"Legion Act" will update membership eligibility

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"Legion Act" will update membership eligibility

We get a lot of email here, A LOT OF EMAIL, but one of the more prevalent questions I get here is about membership eligbility, specifically for "Cold War Veterans".  First, I don't mind answering any questions... If it's not in my wheelhouse here at work, there is a pretty strong likelihood that I do know who handles it.  Regarding our positions on certain issues, I can generally tell you what our position is, but if you don't like our position, I can only state the facts:  I don't decide positions, nor does anyone else here at your National Headquarters.  Think of it like the military if you want, and we're basically the riflemen.  We don't pick the battles, the deployments or anything else, we just go about achieving whatever goals we are given by our higher ups, specifically all of you dues-paying members. 

With Membership Eligibility, employees are actually two steps removed.  Each position the American Legion takes on political issues, on internal membership type issues, or virtually any other issue is given to us in the form of resolutions.  We have hundreds of them, and you can find all the active ones by GOING TO THIS LINK.  And you can go back 100 years and look at positions we've held.  If you want to know our position on guns, immigration, national security or anything else, you can find it there.  And again, those stances come from resolutions, passed usually at a Post, and then Department, and then up to us here via either the National Executive Committee or by resolutions passed at the National Convention.

And as I said above, membership eligibility is even one step removed from that, because not only did we need a resolution on the issue first, but even then, because we are a Federally Chartered Veterans Service Organization (Patriotic and National Organizations under the Title 36 of the US Code) each change has to be done by the US Congress.  Because of the way the non-profit IRS codes and such are written (too in-depth for this discussion) our membership has always been "wartime veterans" and those dates of wartime are set not by us, but by the Congress.

However, there has always been a strong case made for those who served outside those periods.  Someone serving in the demilitarized zone of Korea during "peacetime" would rightfully question whether his service was any less worthy than someone who served stateside during periods of declared war. 

And so at last year's Fall Meetings of the National Executive Committee, Resolutions 1 & 2 were passed, asking Congress to take a look at not just changing our Membership, but also to recognize all those who served during those periods.  

These resolutions are far too long to include here in total, so I commend them to you.  You can read Resolution 1 Unrecognized Armed Hostilities Recognition by clicking HERE, and Resolution 2, Unrecognized Armed Hostilities Membership Date Change by clicking HERE.  Both of them note what I said above, and here's one porition of the whereas clauses just as an example.  (Note the resolution first lists the acknowledged wartime periods)...

...In between the aforementioned events during so-called “peacetime eras,” the U.S. military has been involved in at least 12 known armed hostilities resulting in numerous U.S. personnel combat deaths and wounds; and

WHEREAS, These 12 combat operations unrecognized by the U.S. government occurred at the direction of the then current president of the United States, with full knowledge and consent of the then current U.S. Congress; and

WHEREAS, The first of these armed hostilities requiring activated U.S. military personnel was the Greek Civil War, fought in Greece from 1946 to 1949 between the Greek government army and supported by activated military personal of the United States and the United Kingdom against the Democratic Army of Greece, the military branch of the Greek Communist Party; and

WHEREAS, During the Greek Civil War, one member of the U.S. Armed Forces sacrificed their life in service to the nation, and another five were non-combat deaths; and

WHEREAS, The second unrecognized war era with armed hostile military operations where U.S. military personnel were activated for service was the Chinese Civil War in the aftermath of World War II; and

WHEREAS, The U.S. military equipped, trained, transported, liberated and supplied the Kuomintang-led government with approximately $4.43 billion in its resistance to the Communist Party of China; and

WHEREAS, During the Chinese Civil War 14 members of the U.S. Armed Forces sacrificed their lives in service to the nation, 150 U.S. non-combatants lost their lives in the war and 51 were wounded, totaling 215 U.S. military casualties; and

WHEREAS, The third unrecognized war era with armed hostile military operations and involving activated U.S. military personnel is known as the Cold War

Again, you should go read the resolutions, but it goes to great length to discuss all these conflicts, which Congress has never really classified as "conflicts". 

But we get our marching orders from the Resolved clauses, which for Resolution 1 states:

RESOLVED, By the National Executive Committee of The American Legion in regular meeting assembled in Indianapolis, Indiana, on October 17-18, 2018, That all of these aforementioned previously unrecognized armed hostile events requiring activation of United States military personnel are acknowledged; and, be it further

RESOLVED, That The American Legion recognizes the nearly 1,600 casualties of the U.S. Armed Forces in service to the nation; and, be it further

RESOLVED, That The American Legion calls on the Congress of the United States to declare that the United States of America has been continuously engaged in a state of war from December 7, 1941 to such date in the future as the United States government may determine that there has been an end to armed hostilities; and, be it finally

RESOLVED, That the United States Congress direct the Department of Veterans Affairs to qualify as “war-time veteran” all military service personnel who served honorably under federal government Title 10 orders for at least one day during said period.

Resolution 2 resolved essentially the same thing, and calls on Congress to edit our membership eligibility accordingly.  Well, Congress is in the process of looking at making at least the desired membership changes right now.

Today, we need your help in contacting your members of the Senate and House of Representatives. Please reach out to your assigned Senator and Representative and ask them to Co-Sponsor S. 504 and H.R. 1641, respectively. Your member needs to encourage congressional leadership to bring the LEGION ACT (S. 504) and the Let Everyone Get Involved in Opportunities for National Service Act (H.R. 1641) to the floor for a vote, and to promise to vote for this legislation, to ensure all veterans are able to be recognized for their contributions and sacrifice in service to this country.

Because The American Legion’s membership periods are congressionally chartered, the organization is prevented from expanding membership eligibility without an act of Congress. These acts expand membership eligibility to honorably discharged veterans that have served on federal orders in unrecognized times of war since World War II.

Since the end of World War II, the Federal Government has designated specific periods of war, the dates of which are important for qualification for certain benefits or membership in veterans organizations established by Congress. In between those recognized periods of war, during so-called peacetime eras, the US military has been involved in not fewer than 12 known eras, which are unrecognized by the US Government as periods of war, resulting in numerous US combat casualties. In the spirit of our 100th celebration, we need Congress to take immediate action so we may welcome and recognize through membership all of our fellow veteran brothers and sisters. A select number of members of Congress have come together in bipartisan fashion to introduce S. 504 and H.R. 1641.

Contact your Senator and Representative today to tell them to support S. 504 and H.R. 1641 today!

You'll find more info on those bills at our Legislative Action Center above, including some talking points on the bills, and information on how to contact your Members of Congress.  Now is the time to act, as we are in an off election cycle year, and things tend to go smoother when everyone isn't squabbling about keeping their jobs.  So please, find some time in your schedule and contact your representatives and lets get this thing passed so we can acknowledge all those who served in harms way, whether in a period already delineated or not.

Posted in the burner | 5 comments
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Most veterans that are not eligible are in their 60s, 70s, 80s now. Do you think they'll get a pool of these veterans that can save the American Legion? The Legion has had their doors open for the last 30 years. Maybe too late?

I'm the Webmaster for our Post's website and would appreciate some "approved" verbiage I can post explaining the new rules for Membership. Can I expect to see any from the National Level or should I just "wing it"? Thanks.

Well done, my cover is off to all that made this possible, will DOD and VA accept us as "wartime"vets? I did read the two resolutions,but wasn't quite sure what to make of them. Also will there be any further resolutions on a Cold War campaign medal and the National Defense Service Medal eligibility dates to correspond with Legion Act law. Well, great job!! Respectfully , Ray

Benefits for retired veterans that are disable during this frame along with Va

Because of this part of Resolution 1, and the actual wording in Section 34 of passed into Law Legion Act S.504, which defines entire time frame from 12/7/1941 as "war time" service, will the legion advocate for extension of dates of NDSM?
RESOLVED, That The American Legion calls on the Congress of the United States to declare that the United States of America has been continuously engaged in a state of war from December 7, 1941 to such date in the future as the United States government may determine that there has been an end to armed hostilities; and, be it finally...

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.