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American Legion News

System Worth Saving returns to Phoenix 10 years after crisis

Source: April 15, 2024

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The American Legion's System Worth Saving (SWS) program returns to Phoenix this month, a decade after controversy erupted there, which resulted in the resignation of top VA officials and implementation of reforms in how veterans receive their health care.

In 2014, the Phoenix VA and other medical centers were embroiled in a scandal over massive wait times in its health-care system. Phoenix VA officials were accused of keeping a secret wait list of veterans who were seeking health care and vastly underreporting how long it took for patients to see a doctor.

Soon after CNN reported that up to 40 veterans died while on the wait list, The American Legion conducted a town hall to address the issue. Additionally, then National Commander Dan Dellinger called on VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and others to resign, which they did.

Now, The American Legion returns to continue its ongoing work with VA in ensuring that veterans receive the best care possible.

The visit kicks off with a town hall where all military veterans around Phoenix are invited to attend and share their experiences with the VA. During the town hall, American Legion representatives, VA staff and others will be on hand to address issues and questions raised by veterans related to their health-care experiences at the Phoenix VA.

The town hall, which starts at 6 p.m. on April 29, will be held at American Legion Post 1, 364 North 7th Ave., Phoenix, Arizona 85007. (The major crossroads are 7th Avenue and Van Buren.)

The event is free, and no prior registration or RSVP is necessary. However, veterans are invited to submit questions beforehand via legion.org/systemworthsaving/townhall.

American Legion Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Commission Chairman Autrey James will be participating in the event.

"We were all troubled by what happened a decade ago," he said. "But what happened then was not — and still is not — typical of VA care. It is the best care anywhere. Can it be improved? Of course, there is room for improvement. That's why we are coming to Phoenix — to listen to what veterans have to say, to learn about the challenges from VA staff, and to forge solutions to ensure that our veterans are indeed receiving the best care possible."

The American Legion launched the SWS initiative in 2003 as a way to work with VA to improve health care for the nation's veterans. 

Each year, the Legion's Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Commission conducts a series of site visits to VA medical facilities and regional offices across the country. While on site, American Legion representatives meet with veterans, their families and VA administrators and employees to discuss issues and solutions at each site. These observations are compiled into a System Worth Saving report that is distributed to VA officials, members of Congress and the public. 

 

 

Next article: Troops facing health care, pay, housing and other issues 

Troops facing health care, pay, housing and other issues 

Source: April 12, 2024

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One in four servicemembers grapples with food insecurity.

More than one in five (22%) military spouses faces unemployment, one of the highest such rates of any demographic in the United States.

Those were among the key findings in a report issued by the House Armed Services Committee's Quality of Life Panel on April 11.

"These numbers are real, heartbreaking and must be addressed immediately," American Legion National Security Commission Chairman Matthew Shuman said. "We applaud the committee for its due diligence on quantifying the problem areas. The American Legion will continue to advocate for our military members and their families, and push for immediate solutions to improve their quality of life — as they stand on the front lines protecting our nation."

The American Legion has long supported improving the quality of life for servicemembers and their families. Among the resolutions approved by the National Executive Committee is Resolution No. 85, Support for Military Quality of Life Standards from 2016. The resolution called on Congress and the Department of Defense (DOD) to, among other things, support and fund regular increases in the Basic Allowances for Housing (BAH); renovation and construction of military quarters; and increased funding for child day care centers.

The American Legion is the only veterans service organization that has created a program and engaged with base leadership to work together to solve Quality of Life issues. The first such visit was conducted last October at Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Ariz., and more are planned for 2024.

"We are grateful for the support by the Yuma base leadership," said Shuman, a member of the Department of Arizona. "We continue to work hand-in-hand with them on improvements in Yuma as we prepare more fact-finding missions. This is a work in progress, of course. The goal here is to improve the quality of life of our nation's servicemembers. In order to be most effective, we'll need to continue to compile information, understand the issues and leverage best practices at bases throughout the U.S."

The panel's report focused on five key areas: access to health care; compensation; housing; support for spouses; and access to child care. The recommendations were bipartisan in nature and did not take into consideration the cost to the federal government.

Among the key findings:

Access to health care

The panel found that delays in accessing medical care for servicemembers and their dependents is one of the top reasons for job dissatisfaction among the military.

Recommendations: They recommended that the Defense Health Agency (DHA) evaluate the effectiveness of current access standards. It should include the use of telemedicine and other technologies to deliver care. New access to care standards are needed for urgent behavioral health appointments, and servicemembers need increased access to a number of specialty care areas, including women's health.  The panel also said DHA should submit a report with access data for all health-care services broken down to the military treatment facility level. Current access to care assessments are based on the aggregate of all such facilities. Also, DHA should survey medical providers to determine why they choose to stay or leave the military. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) should evaluate the use and effectiveness of hiring and retention authorities for civilian medical providers.

Pay and compensation

The panel found that pay for junior enlisted servicemembers is not competitive with the civilian labor market. The report notes that over 60,000 servicemembers make less than $15 per hour in basic pay.

Recommendation: Increase basic pay for the most junior enlisted servicemembers (E-1 to E-4) by 15%, which they say will bring equivalency to the civilian labor market for new high school graduates.

The panel also said BAH rates are supposedly calculated to meet 95% of the local rental market. However, the panel found that rental costs have increased by 20% in recent years and BAH rates have not kept pace.

Recommendation: DoD should increase BAH to cover 100% of local rental costs and to fix erroneous calculations. They cited a GAO report that found DoD miscalculated housing allowances in 40% of housing markets. BAH should also be paid to servicemembers at E-4 and below who are assigned to sea duty. DoD should change the calculation for the base allowance for subsistence (BAS) to consider location and the number of a servicemember's dependents.

Military spouse support

Challenges spouses face in finding and maintaining employment are cited as a reason for leaving the military by almost 20% of active duty servicemembers who are considering separating. The panel found it can take seven months or longer for a spouse to find a new job after a permanent change of station move.

Recommendations: Make the Military Spouse Career Accelerator Pilot permanent. This project supports spouses with paid fellowships in civilian employers and has seen a high rate of employment following the fellowship. Many of those spouses have been able to move their job or go remote with the next move. Also, the panel calls on DoD to have permanent authority to enter into a cooperative agreement with the Council of State Governments to develop interstate licensure compacts. This would make it easier for spouses to transfer their licenses when moving. Additionally, spouses who are actively seeking employment should have access to DoD-sponsored childcare, both on and off base, for 180 days. They currently have access to this for half that time.

Access to child care

Excessive wait times for DoD-sponsored child care, on and off base, have been a problem for many years. The post-pandemic shortage of child care workers has worsened the problem.

Recommendations: The panel calls for full funding of the child care fee assistance programs, which would eliminate waiting lists for parents. The panel also sought solutions to attracting more child care workers, recommending the services fully cover the fees of each staff member's first child enrolled in a DoD child development program. And, pay rates for DoD child care staff should be made competitive with local market rates.

Housing

The poor state of many barracks and dorms for unaccompanied housing has been well documented. Panel members were appalled to learn about frequent sewage leaks, mold, and rodent infestations, among other horrors, through a congressionally requested GAO report.

Recommendations: Recognizing the last few administrations have underfunded facilities sustainment, restoration and modernization accounts for years, the panel calls for the services to document what is needed and report that each year to Congress. The panel also calls for a new, more transparent system for tracking how funds are allocated at the installation level. Additionally, DoD should conduct a study examining life cycle costs for housing, considering the barracks policies for each branch of service. That cost should be compared to the cost of providing BAH for servicemembers who are currently required to live in barracks. That leads to the panel's next recommendation: use expanded BAH authorities or other mechanisms to consider privatizing unaccompanied housing. Some privatization has already occurred or is in the works. The panel wants a report on these efforts.

 

Next article: April 20 deadline for GI Bill beneficiaries to set account for benefits deposits

April 20 deadline for GI Bill beneficiaries to set account for benefits deposits

Source: April 12, 2024

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Veterans and their beneficiaries who receive GI Bill and other VA payments to multiple accounts have until April 20 to select one account to receive those payments.

As part of the Digital GI Bill modernization initiative, the Department of Veterans Affairs will no longer send benefits payments to more than one bank account.

"We're making this change to help protect vets and families from fraud and to ensure that we're able to pay veterans on time, every time, without error," VA Secretary Denis McDonough said at a Feb. 26 press conference.

The shift is expected to impact about 50,000 of the 800,000 total GI Bill beneficiaries. Those affected are encouraged to select the account where they want to receive benefits at VA.gov/change-direct-deposit.

 

Next article: Legion calls for inclusion, passage of House legislation assisting Afghan allies

Legion calls for inclusion, passage of House legislation assisting Afghan allies

Source: April 11, 2024

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The American Legion joined with other organizations today in calling for U.S. House of Representatives leadership to include and then pass legislation supporting our Afghan allies living in the United States and abroad.

In a letter addressed to Speaker of the House Mike Johnson and Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, the Legion joined with Veterans of Foreign Wars, With Honor Action, Moral Compass Federation and No One Left Behind in calling for the inclusion of Fulfilling Promises to Afghan Allies in the Emergency National Security Supplemental Appropriations Act.

"It has been over two years since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan," the letter reads. "Some might believe this marked the end of America's involvement in Afghanistan, but for U.S. veterans this is not the case. The moral obligation our veterans feel to the Afghans who fought beside them did not end with the withdrawal. These veterans continue to stand with the 80,000 Afghans languishing in legal limbo in the United States, as well as the over 140,000 applicants to the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, hiding for their lives in Taliban controlled Afghanistan."

The letter calls for Congress to swiftly pass legislation that will adjust the status of our Afghan allies and assist those still in Afghanistan and other countries. Key provisions of the legislation come from the Afghan Adjustment Act and Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2023; the Senate version of the legislation was stripped from the Senate's Emergency National Security Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2024 earlier this year.

"The provisions in Fulfilling Promises to Afghan Allies are incredibly popular across the political spectrum," the letter states. "National polling shows nearly 90% support amongst Americans for the policies this legislation would implement. Furthermore, this legislation is a national security imperative – standing with our Afghan allies will demonstrate American resolve, building confidence among America's allies and deterring adversaries.

"Congress has failed over the last two years to pass necessary legislation. Partisan politicking has made passing bipartisan legislation increasingly difficult, but our allies and veterans dealing with moral injury can no longer be casualties of this inaction."

Next article: April 15: file, or extend?

April 15: file, or extend?

Source: April 11, 2024

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LEARN HOW YOUR PLANNED GIFT CAN HELP THE AMERICAN LEGION

As the April 15 tax deadline rapidly approaches, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has reminded taxpayers that they have multiple filing and payment options. The IRS continues to recommend that taxpayers file returns electronically. The software used for electronic returns reduces possible tax errors. It also facilitates prompt refunds – most individuals receive theirs within 21 days.

Taxpayers with income of $79,000 or less may use the IRS Free File software. Individuals with higher incomes can use the IRS Free Fillable forms. A new option this filing season is IRS Direct File. The IRS tax software is available for basic returns in 12 pilot states. The IRS.gov website has additional information on the Direct File program.

The IRS also encourages individuals to use the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) or Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs. These programs offer free tax preparation to most individuals or seniors. Members of the military also may benefit from MilTax, a Department of Defense program offering free tax-return preparation.

Taxpayers are encouraged to use the "Where's My Refund?" tool. This helpful program on IRS.gov is available if you have your Social Security number, filing status and exact refund amount. You can also use "Where's My Refund?" on your smartphone with the IRS2Go app.

If you owe taxes, you must pay the correct amount by Monday, April 15. An exception is available for residents of Maine or Massachusetts; due to state holidays, their tax deadline is Wednesday, April 17.

There are multiple options to pay your taxes. An excellent method is Direct Pay from your checking or savings account. You may also pay with a debit card, credit card or digital wallet. The Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) is a convenient method. Many taxpayers use an electronic funds withdrawal from their bank account. Other options include a check or money order, or cash. The cash payment is more complex and is explained at IRS.gov/payments/pay-your-taxes-with-cash.

If you are not able to pay your tax in full, there are both short- and long-term payment-plan options. A tax bill of less than $100,000 may be paid over 180 days with the short-term plan. If you owe less than $50,000 in tax, penalties and interest, the long-term payment plan may allow you to stretch out payments for up to 72 months. Go to IRS.gov/payments/payment-plans-installment-agreements to view qualifications for payment plans.

If you are unable to file by April 15, you can use IRS Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. The six-month deferral will allow you to file by Oct. 15. However, you are required to pay the correct amount of tax by April 15, even if you extend the filing date. You should estimate and pay your correct tax due. There are exceptions for individuals serving in a combat zone, those living outside the United States or taxpayers in certain disaster areas.

The American Legion's Planned Giving program is a way of establishing your legacy of support for the organization while providing for your current financial needs. Learn more about the process, and the variety of charitable programs you can benefit, at legion.org/plannedgiving. Clicking on "Learn more" will bring up an "E-newsletter" button, where you can sign up for regular information from Planned Giving.

Next article: ‘A solemn reflection'

‘A solemn reflection'

Source: April 11, 2024

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Members of the Riley L. Pitts American Legion Post GR07 (Wiesbaden, Germany) color guard played an active part in the Battle of Remagen's 79th anniversary wreath-laying ceremony, held March 7 at the base of the former Ludendorff Railway Bridge in Remagen, Germany, over the Rhine River. The battle took place March 7-25, 1945, when American forces unexpectedly captured the bridge intact. 

Post Commander Todd Johnson was one of the participants, but praised fellow members Daniel Lopez-Bonaglia and Post Adjutant Jerry Griffis: "Dan and Jerry did a great job … I could not be more proud of them."

The American Forces Network took video of the ceremony. 2025 will mark the 80th anniversary of the battle and capture.

Next article: Army ‘feeling a lot better' with recruiting this year, Wormuth says

Army ‘feeling a lot better' with recruiting this year, Wormuth says

Source: April 11, 2024

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Army Secretary Christine Wormuth told House lawmakers on Wednesday that her service is "feeling a lot better" about recruiting this year after missing its goal for new soldiers for two consecutive years.

"I don't want to be overconfident," the Army's top civilian told members of the House's defense appropriations subpanel while testifying alongside Gen. Randy George, the Army's chief of staff. "But I think we both feel that we have a good shot at making that goal this year, which I think would be very, very important."

That goal, she added, is to ship 55,000 new recruits to Army basic training by Sept. 30, the end of fiscal 2024, and fill its delayed-entry coffers with another 5,000 recruits who would move to initial entrance training later.

Meeting that basic recruiting goal would match the Army's enlistment efforts from fiscal 2023, when it sent about 55,000 recruits to initial military training, falling about 10,000 short of its goal of 65,000. But that was an improvement from fiscal 2022, when the Army shipped fewer than 45,000 new recruits to basic training, falling 15,000 short of its goal.

Pentagon officials have noted in recent years that the military recruiting environment is among the worst in U.S. history. Only about 23% of Americans between the ages of 17 to 24 qualify for military service, fewer than previous generations, according to Defense Department data. Among them, only about 9% has shown interest in the military, the data shows.

To counter the problem, the Army has launched myriad of new recruiting programs aimed at beefing up and professionalizing its recruiting force. Wormuth said Wednesday that the service has begun one of those newer efforts to build a corps of permanent enlisted and warrant officer recruiters in lieu of soldiers temporarily taking recruiting assignments.

The first tranche of soldiers who will train to work in those new specialties have been selected and will complete their training and reach recruiting stations by the end of summer, she said.

"We're picking soldiers that are a little bit more inclined to be good salespeople for the United States Army," Wormuth said, noting the recruiting course is also getting longer and more difficult. "So, we've really updated that and again, I think that's helped our recruiters be more effective in the field."

Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Calif., said he was worried outside factors could impact military recruiting. His home state, he noted, adopted a $20 minimum wage for fast food workers this month — a pay rate more than double what the most junior troops make early in their careers.

"We're competing from a recruitment perspective with fast food workers, right, and those guys aren't putting their lives on the line every day like our soldiers are," said Garcia, a former Navy pilot. "Right now if you've asked an 18-year-old if he wants to go work at the In-N-Out [Burger] for $22 an hour or join the Army for the equivalent of $12 an hour, you're going to get 95% of them going to In-N-Out even if they love the country, even if they want to serve — they just can't afford to go join the Army right now. And that's a fundamental problem."

Garcia proposed Congress adopt a bill to bolster pay for junior troops in the ranks of E-1 to E-6, starting service members at about $31,000 per year in basic pay. A similar measure was included in the House version of the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act, the annual bill that sets lawmakers' spending and policy priorities for the Pentagon. But the measure did not make the final NDAA that passed in December.

Garcia asked for Wormuth's help in pushing for the measure to become law later this year.

"We need help on this," he said. "We need more pull from the secretaries, we need more pull, frankly, from the president in prioritizing this pay gap right now. … There's other things driving the recruiting problems … but the pay is significant."

Next article: Alabama Legion Riders chapter providing both flags, recognition to area veterans 

Alabama Legion Riders chapter providing both flags, recognition to area veterans 

Source: April 10, 2024

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More than 18 months ago, the American Legion Riders chapter at Denton-Drake American Legion Post 88 in Mobile, Ala., began installing flagpoles and U.S. flags on the properties of aging veterans. Since then, close to 20 flags have been installed in what has morphed beyond a Riders' project and into a Legion Family and community effort.

The program is the brainchild of Chapter 88 Director George Johnson, a member of Sons of The American Legion Squadron 88. Johnson was unavailable for an interview, but Chapter 88 Finance Officer Wendy Denton, a member of Auxiliary Unit 88, was quick to praise him.

"George is very dedicated to honoring veterans in different ways," Denton said. "He came up with the idea of us purchasing a flagpole for a couple of our veterans. And it went over really, really well. And he decided to expand it."

The program started off providing flags and flagpoles to aging post members, as well as recognizing their service. But once word got out about the program, requests came in with names of senior veterans in the community who also could be honored.

"So we continued to purchase them and get names for future raisings of the flagpoles," Denton said. "And then people started donating some money toward flagpoles. We would have families or different people within the community that had someone that wanted a flagpole in their yard. It became something that people wanted to do for a veteran that they knew. But they wanted us to be there to honor them."

Via text, Johnson said the program made an impact on Chapter 88's Riders and grew to the post's Legion Family. "Every Rider that has participated in our mission was touched in such a way that it has grown," he said.

Denton said as Chapter 88 saw the reaction to their efforts, it knew it had to continue the program. "There are some veterans out there that we surprise that are up in years … that had never been recognized before," she said. "It just warms their heart. So, it was something that we decided we needed to continue."

The most recent flag presentation was to 87-year-old veteran Dudley Bexley. Members of Post 88's Legion Family were there to help install and then honor Bexley. "I tell you what, I've never felt so honored until today," Bexley told FOX 10 News.

Being there to deliver the flags and then recognize the veteran is personal for Denton. "For me, it's like honoring everyone that's come before me. It really is," she said. "It's acknowledging someone that sacrificed a lot for me. Most of my family is military. My brother is 32 years retired Army. My great-grandfather was Navy. I have brothers and sisters that served in different branches of the military.

"It's like honoring them every time I honor someone else. Seeing the face of them when we do that, when we ride up on the motorcycles and we have the flagpole raised. And knowing the pride that they have all over their faces, there's no words."

Denton hopes other posts and Riders chapters will start a similar program in their communities. "Our goal is to reach other posts, not just in Alabama, but all across the United States and have them start the same exact program within their community, so that we can reach everyone," she said.

Next article: More than $60 million for children and youth

More than $60 million for children and youth

Source: April 10, 2024

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The American Legion's commitment to children and youth can be counted in the tens of millions. Under the organization's two major grant programs (Child Welfare Foundation and Temporary Financial Assistance) and its portfolio of youth scholarships, more than $60 million has been invested in young people by the nation's largest veterans organization.

And while April is Children & Youth Month in The American Legion, that support runs year-round with programs, activities, grants and scholarships that make differences for tens of thousands of young people each year.

The American Legion Child Welfare Foundation, which awards grants to organizations that contribute to the physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing of children facing challenges beyond their control, has provided $20,683,892.50 in funding since its inception in 1954.

The Legion's Temporary Financial Assistance program, which provides cash grants to qualified military and veteran families facing financial emergencies, has delivered $17,980,894.43 since 1926, including more than $5.4 million over the last decade alone. TFA grants are awarded to qualified families with minor children at home that are facing financial crises that threaten the stability of their homes.

National American Legion scholarships have been awarded to no less than 6,941 young people pursuing higher education – most of which have been presented over the last 25 years.

The American Legion Samsung Scholarship, awarded to descendants of U.S. military veterans who have gone on to participate in American Legion Boys State or American Legion Auxiliary Girls State, tops the list with $7,206,500 in scholarships awarded since 1996 to 2,333 students.

National American Legion Oratorical Contest competitors have received $6,424,500 in scholarships since 1938, when the contest went national. Nearly 3,000 students have earned that college assistance by learning the U.S. Constitution and demonstrating their ability to speak fluently about its meaning to the nation.

American Legion Eagle Scout of the Year scholarships have been awarded to 149 recipients, to the tune of $622,500 since 1983. American Legion Baseball scholarships since 1986 have amounted to $262,500, plus another $295,000 for American Legion Baseball Academic Team scholarships. American Legion Boys Nation scholarships: $201,544.50 to 92 participants since 1978. National American Legion Junior Shooting Sports competitors have earned $155,000 in scholarships since 1996.

Altogether, the amount in American Legion national grants and scholarships for youth come conservatively to $60,071,174.43 over the years, and that does not count the millions in financial assistance provided at the local level by American Legion posts each year. In 2023, that came to $12,752,340.35, assisting 3,359 young people in local communities, according to the most recent Consolidated Post Report.

Funding for the grants and scholarships comes almost entirely through individual contributions. For the Temporary Financial Assistance Program, donations can be made to the American Legion Veterans & Children Foundation. Donors can select youth programs of their choice for contributions through American Legion Charities. And contributors to the Child Welfare Foundation can make their gifts safely and securely online.

 

                    

 

 

Next article: Arizona Legion post boosting membership through providing resources

Arizona Legion post boosting membership through providing resources

Source: April 10, 2024

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In the past two years, Kellis-Draper American Legion Post 12 in Wickenburg, Ariz., has grown by more than 130 members. The post is active within its community, supporting the Boy Scouts and Future Farmers of America, hosting blood drives, and hosting or taking part in Veterans Day and Memorial Day ceremonies.

But for Post 12 Commander Tom Core, the main reason for the growth is because for the past two years, the post has hosted a veteran stand down, bringing valuable resources together for the area's veterans and their families. In a town of 8,000, the stand downs were able to assist around 400 veterans in 2023 and, most recently, close to 500 earlier this winter. Staff from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) were on hand to provide more than 14 different services, including filing for benefits, inoculations, information on PACT Act eligibility, health-care enrollment and more. A similar event already is being planned for 2025.

Core said the reason for conducting the stand down isn't to grow members, "But it's a huge side benefit. And it also brings in other volunteers. We had a guy last year who came to the stand down … and now he's 20-percent disabled. And now he wants to be a service officer to help other vets, That's just one example. Those veterans that we helped last year now volunteer to assist others in need of help."

Core said the idea for the first stand down came when "a group of us were sitting around trying to figure out how we could do the (Legion's) Four Pillars. And talked the one thing we needed to do a better job of, which is bring the VA resources and assets to our small town of Wickenburg."

Wickenburg is situated between two VA medical facilities that members of Post 12 use: the Carl T. Hayden Veterans' Administration Medical Center in Phoenix and the Bob Stump Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Prescott. The post was able to get staff from both facilities to come to the stand down.Other veterans service organizations were in attendance, as was a local nonprofit that provides cell phones to qualifying veterans and judges from the Maricopa County Veterans Treatment Court. A grant from the state helped provide transportation to and from the stand down for veterans living in rural areas. Other services provided during the stand down included:

·         Free haircuts for veterans provided by a local stylist.

·         Catholic Charities, which helps set up homeless veterans with a place to live and services to get them back on their feet.

·         The Midwestern University Dental School provided dental hygiene checks and oral cancer screenings.

"What we said is we're going to be all-inclusive," Core said. "We wanted everybody to come and participate in the event who is in Arizona and helps vets."  

To publicize the stand down this year, the post used donations from event primary sponsor New Day USA ($7,500) and sponsor Arizona Public Service ($2,500) for an advertising budget. Fliers were placed throughout the area, including in other American Legion posts, Veterans of Foreign Wars posts and local businesses. More than 20 banners also were placed throughout the area, including at the seven team roping arenas located in Wickenburg.

"That's how we got people here," Core said. "And we did radio ads and newspaper print ads."

Core also said providing the services the post did through the stand down also falls in line with The American Legion's suicide prevention mission.

"It's part of being a proactive Be the One," he said. "We need to take care of the veterans before they get to the situation where they're contemplating taking their lives. And the way we do that is by getting them the VA resources and assets early, not later."

Next article: System Worth Saving returns to Phoenix 10 years after crisis