American Legion News
VA announces survivors of veterans may be eligible for benefits under PACT Act
The Department of Veterans Affairs recently announced that surviving spouses or children of a veterans who died from a PACT Act-related condition may qualify for VA benefits, including monthly benefits through the VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) Program. Surviving spouses and children of veterans who had claims previously denied for conditions that are now identified as presumptive conditions under the PACT Act, may now reapply.
If your loved one passed away form a PACT Act-related condition, the VA encourages you to apply for DIC benefits now. Learn more information about the PACT Act and how to file a claim at va.gov/PACT. American Legion service officers stand ready to assist veterans with their VA claims at no charge. To find a service officer in your area, please visit this web page.
When filing a VA DIC, the surviving spouse or child of a veteran will use VA Form 21P-534EZ. If you're a surviving parent, you will use VA Form 21P-535.
Since the PACT Act was signed into law Aug. 10, 2022, the March 17 copy of the VA PACT Act Performance Dashboard shows there have been:
- 362,934 PACT Act claims filed (352,922 are veterans/10,012 are survivors)
- 151,843 PACT Act claims completed (149,035 are veterans/2,810 are survivors)
- 2,174,087 toxic exposure screenings (41.5% of the screenings showed veterans had at least one potential exposure)
National Commander Troiola praises VA Secretary, slams CBO proposal
The head of the nation's largest veterans organization double-downed on the Secretary of Veterans Affairs' assurances that proposed Congressional Budget Office cuts to the VA budget will not happen.
"In remarks to the media yesterday, Secretary (Denis) McDonough said of proposed cuts ‘We don't think that's a good idea … Nobody inside VA is talking about it, nobody in the executive branch and I haven't heard anything about it from Congress … We're not going to do it,'" said Vincent "Jim" Troiola, national commander of The American Legion. "The American Legion agrees with Secretary McDonough. Veterans have sweated, bled and sacrificed for this country. There is absolutely no way The American Legion would allow unelected bureaucrats from the CBO to reverse the hard-fought gains that veterans have made over the last couple of years. The administration and Congress deserve great credit for last year's passage of the PACT Act. The American Legion is committed to ensuring that the promises made to veterans are promises kept."
Troiola pointed out that the CBO is not a deliberating body and does not have the authority to cut veterans benefits. "What I can assure veterans and their families is that The American Legion has a strong legislative team that monitors such proposals, and we would use our loud pulpit to ensure that members of Congress know that such suggestions should be considered dead on arrival."
Reminder to departments: Eagle Scout nominations due April 1
April 1 is the deadline for American Legion departments to submit their top Eagle Scout nominee to National Headquarters for the 2023 American Legion Eagle Scout of the Year award. Nominate an Eagle Scout here.
Currently, 11 departments have submitted a nominee.
The American Legion Eagle Scout of the Year will receive a $10,000 scholarship. Three runner-up scholarship awards will be granted in the amount of $2,500 each. Applicants that have questions or need additional information about their application, or the application process, should contact their respective American Legion department (state) headquarters. Department contact information is online here.
Virginia Legionnaire has legacy continued one final time
Hugh Cahill served as commander of Colonial Heights Post 284 in the 1980s and passed away in February. But thanks to the efforts of Post 284's American Legion Family members, Cahill was able to make a difference in another veteran's one final time after he passed.
In late February, Legion Family members got together to disassemble the wheelchair ramp into Cahill's house, and transport it to and reassemble it at the home of fellow post member Steve Garcia, who suffered a stroke months ago and could not yet walk.
"This was part of Mr. Cahill's Legacy," said Bill Feasenmyer, a past Post 284 commander and past Department of Virginia commander. "While he was gone, he would have wanted that to happen, to pass it on. That's what he always did. He was a faithful volunteer for years and years. It was his final contribution to helping veterans, which he always wanted to do."
Feasenmyer said he learned via being friends on Facebook with Garcia's wife, Dee – whom Feasenmyer went to high school with – that Steve had been hospitalized. "But I didn't know it was serious," he said. "He was actually on our delinquent list, so I sent him an email … to check on him. I get an email from Dee, and she said, ‘Bill, he's actually not doing well. He's had a stroke, and he's in rehab, and we might be needing some equipment like a wheelchair, shower chair, something like that. When the time comes, does the post have anything like that?'
"I said, ‘Yeah, we have that. Just let me know when the time comes and we can probably help you with that.'"
In the meantime, Cahill's health was deteriorating. Feasenmyer frequently assisted the aging veteran with medical appointments and other errands, and had noticed that Cahill had a ramp that had been installed at his home recently.
Within a day or so before Cahill passed, Feasenmyer was contacted by Dee and said Steve was scheduled to come home Feb. 23, and asked if he knew of anywhere they could get a ramp.
At Cahill's funeral, Feasenmyer delivered the eulogy, and afterward he asked the family if they would mind if the new ramp at Cahill's home would go to the Garcias.
"They said, ‘Yes, that is absolutely what he would want – for that ramp to be put to use for another veteran,'" Feasenmyer said. "That's how that worked. I talked about it at a (post) meeting, and I said that I didn't know when it would happen, but when it did, I was going to be looking for volunteers.
"When it came to that date, I asked for some volunteers. We had (Sons of The American Legion). We had (Legion) Riders. Everybody came, and we moved the ramp from Mr. Cahill's to Steve's house. It all just kind of fell into place so (Steve) could come home on time."
Large-scale live-fire exercise by US, South Korean armies returns after 6-year lull.
POCHEON, South Korea — Troops of the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division and South Korean army wrapped up their largest joint field exercise in six years Thursday with live-fire training near the border with North Korea.
Roughly 800 U.S. and 400 South Korean soldiers conducted the four-day training that ended Thursday at the Rodriguez Live Fire Complex in Pocheon, about 16 miles from the Demilitarized Zone dividing the Korean Peninsula.
Warrior Shield, the largest-ever for the 2nd ID, headquartered at Camp Humphreys, was spread across six training sites, said Army Col. Brandon Anderson, the division's deputy commanding officer for maneuver.
"When [North Korea] is firing ballistic missiles, it provides an incredible focus to this training," he told reporters Wednesday. "And that's what you have right now — motivated soldiers conducting focused training."
The drill, designed to hone defensive tactics is "as realistic as we can make it," Anderson said.
"Part of our purpose in times of conflict is to defeat the enemy and secure weapons of mass destruction from further proliferation," he said. "We've incorporated that into the scenario."
Lt. Col. Kim Sun Kyu, commander of South Korea's 81st Tank Battalion, told reporters the exercise strengthens "our firepower-operating abilities to strike the enemy with mobility."
Roughly seven hours before South Korea's K1A2 main battle tanks started firing rounds at the range on Wednesday, North Korea fired an unspecified number of cruise missiles toward the East Sea, or Sea of Japan.
North Korea has fired nine ballistic missiles so far this year. It most recently fired one short-range ballistic missile on Sunday, which the Joint Chiefs described in a message to reporters as "a serious provocation that harms peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula as well as the international community."
North Korea's launches "motivates us to train harder," Anderson said.
Warrior Shield aims to enhance "tactics, techniques and procedures" with operations across many domains, including air, land, sea, space, cyber and special operations, according to a U.S. Forces Korea news release on March 2.
The exercise runs concurrently with Freedom Shield, a separate, 11-day exercise that focuses on simulations and includes personnel from U.N. Command and the Combined Forces Command.
Warrior Shield this year brings together a wider array of military assets, such as U.S. M777 and South Korean K-9A1 howitzers, AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and A-10 Thunderbolt II Warthogs, to "provide more than one dilemma to our adversary," Anderson said.
The 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., also took part in the exercise. The unit is the first Stryker team in South Korea after the 2nd ID replaced armored brigade combat teams rotating into the country starting in October.
The Strykers "performed magnificently," Anderson said.
"It is everything we've expected it to do and better," he said. "Its efficiency, its ability to maneuver, ability to get closer to the adversary … has exceeded what we've expected for it to do."
Legionnaires commemorate organization's 104th birthday
On March 15th, The American Legion celebrated its 104th birthday. Across the nation, American Legion posts commemorated the day with a variety of events.
That included members of Arthur T. Peterson Post 136 in Chester, S.D., who make it a tradition to celebration The American Legion birthday at their March meeting.
Post 136 member and U.S. Air Force veteran Courtney Steffen took to Facebook to share a photo of her and fellow members of Post 136 holding a birthday cake. With the photo, Steffen – who currently serves as the service officer in the Brookings County Veterans Service Office – offered a poignant salute to The American Legion:
Happy 104th Birthday, American Legion! Here's to the organization that gave me back the camaraderie I missed after leaving the military; who gave me purpose in serving my community and fellow Veterans; who amplifies my voice to those in Congress; and who reminds me to be proud of my service. The Legion has become such a wonderful part of my world, and I'm glad for it. From the people I've met to the job I love, I can thank the Legion. Happy birthday, Legion Family!
The following are a few more examples of how American Legion posts celebrated the organization's 104th birthday. You can continue to upload your American Legion birthday stories – and all of your Legion Family stories – at Legiontown.org.
In Yuma, H.H. Donkersley Post 19 celebrated with its annual Birthday Ball; the event also coincided with the post's 100th birthday later in the month. The event started with a past commanders' luncheon in the afternoon, followed by evening events that included a dinner, the post's annual awards presentations and a live band. American Legion Family department leadership also were in attendance.
In Alturas, American Legion Post 163 celebrated The American Legion's 104th birthday with a chicken dinner, cake and silent auction. Many local businesses provided support for the event.
In Marshall, Clark County American Legion Post 90 celebrated the birthday with a meal, while Post Historian Steve Arney provided a history of the post. After a cake cutting, a live band provided entertainment the remainder of the evening.
In Derby, Post 408's American Legion Family's 104th birthday party included recognizing the Derby Police Department and Haysville Police Department Officers of the Year, and Derby Fire and Rescue Firefighter of the Year. Other awards also were presented at the event, which was attended by Haysville Mayor Russ Keefer.
Malta Bend Post 558's birthday celebration included a dinner, the presentation of membership and blood donor awards, a cake cutting ceremony and a remembrance of the members who were lost over the past year. More than 60 members and guests attended the event.
In Bennington, members of Post 266 celebrated the birthday with a lunch and an awards ceremony.
American Legion Post 22 in Rapid City used the 104th American Legion birthday as an opportunity to recognize outstanding community members, including the firefighter, law enforcement and Legionnaire of the year. The post also recognized its "Mr. Americanism", Alex Vonderau, for winning both the post's Boys State and Oratorical scholarships. The post also recognized Past Post Commander Duane Fink for his generosity and contributions to making the home with renovations.
Post 133's American Legion Family in Temple celebrated the 104th birthday with an open house for all local area veterans and members of Post 133. Department of Texas Adjutant William West was the guest speaker and talked about the history of the Legion and its accomplishments over the past 104 years. In conjunction with the open house was the dedication of two newly installed flagpoles in front of the post. Also attending the open house were Department of Texas Vice Commander Tom Marty, Department Treasurer Steve Cook, candidate for Department Commander Gene Toohey and several veterans from the local community.
Stafford American Legion Post 290 celebrated the Legion's birthday with a catered dinner by Mission BBQ, with a cake prepared by Auxiliary Unit 290 member Candy Schultz. During the event, Brian "BJ" Payne was named Legionnaire of the Year. Dr. Sandra "Sonnie" Dickerson, the leading candidate for department commander in 2023-2024, served as the guest speaker. Post 290 was chartered in 1946 and the Auxiliary was chartered in 1948.
· Hancock/Coloma/Plainfield American Legion Auxiliary Unit 343 again served The American Legion's Birthday Annual Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinner.
· In Darlington, American Legion Post 214 hosted a birthday celebration that included remarks from American Legion Past National Vice and current Post 214 Commander Dave Gough. Also addressing attendees were District Commander Jerry Hook, as well as the Badger Boys, Oratorical Contest winner and current Badger Girls registrant.
Minnesota post provides boost to local show choir's efforts to participate in national finals
With its performance at the Waconia Star Power Competition in mid-February, the Kennedy High school show choir in Bloomington, Minn., earned an invitation to the FAME Show Choir National Finals April 1 in Branson, Mo. But with that invitation came a stiff price tag: $60,000 to cover the costs of the trip to the finals.
The show choir, Rhythm in Gold, started a fundraiser to be able to make the trip, and so far, it's raised around $35,000. Of that, $10,000 came from American Legion Post 550, which has made it a mission to assist all aspects of its local high school.
"Our post supports activities at Kennedy High School, not just the sports," said Department of Minnesota Communications Director Tim Engstrom, a member and past adjutant of Post 550. "I know there's a large emphasis on sports, and we're happy to support it. We have a great Legion Baseball team ourselves. But we want to show the community that we're there to support all the activities the kids do. Our show choir made it to nationals. We're more than happy to chip in $10,000 for that effort."
Asking each Rhythm in Gold participant's family to come up with the money for the trip was out of the question, director Nikki Goulet Jordan told CBS Minnesota. "There is nothing entitled about them, where they come from, why they want to work hard and they want to be good," she said. "To spring on our families, ‘oh we qualified for National, and oh by the way we need a thousand dollars,' that's just not reality for the kids we serve."
Engstrom said when Post 550 made the donation, members of the show choir began referencing members of The American Legion they knew from other posts. "And other folks were talking about how great The American Legion had been when they were kids," he said. "They were talking about their Legion experiences … their positive experiences they've had over the years with the Legion. It was great. It's good to hear that. It keeps you wanting to go forward."
On its Facebook page, Kennedy Show Choirs thanked Post 550 for its donation, posting, "We're so grateful for community partners who are supporting our trip to Nationals! The American Legion Post 550 generously donated $10,000 to help cover the costs of this trip and we couldn't be more excited. Thank you, American Legion!"
Tennessee Legion post hosting ‘Be the One' walk this weekend
When he was elected national commander during the 2022 American Legion National Convention in Milwaukee, Vincent J. Troiola said the organization's "Be the One" suicide-prevention initiative needed to be a collaborative effort.
"My platform and No. 1 priority for my year as national commander will be tackling the toughest challenge facing veterans: veteran suicide," Troiola said. "The American Legion is asking you to ‘Be the One'. And by you, I include every one of us, military and civilian alike. We all need to ‘Be the One' to begin thinking, talking and acting to save just one life."
Across the nation, members of The American Legion have continued to amplify the "Be the One" initiative through local events. One such event will take place on March 25 in Bristol, Tenn., where Hackler-Wood American Legion Post 145 is hosting a Challenge 22 Walk to raise awareness about "Be the One" and its mission to eliminate the stigma related to mental health treatment, and in turn, lower the number of veterans who die by suicide every day.
At 9:45 a.m., participants will leave Post 145 and walk to the Cumberland Park Veterans Memorial and then return to the post, covering approximately 2.2 miles.
"I saw (‘Be the One') on The American Legion website, and I just thought it would be a great thing for our post to do something," said Sons of The American Legion Squadron Adjutant Rick Minnick, who is coordinating the event. "With the number of veteran suicides a day … I thought it would be nice to try to raise awareness and make it where I could get a lot of people. I figured walking would be the best thing."
Minnick said Tennessee First District Commander James McLaughlin has assisted in getting other posts in the area involved with the walk and will himself participate. East Tennessee Vice Commander Todd McKinley also plans on attending the event.
American Legion posts and Legion Family members who've ever staged "Be the One" events or are planning to conduct events are urged to share their efforts on Legiontown. We've created a special section to share these stories.
And if you're sharing your events on social media, please be sure to use the #BeTheOne hashtag so we can share your events via our social media channels.
Japan edges USA in World Baseball Classic
Shohei Otani struck out Los Angeles Angels teammate Mike Trout to close out Team Japan's 3-2 victory over Team USA in the championship game of the World Baseball Classic on Tuesday night in Miami.
Japan completed an undefeated record in this year's WBC and prevented the Americans from repeating as champions.
Two American Legion Baseball alumni were part of Team USA's roster. Catcher J.T. Realmuto (Post 170/Midwest City, Okla.) batted .500 (6-of-12) in four games, with two doubles, two RBIs and a run scored.
Pitcher Daniel Bard (Post 337/Pineville, N.C.) made three relief appearances, allowing eight runs and five hits in 1 2/3 innings.
Here's a look at how Team USA fared in the World Baseball Classic:
March 11: USA 6, Great Britain 2. Kyle Schwarber's three-run home run in the bottom of the fourth broke the game open in the first game of pool play.
March 12: Mexico 11, USA 5. Joey Meneses homered twice for Team Mexico.
March 13: USA 11, Canada 1. Team USA scored nine runs in the bottom of the first inning and cruised from there.
March 15: USA 3, Colombia 2. Mike Trout drove in all three runs to lead Team USA in the pool play finale.
March 18: USA 9, Venezuela 7. Trea Turner's eighth-inning grand slam propelled Team USA into the semifinals …
March 19: USA 14, Cuba 2. … where Turner hit two more home runs to help send Team USA back to the championship game.
March 21: Japan 3, USA 2. Kazuma Okamoto's solo home run in the bottom of the fourth inning proved to be the winning run for Team Japan.
Major League Baseball's spring training schedule wraps up March 27, with the regular season opening March 30.
Deadline for Legacy Scholarship application is April 1
Children whose parents lost their lives while honorably serving on active military duty on or after 9/11, as well as children of post-9/11 veterans with a combined Department of Veterans Affairs disability rating of 50% or higher, are eligible to apply for The American Legion Legacy Scholarship.
Additionally, to qualify for the Legacy Scholarship a parent or legal guardian must be a member in good standing of The American Legion or was a member at the time of their passing.
Eligible applicants can apply online here. Deadline to apply is April 1.
The Legacy Scholarship is a needs-based scholarship awarded for undergraduate study, graduate study and trade schools at an accredited institution of higher education. The grant amount that eligible scholarship recipients may receive is based on financial need after all federal and state aid is exhausted. Recipients will have a year to use the grant and may reapply to The American Legion Legacy Scholarship up to six times.
Click here to learn more about the scholarship and eligibility requirements.
The 2023 American Legion Legacy Scholarship recipients will be selected by The American Legion's Committee on Youth Education during the organization's annual Spring Meetings in May. All applicants, whether recipients of the Legacy Scholarship or not, will be notified immediately thereafter.
Legacy Scholarship awards are made possible from donations to The American Legion Legacy Scholarship Fund. Donate here. Since the Legacy Scholarship's first grant in 2004, more than 500 military children of the fallen and disabled have received over $4 million in aid.