American Legion National Commander Vincent J. “Jim” Troiola applauded legislative victories for veterans in the 117th Congress in his opening remarks to members of the Legion Family Feb. 28 at the Washington Conference during the Commander’s Call.
“One of our biggest agenda items last year was the PACT Act. Because of your hard work it passed,” said Troiola of the legislation, which will allow more than 3.5 million toxic-exposed veterans eligible for VA benefits.
Another piece of significant legislation passed was the Buddy Check Week Act that requires VA to implement a national buddy check week, mirroring the Legion’s Buddy Check program. “It’s a great step toward creating meaningful suicide prevention measures.”
That led Troiola to voice the Legion’s Be the One initiative to reduce veteran suicide by destigmatizing the need for veterans to ask for help and encourage everyone to “Be the One” to ask if a veteran is OK.
“We need to push for the expansion of counseling and innovative, evidence-based, complementary and alternative medicine,” Troiola said. “We must remind our senators, representatives and their staff that they have no higher calling than the care and well-being of our veterans, our active military and their families.”
Legion Family members will visit with their respective representatives and senators following the Commander’s Call to voice the Legion’s legislative priorities for the 118th Congress, 1st Session. Troiola highlighted a few of those priorities.
Protect and improve the GI Bill. Higher education, vocational training and home ownership are benefits are earned through service and sacrifice. “Yet, reservists and National Guardsmen are often deprived of these benefits. We must urge Congress to honor their service by granting them parity in the awarding of GI Bill benefits.”
Respect the U.S. flag. “It means amending the U.S. Constitution to allow Congress to once again claim the right to protect the flag from desecration. The flag used to cover the caskets of our fallen military heroes.”
Protect veterans from predatory actors. There are law firms “that are overcharging veterans after they had already been exposed to contaminated drinking water. We urge Congress to impose a cap on legal services provided in association with the Camp Lejeune Justice Act.”
Advocate for citizenship for military service. “It is unjust to deport veterans who served honorably and have expressed a willingness to fight and die for this country.”
Ensure the Coast Guard is paid. “This means paying the U.S. Coast Guard, uninterrupted, during any future government shutdowns.”
“Thank you all for being here today to advocate in our nation’s capital on behalf of our fellow veterans and servicemembers,” Troiola said. “Our American Legion Family is strong. We have four solid pillars – National Defense, Veterans, Youth and Americanism. All of these offer opportunities to grow and serve our community. All of these can be used to build an even more powerful and yes, better, American Legion.”