Statement from Secretary – California’s repayment of enlistment bonuses
Posted on October 26th, 2016
Statement from Secretary Carter
There is no more important responsibility for the Department of Defense than keeping faith with our people. That means treating them fairly and equitably, honoring their service and sacrifice, and keeping our word. Today, in keeping with that obligation, I am ordering a series of steps to ensure fair treatment for thousands of California National Guard soldiers who may have received incentive bonuses and tuition assistance improperly as a result of errors and in some cases criminal behavior by members of the California National Guard.
While some soldiers knew or should have known they were ineligible for benefits they were claiming, many others did not. About 2,000 have been asked, in keeping with the law, to repay erroneous payments. There is an established process in place by which service members can seek relief from such obligations. Hundreds of affected Guard members in California have sought and been granted relief. But that process has simply moved too slowly and in some cases imposed unreasonable burdens on service members. That is unacceptable. So today, on the recommendation of Deputy Secretary Work, I am ordering measures to make sure we provide affected service members the support they need and deserve.
First, I have ordered the Defense Finance and Accounting Service to suspend all efforts to collect reimbursement from affected California National Guard members, effective as soon as is practical. This suspension will continue until I am satisfied that our process is working effectively. Second, I have ordered a team of senior Department officials, led by the senior personnel official in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Peter Levine, to assess the situation and establish no later than January 1 a streamlined, centralized process that ensures the fair and equitable treatment of our service members and the rapid resolution of these cases. The objective will be to complete the decision-making process on all cases as soon as possible – and no later than July 1.
Ultimately, we will provide for a process that puts as little burden as possible on any soldier who received an improper payment through no fault of his or her own. At the same time, it will respect our important obligation to the taxpayer.
I want to be clear: this process has dragged on too long, for too many service members. Too many cases have languished without action. That’s unfair to service members and to taxpayers. The steps I’ve outlined are designed to meet our obligations to both, and to do so quickly.
Program launched to restore World War I memorials
Posted on October 26th, 2016
The U.S. World War I Centennial Commission and the Pritzker Military Museum and Library have announced a new program to help people across the country restore and preserve local World War I memorials.
100 Cities/100 Memorials is a fund-matching program launching July 18 in which groups or individuals can:
• Identify local World War I memorials in their area.
• Put together a conservation treatment proposal for a memorial in distress.
• Submit their plan for consideration for matching grant funds.
• Have the memorial treated by an accredited conservator, with communication help and possible matching funds.
The details of the program, including guidelines and online application form, can be found here. The fund-matching program has been adopted by The American Legion by Resolution 19, passed in May 2016 by the National Executive Committee.
Legion posts are encouraged to apply for funds through the program, which is designed to foster a sense of heritage in local communities, recognize local stories and people who were involved in the war, and create a way for community members to participate in the national World War I Centennial.
“The words ‘Lest We Forget’ appear on World War I memorials across the nation,” said Kenneth Clarke, President and CEO of the Pritzker Military Museum and Library. “Sadly, however, many of these memorials are in need of conservation and restoration, in this, their centennial year.”
The 100 Cities/100 Memorials program is particularly well-suited for community service projects hosted by school groups, Scout troops, veterans groups, historical/cultural organizations, faith groups, local sports teams and others.
The sponsor organizations have teamed with the World War I Memorial Inventory Project, which is assembling a crowd-sourced, online database to document and assess the condition of the thousands of World War I memorials across the country.
Some of the 100 Cities/100 Memorials program specifics include the following:
• All submitted projects will be given communication resources to help participants publicize their work, post imagery to social media, and tell their own stories.
• Webinars and videos hosted on the Centennial Commission website will provide information about conserving memorials, researching a memorial’s history, and creating a project plan for submission.
• All World War I memorial projects are eligible to be considered for this program’s matching funds. However, the matching funds available per project is currently limited to $2,000, which is likely to be most useful for smaller projects.
• In November 2016, 100 of the submitted projects will be selected by a jury to receive matching funds.
• To qualify for a matching grant, a project proposal needs to be submitted by June 15, 2017. Memorials need to be located in the 50 states or U.S. territories, and the preservation work must be completed (or have been completed) between Jan. 1, 2014, and Nov. 11, 2018.
Information on the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission can be found here.
Information about the Pritzker Military Museum and Library can be found here.
Information about the World War I Memorial Inventory Project can be found here.
American Legion on Bonuses: ‘We stand with the soldiers of the Guard’
Posted on October 24th, 2016
INDIANAPOLIS (October 24, 2016) –The head of the nation’s largest veterans service organization is calling on the U.S. military to immediately cease collection efforts from National Guard members who were mistakenly awarded bonuses through no fault of their own.
“As far as The American Legion is concerned, the debt is backwards. America owes a debt to these heroes that we can never re-pay,” said National Commander Charles E. Schmidt. “It is outrageous that thousands of National Guard members in California and many other states were promised bonuses if they would re-enlist and go to war. Most did and now they are being hounded to re-pay the money because of bureaucratic incompetence. This is not how you treat our volunteers, who had no more obligation to serve than any other American. How can any potential military member ever believe what military recruiters promise them in the future? Congress and the White House need to fix this now and provide immediate relief to those who have already been bullied into paying this. There are a few documented cases where apparently fraud has been committed. Fraud is a crime and those who committed this offense should be punished. But there is no way that the overwhelming majority of these thousands of servicemembers are anything other than heroes who mistakenly believed the promises that their government was making to them. If their overpayments were not made due to malicious deception on their part, they should not be held responsible for it.”
Schmidt, a retired Air Force officer who served in Vietnam, pointed out that many of the veterans experienced combat, earned Purple Hearts and had to obtain loans to pay back the bonuses. “A few isolated cases might be excusable due to a misunderstanding, but the Los Angeles Times reported that nearly 10,000 Guard veterans were being ordered to repay bonuses in California alone,” he said. “The American Legion stands with all of the soldiers and families that have been affected by this. We will not rest until this problem is fixed.”
With a current membership of 2.2 million wartime veterans, The American Legion, www.legion.org, was founded in 1919 on the four pillars of a strong national security, veterans affairs, Americanism, and youth programs. Legionnaires work for the betterment of their communities through more than 13,000 posts across the nation.
Editorial by National Commander Charles E. Schmidt: Country Over Candidates
Posted on October 24th, 2016
Note: The following op-ed by National Commander Charles E. Schmidt was published by the Waco Tribune on October 21.
Editor – The following guest editorial by the national commander of The American Legion is offered for your consideration.
Country Over Candidates
By Charles E. Schmidt
As leader of the nation’s largest veterans service organization, I am frequently asked who The American Legion is supporting in this year’s presidential election. My answer is simple. “Veterans.” And by that answer I am not referring to a candidate’s military service (or lack thereof) but to his or her proposals on issues such as VA health care, a strong national defense and border security.
Sometimes, if the questioner is unaware of our nonpartisanship, a follow-up is asked along the lines of “who does the Legion really support, Trump or Hillary?” My answer is the same, “The American Legion supports veterans.”
While a lot of organizations claim nonpartisanship, it is a mandate that is enshrined in The American Legion’s Constitution and is backed up by the examples set forth by our World War I veteran founders.
During one of the earliest meetings of The American Legion in 1919, a movement was afoot to nominate Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., as our first national commander. A World War I hero and the son of a former president, “T.R. Jr.” was widely perceived to have political ambitions of his own and possibly follow in his father’s footsteps to the White House. A term as national commander would be a nice steppingstone for the young Republican.
But Roosevelt would have none of it. Over shouts of “We Want Teddy,” Roosevelt told the delegates, “I wish to withdraw my name for a number of reasons…We are gathered together for a very high purpose. I want every American through the length and breadth of this land to realize that there is not a man in this caucus who is seeking anything for himself, personally, but that he is simply working for the good of the entire situation.”
Roosevelt knew that the best way for The American Legion to advance its pillars of fighting for a strong national defense, caring for veterans, establishing wholesome youth programs and promoting Americanism was to avoid partisanship and political labels.
While many Democrats, Republicans, and Independents have been active in The American Legion throughout our history, the organization is only beholden to “God and Country,” the two entities that are emblazoned on the back of every membership card. We endorse no political office seeker nor any political party. We operate no political action committee and contribute to no campaign.
This does not mean that we are not engaged in the democratic process. Far from it. During election years, we routinely invite the Republican and Democratic nominees for president to address our national convention. Only time constraints prevent us from inviting the numerous independent and third party candidates as well.
The American Legion is concerned that the candidates have barely uttered a word about veterans’ issues during any of the presidential or vice presidential debates. This comes at a time when an estimated 20 veterans a day commit suicide, more than 80,000 veterans have waited five years or longer to have their claims appeals decided and problems abound with the much ballyhooed Veterans Choice program.
Moreover, ISIS, North Korea, Iran, China and Russia dominate headlines, while lawmakers and the White House continue to fund our military at pre-World War II levels. Recent terrorist attacks by immigrants in Washington state, New York City and Minnesota demonstrate that the government still has some deadly holes in its vetting process.
Veterans care deeply about the security of this country. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have served. In our all-volunteer force, the care and well-being of these veterans is the cost of war and fielding a strong defense.
The American Legion is not interested in which candidate “wins” on election day. We are instead encouraging candidates to follow Roosevelt’s example and work for “the good of the entire situation.”
When that happens, America wins.
Charles Schmidt is the national commander of the 2.2 million member American Legion, www.legion.org.
Media contact: John Raughter, (317)441-8847, email@example.com
Legion applauds McCain for protecting veterans’ preference
Posted on October 5th, 2016
WASHINGTON, Oct. 4, 2016 — One of The American Legion’s top priorities is creating and protecting the benefits veterans use every day, including veterans’ preference for employment, which the 2017 Senate-passed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is threatening.
In the Senate version of the NDAA, the bill that funds the nation’s military and defense budget, is a provision that would limit veterans’ preference in hiring to a one-time use. Disappointed in the decision, The Legion sent a letter to all members of Congress voicing its opposition to a provision that seeks to undermine the institution of veterans’ preference in federal hiring.
The American Legion received a letter from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, responding to the organization’s concerns. McCain stated in his letter, “Given your [The American Legion] and others’ concerns, I will ensure that this provision, which is not included in the House bill, is not included in the NDAA conference report.”
Research conducted by VetAdvisor and Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families, shows approximately two-thirds of veterans are likely to change jobs in the first two years of employment. Therefore, the provision would prevent veterans from utilizing the veterans’ preference benefit in their next job application.
“We appreciate Sen. McCain’s stalwart defense of an important benefit for all veterans who’ve served and sacrificed for their country,” said American Legion National Commander Charles E. Schmidt. “We look forward to working with the chairman to ensure the final NDAA properly protects this earned benefit.”
The American Legion is the largest wartime veterans service organization with 2.2 million members in more than 13,000 posts in communities across in 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, 202-263-5773, firstname.lastname@example.org
“Team Texas” Weekly Winner
Posted on September 30th, 2016
This weeks winner Oct 21st – Glen Moody
Train the Trainer Training in San Antonio
Posted on September 27th, 2016
The Department of Texas will be hosting National Staff Members that will be traveling to Texas on November 4 – 6, 2016 to conduct 12 hours of Train the Trainer training on various topics.
Each District can sign up two members to attend.
Here is the link to the Omni San Antonio Colonnade Hotel, room rate is $115.00 and the hotel offers shuttle service to and from the San Antonio Airport. Cutoff date for room reservation is October 7th.
Here is the link to register for the event so we can get a headcount of everyone attending.
Saturday, November 5th
8 – 10 am Troop & Family Support Programs
10 am – 12 pm How to Develop a NEF Response Team (Train the Trainer)
12 – 1 pm Lunch
1 – 3 pm Getting AC&Y Programs Active in Your Communities (Train the Trainer)
3 – 5 pm Post / District Direct Mail Program (Train the Trainer)
Sunday, November 6th
8 – 10 am Getting AC&Y Programs Active in Your Communities T-t-T
10 am – 12 pm American Legion Training Courses
12 – 1 pm Lunch
1 – 3 pm ALEI Course T-t-T
Legion Press Conference to Force Call to Action
Posted on September 13th, 2016
WASHINGTON, September 13, 2016 — The American Legion is inviting external media, congressional representatives, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) leadership, and other veteran service organizations to attend a press conference asking Congress to pass the VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act.
The press conference will be held at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, September 14th at Senate Swamp on Capitol Hill and will include guest speaker Lou Celli, The American Legion’s Director of Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation and Acting Director of Legislative.
The VA Appeals Modernization Act, if passed, will allow the VA to modernize its outdated appeals process and ensure that veterans are receiving the care that they deserve in a timely manner.
Recently, The American Legion has encouraged its 2.2 million members to reach out to Congress and demand that they pass the Act through an action alert [Hyperlink: http://www.capwiz.com/legion/issues/alert/?alertid=73873626].
“Modernizing VA’s archaic appeals process is of the utmost priority. Over the past year, The American Legion has engaged in discussions with VA leadership, VSO’s, and private attorneys to improve the claims and appeals process,” said The American Legion National Commander Charles E. Schmidt. “Please tell Congress you expect both parties to work together responsibly to pass legislation which includes a simple and fair appeals process that provides veterans and their families their earned benefits in a timely manner.”
Confirmed attendees for the press conference include:
- The American Legion Washington, D.C., Headquarters
- Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)
- Disabled American Veterans (DAV)
- The American Veterans Inc. (AMVETS)
- Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA)
- Paralyzed Veteran of America (PVA)
- VA Secretary Robert McDonald
- Blumenthal (D-Conn.)
- Jon Tester (D-Mont.)
- Dina Titus (D-Nev.)
- Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.)
- Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.)
- Ralph Abraham (R-La.)
- Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.)
- Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.)
- Mike Coffman (R-Colo.)
For questions or directions to the location, call 202-224-6452.
About The American Legion
With a current membership of 2.2 million wartime veterans, The American Legion was founded in 1919 on the four pillars of a strong national security, veterans affairs, Americanism, and youth programs. Legionnaires work for the betterment of their communities through more than 13,000 posts across the nation.
Media Contact: Crystal Jackson, Media Relations Manager, 202-263-5758, email@example.com
VA Announces Community Care Call Center to Help Veterans with Choice Program Billing Issues
Posted on May 17th, 2016
WASHINGTON – Veterans can now work directly with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to resolve debt collection issues resulting from inappropriate or delayed Choice Program billing. In step with MyVA’s efforts to modernize VA’s customer-focused, Veteran-centered services capabilities, a Community Care Call Center has been set up for Veterans experiencing adverse credit reporting or debt collection resulting from inappropriately billed Choice Program claims. Veterans experiencing these problems can call 1-877-881-7618 for assistance.
“As a result of the Veterans Choice Program, community providers have seen thousands of Veterans. We continue to work to make the program more Veteran-friendly,” said Dr. David Shulkin, Under Secretary for Health. “There should be no bureaucratic burden that stands in the way of Veterans getting care.”
The new call center will work to resolve instances of improper Veteran billing and assist community care medical providers with delayed payments. VA staff are also trained and ready to work with the medical providers to expunge adverse credit reporting on Veterans resulting from delayed payments to providers.
VA is urging Veterans to continue working with their VA primary care team to obtain necessary health care services regardless of adverse credit reporting or debt collection activity.
VA acknowledges that delayed payments and inappropriately billed claims are unacceptable and have caused stress for Veterans and providers alike. The new call center is the first step in addressing these issues. VA presented The Plan to Consolidate Community Care in October of 2015 that outlines additional solutions to streamline processes and improve timely provider payment.
For more details about the Veterans Choice Program and VA’s progress, visit: www.va.gov/opa/choiceact . Veterans seeking to use the Veterans Choice Program can call1-866-606-8198 to find out more about the program, confirm their eligibility and schedule an appointment.
PAID UP FOR LIFE PRICING Effective June 1, 2016
Posted on May 10th, 2016
The following is provided for your information:
As most of you are aware, the membership dues increased $5 in January of this year 2016. Also part of the resolution to increase dues stated that the PUFL rates would remain the same until June 1, 2016 at which time the Finance Commission would adjust the rate to reflect prudent actuarial assumptions. Last week at the National Spring meetings in Indianapolis, based on a report from actuaries McCready and Keene, Inc., the Finance Commission set PUFL pricing effective June 1, 2016 as follows:
|PAID UP FOR LIFE PRICING EFFECTIVE JUNE 1, 2016|
|This table is used for all paid-up-for-life pricing for posts’ dues rates of $48 or less. For alll dues rates $48.01 and higher, telephone customer service at 317-860-3111 or 800-433-3318.|
If you have members interested in buying a PUFL, I recommend they do it prior to the new rates effective June 1, 2016.