The American Legion Economic Division, along with representatives from the U.S. military, federal government, non-profit organizations and others attended the National Veteran Employment Summit on Dec. 12 in Washington, D.C. The event, sponsored by Military.com/Monster, focused on ways to prepare, support and connect veterans to those employers who want to hire them. The keynote speaker was J.R. Martinez, a Hollywood actor, motivational speaker and retired U.S. Army soldier who was wounded in combat.
The conference briefly examined some challenges faced by veterans as they transition to civilian careers. Specific concerns included:
The National Economic Commission is responsible for ensuring that America's veterans have the opportunity to provide with honor and dignity, the economic necessities of life for themselves and their families. The American Legion will continue to sponsor career fairs and small business development workshops to provide employment and business opportunities for our veterans and their families.
On a related note, the U.S. unemployment rate is 7.7 percent (November 2012) while the rate for Iraq war veterans is 10 percent. Currently, the jobless rate for Iraq war women veterans is 12.9 percent (down from last month of 15.5 percent).
In other news:
Legion searches for drivers to help veterans: In an effort to help enhance services to provide veterans with access to the health care they have earned, The American Legion is looking for drivers to volunteer at their local VA medical center. Since 1987, the Volunteer Transportation Network (VTN) has provided transportation for veterans to and from their medical appointments. This program has been a vital portion of volunteering in the VA.
The Legion has been a strong supporter of the VA Voluntary Services program since its inception nearly 70 years ago. Currently, The American Legion has more than 8,000 regular volunteers, donating more than 900,000 hours of service per year. The Legion's service hours enhance services worth more than $22 million. The American Legion has a goal to provide over 1 million hours of service.
By participating in the VTN program , you can help The American Legion reach its goal of 1 million hours while providing veterans who have served this nation proudly the opportunity to receive the health benefits they truly deserve. For more information about becoming a volunteer driver or any other volunteering opportunities, contact Brian Bertges at 202.263.2991 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
Watch an interview with Laura Balun, director of VAVS: www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lVRMsUej1Y 
Career fair in Georgia: The American Legion hosted a Hiring our Heroes event Dec. 11 at Legion Post 258 in Jonesboro, Ga. Through the combined efforts of the USCC, Department of Labor and Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, the Legion connected eight employers with 70 job seekers from the local military population. Overall, there were 96 resumes collected from the job seekers, 14 interviews conducted on site, eight hires and an additional 15 other potential hires. A special thanks goes out to Legion volunteers from Post 258, the Department of Georgia and Harold "Dale" Barnett, the Legion's National Economic Commission chairman.
Hispanic Council on Federal Employment: The Economic Division on Thursday met with Veronica Villalobos, director of Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Office of Personnel Management. Topics discussed included the Hispanic Council on Federal Employment's agenda of the federal government hiring more hispanic veterans into its workforce and having a representative from The American Legion sit on the advisory board.
Veteran homelessness: The Department of Housing and Urban Development estimated the number of veterans who are homeless to be 62,619, according to data released last week. In releasing HUD's latest national estimate of homelessness, Secretary Shaun Donovan cited as hopeful that even during a historic housing and economic downturn, local communities are reporting significant declines in the number of homeless veterans and those experiencing long-term chronic homelessness. The estimate of the total number of homeless in the United States was 633,782, largely unchanged from 2011's estimate.
Congressional update: House Committee on Veterans Affairs (HVAC) met Dec. 12 for the first time with Rep. Michael Michaud of Maine in his new position as ranking member of the committee. Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida, chairman of the HVAC, announced the appointment of the 14 Republicans to the committee in the 113th Congress.
Republican Roster: Rep. Jeff Miller, Florida, (Chairman); Rep. Bill Flores, Texas; Rep. Mark Amodei, Nevada; Rep. Tim Huelskamp, Kansas; Rep. Dan Benishek, Michigan; Rep. Doug Lamborn, Colorado; Rep. Gus Bilirakis, Florida; Rep. Phil Roe, Tennessee; Rep. Mike Coffman, Colorado; Rep. Jon Runyan, New Jersey; Rep. Paul Cook, California; Rep. Jackie Walorski, Indiana; Rep. Jeff Denham, California; and Rep. Brad Wenstrup, Ohio.
Democrats will have a total of 11 appointments to the HVAC, which will be announced later.
On the same day, the Democratic Steering Committee approved committee assignments for Democratic senators in the 113th Congress.
VETERANS' AFFAIRS – 113th
Bernard Sanders, Vermont (Chairman); Jon Tester, Montana; Jay Rockefeller, West Virginia; Mark Begich, Arkansas; Patty Murray, Washington; Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut; Sherrod Brown, Ohio; and Mazie Hirono, Hawaii.
House approves World War I Memorial Act: The U.S. House last Wednesday passed H.R. 6364, the Frank Buckles World War I Memorial Act. One notable aspect of this bill is that the location for this new memorial will not be the already-existing DC World War I Memorial as outlined in a Legion resolution. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., would not allow the WWI Memorial to be re-designated. Under the terms of H.R. 6364, the new memorial will be built on a half acre of land on the National Mall, east of the Vietnam War Memorial in an area known as Constitution Gardens. The Senate is expected to pass the measure later in lame duck session.
The American Legion National Executive Committee, during meetings Oct. 13-14, 2010, approved a resolution on this topic. It read, in part, "The American Legion support(s) the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri, as the National World War I Memorial and Museum and the District of Columbia World War I Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., as the District of Columbia and National World War I Memorial without financial obligation to The American Legion."
Update on Flag Amendment Bills: Sen. Orrin Hatch's (R-Utah) office continues to solicit additional co-sponsors for Senate Joint Resolution (S.J. Res.) 19, a proposed constitutional amendment to protect the American flag from physical desecration. Its text states "The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States." The cosponsor total for the Senate legislation stands at 37. To date, H.J. Res. 13 – the House companion bill to the Senate measure – has accumulated 91 co-sponsors, with the recent addition of Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo.
Please contact your representative's and senators' offices and ask them to become co-sponsors of the flag amendment in their respective chambers. If they are already co-sponsors, be sure to thank them for their support.
Military Review Boards: Last week, the Legion staff helped 21 former servicemembers prepare for their case for review by the Military Discharge Review Boards and Boards for Correction of Military Records. Case development included 20 phone calls, 19 emails, two correspondences and two service officer inquiries.
Firearms initiative: A bipartisan group of 36 lawmakers is pushing for new rules allowing military commanders and mental health specialists to ask unstable troops whether they own any personal firearms in an effort to reduce military suicides. The new language would allow military commanders, counselors and mental health therapists to speak with distressed and disturbed servicemembers about firearms they own, where they are and places they could safely secure those weapons.
The idea was included in the House version of the annual defense authorization bill earlier this spring but was left out of the Senate version. Lawmakers from both chambers are working on a final compromise version of the legislation.
Claims: Board of Veterans' Appeals: During the week ending Dec. 7, the Board of Veterans' Appeals reached dispositions on 143 American Legion represented appeals. Of those dispositions, 65 percent of the denials were overturned with outcomes favorable to the veteran. In 28 cases, the board granted benefits outright after considering the Legion's arguments. In 65 cases, The American Legion was able to point out errors in the development of the veteran's claims, which mandated corrective action under the law. Of the total number of dispositions, 42 were outright denials.
Also during this period, the BVA Appeals Unit reviewed and prepared written Informal Hearing Presentations, and/or orally argued 133 veteran's appeals. These claims included originals, remands and specialty cases (Advance on Docket, Independent Medical Opinions, Court Remands, etc.). The BVA unit handled numerous telephone inquiries and provided consultations with veterans, VSOs and congressional offices. The administrative team completed 168 phone inquires during this period. The appeal representatives provided assistance for two walk-in veterans for their respective VA Central Office Hearings.