I Am The American Legion: Courtney VanZanten

When Courtney VanZanten left the Air Force in 2010, she saw VA as a resource used primarily by older veterans or amputees, not younger veterans like herself.

“It wasn’t until getting actively involved in the Legion that I started to understand how a lot of veterans struggle with the red tape, the bureaucracy,” says VanZanten, who is the department service officer for South Dakota as well as Lake County.

She assists veterans in enrolling in VA, applying for VA home loans, filing claims and more. “Every day somebody sits across from my desk and I get to help them navigate systems, fill out paperwork, answer their questions. It’s the most rewarding job I’ve ever had. It’s phenomenal work.”

One of VanZanten’s best days was when she learned a veteran had finally been granted a claim for military sexual trauma, decades after it was denied. 

“I got her to open up, to give a statement that would provide VA enough evidence to grant her claim,” VanZanten says. “She came into my office with the letter, crying. You get one claim like that and you’re hooked on this work for life.”

Branch of Service  Air Force (2005-2010)

Rank  Captain

Military job  Logistics readiness officer

American Legion post  Arthur T. Peterson Post 136, Chester, S.D.

Years in the Legion  7

Legion activities

Post commander (2018-present)

District commander (2016-2017)

Department service officer (2018-present)

Department assistant adjutant (2019-present)

National American Legion College graduate (2015)

National Committee on Children and Youth member (2017-2018)

National Employment & Veterans Preference Committee member (2018-2019)