American Legion National Commander Michael D. Helm praised Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s recent directives for military commanders to be more welcoming of nonprofit groups, including veterans service organizations (VSOs), that wish to provide support for troops and their families.
“Secretary Hagel has broken through the bureaucratic walls that Legionnaires sometimes face when they try to access military bases so they could provide needed support for troops and their families,” Helm said. “The Legion has approximately 3,000 accredited service officers that are eager to assist troops access the benefits they have earned. Additionally, we have outstanding support programs such as Operation Comfort Warriors for wounded, injured or ill troops, job placement, transition assistance, a family support network and many other initiatives adopted by American Legion posts throughout the United States and overseas.
“With frequent personnel changes on military installations, some base commanders haven’t had the opportunities to establish long-term relationships with the Legion, and were un-informed of our intentions and the services that we provide. Secretary Hagel has taken measures that re-emphasize the importance of military installations to standardize their procedures and grant greater access consistent with their mission requirements.”
In a letter to American Legion National Security Director John Stovall, Hagel said, “I want to express my deep appreciation for the wise counsel and support you and your organization have provided during my tenure as Secretary of Defense. Our many roundtable meetings and other engagements gave me valuable insights and thoughtful perspectives into how our Department can best address the needs of our Service members, veterans and their families.”
Hagel issued two directives to each of the military services, one calling for greater access and support services to “VA-recognized Veteran Service and Military Service Organizations,” and another calling for access and support services to “Nonprofit Non-federal entities.”
“The American Legion exists so we can provide services and advocacy for troops, veterans and their families,” Helm said. “With these directives, Secretary Hagel has enhanced our ability to provide that support and show our appreciation for those who sacrifice everyday on our behalf.”