1. Don’t miss this PACT Act deadline
Under the PACT Act, there is a special opportunity for post-9/11 veterans to enroll directly in VA health care without first applying for VA benefits by Sept. 30. Those eligible are veterans who were discharged or released between Sept. 11, 2001, and Oct. 1, 2013 and who haven’t enrolled in VA health care before. Also to be eligible, the veteran must meet one of the following:
- served on active duty in theater of combat operations during a period of war after the Persian Gulf War; or
- served in combat against a hostile force during a period of hostilities after Nov. 11, 1998.
The quickest way to enroll in VA health care is at this link. Veterans also can enroll by calling 877-222-8387 or by visiting their local VA medical facility or clinic.
Help is available: Veterans and their survivors have filed more than 1 million claims for toxic exposure-related benefits under the PACT Act since President Biden signed it into law Aug. 10, 2022. And the Department of Veterans Affairs has processed more than 551,000 of those claims, granting 77.9% of them and awarding more than $2.2 billion in earned benefits to veterans and survivors. The American Legion has accredited service officers to help you, free of charge, understand your benefits or file a claim. Find one near you by searching here.
2. Time to check on your battle buddies
The American Legion’s Buddy Check program was launched in March 2019 as an initiative to urge local American Legion posts to contact veterans in their communities to see how they are doing and if they needed any help. The program has now reached more than 1 million veterans, according to Consolidated Post Reports (CPRs) between 2020 and 2023.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will conduct its first National Buddy Check Week from Oct. 16-20. During VA’s Buddy Check Week, veterans are asked to make a pledge to contact up to 10 of their battle buddies and friends from service, as well as complete peer wellness, resiliency and S.A.V.E. suicide prevention training.
If your post, district or department is planning a Buddy Check Week event, please let us know ahead of time so we can possibly arrange coverage through our national media channels. Email email@example.com with the details for your Buddy Check event: location, date and time, as well as number of participants.
Resources to get started: An American Legion Buddy Check Toolkit is available that explains the program, provides steps to conducting a successful Buddy Check, gives sample scripts and more.
3. Legion calls for support of immigrant veterans
Join The American Legion in calling for Congress to streamline the process for immigrant veterans to more easily obtain their citizenship which they earned through their service to our country. The American Legion supports H.R. 4569, the Veteran Service Recognition Act of 2023, which honors the sacrifices of our immigrant servicemembers by giving them enhanced opportunities to become U.S. citizens and preventing their unjust deportation from the country they swore an oath to defend.
“Men and women who served honorably should not face undue barriers to citizenship or face deportation from the country they served or fought to defend,” wrote American Legion National Commander Daniel J. Seehafer. “Congress must act to ensure our nation honors the service of non-citizen immigrants who have honorably served our nation.”
There’s more: Visit The American Legion’s Grassroots Action Center, a platform for connecting American Legion members and advocates with their members of Congress on Legion-supported legislative issues. Through this site, veterans and advocates can contact their representatives to pass other important legislation such as the Afghan Adjustment Act.
4. Gaming to recruit
Department of New Jersey Legionnaire Mike Smith won a new gaming PC during the 2023 American Legion National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., last August. Smith won the PC through a drawing at the REGIMENT GAMING display in the convention’s exhibit hall.
A U.S. Army Reserves and Air Force veteran, the 56-year-old Smith has been gaming since the late 1980s and joined REGIMENT around a year ago. He knows exactly how he wants to use the new PC at Post 174.
“I want to use this as a recruiting tool, as a platform to reach out to younger veterans and say, ‘Hey, come down to the Legion. Hang out. Check out the computer we won. Sit down and play some games,’” Smith said. “For the families with kids that we have at the post, they can come to events and their kids can play the educational games.
“I want to make a big splash about this … get some local press to come by,” Smith added. “I want this to be a platform for the younger veterans in our area. And hopefully, as news gets out, it doesn’t have to be just here. It can be at other places, too.”
A partnership: The American Legion is now the official veteran service organization of REGIMENT Gaming, the nation’s largest military gaming community. Learn more about this partnership and how you can get involved.
5. Learn how to start a post
The American Legion Internal Affairs and Membership Division is resuming its Training Tuesday sessions on Sept. 26. The topic of discussion for this month is how to start an American Legion post, which will include membership recruiting strategies and community engagement opportunities.
The virtual training will be held from 7-8 p.m. Eastern time. Register here.
More training: Visit legion.org/training/training-tuesdays for recorded sessions of past Training Tuesday sessions on mental health, Legion programs, membership and more.