Legion launches new career platform

Posted on November 21st, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS (Nov. 21, 2014) — The American Legion and its allies in veteran employment and entrepreneurship have launched a new web platform to help those who served in uniform translate military skills to job skills, find employment, start businesses and make successful transitions.

Among the key features of The American Legion’s Veteran Employment Center are:

  • A Veteran Job Search tool, powered by Military.com, which helps veterans find current job listings near them. By entering a ZIP Code, veterans can easily find job listings that fit their skill sets within a chosen distance from home.
  • A series of 10 custom-produced videos to help veterans start and succeed in business. The series, “Veteran Video Guide: Starting and Growing a Business,” is sponsored by ADP and provides guidance from successful veteran entrepreneurs, including members of the Legion’s Business Task Force.
  • A listing of American Legion-sponsored or produced veteran career fairs nationwide, with links to registration sites.
  • Links to important forms, sites and agency platforms that help veterans in the career search, including USAJobs.gov, the federal government’s job-listing site, Department of Labor online tools to understand and calculate Veterans Preference points, and a VA Military Skills Translator.

Additional information in the site includes resume-writing advice from top experts, a portal to Military.com’s benefits platform and headlines about The American Legion’s advocacy on behalf of veterans seeking civilian careers. The platform – www.legion.org/careers – is one among a growing family of new American Legion web programs, and those soon to appear, dedicated to helping veterans find the support, services and opportunities they seek.

See more at: http://www.legion.org/careers/225269/legion-launches-new-career-platform#sthash.RVKjtWf5.dpuf



Legion remains firm on immigration

Posted on November 21st, 2014

Though applauding some aspects of President Obama’s executive order, National Commander Helm reiterates organization’s long-standing position on the issue.

Though pleased with some aspects of President Obama’s executive order regarding illegal immigration announced this evening, American Legion National Commander Michael Helm reiterated the organization’s long-standing position on those who enter into and then reside in the United States illegally.

The president said that two focuses of his executive order would be increased border patrol/enforcement, and the deportation of people who threaten national security – both areas of emphasis applauded by American Legion National Commander Mike Helm.

But Helm said the Legion remains steadfast in asking that those who live in this country do so as legal, naturalized citizens.

“The American Legion opposes illegal immigration and supports legal naturalization for those from foreign lands who wish to become U.S. citizens,” Helm said. “While aspects of the president’s executive order are in line with what The American Legion has repeatedly advocated, this order begs this questions: How does it affect future immigration laws, how does it ensure that the current number of illegal immigrants does not increase, and how does it address illegal immigrants who have been in the United States less than five years? And how does this order affect existing laws? Does it now fall on Congress to ratify this? These all are questions that need answered.”

Helm also questioned how immigration officials would enforce a third area of focus in the president’s executive order: Getting undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States for more than five years and are parents of U.S. citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents to register for, and pass, criminal and national security background checks.

“While this part of the order sounds great in principle, execution is another matter,” Helm said. “How many will be willing – or even know they are required to – come forward and submit to these checks?”

The national commander said that while deporting all illegal immigrants isn’t realistic, the threat of deporting individuals or specific groups can be effective. “Deportation of select groups is an option that should be executed,” he said. “Effective deportation and possible incarceration would serve as a deterrent to those considering migrating to the United States illegally in the future.”

Helm noted that more than 300 American Legion posts nationwide offered citizenship programs in 2013, helping immigrants who came to this country legally to prepare for the naturalization process. “The Legion supports regulated legal immigration into the United States so immigrants can be smoothly absorbed in society and the economy,” Helm said. “But it has always believed that a path to citizenship should be a legal one, not one laden with shortcuts that cheapen the road taken for those who followed the correct path.”

For The American Legion’s full policy on immigration, go to http://archive.legion.org/bitstream/handle/123456789/3730/2014N084.pdf?sequence=1.



VA reform in a word: Underwhelming

Posted on November 13th, 2014

MST November 11, 2014

Story Highlights

  • VA Secretary Robert McDonald announced reform plans, topped by a customer-service operation
  • Dramatic change cannot happen overnight, but McDonald’s first stab at change is disappointing
  • The reforms are outward-focused and fail to address the central issues facing the VA, which is a sclerotic culture

The man tapped last summer to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs in the wake of its worst-ever patient-care scandal finally has come up with a plan. The words “insufficient” and “underwhelming” leap to mind.

VA Secretary Robert McDonald wants to:

  • Create a “customer-service organization” to handle complaints from veterans getting treatment at VA hospitals.
  • Develop a new regional framework for VA medical centers, designed to simplify operations.
  • Organize advisory councils of veterans.
  • Identity opportunities to improve efficiency and productivity, possibly by emulating private-sector health-care operations

No one can deny that McDonald has a tough job. He has taken on a sclerotic, highly insulated, 300,000-employee bureaucracy that believed letting sick veterans languish for months without medical care was a perfectly reasonable way to earn themselves cash bonuses.

There is no way to create private-sector-style efficiencies in an operation like that overnight. In a letter to VA employees Monday, the VA reform czar begged for time: “Please keep in mind that this is a long-term process and we are just beginning to plan how this will all unfold.”

Still, these initial reforms McDonald announced are disappointing. Except for the customer-service operation — essentially, yet another expansion of the already bloated VA bureaucracy — all the reforms are outward-focused.

There is nothing here that speaks to the heart of the VA problem, which is a systemwide management culture that has proved remarkably indifferent to reform efforts over the years.

The VA bureaucracy will wait out this patient-care scandal if it can. Nothing we see so far would suggest it can’t.

View these ideas as a window into the thinking of McDonald and his team and you will not see a management team intent on seriously changing how the VA operates. Or, to put it more bluntly, at the end of Bob McDonald’s day as VA secretary, little is likely to have been done to ensure all this won’t happen again.

McDonald’s initial foray into reform lacks a critical piece: accountability.

Hiring new customer-service officers is nice. But making sure employees treat the agency’s patient-clients with respect is much more important. And unless they sense there will be serious repercussions if they fail in that job, it isn’t likely to happen.

Which brings us to what may be McDonald’s most important reform. In an appearance on CNN, McDonald said 5,600 VA employees are on notice they may face consequences for helping cause the delays in patient care.

The secretary is vague about exactly what those consequences may be. (Indeed, all of the proposals cited Monday lack specifics.)

But, in the end, the proof of real VA reform will be whether the people who countenanced double-booking of sick veterans at VA hospitals will pay any price for what they did.



Legion’s First Female Executive Director ‘Looking Forward’ With VA

Posted on November 13th, 2014

Nov 11, 201 by Bryant Jordan

Verna Jones, who was recently named executive director of The American Legion, says the 2.4 million member organization is not looking to relive arguments about disability and appointment backlogs with the Veterans Affairs Department.

The contentious period that came to a head with revelations that numerous VA hospitals manipulated patient wait times and that veterans died spurred the Legion to demand the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki last May.

But with VA Secretary Bob McDonald appearing to make progress in fixing VA’s problems, the Legion wants to focus on the future, said Jones.

“Now understand this — we are well aware of what happened and we’re still keeping our eye on that,” she said. “It’s not one of those things where we’re saying ‘It happened, the VA got slapped on the hand and we’ve forgotten about it.’

“We will never forget. But there’s nothing gained by continuing to go back and rehashing it unless it needs to be rehashed.” The VA has pledged transparency, accountability and visibility, and as long as it keeps that pledge the Legion will support McDonald.

The important thing is to make sure veterans get the benefits and care they have earned, she said.

Tuesday is Veterans’ Day, “the official day that honors veterans … the day American gets to say thank you to our veterans in some official capacity,” said the first female executive director of the Legion.

“For the Legion, every day is Veteran’s Day. That’s our mission — to take care of America’s veterans.”

Ron Abrams, joint executive director for the National Veterans Legal Services Program in Washington, said the Legion couldn’t have picked a better person to work with the VA and also keep an eye it.

“She’s exceptionally well qualified and an extremely hard worker,” said Abrams. “She’s as honest as the day is long and has a terrific background in veterans’ law — unusual for top managers — so people can’t get much by her.”

On her way up the ranks she argued veterans’ disability claims cases before the Veterans Board of Appeals. About four years ago she was named director of the Legion’s veterans’ affairs and rehabilitation division in Washington, a job that frequently had her testifying before Congress. This past year she organized Veterans Crisis Command Centers across the country to help veterans file claims for overdue benefits.

As of Nov. 1, the Legion had held 11 such events and helped more than 3,000 veterans secure a total of $900,000 in retroactive VA compensation.

Abrams called the crisis centers “incredibly successful” and said Jones “is an example of what veterans can do if given the chance.”

She joined the Legion in 2004, working as a service officer helping veterans file for claims while attending law school. But with law degree and North Carolina bar certification in hand she did not practice law, but stayed working for the Legion.

Her move up the ranks to direct the Legion’s Washington office — making her the group’s representative to the White House, Congress, VA, Pentagon and every other federal department — was a historic event. She is the first woman in the job, in all likelihood the first African-American although the Legion is still trying to confirm it.

Jones is committed to women’s issues, but said the Legion has been advocating for women veterans for some time.

In 2010, it funded a national survey of 3,012 women veterans to determine their healthcare needs and learn if they are being met. It was the first survey of its kind since the VA conducted one in 1985.

“With all of our programs, we have to make sure where there is a difference there has to be something additional [to help the veteran] because of gender-specific differences,” she said. The Legion has women’s outreach programs and women members who assist new women veterans in applying for benefits or dealing with VA healthcare.

One program is called Sister to Sister. A female Legion member wearing a pink tee-shirt will meet up with a female veteran going in for a first-time VA hospital appointment and help her through the process. They’ll get the new veterans where they need to go and if any tests are referred outside the VA, they will follow-up to make sure the results get back into VA hands in a timely manner.

“When you are a member of a particular segment, whether you’re a Vietnam veteran, a female veteran or an Iraq an Afghanistan veteran, you bring something to the experience that leads to a better understanding of what veterans need,” she said.



Veterans Affairs Secretary McDonald Updates Employees on MyVA Reorganization Plans

Posted on November 10th, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 10, 2014

Washington, DC – On November 10, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert McDonald sent the following message to all VA employees:

In the last few months as your Secretary, I have met and heard from Veterans and family members about how we can better serve Veterans.  I’ve also traveled to VA facilities across the country and have had the extraordinary opportunity to meet with you, the men and women who work on the front lines and behind the scenes to care for and serve Veterans every day.  These opportunities have informed my thinking as we work to plan for the future of the Department.   Already, more than 2,000 VA employees at 20 facilities serving 1.4 million Veterans have shared their perspectives on how we can improve this Department, and have provided insightful and thoughtful feedback about how VA should be organized to better serve Veterans. It is clear that our shared mission is important to you and your colleagues.  It’s also clear that you share my goal of making VA easier to navigate for Veterans. I am grateful for your contributions, and your support in this endeavor.

As we have been considering changes to VA, we have also met with Veterans, Veterans Service Organizations (VSO), NGOs, and other stakeholders.  We have used your feedback, and the common themes we heard in all comments, to begin shaping the way forward for VA.  Soon, we will begin implementing changes to VA, to better structure our organization to meet Veteran needs.  Our new alignments may change some of our processes, but our employees remain valued members of the team.

Our shared goals are to ensure that Veterans have a clear understanding of VA and where to go for what they need within any of our facilities; that employees are empowered with the authority, knowledge and tools they need to solve problems and take action; and that the products and services that we deliver to Veterans are integrated within the organization.  The changes we plan to make are as follows:

  • Establish a new VA-wide customer service organization to ensure we provide top-level customer service to Veterans.  A Chief Customer Service Officer who reports to the Secretary will lead this effort.  The mission of the new office will be to drive VA culture and practices to understand and respond to the expectations of our Veteran customers.
  • Establishing a single regional framework that will simplify internal coordination, facilitate partnering and enhance customer service. This will allow Veterans to more easily navigate VA without having to understand our inner structure.
  • Working with our partners to establish a national network of Community Veteran Advisory Councils to coordinate better service delivery with local, state and community partners. Expanded public-private partnerships will help us coordinate Veteran-related issues with local, state and community partners, as well as VA employees.
  •  Identifying opportunities for VA to realign its internal business processes into a shared services model in which organizations across VA leverage the same support services, to improve efficiency, reduce costs and increase productivity across VA.  Right now, we’re looking at options used in the private sector to enhance our rapid delivery of services, and also at our own business processes that are suited for shared services.

Please keep in mind that this is a long-term process and we are just beginning to plan how this will all unfold.  As we move forward with these changes, your feedback, ideas and perspective will be invaluable. To gather your suggestions, we have launched an intranet web tool, the My VA Idea House, where employees from across VA can submit ideas online to improve services, streamline processes and solve issues for Veterans and their families. Employees can also vote on submissions from your colleagues across VA. Sponsors will select ideas and create topic-related groups to encourage collaboration and help make the ideas a reality. The Idea House website will officially open for submissions tomorrow, Veterans Day, Nov. 11. I encourage you to go to vaideahouse.ideascale.com to submit your ideas and proposed solutions to the challenges you are seeing.

I know there are a lot of questions about this effort, and I know that there will be concerns.  We don’t have all the answers right now, and that’s why we are reaching to you for your thoughts.  This will be a fair and deliberate process, and we need your help to make sure our decisions are the right ones for Veterans.

As we collect input and work together to design an employee-led, Veteran-centric VA, we have a great opportunity to make significant progress toward our goals in the near term. Thank you for the work you are doing each day to make VA a stronger organization for America’s Veterans.



Audie Murphy tops American Legion’s “Most Beloved Veterans” survey

Posted on November 10th, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS (Nov. 10, 2014) – Medal of Honor recipient and film star Audie Murphy topped an online survey of America’s “Most Beloved Veterans” conducted by The American Legion, the country’s largest organization of wartime veterans.

More than 70,000 votes were cast by about 4,800 participants; each respondent could vote for up to 25 veterans from a list of 100 candidates put together by the Legion. Write-in candidates were also accepted.

A farm boy from Texas, Murphy became the most decorated soldier of World War II and pursued a postwar movie career that included starring roles such films as “The Red Badge of Courage” and “To Hell and Back.”

Murphy led a top 10 of veterans that included, in order: George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Alvin York, George Patton, Dwight Eisenhower, Norman Schwarzkopf, Robert E. Lee, Jimmy Doolittle and Ulysses S. Grant.

Making it into the top 25 were film star Jimmy Stewart, World War I air ace Eddie Rickenbacker, Navy SEALs Chris Kyle and Michael Murphy, Pearl Harbor hero Dorie Miller, NFL player Pat Tillman, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, John Paul  Jones, John F. Kennedy, Medal of Honor recipient Bruce Crandall and legendary Marine Lewis “Chesty” Puller.

Several pop culture heroes finished in the top 100, including Bill Cosby, Mickey Rooney, Charles Schulz, Gene Roddenberry, Rod Serling and Buster Keaton.

For the full list and more information on each of the veterans selected, please visit http://www.legion.org/belovedveterans

 



American Legion National Commander responds to Washington Times article

Posted on October 23rd, 2014

American Legion National Commander Mike Helm sent the following letter to the Washington Times in response to its article, “Younger veterans bypass VFW, American Legion for service, fitness groups.”

To the Editor:

In reference to “Younger Veterans Bypass VFW, American Legion for Service, Fitness Groups,” I have to wonder why the growing footprint of American Legion posts on college campuses throughout the country – chartered and operated by the newest generation of war veterans – was not mentioned.

These Legion posts are emerging because they do so much to help student veterans and their families; one such post even helped to change a state law to make tuition rates more fair to those who have served our nation in uniform.

The article failed to mention American Legion National Emergency Fund collaborations with Team Rubicon at several disaster sites over the years. The Legion is working with several post-9/11 veterans groups right now, providing leadership on advisory councils in southern California to better connect veterans with services available to them.

The American Legion is, indeed, a service-oriented organization; last year alone, it hosted or sponsored more than 1,000 veteran job fairs nationwide. American Legion service officers are now working on the VA claims of more than 700,000 veterans of all ages, and fighting to protect VA benefits every day in Washington. Over the last four months, the Legion conducted a dozen Veterans Crisis Command Centers across the nation, in the aftermath of an all-out meltdown of trust between veterans and VA (which is only now beginning to heal, thanks to changes demanded by The American Legion).

At these crisis centers, The American Legion provided face-to-face, firsthand assistance to more than 3,000 veterans and their families along with nearly $1 million in retroactive compensation that had been delayed, thus denied, to veterans and their families of several wartime eras. These centers will continue to operate into 2015 because they are effective and relevant to veterans, particularly those leaving the service and coming home from war today and in months to come (about 1.5 million).

Much was missing in this disingenuous portrayal of The American Legion and VFW.

I can tell you what would be missing from the fabric of our nation if not for The American Legion and VFW. Missing would be the Department of Veterans Affairs, the GI Bill, livable wages for military personnel, recognition that veterans were poisoned by Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, and relevant education benefits built to serve the 21st-century student veteran.

Missing would be national and government awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder. Missing would be millions of community volunteers who save VA tens of millions of dollars in staffing, and raise millions of dollars in donations for veterans health-care facilities. Missing would be tens of thousands of youth programs, from baseball to Junior ROTC, from Boys State to scholarships for the children of service members who have given their lives for our country since 9/11.

In order to collect such information, the reporter of this piece should have investigated beyond interviews with a handful of veterans who did not have a positive experience at one American Legion post or another (from nearly 13,800 throughout the world), but that would have taken a willingness to tell the story fairly and accurately.

Michael Helm, National Commander

The American Legion

– See more at: http://www.legion.org/commander/224883/legion-commander-responds-washington-times-article#sthash.2twHiOYY.dpuf



Junior Air Rifle National Championship will begin on November 1, 2014!

Posted on October 21st, 2014

The American Legion National Headquarters is proud to announce that its Annual 3-Position Junior Air Rifle National Championship will begin with a
Postal Match on November 1, 2014!
What is a Postal Match?

“A Postal Match is a match in which competitor’s fire on their home ranges using targets which have been mailed to them by the American Legion National
Headquarters. The fired targets are then mailed back to the American Legion National Headquarters for scoring and ranking and awards”.

State and/or regional champions are determined and advance to a qualification round (also a postal match) to determine the athletes who will earn an expense-paid trip to compete in the national championship.

The American Legion’s Junior 3-Position Air Rifle Tournament provides American Legion Affiliated competitors an opportunity to test their marksmanship ability in competition with other junior competitors throughout the nation.

The Individual Tournament has three phases of competition:
1) Preliminary Round – State/Regional Championships; 2) Qualification Round; and 3) National Championships (Colorado Springs, CO).

The Preliminary Round – State/Regional and Qualification Round of the Individual Tournament are postal matches whereas the National Championship
of the Individual Tournament is a shoulder-to-shoulder competition.

The Team Tournament has two phases of competition: 1) Preliminary Round – State/Regional Championships and 2) National Championships. The preliminary round team tournament is a “paper” match and will be comprised of the top four athletes’ individual tournament scores. A club with at least four
individuals enters one team; at least eight individuals enters two teams; and so on.

The Preliminary Round – State/Regional and National Championship phases of the Team Tournament are postal matches.

Both the Individual and Team Tournaments will be conducted in accordance with the Official Match Program (OMP) and the National Standard Three-Position Air Rifle Rules (current edition).

To join simply copy and paste http://www.legion.org/shooting/postal_match into your browser and download the Affiliation Form, register, order Target
Sets and view the 2014-2015 Official Match Program!

For more information on this and other American Legion National Headquarters Youth Programs please visit us at http://www.legion.org/programs .



State Commanders Homecoming

Posted on September 24th, 2014

Information and the registration form for State Commander Lynn Sparks Homecoming on November 22, 2014 can be found under the Commanders Homecoming Tab.



Renew your membership online

Posted on September 16th, 2014

Your annual dues help support the programs of The American Legion in your community, state and nation. American Legion programs and service include: Troop Support, Child Welfare Foundation, American Legion Baseball, our Department Service Officers, Family Support Network, Veterans Job Fairs and many other programs.

To renew your dues, simply click on the “Renew Your Membership Online” button at the right top of this website. You can also set up your dues to be automatically paid each year while you are on the renewal site.

Thank you for your continued support of The American Legion and ensuring that we remain the most powerful voice in American on behalf of our veterans, our servicemembers, their families and in communities across the nation.