Hill praises military family budget hike

Calling the increase "a great start," American Legion National Commander Clarence Hill praised President Barack Obama's plan to raise funding for military families to a record $8.8 billion in 2011 while calling for a continued commitment to U.S. troops and their loved ones.

"First Lady Michelle Obama said yesterday at Bolling Air Force Base that military families deserve this nation's unending gratitude. The American Legion agrees with Mrs. Obama wholeheartedly," Hill said. "We salute the proposed increases for counseling, support and military child care. We also recognize that in a time of war, demands on our warriors and their families will always be heavy. The White House and the Congress must continue their commitment to our military families well beyond 2011."

In line with what the first lady said, The American Legion reaches out to active-duty, Guard and reserve families through its Operation Military Family Outreach initiative. The OMFO is a fact-finding effort in which The American Legion meets with military families in forums and other settings, studies their quality-of-life issues and advocates for their needs. However, it is just one of several programs operated by the nation's largest veterans organization.

The American Legion manages a Family Support Network, where thousands of military families received assistance last year with tasks such as lawn-mowing, grocery shopping, home repairs and other needs by calling (800) 504-4098.

The American Legion also offers Temporary Financial Assistance grants to military families with children who are in financial straits. The American Legion has raised an additional $300,000 over the last year to purchase comfort items for wounded military members recovering in hospitals and warrior transition units around the world.

American Legion officials were pleased that President Obama's budget also includes an additional $439 million to build 10 Defense Department schools, which is part of a larger plan to replace or renovate 103 schools by 2015.

"The American Legion has been helping veterans since 1919," Hill said. "But we have also been advocating for military spouses and their children since our founding. You cannot adequately support our warriors if their family needs aren't met. That's why we do what we do. We are delighted that the Obama administration seems genuinely interested in improving the quality of life for military families."