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Veterans Benefits Information

Legion concerned by potential VA cuts

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The American Legion is disappointed with the "tepid" stand taken by House and Senate Veterans Affairs' Committee leaders against federal budget cuts that would compromise the welfare of military veterans.

On Oct. 18, a letter to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (the "supercommittee") signed by the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate panels was released. It contained provisions that disturbed Legion officials. While the letter opens with the statement, "Never before in times of fiscal crisis have we balanced the budget on the backs of America's veterans, and we should not do so now," attachments to the letter propose a number of budget cuts directed at the Department of Veterans Affairs, some of which, according the Legion, contradict that statement.

The cuts proposed in the joint letter include elimination or reduction to a number of benefits, including pension, disability compensation and education payments. Under pressure from The American Legion and other veterans advocates, many of the measures have been defeated in the past. Others, says the Legion, fail to generate enough savings to be worthwhile.

"Everyone appreciates the financial difficulties our nation is enduring and the hard economic choices our lawmakers must make," American Legion National Commander Fang A. Wong said. "However, as I said in congressional testimony on September 21st, Congress must also realize that veterans and military benefits must not be the first stop in the search for budget cuts. Surely our nation's defenders deserve a more vigorous defense of the benefits they have earned through their hard service and sacrifice. "Frankly, I am shocked by the apparent ease with which our veterans advocates have compromised on the promises they made to me personally during our recent talks," Wong added, referencing recent private meetings he had with House Veterans' Affairs Committee chairman Jeff Miller and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee chairman Patty Murray, both signatories to the letter in question.

"Admittedly, a few of the waste-eliminating proposals make sense, but from our point of view, hard budget cuts or reductions in or eliminations of current benefits do not," Wong said.

"The tepid statement that ‘we should not balance the budget on the backs of veterans' simply does not square with some of the harsh, cost-cutting measures the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee leaders suggest."

Legion leaders say they plan to draft a strong and detailed response to the proposals submitted to the "supercommittee." Recently, The American Legion's board of directors warned that proposed fiscal cuts to the Department of Defense and VA would not only hurt the economy, but would also do "irreversible and irreparable harm to the military capability of the U.S. to defend the nation..."

On Oct. 12, The American Legion's National Executive Committee unanimously passed an official statement that the Legion "encourages Congress and the administration to cease all efforts to reduce the defense budget from its current level."

At the time, Legion officials indicated that they were extremely concerned about the work of the congressional "supercommitee," which is charged with identifying $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion in overall federal deficit reductions over 10 years. If the bi-partisan group does not agree to a plan by Nov. 23, automatic spending cuts are triggered, including $1 trillion in defense spending.


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VA Announces Winners of 2011 Employee Innovation Competition

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The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced six winners of the 2011 Veterans Affairs Innovation Initiative (VAi2) Employee Innovation Competition. The competition sought ideas from employees to help Veterans with disabilities related to their military service obtain meaningful employment. VA will develop, test, and potentially implement winning ideas for nationwide use in VA's Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Program.

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Legion Baseball enforces rule adherence

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For the past 86 years, American Legion Baseball has played the game using "Official Baseball Rules" as authorized by the commissioner's office of Major League Baseball, including a few safety modifications adopted by the Legion's National Americanism Commission. It, too, has been a longstanding policy that departments may adopt more restrictive recruiting rules, but they may not approve rules that are more liberal than those established by The American Legion or Official Baseball Rules.

However, over the years, some departments have adopted National Federation of High School Sports baseball playing rules that are in conflict with the Legion Baseball Rule Book and Official Baseball Rules.

To ensure all departments are on the same page, the National Americanism Commission passed Resolution 45 last week during Fall Meetings in Indianapolis. The resolution states that departments who do not adhere to Legion Baseball rules may be subject to suspension and possible removal from the program if violations are not corrected within a timely manner.

The intention of Resolution 45 is not to suspend or remove department programs, but to eliminate the potential risk and liability that the Legion faces if everyone does not comply with the established rules. For example, per Official Baseball Rule 4.17, a game shall be forfeited to the opposing team when a team is unable or refuses to place nine (9) players on the field. A department may NOT modify this rule in any manner.

Additionally, departments (or Leagues) may NOT allow additional players above the 18-man roster during the regular season. And a re-entry rule, as well as a courtesy runner rule, is considered to be in conflict with the existing rules of American Legion Baseball.

Meanwhile, departments will see the following changes to the 2012 Legion Baseball Rule Book, which will be released at a later date:

Rule 1 – A. Bat Rule: All non-wood bats must be BBCOR certified. If any bat fails to meet this requirement, said bat shall be removed from the game, the batter shall be declared out and the head coach or team manager shall be ejected from the game. This rule changes follows the 2012 NFHS rule, which mandates that the head coach or manager is responsible for all equipment in the dugout.

Rule 1 – K. Insurance: Every American Legion Baseball team (both junior and senior) must purchase both group liability and accident insurance from The American Legion’s agent of record (S.A. Van Dyk, Inc.). Coverage must be purchased no later than May 15. Newly formed teams that miss the established deadline shall have until June 1 to submit proof of insurance without penalty. Should a previously registered team miss the established deadline, then they shall have "grace" period until June 1 to purchase insurance, but the team will be assessed a late fee of $200 payable to the department. Missing the June 1 deadline will result in the disqualification from any further competition.

Rule 1 – P. 7 or 9 inning rules for regular season games and Ten (10) - Run Rule: Departments may adopt for the regular season the option of playing nine or seven inning games. The 10-run rule shall apply after seven innings for nine-inning games and five innings for seven-inning games. All district, department, regional and national tournament games will be nine innings.

Rule 4 – D. Transfer Rule: Senior players released from a team must obtain permission on National Transfer Form #76 from that team’s manger to play for the team that is closest to his parent’s domicile. Beginning with the 2012 season, transfers are valid for the current season only. All Senior transfers executed prior to the 2012 season shall remain final and binding through the remainder of the player’s eligibility (previously executed transfers shall be honored, therefore "grandfathering" those players). Junior players will be eligible to transfer in the 2012 for one year. It should be noted that any junior transfers executed prior to 2012 are not valid (illegal) according to previous rule; therefore any transfer executed in 2011 season for a junior player is null and void.

College players: Returning age eligible college players are permitted to return to the team they played for in 2011. These players must have appeared on the 2011 roster. Returning college players are not eligible for transfer. (A player who graduated in 2011 must return and play for their previous team; 2011 graduated players are not eligible to play for any other American Legion team).

Rule 6 – A. Player and Team Registration: American Legion Baseball teams must submit their roster and be approved by their department baseball committee and National Form #1 filed via the national baseball website: www.legion.org/baseball,no later than June 30. Departments have authorization to make roster deadline earlier, but may not extend the date. Violation of this rule will result in the disqualification from any further competition.


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IDVA to host ‘Helping Our Hometown Heroes’ veterans benefits fair October 21st in Effingham

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SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) is hosting a free Helping Our Hometown Heroes benefits fair for veterans on Friday, October 21st at the Effingham American Legion Post 120 at 200 West Washington Avenue, Effingham, Ill. The fair will bring federal, state and local agencies and organizations together in one location.

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Sanford Guide now online in VA facilities

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The Sanford Guide Web Edition, an online reference guide for treating infectious diseases, will be available at all VA Medical Centers in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, per an announcement from VA.

The Web resource provides focused, up-to-date and evidence-based information on treatment of infectious diseases. Its topics are organized by disease or clinical condition and by organism. Each topic contains treatment recommendations that link to comprehensive anti-infective drug information, augmented by guidance for antimicrobial prophylaxis, exposure management and immunizations.

The Sanford Guide Web Edition is powered by a robust search engine that affords quick access to specific topics. It is used as a teaching tool in medical schools, including the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and the U.S. military medical school.


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