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VA secretary testifies on 2017 reform legislation implementation

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin testified Jan. 17 before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David Shulkin appeared before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs at an oversight hearing on Jan. 17 to testify about the VA’s progress with implementing reform legislation passed in 2017. Shulkin addressed a variety of concerns ranging from appeals reform and modernization to accountability.

 In his opening remarks, Shulkin shared the VA’s top five priorities. These include providing greater health care for veterans; modernizing VA’s infrastructure, equipment and services; focusing resources based on what’s most important to veterans; improving the timeliness of how the VA delivers its services; and preventing veteran suicide. 

“A year ago, at my confirmation hearing before this committee, I testified that I’d seek major reform and transformation of VA,” he said. “Thanks in large part to your leadership which helped us pass legislation in 2017, we’re making progress on all five of those priorities.”

Appeals reform and modernization

When asked how the VA plans to dissipate the backlog of appeals in the future, Shulkin said there is a lot of work to do as nearly 470,000 appeals still need to be resolved.

Immediately after the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 was enacted on Aug. 23, 2017, the VA initiated a new appeals system called the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP). Shulkin said RAMP allows most veterans with pending compensation benefit appeals to participate, giving them the option to have their decisions reviewed in the higher-level or supplemental claim review lanes outlined in the new law.

RAMP is expected to be fully implemented by February 2019, according to Shulkin.

“We’ve actually started to make major improvements already,” Shulkin said. “This year we are on track to do 81,000 appeals – that would be 30,000 more than last year. Just at this period right now in this fiscal year, we’re at 21,000 appeals which is 10,000 more than this time last year. So, we’re getting better and faster and we’ve brought on new staff.

“Secondly, we’ve begun to offer veterans now the choice, in their legacy appeals, to opt into the new process so they don’t have to wait. This is the pilot process to the new project. Here’s the good news, they’re getting their decisions within 30 days and 75 percent of those decisions are going in favor of the veteran.”

Shulkin said he hopes more veterans will make the switch as stakeholders, including veteran service organizations (VSOs) and Congress, trust the VA to do what it promised to do and in good faith.

“I hope the VSOs and agencies will do everything they can to disseminate the fact that our veterans, who have pending appeals, are given the option to opt and go into the modernized program,” Senate VA Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson said. “Those who have done so have gotten a response in 30 days. That is a light year’s improvement in terms of appeals and I commend you on what you started.”

Veterans Choice Program and community care

“Benefits are a gateway to VA services and we need benefit determinations to be simpler,” Shulkin said. “Veterans should know what to expect and have more predictability instead of having to endure the burden of filing claim after claim. Benefits should better enable a lifetime of independence and success for veterans, economic opportunity, physical and mental well-being and financial security for the severely disabled.”

According to Schulkin’s written testimony, more than 1.1 million veterans utilized the Veterans Choice Program in fiscal year (FY) 2017. An increase of about 35,000 Veterans from FY 2016.

“My objective, when it comes to health care for our veterans, is to have a fully integrated, interoperable and operationally-efficient system that’s easy for veterans, employees and community partners to navigate,” he said. “We need a consistent, seamless experience for veterans at every VA facility across the country.”

In October and November of 2017, the VA submitted the Veteran Coordinated Access and Rewarding Experiences bill to Congress. Shulkin said the department needs Congress to pass legislation that will give veterans a working system and meets or exceeds what the private sector has to offer.

“From health care to benefits, we have to fundamentally and holistically change our service delivery paradigm,” he said. “We need a national network of modern facilities that meets their changing needs of veterans locally. And we need a simple, convenient choice for eligible veterans among a network of high quality community providers in a consolidated program.”

Shulkin’s written testimony stated that the VA is continuing to make progress toward improving the delivery of community care for veterans. The VA believes that the future of community care should include the following tenets: 

·      Improve veterans’ choice of community providers in meeting their health care needs;

·      Simplify veteran eligibility with a focus on veterans’ clinical needs;

·      Pave the way for consolidation of all community care programs;

·      Add convenient care benefits;

·      Set timely payment standards;

·      Include provider agreements with flexible payment rates that streamline how VA pays for care;

·      Permit medical records sharing in the network when needed for veteran care; and

·      Address clinical staffing shortages through expansion of graduate medical education, and by improving VA hiring and staff retention.

The American Legion believes a community care is a basic expectation for enrollees in VA’s health care system. The Legion calls on Congress, according to Resolution No. 363, to enact legislation that will limit outsourcing and give the VA the authority to consolidate its multiple community care programs.

Forever GI Bill

The VA has taken significant steps since the Colmery Act was enacted more than five months ago, according to Shulkin’s written testimony. As of Jan. 5, the VA has received and processed close to 600 applications and restored over 3,500 months of entitlement to students, granting them the opportunity to continue to pursue their academic goals. The VA will notify more than 500,000 Post-9/11 GI Bill beneficiaries by the end of this month, informing them that they no longer have an expiration date to use their benefits.

Shulkin said that the VA will stay committed to its ambitious outreach campaign to include targeted messaging and engagement to thousands of Purple Heart recipients, who starting Aug. 1, 2018, will be entitled to Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits at the 100 percent benefit level for up to 36 months, regardless of their time in service. The VA will also communicate to reservists and National Guard members on their expanded access to GI Bill benefits.

The VA remains steadfast in its effort to raise awareness of the Colmery Act’s broad impact to Veterans and beneficiaries. “It’s about greater opportunity, especially for veterans returning to communities to pursue careers and fulfill dreams,” Shulkin said.

Suicide and mental health

Shulkin said reducing veterans’ suicide is VA’s top clinical priority. The VA has announced same-day services for primary care and mental health at every VA facility across the country, which includes extending mental health services to veterans with other than honorable discharges.

“When you take a look at where our highest risk for veteran suicide is, it’s in several categories – homelessness and homeless veterans who don’t have access to care,” he said. “Our other than honorable discharge veterans (are at) a higher risk as well because they don’t have access to services. So, what we provided them with is an emergency mental health benefit.”

According to Shulkin, VA has provided mental health services for about 3,200 veterans over the past 10 months. He said the department hopes those efforts will increase as more veterans are encouraged to seek help.

“All they have to do is show up,” he said. “We’re going to give them 90 days’ worth of emergency mental health care (to make sure) we stabilize a crisis and get them in longer-term treatment if that’s what is required.”

Accountability

According to Shulkin’s written testimony, the VA took expedient action to implement his new authority to hold employees accountable as required in the Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017. Within weeks of the law’s enactment, Shulkin said he made it his duty to ensure that both the VA and employees are held to the highest standards of performance, integrity and conduct.

VA’S Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection (OAWP), which was established in 2012, is protecting whistleblowers by utilizing its authority to place a temporary hold on personnel actions in cases where whistleblower retaliation is alleged or a disclosure is unresolved.

As of Jan. 8, Shulkin said OAWP has completed 77 investigations involving nearly 150 persons of interest. Its current inventory is 139 investigations and involves 228 persons of interest.

“Accountability and whistleblower protection is essential to our unwavering commitment to honoring veterans,” he said. “It, too, is about sensible, responsive, modern systems that process and support people to make it better.”

Future of the VA

Thanks to the passage of 10 bills that have all been signed into law, Congress has accomplished several important steps in 2017 to ensure veterans receive the care and services that they deserve. Those steps included: 

·      Ensuring veterans have access to timely care in their own communities;

·      Improving accountability at the VA;

·      Authorizing funding that will strengthen VA care;

·      Improving veterans education benefits;

·      Modernizing the outdated benefits claims appeals process at the VA;

·      Reauthorizing more than 20 important veterans programs;

·      Increasing veterans disability benefits based on rising costs of living;

·      Allowing the VA to securely share opioid date with states;

·      Streamlining the process for non-federal veterans job training programs; and

·      Authorizing VA to contract with nonprofits to investigate VA medical centers.

“We have a long to-do list,” Isakson said. “Most importantly, making sure we pay back those who have given so much to our country – the veterans of the United States of America.”

Click here to watch the Senate VA committee hearing.

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National Commander Denise H. Rohan’s Visitation Schedule

Last update December 27, 2017

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

8:30am Depart Hotel
9:00am – 9:30pm Post 168, Key West
9:55am – 10:30am Post 28, Key West
11:40am – 1:00pm Post 154, Marathon (Lunch)
2:10pm – 2:45pm Post 333, Key Largo
3:25pm – 3:55pm Post 43, Homestead
4:30pm – 5:05pm Post 133, Palmetto Bay
5:35pm – 7:00pm Post 31, South Miami (Dinner)

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

8:30am Depart Hotel
9:00am – 9:30pm Post 98, Coral Gables
10:35am – 11:05am Post 92, Hollywood
11:20am – 11:50am Post 310, Hallandale
12:20pm – 1:20pm Post 67, North Miami (Lunch)
2:05pm – 2:40pm Post 36, Ft. Lauderdale
3:05pm – 3:45pm Post 222, Ft. Lauderdale
5:45pm – 7:15pm Post 142, Pompano Beach (Dinner)

Thursday, January 25, 2018

8:00am Depart Hotel
12:30pm – 2:00pm Post 273, Madeira Beach (Lunch)
5:30pm – 8:00pm Post 347, Lady Lake (Dinner)

Friday, January 26, 2018

8:00am Depart Hotel
11:15am – 12:30pm Post 62, Stuart (Lunch)
1:00pm – 1:35pm Post 271, Jupiter
2:10pm – 2:40pm Post 268, Riviera Beach
3:00pm- 3:30pm Post 141, West Palm Beach
3:45pm – 4:15pm Post 199, West Palm Beach
4:35pm – 5:10pm Post 47, Lake Worth
5:45pm – 8:00pm Post 277, Boca Raton (Dinner)

Saturday, January 27, 2018

9:00am Depart Hotel
9:15am – 9:55am Post 162, Deerfield Beach
10:45am – 11:30am Post 180, Plantation
12:05pm – 1:30pm Post 157, Margate (Lunch)
6:00pm – 8:30pm Post 321, Cooper City (Southern Area Ball)

Sunday, January 28, 2018

9:00am Depart Hotel
1:30pm – 3:00pm 4 Chaplains Service
Coast Guard Station
7000 N. Ocean Dr, Dania Beach, FL
3:30pm – 5:00pm Post 304, Dania Beach (Food)
6:00pm – 8:30pm Post 164, Boynton Beach (Snacks)

Monday, January 29, 2018

11:00am Depart Hotel to West Palm Beach Airport
1:40pm National Commander Departs

Personal Preferences for National Commander Denise H. Rohan:

  • Beverages – Diet Coke and Decaf Coffee
  • Main Course – Beef, Pork and Chicken (nothing spicy)
  • Sizes – Polo Shirt Women L
  • Legion Project – Raise Funds for Temporary Financial Assistance and Veterans Service Officers

Personal Preference for Aide to the National Commander Mike Rohan:

  • Beverage – Diet Coke
  • Sizes – Polo Shirt XL

Download Printable Version

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Bob Hope Patriotic Hall Welcomes American Legion GI Bill Exhibit

Veterans invited to share their stories during moderated panel discussion Jan. 17.

LOS ANGELES – Bob Hope Patriotic Hall welcomes “The Greatest Legislation: An American Legion Centennial Salute to the GI Bill,” a multi-media exhibit, with a public reception and moderated panel discussion Jan. 17 at the historic home of the Los Angeles County Department of Military & Veterans Affairs, 1816 S. Figueroa Street, Los Angeles. A reception begins at 5:30 p.m., followed by the discussion and audience participation beginning at 6:30 p.m. Admission is free.

Veterans and families whose lives have been influenced by the GI Bill, originally passed as the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 under the leadership of California’s Warren B. Atherton during his term as national commander of The American Legion, are invited to share their stories about the GI Bill, which has been described as the most significant social legislation of the 20th century.

Dr. Jennifer Keene of Chapman University, author and distinguished scholar of World War I history, will discuss the GI Bill as one of the most significant accomplishments achieved by veterans of the First World War, who drafted the original bill and fought through its critics, Congress and a late-night Georgia rainstorm to make the measure a reality. Keene, president of the Society of Military History, is a master scholar chosen by the United States World War One Centennial Commission to provide professional training for educators about the First World War’s place in history. The program is supported by an American Legion grant.

American Legion Past National Commander David K. Rehbein of Iowa, chairman of the organization’s 100th Anniversary Observance Committee, will moderate the panel discussion at Patriotic Hall. Also speaking at the event will be Verna Jones, executive director of The American Legion, and panelists who will discuss the continuous effort to make the GI Bill a powerful benefit of military service and fuel for the U.S. economy. Scheduled panelists include U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Raymond Jackson, Los Angeles-Long Beach Maritime Safety and Security Team; UCLA student and Army veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan Sarah Horton; and John Kamin, Iraq combat veteran and assistant director of The American Legion’s Veterans Employment and Education Division in Washington.

Attendees of the Jan. 17 event are encouraged to RSVP by contacting Los Angeles County Department of Military & Veterans Affairs Executive Assistant Tatiana Rosas by email at trosas@mva.lacounty.gov.

“The Greatest Legislation: An American Legion Centennial Salute to the GI Bill” is a traveling exhibit that features illustrated panels and more than 20 videos in touch-screen kiosks. It will be at Patriotic Hall through March 2018.

The American Legion, with 2 million members serving communities through approximately 13,000 local posts worldwide, was formed March 15-17, 1919, by members of the American Expeditionary Forces stationed in France after the armistice of Nov. 11, 1918.

Jeff Stoffer, American Legion Media & Communications Division.

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Note From National Commander – Denise H. Rohan

To my fellow Legionnaires and Legion Family members in the Department of FLORIDA:

There are many ways to demonstrate compassion for veterans, but at the top of the list is caring for their families. It is why President Lincoln included widows and orphans in his famous pledge to veterans and it’s why I chose Family First as the theme for my year as national commander.

A recent White House proclamation called it “our patriotic duty” to honor veterans and military families. The American Legion wholeheartedly agrees. It is demonstrated in all 55 departments of our organization every time we award a temporary financial assistance grant, an American Legion Legacy Scholarship or answer a call from our Family Support Network. It is demonstrated every time an American Legion service officer helps a veteran access the VA health care system, which can ease the burden of expensive medical costs that so many families face today.

As the first national commander who also belongs to the American Legion Auxiliary, I am also blessed to have an immediate family that includes Sons of the American Legion members and Legionnaires. My home department of Wisconsin is also the birthplace of a company called Harley Davison, a brand that holds special significance among many of our American Legion Riders. My point is that every component of our American Legion Family is important, just as every relative in our immediate family is important.

We have had some outstanding legislative accomplishments in 2017, including the signing of the Veterans Appeals Modernization Act by President Trump on the stage of our national convention and the passage of The American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act. This would not have been possible without the hard work of American Legion Family members who contacted their senators and representatives and asked them to do the right thing.

Numbers equal influence, which is why it is so essential that we recruit, renew and revitalize all of our American Legion components to include posts, units, squadrons and Riders chapters. Reconnect with our active-duty, reserve and Guard units by supporting Family Readiness Groups and letting them know that they are all valued by our American Legion Family.

We have outstanding programs and I am asking for your support in raising money to provide training for our outstanding corps of service officers and temporary financial assistance for children in need.
I thank you for your service as military veterans, as Legionnaires and as members of the Legion Family. Best wishes for a productive and enjoyable conference.

For God and Country,
Denise H. Rohan
National Commander

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Resolution No 8, Restructure of TFA

At the Fall meetings of the National Executive Committee on October 11-12, 2017, the NEC voted to approve Resolution No. 8 Restructure of Temporary Financial Assistance Policy. The primary changes as a result of that TFA policy restructure include:

• A single onetime non-repayable Temporary Financial Assistance grant of up to $1,500 will be permitted in accordance with the conditions set forth in Exhibit A for the minor child(ren) of a qualifying veteran

• A qualifying veteran is defined as a member of the United States Armed Forces serving on federal orders current under Title 10 of the United States Code, inclusive of all components, or any veteran possessing an up-to-date membership in The American Legion

• Formal documentation is required as part of the Temporary Financial Assistance investigation process and application packet for verification that all other forms of financial assistance available have been sought and applied for, or have already been denied

• Annual cumulative expenditure of Temporary Financial Assistance grants may not exceed $700,000 without prior approval of each chairman of the Americanism and Finance Commissions and the national commander

Please see the attached resolution for the restructure of the temporary financial assistance statement of policy and the updated temporary financial assistance application.

https://archive.legion.org/bitstream/handle/123456789/6966/2017F008.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

Although this new policy restructure became effective immediately upon approval of this resolution, it is recognized there may be TFA investigations/applications that were in progress prior to its passage. To help accommodate this transition, applications currently in progress will be processed in accordance with previous TFA policy, and those cases recommending that a TFA cash grant be issued from national headquarters should be received by this office no later than November 1, 2017. Those TFA investigations which begin on or after November 1, 2017 will be processed in accordance with the newly restructured policy Resolution No. 8 of the National Executive Committee, October 2017.

Meagen Sweet
msweet@legion.org

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Hurricane Harvey Relief Effort

National Relief Efforts

The American Legion’s National Emergency Fund provides direct financial assistance to Legion Family members and posts impacted by natural disasters. To date, they have distributed more than $8 million in aid to people in desperate need.

While we do not yet know the full extent of the devastation along the Gulf Coast, we do know that The American Legion will continue to be there for Legionnaires who are impacted by hurricanes, floods, and other natural disasters, thanks to generous people like you.

A full 100 percent of donations to the National Emergency Fund are turned into grants for individuals, families, and posts impacted by natural disasters. Donations are not used to cover administrative or promotional costs.

Thank you in advance for your support. Please keep everyone impacted by Hurricane Harvey in your thoughts and prayers.

 DONATE NOW 

Florida Posts Relief Efforts

  • American Legion Post 117 – Palm Bay, FL
    Post 117 is loading a trailer bound for Texas on Wednesday. They have been communicating with Department of Texas Adjutant, Bill West, to arrange for a drop off at a Texas Post where need is great.

    They are accepting donations of water, items for children and cash for fuel and additional supplies. They are hoping to fill one or two trailers. Please help spread the word.

    Please drop off items at:
    American Legion Post 117
    117 Veterans Dr SE # 189
    Palm Bay, FL 32909

If you’re post is planning to aid in the relief effort, please email webmaster@floridalegion.org with complete details.

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Trump Signs Appeals Modernization Act at American Legion Convention

August 23, 2017, By Henry Howard ~ Legion.org

President Trump signed legislation Wednesday at The American Legion’s National Convention that will go a long way toward fixing the beleaguered VA appeals process.

“To fulfill our patriotic duties, we must take care of our great veterans,” Trump told about 9,000 American Legion members at the second day of the general session in Reno, Nev. “One year ago at this gathering, I promised you that I would make it my priority to fix the broken VA system and deliver to our veterans the care they so richly deserve.”

The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 creates three appeals “lanes.” Veterans would choose the one that best suits his or her needs. The three lanes will be:

• Local Higher Level Review Lane in which an adjudicator reviews the same evidence considered by the original claims processor.

• New Evidence Lane in which the veteran could submit new evidence for review and have a hearing.

• Board Lane in which jurisdiction for the appeal would transfer immediately to the Board of Veterans Appeals.

“I want to thank The American Legion for getting this done,” the president said. “It’s something they’ve been trying to get done for 40 years. And we’ve passed VA accountability legislation. The Legion has a lot of power and they use it well.”

The law’s impact will be felt for a long time. “No longer will veterans be waiting to get their appeals heard,” Trump said. “And they will get decisions much more quickly in a faction of the time.”

As of last spring, more than 470,000 appeals of claims decisions were pending. The average wait time for these appeals to be fully adjudicated is five years. If nothing changes, by 2027 veterans will wait an average of 10 years to get a decision.

The bipartisan bill, H.R. 2288, was crafted with much input from The American Legion. It is expected to shorten the average wait time for final appeal decisions from five years to 125 days.

American Legion National Commander Charles E. Schmidt welcomed the news.

“Today’s signing is a major victory for America’s veterans,” Schmidt said. “I can think of no better place for the president to sign this bill than at the national convention of America’s largest and most influential veterans service organization. The legislation is a simple, fair and appropriate way to ensure that our nation’s veterans — and their families — receive their earned benefits in a timely and efficient manner.”

During his speech to The American Legion, Trump also addressed other key issues:

• Patriotism: “The American Legion embodies the spirit of patriotism. That is the true source of our strength and the hope for our future. You cherish our values and you defend our great American flag.”

American flag: “It is time to heal the wounds that have divided us, and to seek a new unity based on the common values that unite us. We are one people, with one home, and one flag,”

• Infrastructure: “We don’t have to be content with a dilapidated road system with crumbling buildings or rusted out factories. We can build gleaming new highways and state-of-the-art manufacturing and modern works of wonder. And we can do it all with American workers and American iron, aluminum and steel.”

• Young people: “Every veteran here today is part of a long, unbroken chain of American heroes. We salute your service. The American Legion not only teaches history, you help keep history alive. You teach young Americans to have pride in our history so that they will have confidence in our future, history and culture. For generations now, The American Legion has taught young people the principles of America. You’ve emphasized the need to preserve the nation’s cultural, moral and patriotic values. You encourage the observation of patriotic holidays. You stress the need to enforce our laws, including our immigration laws.”

• Newly signed Harry Colmery GI Bill: “Under this legislation, veterans can use their GI Bill at any point in their lifetimes.”

• Recent violence: “We will never tolerate crime in our cities, bloodshed in our communities, or acts of hatred or terrorism against our citizens. We will always support our great law enforcement personnel.”

• Defense spending: “We are committed to expanding and improving our missile defense systems to shoot down missiles in flight. We are getting better and better at it. We will develop better surveillance and long-strike capabilities to prevent our enemies from launching them in the first place.”

Trump also noted positive gains in the war on terrorism, while noting that more work needs to be done to prevent Islamic State and other organizations from using the Internet as a recruiting tool. “We will pursue an honorable outcome in Afghanistan,” Trump said. “Our troops have already made a tremendous sacrifice. We will give the men and women in uniform the tools they need and the trust they have earned to fight and to win.”

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The American Legion Legacy Run 2017

This year’s six-day ride will begin in The Kansas Soldier’s Home at Ford Dodge, Kansas, and will follow much of historic Route 50 through Kansas, Colorado, Utah and Nevada, to arrive at the 99th annual American Legion Convention in Reno. Which will be held from August 18-24, 2017.

Should you wish to follow the riders on this year’s Legacy Run

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2017-2018 National Membership Polos

Your 2017-2018 National Membership Polos will be going on sell soon. If you are interested, an order form can be found under Forms on our Resources page or you can click here.

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National Poppy Day

Source: https://www.legion.org/honor/237246/national-poppy-day-supports-veterans-honors-fallen

The American Legion
April 27, 2017

The American Legion Family has called upon Congress to designate May 26, 2017, as National Poppy Day to expand awareness and provide support everywhere for all who have served and sacrificed in the U.S. armed forces.

“The American Legion is pleased to bring Poppy Day to the United States, joining countries around the world who use the symbolic flower to remember our fallen and support the living,” American Legion National Commander Charles E. Schmidt said.

This year, the Boeing Company is premier sponsor to help The American Legion, American Legion Auxiliary, Sons of The American Legion and American Legion Riders increase public understanding of the poppy, its meaning and the ways in which it can be used to help veterans today and remember those who have served in the past.

The American Legion Auxiliary has been conducting a Poppy Program for many years and their members’ raise over $6 million annually to provide support for veterans, military servicemembers and their families.

“By wearing poppies on May 26, we honor every U.S. servicemember who has given his or her life in the name of liberty, freedom and democracy,” Schmidt wrote in the May issue of The American Legion Magazine. “At the same time, by wearing this simple red flower, we show our support for veterans of generations to come.”

A new website at www.legion.org/poppyday offers multiple ways The American Legion Family can expand awareness locally and regionally. Included on the site are media tools, message points, sample proclamations for elected officials and easy access to the American Legion Emblem Sales “Poppy Shop,” which offers an assortment of affordable items including the new National Poppy Day pin, kits for making lapel poppies for distribution, fundraising containers, charms, scarves and more.

Also through the website, National Poppy Day donors can make safe, secure contributions with their credit cards and dedicate their gifts to personally honor veterans now living or in memory of those who have passed. All donations directly support military veterans and families through American Legion programs.

The site also provides, under the heading “Get Involved,” a new set of media tools and promotions that can be modified for local use, including press releases, sample social media posts and downloadable high-resolution graphics. The “History” section of the site has a full-color, downloadable poster featuring the poem “In Flanders Fields,” which led to the red poppy’s emergence as an international symbol of military sacrifice.

American Legion Family members who plan poppy distributions and similar commemorations around May 26 and the week leading into Memorial Day are urged to use the hashtags #PoppyDay and #LegionFamily so activities can be shared on Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels.

American Legion Riders participating in their annual Run to Thunder event in Washington, D.C., as well as chapters conducting local rides heading into Memorial Day weekend, are also planning to make the red poppy a visible symbol of sacrifice and encouraging the public to wear or otherwise display poppies to honor those who have served.

The American Legion designated the red poppy as its official flower at the organization’s second national convention, Sept. 27, 1920. Since then, members of The American Legion Family have raised awareness in communities, inspired by the 1915 poem of Canadian Lt. Col. John McCrae, M.D., who saw firsthand from the front lines of World War I the emergence of red poppies around the graves and in the battle zones where blood was shed to protect freedom and democracy. He put that image into words:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

A video from the Salute to Heroes Inaugural Ball in January 2017 features Korean War veteran, California Legionnaire and actor James McEachin onstage reciting the complete poem, which was written in May 1915 and published on Dec. 8 of that year.

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