Veterans Benefits Information

...online guide to VA benefits

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

World Series concert tickets on sale

E-mail Print PDF

The American Legion World Series Executive Committee in Shelby, N.C., is kicking off the upcoming Series with live performances by two award-winning music artists — Montgomery Gentry and MercyMe. Cleveland County Fairgrounds will hosts the concerts and tickets are now on sale at www.alwsconcerts.com.

Contemporary Christian music artist MercyMe performs Aug. 12 at 6 p.m. (EDT) with special guest Jamie Grace. VIP seating is $25 and lawn seating is $15, or $10 each for 25 or more people. And country music duo Montgomery Gentry will take the stage Aug. 16 at 7 p.m. (EDT) with special guest James Wesley. VIP seating is $65 and lawn seating is $25.

An additional $5 fee will be applied to individual tickets purchased the day of the events. However, group tickets will not be sold the day of.

Concert tickets can either be purchased online here or by calling (704) 466-3103 Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (EDT).

Both Montgomery Gentry and MercyMe are strong supporters of military members and their families. Montgomery Gentry has entertained troops serving in Iraq multiple times and released "What It Takes" for the soundtrack to the war action film, "Act of Valor." Meanwhile, MercyMe released a song titled "Finally Home" to honor America’s servicemembers.

 

 


Read More
 

Senate committee approves FY 2013 defense bill

E-mail Print PDF

The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) voted unanimously on May 24 to approve its version of the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization bill. The bill gives about $4 billion less than the funding passed by the House earlier this month and is more in line with President Obama’s spending level request. Like the House, the SASC rejected Pentagon proposals that would establish enrollment fees for TRICARE Standard and TRICARE for Life and increase TRICARE deductibles and the annual catastrophic cap. However, it does not prohibit the Department of Defense from instituting proposed TRICARE pharmacy copayment changes, which do not require legislation. Among other major highlights: • Establishes the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission to review elements of military compensation and retirement benefits. • Rejects all proposed cuts to the Air National Guard. • Cuts aid to Pakistan and puts a hold on any reimbursements to the Pakistani military for its fight against terrorists and insurgents until the Secretary of Defense certifies that the Pakistanis have fully reopened U.S. supply lines, released detainees and ceased all support to militant groups in Afghanistan such as the infamous Haqqani network. • Cuts DoD’s civilian staff and spending on contractor personnel by five percent over five years. • Unlike the House, the Senate bill does not call for a third missile-defense site on the east coast, though it does order an assessment of the need for one. • The Senate joined the House in rejecting the Army’s request to shut down the M1 Abrams tank production line. • Adds $777.8 million in advanced procurement funds to restore the second Virginia-class attack submarine. The next step for the bill will be a full vote in the Senate, likely later this summer. Should it pass the full Senate, the differences between the House and Senate versions will have to be reconciled in conference. Both bills are above the spending caps set by last year’s Budget Control Act.

Read More
 

Murray, Blumenthal, Nelson Call on Departments of Justice, Treasury to Investigate Charitable Organizations Exploiting Veterans for Own Financial Gain

E-mail Print PDF

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee joined with Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) in sending two letters regarding the Veterans Support Organization (VSO), addressing potential violations of federal law and abuse of tax exempt status by the 501(c)(3) organization. The first letter was sent to Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, requesting an audit and, where appropriate, an investigation of the VSO for potential violations of federal law. 

In a second letter, sent to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, Senator Murray, again joined by Senators Blumenthal and Nelson, expressed concern about the membership criteria used by the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Voluntary Service National Advisory Committee (NAC) to evaluate prospective member organizations and the NAC’s failure to require any standards of conduct for its members. The Senators point out the lack of internal controls for membership on the advisory committee and call for the removal of any organization that fails to conduct itself in a manner befitting the Department’s mission or that exploits its relationship with the Department for its own financial gain.

“Without a meaningful review process or standards of conduct, the Department risks legitimizing organizations engaged in questionable business practices by permitting their membership on the NAC,” the Senators write in the letter to Secretary Shinseki. “For example, the Veterans Support Organization (VSO) has repeatedly touted its membership on the NAC as a way to represent itself as a reputable organization.  But throughout the seventeen states in which it operates, VSO has drawn scrutiny from state authorities, veterans service organizations, local news organizations and veterans themselves.  VSO’s business practices have been characterized as dishonest, misleading and fraudulent, and in at least one instance, VSO has acknowledged breaking state law.” 

The full text of both letters follow:

May 30, 2012

The Honorable Eric H. Holder

Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530

The Honorable Timothy F. Geithner
Secretary of the Treasury
U.S. Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW                                             
Dear General Holder and Secretary Geithner:

We write to request that the Departments of Justice and Treasury audit and investigate, as appropriate, the Veterans Support Organization (VSO), a registered 501(c)(3) tax exempt corporation, for potential violations of federal law.

Throughout the seventeen states in which it operates, including Connecticut and Florida, VSO has attracted scrutiny from state authorities, reputable veterans service organizations, local news organizations and individual veterans.  VSO’s business practices have been characterized as dishonest, misleading, and fraudulent and in at least one instance, VSO has acknowledged breaking state law.  Taken together, these actions and allegations raise serious questions as to whether VSO has repeatedly and intentionally misappropriated public donations and abused its tax exempt status in violation of federal law.

At the heart of VSO’s suspect practices is its use of paid solicitors, violation of state solicitation laws and financial irregularities.  VSO presents its paid solicitors to the public as veterans, providing them with camouflage-style uniforms and instructing them to keep thirty percent of their collected donations as commission.  Through its use of these paid solicitors, VSO has been found in violation of state charitable contribution laws and has faced civil penalties as a result.  VSO’s paid solicitors program is its single largest expenditure, with executive and employee compensation following close behind.  In 2009 alone, VSO paid its chief executive officer $255,000, or over four percent of its total revenue.  That same year, VSO’s spending on its paid solicitor program and executive and employee compensation was over eight times greater than its direct grant awards to other veterans service organizations, government entities, and individual veterans.  Clearly, VSO’s disproportionate spending on paid solicitors and its own executives, coupled with its admitted violation of state solicitation laws and general lack of transparency and accountability is cause for serious concern.  For your reference, we have enclosed a background paper that details VSO’s questionable conduct in greater detail.

As an increasing number of our servicemembers return home and transition to civilian life, it is especially critical that charity organizations act as good stewards of the American people’s goodwill and generosity towards our veterans.  On behalf of our nation’s veterans and those who serve them, we thank you for your attention to this matter and look forward to your timely response detailing the steps you have taken auditing or investigating, as appropriate, VSO.


May 30, 2012

The Honorable Eric K. Shinseki
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420

Dear Secretary Shinseki:

We write to express our concern about the membership criteria used by the Department’s Voluntary Service National Advisory Committee (NAC) to evaluate prospective member organizations and the NAC’s failure to require any standards of conduct for its members.

It is critical that organizations permitted to affiliate themselves with, or invoke the name of, the Department of Veterans Affairs conduct themselves in a manner befitting the Department’s mission, its reputation and the integrity of its work.  Yet today, any organization that meets a minimum level of monetary and material support to VA facilities is eligible for membership on the NAC.  No other review is undertaken by the Department to evaluate a potential member organization, nor does the NAC have in place any standards of conduct to which its member organizations must adhere. 

This is both troubling and unacceptable.  Without a meaningful review process or standards of conduct, the Department risks legitimizing organizations engaged in questionable business practices by permitting their membership on the NAC.  For example, the Veterans Support Organization (VSO) has repeatedly touted its membership on the NAC as a way to represent itself as a reputable organization.  But throughout the seventeen states in which it operates, VSO has drawn scrutiny from state authorities, veterans service organizations, local news organizations and veterans themselves.  VSO’s business practices have been characterized as dishonest, misleading and fraudulent, and in at least one instance, VSO has acknowledged breaking state law. 

In response to VSO’s suspect practices, we have written to the Attorney General and to Secretary Geithner, requesting that their departments investigate whether VSO has misappropriated public donations or abused its tax exempt status in violation of federal law.  We expressed our concern that charity organizations must act as good stewards of the American people’s generosity towards our veterans.  Surely an organization, such as VSO, which has admitted breaking state law, should be ineligible to serve on the NAC or use the Department’s name in furtherance of its own financial interest. 

To protect the integrity of the NAC’s work, we ask that you review this situation and take such action as you consider appropriate.  It is our hope that you will rescind the membership of VSO and any other organization that fails to reflect the caliber and character of the Department’s mission and work, and institute safeguards to regulate the NAC’s membership accordingly.  We look forward to hearing from you regarding your review of this issue.  Thank you for all that you do on behalf of our nation’s veterans.

###


Read More
 

House to vote on TSA compliance bill

E-mail Print PDF

The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote this evening on a bill that would force the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to comply with provisions of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), which was passed in 1994 to help safeguard the jobs of reservists and National Guard members called away to fulfill their military obligations.

The bill, H.R. 3670, is sponsored by Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., who is also a retired National Guard command sergeant major. The American Legion’s Economic Division has been working closely with Walz and his staff for several months to craft legislation that would require TSA to follow USERRA regulations that help protect workers from losing their jobs while they serve America in uniform.

The Legion’s support of such legislation goes back to its 2010 national convention in Milwaukee when a resolution, passed Sept. 2, called on Congress to "enforce the provisions as outlined in USERRA" and "to ensure that National Guard and Reservists receive the employment and reemployment rights afforded to them through their dedicated service to the country and as required under law."

Last December, National Commander Fang A. Wong sent a letter of support to Walz, noting that "due to a loophole in the law, there is one employer who has been found to be exempt from these (USERRA) provisions — the United States Transportation and Security Administration." Yet, TSA is a federal agency and should "be a ‘model employer’ in the protection of employment and reemployment rights of our nation’s veterans and reservists."

The Legion restated its position at a March 8 hearing of the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, noting that operational tempos for Guard and reserve units "have increased dramatically" in the post-9/11 era, and that TSA "has a responsibility to fully comply with the law,"

The legal loophole that allows TSA to ignore USERRA requirements is a note that appears in Section 44935 of Title 49 (Transportation) in the U.S. Code. The note indicates that TSA screeners were to be hired and employed "notwithstanding any other law."

"That means exactly what it says — all other laws on the books don’t apply when it comes to hiring screeners for TSA," said Steve Gonzalez, assistant director of the Legion’s Economic Division. "But we have to remember that TSA was created in a big hurry, in the aftermath of 9/11, and this exemption was intended to give this new organization a lot of flexibility in recruiting several thousand screeners in a relatively short period of time."

The exemption also means that TSA screeners cannot unionize, nor do they have standard protections afforded to all civil service employees.

Joe Sharpe, the Legion’s economic director, said that his staff discussed the exemption issue last December with the Department of Homeland Security. "They agreed that the bill introduced by Rep. Walz would remedy the problem and even make TSA more efficient," Sharpe said. "We understand the initial urgency to fill those screener positions quickly, as a matter of national security. But more than a decade has passed, and we don’t think that compliance with USERRA will be an impediment to TSA’s efforts."

In fact, Sharpe said, abiding by USERRA and protecting the rights of Guard and reserve members to keep their jobs will bring more stability to TSA’s work force by retaining more experienced workers. "People who have worked several years as TSA screeners shouldn’t have to forfeit their jobs because they also choose to serve America in uniform," he said. "Not only do they lose their livelihoods, TSA is letting go of well-trained workers."

Sharpe said the Legion is hoping for speedy passage of the Walz bill in both the House and Senate.

A November 2007 Department of Defense study revealed that, since 9/11, nearly 11,000 returning National Guard or reserve members were denied prompt reemployment — about seven individuals per business day over a six-year period.


Read More
 

Study: 1.3 million working-age veterans without health insurace

E-mail Print PDF

 

According to a new study, more than 1.3 million working-age veterans don’t have health insurance and are failing to take advantage of health care available through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

 

News of the study was released this morning, and Jacob Gadd – the Legion’s Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Division deputy director – is quoted in it. To read the article, click here.

 


Read More
 


Page 1953 of 2169


Did you know?

A veteran’s family must request a United States flag.

A flag is provided at no cost to drape the casket or accompany the urn of a deceased veteran. Generally, the flag is given to the next of kin. Only one flag may be provided per veteran. Upon the request of the family, an “Application for United States Flag for Burial Purposes” (VA Form 21-2008) must be submitted along with a copy of the veteran’s discharge papers. Flags may be obtained from VA regional offices and most U.S. Post Offices.