing out a typo before it gets to the boss are all simple, meaningful, short, and positive interactions that we can take at work. It only takes a minute, a smile, and direct effort to make someone’s day at work.

Did You Say Hi to Everyone Today?

Saying hello, giving a smile, and a “good day” are easy ways to make friends, be polite, and cement an interaction. I grew up in a small town in the Midwest where not saying hi to everyone would get you a phone call to your father that night. Next time you walk around the neighborhood, go to a child’s sporting event or cut the grass, say "Hi" to everyone.

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Preparing for travel can prevent illness

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FALLS CHURCH, Va. — Whether snorkeling, hiking, or exploring a new place, travelers should know how to stay safe and healthy while away from home. Properly preparing for a trip can help reduce health risks.

“One might argue that the only thing worse than getting sick is getting sick when away from home,” said Dr. Margaret Ryan, a preventive medicine physician and director of Immunization Health Branch's Pacific Region vaccine safety hub at Naval Medical Center San Diego. “Travelers are wise to take any precautions that are available to avoid infectious disease hazards.”

Ryan recommends travelers be proactive about their travel medicine needs and prepare for their trip in advance. This includes learning about the health risks associated with the destination and checking with their doctor to make sure they’re in good health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends seeing a provider four to six weeks before departure.

It’s important for travelers to have recommended vaccinations, including flu shots, before leaving home, said Ryan. According to the CDC, people traveling to countries in the Southern Hemisphere – such as Australia – between June and October should get the flu vaccine since flu activity would be at its peak.

Some vaccines, such as typhoid and hepatitis A, are recommended for travel in general, while others may be required by certain countries before someone is allowed to enter or exit, Ryan noted. For example, the yellow fever vaccine is needed to enter some African countries, and the polio vaccine is required before you depart some countries that have had cases of that disease, she said.

“Risk for exposure to measles, mumps, and rubella outside of the United States can be high, putting travelers without these vaccinations at increased risk, especially in countries with low vaccination rates and recurring regional outbreaks,” said Ryan. International travelers can transport the measles virus, causing infections and possibly triggering outbreaks, even in countries with high vaccination rates, she added.

Ryan also recommends that travelers take precautions with food and water, and take steps to prevent mosquito and insect bites. Using insect repellent and wearing proper clothing in areas with a high risk for mosquito-borne illnesses can reduce the risk of infection. Washing hands often with soap and water is another precautionary measure. The CDC also recommends travelers be aware of food precautions and drink only bottled water or water that has been boiled.

Because such things as scuba diving and visiting high altitudes can affect a traveler’s health and medication needs, Laurie Duran, a nurse practitioner at Naval Medical Center San Diego, recommends that during their pre-travel doctor’s appointment, travelers provide itinerary details, including destinations, anticipated activities, travel dates, accommodations, and mode of travel.

“It is helpful for [health care] providers to have visibility of travelers’ medical history, including their underlying conditions, allergies, and medications, as well as complete immunization records,” added Duran. Special situations such as pregnancy and breast-feeding, immunocompromising conditions or medications, and disabilities can impact travel, she noted.

The CDC’s survival guide for travelers provides health and safety tips, global health notices, and information on specific diseases to watch out for. Planning ahead for illnesses or injuries during the trip, understanding the signs of illness, and knowing what resources are available can help travelers properly prepare. It’s also important to know what your health plan covers when traveling internationally. The TRICARE website has information about international coverage, including what beneficiaries should know before traveling. Additionally, beneficiaries can find information about the MHS Nurse Advice Line, a free, 24/7 phone service, on the MHS NAL website.

“Travel Medicine is actually a complex specialty,” said Ryan. “Travelers are wise to seek advice from an experienced travel medicine provider to discuss all preventive measures before embarking on their trip.”

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Did you know?

The issuance or replacement of military service medals, awards and decorations must be requested in writing.

Requests should be submitted in writing to the appropriate military service branch division of the NPRC. Standard form (SF 180), available through the VA, is recommended to submit your request. Generally, there is no charge for medal or award replacements. For more information, or for the mailing address of the military branch office to submit your request to, call 1-86-NARA-NARA (1-866-272-6272) or visit the NPRC website at