VA health care, national security in the spotlight

This week’s American Legion Tango Alpha Lima podcast focuses on what might occur for veterans, servicemembers and their families if the government shuts down on Nov. 17.

American Legion Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Commission Chairman Autrey James and National Security Chairman Matt Shuman are the special guests on this week’s episode.

“The VA will remain open,” James said, in response to a question about what might happen if Congress does not act before the Nov. 17 deadline. “There are some services that don’t necessarily affect the vast majority of veterans that may be closed. If you have an appointment with the VA during a shutdown, that is going to stay.”

On the benefits side, VA will still be processing and paying out claims during a shutdown, James assured veterans. He also noted the 988 emergency hotline will still operate 24/7.

While the potential shutdown is still a few weeks away, this overview provides details on what would have remained open or closed had there not been a last-minute agreement to pass a stopgap spending bill several weeks ago to temporarily fund government operations.

If a government shutdown does occur, James mentioned some resources that may be of use to those in need of assistance. For example, food banks are available in most communities. “Food insecurity is a big issue, not just among servicemembers but for everyday folks and veterans alike,” he said.

Food insecurity resonates with co-host Ashley Gutermuth, who noted The American Legion is poised to help again as it did during the previous government shutdown in January 2018. “The American Legion steps up when it comes to things like this,” said Gutermuth, the wife of an Air Force Reserve pilot and member of the American Legion Auxiliary.

Should a shutdown occur, James recommended that American Legion posts perform Buddy Checks. “Call a buddy, check on ‘em, let ‘em know you’re there, let ‘em know you can help. When you push people to the edge with things like food insecurity, ‘Where’s my next check?.’ If we can help veterans deal with those things, then we can change lives.” (Download the newly updated Buddy Check resources kit here.)

Shuman pointed out that — like veterans rehabilitation — national security is also one of the four pillars on which the foundation of The American Legion was built. “We don’t just fight for veterans, we fight for active-duty service personnel, their families, their quality of life, making sure that America remains the strongest bastion of freedom that ever exists on earth.”

In the event of a shutdown, Shuman advised having a plan, which can include reaching out to American Legion Family members for assistance.

“If there are resources you need, go to your American Legion post,” he said. “This really should be the one-stop shop for the servicemember, veteran and family.”

Shuman also noted the emerging threats and how they might be revved up even more if the U.S. government ceases operations. “Is that a time for enemies to test us?”

Additionally, co-hosts Gutermuth and Amy Forsythe discuss:

• The upcoming 40th anniversary of Operation Urgent Fury, one of the biggest military operations that took place on one of the smallest islands.

• A two-year quest to return a World War II Marine’s diary to his family.

• A farewell to a three-decade “eye in the sky” for the U.S. Air Force.

Check out this week’s episode, which is among more than 200 Tango Alpha Lima podcasts available in both audio and video formats here. You can also download episodes on Apple Podcasts, Google Play or other major podcast-hosting sites. The video version is available at the Legion’s YouTube channel.