More than 6,500 American Legion volunteers donated more than 940,000 hours at Departments of Veterans Affairs medical facilities in 2010. Now the goal is to up that number. The total cost savings, based on an independent sector volunteer rate of $20.85 per hour, was $19.6 million for VA.
During the recent Washington Conference, the National Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Commission launched the One Million Voluntary Service Hours Campaign. The Legion's VA Volunteer (VAVS) hours donated jumped more than 27,000 from 2009 to 2010; now American Legion departments, districts and posts are encouraged to help raise the total number of volunteers hours for 2011 to 1 million. To do so, the VA&R Commission is encouraging each Legion department to recruit 20 new regularly scheduled volunteers and increase their overall volunteer hours from 2009 by 2000.
During the commission meeting in Washington, three other goals were announced for 2011:
- Encourage American Legion Departments to nominate a department volunteer coordinator. The department volunteer chairmen will be responsible for the overall successful operation of volunteer programs in the state. The department VAVS chairman develops and maintains the VAVS department points-of-contact database, including district commanders, VA hospital representatives and deputy representatives, and post VAVS chairmen, ensuring communications at all levels. In addition, the department volunteer coordinator will provide department leadership, districts, posts and members with information about opportunities to serve in other VA&R volunteer programs: Ride to Recovery, VA Suicide Prevention and Referral Program, and volunteer programs to support veteran housing, which include Rebuilding Together and Habitat for Humanity.
- Develop an American Legion suicide prevention volunteer coordinator for every VA medical center. Departments will be contacted to encourage a volunteer to register at their local VA medical center as the American Legion Suicide Prevention and Referral assistant volunteer. These volunteers will help the local VA medical center suicide prevention coordinator set up training with state, district and local posts. Additionally the volunteer can distribute suicide prevention program materials to the department, district and local posts, and encourage veterans in crisis to contact VA’s National Suicide Prevention Line at (800) 273- 8255.
- Continue to Support volunteer opportunities with Ride to Recovery, Rebuilding Together and Habitat for Humanity. Ride to Recovery provides week-long cycling trips with injured servicemembers and veterans in Virginia, California, Texas, Florida and Minnesota to help speed up the recovery and rehabilitation process. Legion Riders provide escort for the cyclists, and volunteers can assist with ride support and sponsoring lunches and dinners or breaks at local Legion posts. Both Rebuilding Together and Habitat for Humanity are excellent volunteer opportunities for Legionnaires to ensure veterans are able to live in quality housing.