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.”
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
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.
Dave Miller assists homeless Veterans and those at risk during a Stand Down for Homeless Veterans event at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center
By Hans Petersen
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
David Miller is VA’s Male Volunteer of the Year. A Marine Corp Veteran, Miller served in Vietnam during the TET II offensive with 3rd Marine Division (9th Marines).
Miller says he got involved in volunteering, “Due to the fact that the Vietnam Veterans were ignored and mistreated and misdiagnosed for years after they returned home. I just wanted to make positive experiences to help all Veterans and also to help them with their issues for health and benefits.
“I speak to youth about how important it is to honor all our Veterans.”
“And after I was diagnosed with my cancer and in a wheelchair for five years, I kept volunteering to not think about my illnesses as well as to help other Veterans with the same problems. This was self medication for me as well.”
The National American Legion Hospital Representative at the Bay Pines VA Medical Center, Miller has volunteered for 27 years and finds the most emotional part of his volunteering is the interest he takes in the hospice and the really sick and disabled Veterans. “It made me thankful for my life, being a cancer survivor.’
He and his wife Kathy Ann live in Largo, Florida. His two grown sons, Jeremiah and Adam, live in Orlando. “They have accomplished so much in their lives.”
Miller says his only real hobby is, “Speaking to children and youth about the importance of patriotism and how important it is to honor all our Veterans. They provide the protection that allows them to enjoy the freedoms that they take for granted.”
And he encourages them to volunteer. “I would hope we can start getting more younger people and younger Veterans to volunteer at our VA hospitals and in the community. They would get so much satisfaction from helping our heroes from the past, present and future. Our Veterans are the life blood of this great country of ours. We must make sure that is never forgotten in all our future generations.”
Marine Veteran and Volunteer David Miller
As part of his volunteer duties, Miller visit patients daily and meets several times a week with Veterans them with their claims and benefits. “I also am an advocate for all Veterans who need help with appointments or any other issues at the hospital or in the community.” He also speaks with young Veterans at MacDill Air Force Base who need guidance or help with any VA issues when they leave the service.
Miller adds, “I would just like to say that I am honored and humbled to accept this great accolade as National Volunteer of the Year. With all the service organizations that are involved, there are so many deserving people that should have won this award. I love to help Veterans in all facets of their lives both at the VA and in the community. It gives me great satisfaction to be able to donate my time for such a worthy cause! God Bless our Veterans and God Bless our great country.”
In honor of Women’s History Month, The American Legion is hosting a day trip to the Orlando VA Medical Center at Lake Nona. Join other women veterans on a visit to the hospital campus and learn about facilities and services dedicated to your specific needs.
In accordance with United States Code Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 7(m), the president of the United States has issued a proclamation for the United States Flag to be displayed at half-staff to honor the memory of former NASA astronaut and Senator John Glenn beginning today and continuing until sunset on the day of interment .
In accordance with United States Code Title 36, Chapter 1, Section 129, the president of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation (per Flag Code section 7(m)) for the United States Flag to be displayed at half-staff for the entire day (sunrise to sunset) for National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, Wednesday, December 7.
When issued, the proclamation will be found on the White House website, it can be read by clicking here.
American Legion supports flag-desecration penalty, as decided by Congress, after amendment
WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2016 — The American Legion supports President-elect Donald Trump’s position that there should be some penalty for U.S. flag desecration, which would be decided by Congress if it chooses to enact such legislation, after the flag-protection constitutional amendment is ratified.
“In our campaign to restore the power of Congress to protect the American flag – a power taken away by a 5-4 Supreme Court decision – we’ve been told that no one burns the flag anymore,” said Richard Parker, Harvard law professor and chairman of the Citizens Flag Alliance. In fact, says Parker, flag desecration occurs on a frequent basis nationwide.
Parker is available to speak with reporters about flag protection. Those interested should contact American Legion national media liaison Stacy Gault at 202-705-8319 or email@example.com.
Flag protection has been a cornerstone of The American Legion since its founding. The organization held the first Flag Conference in 1923 that laid the groundwork for U.S. Flag Code, which still provides guidelines for flag respect.
In June 1990, the Supreme Court upheld that the Flag Protection Act was unconstitutional. Subsequently, The American Legion and other groups formed the Citizens Flag Alliance, which now includes more than 140 organizations campaigning together an effort to pass a flag-protection amendment.
The Citizens Flag Alliance has pushed legislation in nearly every session of Congress since 1990 stating, “Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.”
The American Legion is the largest wartime veterans service organization with 2.2 million members in more than 13,000 posts in communities worldwide. The Legion, established by an act of Congress in 1919, was instrumental in creation of the Department of Veterans Affairs and passage of the GI Bill.
WASHINGTON, Nov. 29, 2016 — The American Legion will host a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team and representatives from nearly 30 other veterans service organizations Thursday at 8 a.m. According to the transition team, the veteran-focused meeting is the first between Trump’s team and any outside organization.
Throughout his campaign President-elect Trump identified veterans’ issues as among his top priorities and the purpose of the meeting is for his staff to hear the questions and concerns of the veterans service organizations.
Directly following the meeting at the American Legion Headquarters, 1608 K St., NW, Washington, D.C., representatives from veterans organizations will offer their remarks during a press conference and be available for individual interviews.
To attend the press conference, please contact the American Legion Media Relations Office for press credentials by 4 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 30.
The American Legion is the largest wartime veterans service organization with 2.2 million members in more than 13,000 posts in communities across America. The Legion, established by an act of Congress in 1919, was instrumental in getting the original GI Bill through Congress and the creation of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Media Contact: Stacy Gault, Assistant Media Relations Manager, 202-705-8319, firstname.lastname@example.org