Thursday, October 6, 2011
S.1639, the American Legion Charter Modernization Act.
(October 5, 2011) The American Legion is now providing its members a new service which allows Legion members to renew their membership and pay their dues online over the Internet. Last year, The American Legion's National Convention adopted an amendment to its National Constitution to authorize this new service.
Prior to this new service, all dues payments flowed to the national organization from posts through our departments. Online renewal has raised a concern, however, that because some dues monies now flow from the national organization to the departments and posts, the national organization has
"control" over those departments and posts.
In order to resolve this "control" issue, The American Legion has sought legislation to change its Corporate Charter to clarify the autonomous, independent nature of American Legion posts and departments. Congress must pass and the president must sign into law any amendment to The American Legion's Corporate Charter.
Senators Jon Tester (MT) and Dean Heller (NV) recently introduced S.1639, The American Legion Charter Modernization Act. This legislation would clarify the autonomous, independent nature of American Legion posts and departments by clarifying what courts have already ruled - that no independent entity of The American Legion is legally responsible for the actions of another and that its posts and departments are independent of the national organization.
We've just been informed the bill has been expedited out of the Judiciary Committee and Leader Harry Reid (NV) will be hotlining it later this afternoon. "Hotlining," as it is called, is meant to be a fast method of passing legislation under a unanimous consent agreement. Assuming there is no objection made by either side, it should clear the Senate later this evening or early tomorrow.
Please call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask for your Senator's office. Ask for the staff person following this bill. Identify yourself and tell the aide you request the Senator not object to the unanimous consent agreement on S.1639.
Earlier this year, then-National Commander Jimmie Foster said, "It is important to remember that online renewal is a choice, not a mandate. Judging from the number of online renewals so far, the membership seems to like to have that as an option to mailed renewals. More and more, people want to conduct business online, and the Legion is working to provide that convenience while at the same time ensuring the highest standards of security."
Again, please call 202-224-3121 and support The American Legion and The American Legion Charter Modernization Act.
Saturday, September 17, 2011
Friday, September 9, 2011
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Friday, August 19, 2011
INDIANAPOLIS (Aug. 19, 2011) – The leader of The American Legion expressed his gratitude to Time Magazine for its inclusion of a Legionnaire on its Aug. 29th cover featuring veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Congratulations to Legionnaire John Gallina from Post 30 in Statesville, North Carolina. He served his country well in Iraq and now he continues to serve by bringing the important issues faced by his comrades into the public limelight."
The Time article by columnist Joe Klein titled, "The New Greatest Generation: How Young War Veterans are Redefining Leadership at Home" details some of the challenges America's most recent war heroes face, including medical treatment, economic hardship and societal transition.
The American Legion has been at the forefront of improving conditions for all wartime veterans and was pivotal in the passage of the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which according to former U.S. Representative Chet Edwards, "would not have happened without The American Legion."
Foster added that while he was pleased with the Time article, he challenged the assertion of one recent veteran who said his generation wasn't joining The American Legion. "More than 250,000 dues-paying members of the 2.4 million member American Legion have served in the U.S. military since the Gulf War. They do so because they believe in our principles. We have raised more than $1 million for the wounded warriors at Landstuhl, Walter Reed, Bethesda, Fort Hood and just about every military hospital and warrior transition unit in-between. We also have the best youth programs anywhere. I invite all veterans to visit their local American Legion post or our national website at www.legion.org."
Contacts: Marty Callaghan (202) 202-263-5758; Joe March or John Raughter (317) 630-1253.
For the Veteran,
The American Legion
~Commander, Southern Maryland District
By Jimmie L. Foster
For the past year, I have traveled through every state and several foreign countries meeting with veterans, servicemembers and military families. This experience has given me the opportunity to listen and learn from the heroes of yesterday, today and tomorrow. While meeting our young warriors of today, I saw the same dedication, resolve, and honor that was apparent when I served in uniform. It made me happy to be a veteran, national commander of The American Legion and, most importantly, an American.
Yet I realized these young men and women have earned our unwavering support and unconditional dedication in return for their service. These warriors are fighting for us, our country and our ideals. While they are focused on our enemies, a debate has begun over how we can change their retirements, their benefits and their quality of life; these kinds of proposals are unconscionable and The American Legion opposes them outright. The Department of Defense must not support changes to its military retirement system that would prove detrimental to the men and women in our armed forces.
The American Legion is mindful of the difficult economic times faced by Americans, and the importance of fiscal responsibility by our federal government. We understand that we have to make sacrifices together as a nation to get through these especially challenging times.
We must draw a line in the sand when it comes to reducing military retirement benefits earned by our warriors.
Last month, the Defense Business Board issued a plan to "modernize" the military retirement system by introducing a 401(K)-style alternative, based on the current Uniformed Military Personnel Thrift Savings Plan. In most private-sector savings plans, employees contribute portions of their salaries to 401(K) accounts (usually over many years) to build their retirement funds. Some observers argue that military retirement, earned after a minimum of 20 years service, is unfair when compared to such private-sector plans.
Much of the problem inherent in this argument rests upon what Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen has referred to as "a growing chasm developing between civilian and military populations in this country." How does one compare the sacrifices made by career servicemembers to those made by civilians? Why should military retirement benefits be measured with a private-sector yardstick?
For about 99 percent of our population, their "sacrifice" in fighting the global war on terrorism consists mainly of standing in long lines at the airport, and taking off their shoes and belts whenever they fly. The remaining one percent of Americans – our men and women in uniform – understand the real meaning of sacrifice in this decade-long war.
These are the people who have sacrificed their lives, their bodies, their peace of mind and – in some cases – their hopes and dreams for this nation. These heroes have slept on rocks in godforsaken places, taking the fight to those who have vowed death and destruction to America. These are people who have witnessed upheaval in their families, who have missed seeing their children grow up, and who often return home unable to find a job.
Some plans being discussed would require active-duty servicemembers to put a percentage of their salaries into a retirement fund; this type of "solution" has been rejected in the past. A 1978 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report, "The Military Retirement System: Options for Change" found serious problems in a contribution-based system.
One major disadvantage was that junior enlisted servicemembers with families did not have the available income to make such contributions. If they were allowed to opt out of such a retirement plan, they would do so for many years and thereby defeat the plan's purpose.
I'm sure that many of us have heard of – or met – junior enlisted servicemembers who qualify for food stamps. If you haven't, you should be aware that they exist out there – even as they sacrifice for our security and freedom. Some military families simply can't get by these days without assistance. So how much worse will they fare if DoD makes contributions to military retirement mandatory?
The CBO report said that, in order to compensate servicemembers for their retirement contributions, base salaries would have to be increased proportionately. This expense, combined with DoD's matching contributions, would actually increase the overall budget.
You can't start tinkering with this retirement system without reevaluating the whole pay structure in the military. It isn't something you can do piecemeal. Military salaries and benefits are an inter-related package and have to be considered that way.
The shorter periods of military service, compared to several decades of private-sector employment, reflect further differences between military and civilian life. Service in uniform is a young person's game. After 20 or 25 years of high-tempo, physically demanding circumstances, it's time to move on to other things. You can't compare it to a lifetime career as a broker or an insurance salesman.
Military service is a high-pressure job that takes a physical and emotional toll – 20-year enlistments that often include four to six combat deployments, post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, and all the aches, pains and worn-out joints that arise from carrying a 70-pound rucksack.
At home, our mistakes at work may be measured by bar graphs or profit margins. Mistakes in combat are measured by body bags.
National defense remains a key concern of The American Legion. We will not lie dormant while 'bean counters' sabotage the compensation package earned by servicemembers through their years of sacrifice and dedication to duty.
I call on The American Legion's 2.4 million members, as well as The American Legion Auxiliary, the Sons of The American Legion – and all Americans – to join me in protecting those who are fighting for us. This is a serious threat to America's security that must not go unchallenged.
Jimmie L. Foster of Anchorage, Alaska, is national commander of The American Legion, the nation's largest wartime veterans organization with 2.4 million members.
Media contact: Marty Callaghan, 202-263-5758/202-215-8644 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For the Veteran,
The American Legion
~Commander, Southern Maryland District
Monday, August 8, 2011
WASHINGTON (Aug. 8, 2011) – The head of the nation’s largest veterans service organization says he is “greatly concerned” about the widespread use of an apparently ineffective medication by VA (Department of Veterans Affairs) doctors treating patients with post traumatic stress (PTS).
“It is alarming,” said Jimmie L. Foster, national commander of The American Legion, “that fully 20 percent of the nearly 87,000 veterans VA physicians treated for PTS last year were given a medication that has proven to be pretty much useless.”
According to a study conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs itself and published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Risperdal, an antipsychotic medication commonly prescribed to veterans with post traumatic stress when antidepressants have failed to help, does not alleviate the symptoms of PTS.
“Not only that,” said Foster, “but Risperdal is not even approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of PTS.” Only two medications, Zoloft and Paxil, both antidepressants, are government-approved to treat PTS and neither drug, say researchers, is very effective at treating patients with a chronic form of the disorder. “I am greatly concerned that veterans suffering the ‘invisible wounds of war’ are receiving equally invisible care,” said Foster.
The American Legion has been concerned about the misapplication of PTS medications for some time. Last year, the Legion appointed an ad hoc committee to investigate the efficacy of existing treatments for PTS and TBI (traumatic brain injury) and explore alternatives to improve the science. The committee comprises officers of the Legion as well as lay, professional and government consultants. It convened its third meeting during the week of August 1. The JAMA article appeared on August 3.
Among the speakers at the Legion’s latest ad hoc committee meeting was Charles Hoge, M.D., who is considered to be one of the country’s leading experts on PTS and TBI. From 2002
through 2009, Dr. Hoge, a retired U.S. Army colonel, directed Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s research on the psychological and neurological consequences of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. In light of the JAMA article, Dr. Hoge said he wondered if patients will continue to trust military and veteran medicine’s handling of PTS cases. He asked, “Is there a resistance and reluctance among servicemembers and veterans to receive and continue their mental health care?”
Another committee consultant and longtime associate of the Legion is Dr. Jeanne Mager Stellman, Special Lecturer and Professor Emerita of Clinical Health Policy and Management at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. She said, “This is the second major study showing that the drug therapies given to tens of thousands of our nation’s veterans for PTS are ineffective and are associated with a range of side effects (such as weight gain). It is time to clean this mess up (and) devote attention to the problem – not wait years for studies to be done, results to be published and still not have changes made.”
Commander Foster said he is urging Congress to conduct hearings on the ongoing difficulties being experienced by both the Department of Defense (DoD) and VA in the treatment of PTS as well as TBI. He is also prompting both the DoD and VA to speed up their research on the screening of PTS and TBI cases and the treatment of them. “Accelerated research, however, must be balanced with great care and absolute accuracy,” Foster concluded.
Media contacts: Marty Callaghan, 202-263-5758/202-215-8644;or Craig Roberts 202-263-2982; Cell 202-406-0887.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
American Legion gives a local high school student a chance to live his dreams on and off the field.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: JUNE 29, 2011
Jimmy Kazunas, a sixteen year old rising senior at Good Counsel High School feels a tremendous debt of gratitude to the American Legion. A member of the American Legion, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Post 295 Baseball Team, his top ranked Maryland State Junior Legion squad appears to be on its way to an invite to the National Amateur Baseball Federation High School Championship tournament in Tennessee in late July. However, Kazunas will not be joining them; he has a busy week including a meeting planned with President Obama scheduled for the week of the tournament. Kazunas meeting with the President is once again thanks to the American Legion. An International Baccalaureate honors student, it all started when Kazunas was selected to participate in the American Legion Maryland Boys State earlier this month. The week long resident program is sponsored throughout the country annually by the American Legion. Each Boys State is comprised of rising high school seniors selected from their respective states. As part of the process each Boys State elects a peer to represent them at the Boys Nation. Kazunas had the honor of being elected as the Maryland Senior Delegate to Boys Nation this July, hence the meeting with the President. Kazunas will be one of the ninety eight young men representing nearly twenty thousand American Legion Boys State delegates from around the country.
Kazunas credits his school guidance counselor for nominating and helping guide him to the American Legion Boys State Program. He credits baseball great Brooks Robinson for guiding him in his decision to play American Legion Baseball. Kazunas states “I had the opportunity to meet and spend an evening with Brooks Robinson while watching a minor league baseball game last year. We talked about his high school experience with baseball; his school did not have enough players to field a baseball team. I was shocked and I asked him how he learned to play. He said he played American Legion. He could not say enough good things about how the American Legion affected his life. He spoke of the lifelong friendships formed as well as the level of play. He told me his professional career began as a result of a scout seeing him at a Legion Game.”
Kazunas is in a somewhat similar situation. Although his school has a baseball team, Kazunas is also a track athlete. An all WCAC conference cross country runner, he was finally convinced by his track coaches and track teammates to run and train year round last year. He continues to run eight to ten miles each day throughout the summer, waking up at five am to beat the heat. His training and events have also expanded to include mid distance and hurdles. All last winter he traveled to meets throughout the country. In the spring, after returning from Nike Indoor Track Nationals, the high school baseball season was well underway without him. He continued with track and in the spring he helped Good Counsel win its first overall WCAC Track championship in over 25 years.
As the spring track season was winding down he remembered his talk with Brooks Robinson. He missed playing baseball, he looked to American Legion Baseball which was just starting up after the high school baseball season had ended. Kazunas stated “When I was at American Legion Baseball tryouts I was rusty, but fortunately I was able to make the team. I was a little worried because I had not played in a while. I went out to have fun and figured if I didn’t make the team I at least had a chance to play again because tryouts lasted a few weeks. I made the team and it has been a blast. If I still wanted to play baseball the other option would have been showcases. I don’t know if I would have continued playing, it just wouldn’t be the same. With Legion ball our team plays together all summer. We play against teams from all over the state. We all pull for each other as teammates, its not just hey look at me. Showcases don’t give you that team experience. I guess Mr. Robinson was right when he said “nothing beats Legion ball” The American Legion has made this the greatest summer I could have ever dreamed. I get to play baseball almost every day with my teammates and then I get to meet the President”.
The American Legion was chartered and incorporated by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization devoted to mutual helpfulness. It is the nation’s largest veteran’s service organization, committed to mentoring and sponsorship of youth programs in local communities, advocating patriotism and honor, promoting a strong national security, and continued devotion to fellow service members and veterans.
The American Legion Vietnam Veterans Memorial Post 295 has been serving the Gaithersburg/Germantown communities since 1983. Post 295 commitment to the community is evident through the 28 year sponsorship of the highly successful senior/junior American Legion baseball programs. In addition to baseball, Post 295 sponsors Cub Scout Pack 1760 and has served wounded warriors since 2003 with Operation Provide Comfort. More information may be found at http://www.post295.org/.
American Legion Boys State is among the most respected and selective educational programs of government instruction for U.S. high-school students. A participatory program in which students become part of the operation of local, county and state government, Boys State was founded in 1935. Only those who illustrate leadership, character, scholarship, loyalty and service in their schools and community are considered. Merit and ability are the basis for evaluation during the selection process. At the conclusion of each Boys State, two representatives (a senior and junior delegate) are elected by their peers to represent their state at Boys Nation in Washington, where the young leaders receive an education on the structure and function of federal government. A highlight of the Boys Nation experience is a private meeting with the President of the United States. A famous photograph taken in the summer of 1963 depicts a young William Jefferson Clinton, as a Boys Nation delegate, shaking hands and greeting President John F. Kennedy in the Rose garden. Taken just four months Kennedy’s death, it is said to be one of President Clinton’s most prized possessions. Since Boys Nation began, a number of its graduates have been elected to public office, including presidents, congressmen, state governors and state legislators. Members of this prestigious program are considered to be the future government, business, and military leaders of the United States.
American Legion Baseball is a national institution. The league still stands atop the traditional values upon which it was founded nearly 85 years ago. Since 1925, American Legion Baseball has taught hundreds of thousands of young Americans the importance of sportsmanship, good health and active citizenship. American Legion Baseball enjoys a reputation as one of the most successful and tradition-rich amateur athletic leagues. Nearly 75 percent of current college players are program graduates. More than half of current major-leaguers played Legion Baseball. So did almost every working MLB manager, along with several former commissioners. In all, more than 50 program graduates are in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Legion Baseball's alumni base includes some of the sport's most recognizable names. Yogi Berra played for Fred W. Stockholm Post 245 in St. Louis and was once quoted as saying it was the most fun he ever had. Ted Williams suited up for a post in San Diego. Frank Robinson led his Oakland, Calif., team to the only back-to-back national championships in program history.
Gaithersburg Post 295 standout pitcher Charlie Cononie was recently drafted in the 24th round by Tampa Bay. Current Yankees slugger Mark Texeira played in the league's 1997 World Series. Babe Ruth was too old to join when Legion Baseball started, but he spent the final years of his life promoting the program as its director of operations. Other prominent players include Brooks Robinson, Ryne Sandberg, Roy Campanella, Dusty Baker, Albert Pujols, Greg Maddux and Chipper Jones.