Levittown Memorial American Legion Post 960


American Legion News

Grouper and American Legion partner to promote social connection and health

Source: July 24, 2024

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Grouper, the national leader in activity benefit administration, is thrilled to announce a partnership with The American Legion. The collaboration between Grouper and American Legion aims to enhance the health of veterans by providing access to benefits that support staying active and engaged.

Guided by its mission of encouraging healthy living through meaningful social connections, Grouper connects its members to benefits that cover costs associated with group activities. By joining Grouper and staying connected through activities that support the veteran community, American Legion members who are 65 or older and have participating Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement plans can unlock the activity benefit offered by these plans and receive a check in the mail. 

"Grouper is thrilled to help support the veterans of The American Legion by offering access to an activity benefit that encourages social connection," said Doug Wenners, Grouper's Chief Executive Officer. "This partnership is a natural fit because both organizations understand that social connection is about building high-quality relationships that enhance our lives."

American Legion members who are eligible for the activity benefit can use it to offset participation costs associated with their activities. American Legion members are then encouraged to remain active so they can receive ongoing benefits. This is a timely collaboration for The American Legion, which has recently prioritized suicide prevention for its members through the Be The One campaign. Instead of focusing on the staggering number of veteran lives lost each day, veterans, caregivers and others are encouraged to "Be The One" to save the life of one veteran. 

"The American Legion's partnership with Grouper is instrumental in enhancing support for veterans and providing them with the resources and social connections they need to thrive," said Dean Kessel, The American Legion's Chief Marketing Officer. "We want to make it OK for veterans to ask for help, and one way we can do that is by building a community of support." 

Legionnaires: Check Your Eligibility For Grouper

American Legion members: to find out if you qualify for the activity benefit administered by Grouper and to join the social fitness movement, visit http://www.hellogrouper.com/al.

Next article: VA surpasses record for veterans, survivors granted benefits

VA surpasses record for veterans, survivors granted benefits

Source: July 24, 2024

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The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced that three-quarters of the way through the fiscal year, it has granted benefits to 1.1 million veterans and their survivors, an all-time record. In total, VA has awarded $137B in benefits, including $127 billion in compensation and pension benefits, to veterans and survivors this year.

To reach this milestone, VA has processed more than 2 million claims in 2024 — another all-time record, on pace to surpass last year's record by more than 27%. The grant rate for these claims is 64.6% and the average overall disability rating granted to veterans this year to-date is 70%, equating to over $20,000 per year in disability compensation.

VA has been able to deliver more care and more benefits to more veterans than ever before largely thanks to the PACT Act, which was signed into law by President Biden in August 2022 and represents the largest expansion of veteran care and benefits in generations. Of the claims granted so far in FY2024, 655,808 were PACT Act-related.

"Our goal is to make sure every veteran and every survivor gets the benefits they've earned for their service to this country," said VA Under Secretary for Benefits Joshua Jacobs.  "These veterans and survivors are now receiving monthly payments for the conditions that followed them home from war or took the lives of their loved ones — and there is nothing, nothing more important than that."

Overall, VA is now delivering more care and more benefits to veterans in a variety of ways:

·       More veterans are using VA health care: VA is on pace to deliver approximately 127 million health care appointments in 2024, surpassing last year's all-time record of 120 million appointments. This is partly a result of VA expanding access to VA care for these veterans and decreasing wait times by offering more night clinics, weekend clinics, and appointment slots.

·       More veterans are enrolling in VA health care: 412,867 veterans have enrolled in VA care over the last 365 days, an increase of 27% year over year — and the most since 2017. In total, since the PACT Act was passed, more than 710,000 veterans have enrolled in VA health care, which represents a more than 34% increase in veterans enrolling compared to an equivalent period before the legislation was signed.

·       More veterans are applying for VA benefits than ever before: Thanks to the largest outreach campaign in VA history, veterans submitted 2,433,729 claims applications in 2023 — an all-time record and 39% more than in 2022. Thus far this year, veterans are on pace to submit even more claims — outpacing last year's record by 2.9%.

·       More veterans report trusting VA: Veteran trust in VA has reached an all-time high of 80.4% — up from 55% when the survey began in 2016. This is based on a survey of veterans who use a wide range of VA services, including health care, disability compensation benefits, memorial affairs, the GI Bill, home loans, and more.

·       When veterans apply for benefits, they are more likely to have their claims granted: Whenever a veteran applies for benefits, our goal is to work with them to gather the evidence to get to yes. Due to this approach, VA has been able to grant benefits for 64.6% of claims, including 75% of PACT Act related claims, a sharp increase from previous years.  

Moving forward, VA will continue to aggressively reach out to veterans to encourage them to come to VA. VA encourages all veterans, family members, caregivers, and survivors to learn more about VA and apply for their world-class health care and earned benefits today.

Veterans and survivors can apply or learn more about the PACT Act by visiting VA.gov/PACT or by calling 1-800-MYVA411.

There is no charge to file a claim with VA. For further assistance with the disability claims process, veterans are encouraged to work with a VA-accredited representative, such as an American Legion-accredited service officers, or contact their state veterans affairs office.

Next article: Getting through the darkness

Getting through the darkness

Source: July 23, 2024

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Navy veteran D. Paul Fleming shares his story about overcoming suicidal ideation, his new book on the topic and more as this week's special guest on The American Legion Tango Alpha Lima podcast.

Fleming's book, "A Date With Suicide," tells the stories of veterans who have struggled at the edges of life and death, including his own struggles as a disabled veteran.

His book and story resonate with The American Legion's Be the One mission to reduce the number of veterans lost to suicide. Fleming, who was medically discharged, recognized his post-traumatic stress disorder in the 1990s and sought help. Finally in 2018, he was able to find his own way 

"I either have to end this pain because this is just brutal," recalled Fleming, a member of American Legion Post 19 in Willimantic, Conn. "Or I have to find peace. So I found peace. I taught myself by using 1,000 pieces of information I collected over the years, put myself together and now I am telling my story. The hardest thing for me to do is to tell my story." 

Now he strives to share his story as a way to save other veterans by shining a light on humor and positivity. "Darkness loves despair." 

Fleming, who played American Legion Baseball, also said the civilian community can play roles in eliminating veteran suicide. Specifically:

• "Listen to veterans without talking and treat us like everyone else." 

• And after thanking a veteran for their service, follow up: "How is your mental health? I'm here. I'm listening. Are you suicidal?" 

Also, co-hosts Stacy Pearsall, Adam Marr and Joe Worley discuss:

• What VA is doing to better understand suicide.

• A recent presidential proclamation that will allow members of the LGBTQ+ community to apply for a certificate of pardon to change their discharge status, which will help them receive withheld benefits.

• The market for military books.

Check out this week's episode, which is among more than 260 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.

Next article: 2024 national convention app released

2024 national convention app released

Source: July 22, 2024

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The 2024 American Legion National Convention mobile app is now available for free download from the Apple Store or Google Play

Already available are registration information, maps of convention hotels and New Orleans, local resources to plan a stay, and a link to the latest convention news. Leading up to – and during – the convention itself, the app will be updated with schedules, speakers, exhibitors, headlines and much more. It is now the only source for much of this on-site content, as the printed convention program book has largely transitioned into a souvenir item. 

Among other updates, a survey for attendees will be added before the convention, courtesy of the Legion's National Convention & Meetings Division. An alert will be sent out; be sure to enable alerts when downloading the app. 

Information on all of The American Legion's mobile apps can be found here.

Next article: Job fair Aug. 26 in conjunction with national convention

Job fair Aug. 26 in conjunction with national convention

Source: July 22, 2024

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Online registration is open for a career exploration and hiring fair being held in conjunction with The American Legion's 105th National Convention.

The Legion and Hiring Our Heroes are presenting employment workshops and a hiring fair on Aug. 26 at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside, Two Poydras St., New Orleans, LA 70130.

Workshops on creating civilian and federal employment resumes, and financial literacy, will be held beginning at 9 a.m. CT on Aug. 26. The job fair will follow, from 1-4 p.m.

The free event is tailored to military community members.

Bookmark Legion.org/Convention and Legion.org/Careers for updates.


Next article: Palou battles to 4th-place finish, Lundqvist overcomes wall contact for 13th in Toronto

Palou battles to 4th-place finish, Lundqvist overcomes wall contact for 13th in Toronto

Source: July 22, 2024

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NTT INDYCAR SERIES points leader Alex Palou showed his mettle on Sunday in Toronto, and in doing so left Canada actually adding to his points lead.

After being penalized during qualifications and starting the Ontario Honda Dealers Indy Toronto in the 18th spot, Palou worked his way through the crowd to pick up a fourth-place finish – his 10th top-five showing of the season for Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR).

Meanwhile, CGR rookie Linus Lundqvist, driving the No. 10 American Legion Honda supporting the Legion's Be the One suicide prevention program, overcame contact with the wall to finish 13th and build on his lead in the Rookie of the Year standings.

Palou, driving the No. 10 DHL Honda featuring American Legion branding, was penalized for blocking during qualifications, which caused him to lose his two fastest laps. But he was able to gain the most spots in the field and pushed his championship lead over Will Power to 49 points.

"I would say these are the kind of days we want after a very tough Saturday," Palou said. "I feel we had a car that could have won the race if we hadn't started where we did. I think we maximized everything we had (Sunday). The No. 10 DHL Honda team did an amazing job with pit stops and strategy. They put me in a position to finish up there in the top five.

"I'm glad we finished in the top four and have three cars in the top five. Pretty good recovery by the whole Chip Ganassi Racing team. On to a little bit of rest and then we'll be ready for the last couple of races."

Lundqvist now leads teammate Kyffin Simpson by 40 points in the Rookie of the Year race. "Well that was chaotic to say the least. Not my finest race," he said. "I had a touch of the barrier. Just got a little frustrated because we had a lot of pace in the American Legion Honda today. We got stuck in traffic and made some moves that didn't work, but I gave it a go.

"Came away with a 13th at the end that should've been a little bit better, but that's street racing. I think a reasonable day for the team. We did what we could, we learned. Now we will get a little break and will come back stronger."

Chip Ganassi Racing wound up placing three drivers in the top five, with Scott Dixon winding up third and Marcus Armstrong fifth. It was Dixon's 141st podium finish in INDYCAR, tying him with Mario Andretti for most career top-three finishes.

After three straight weekends of racing, INDYCAR will take a long break. The series doesn't resume until the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 on Aug. 17 on World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Ill.  

To learn more about The American Legion's Be the One veteran suicide prevention program, click here.

Next article: Legion Baseball alumni Leyland, Mauer enter Hall of Fame

Legion Baseball alumni Leyland, Mauer enter Hall of Fame

Source: July 22, 2024

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Joe Mauer has fond memories of growing up in St. Paul, Minn., playing on some of the same baseball fields that Dave Winfield, Paul Molitor and Jack Morris played on when they were younger.

On Sunday, Mauer joined those three — all of whom, like Mauer, played American Legion Baseball — in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Mauer and Jim Leyland brought the total number of former Legion Baseball players enshrined in Cooperstown to 87 with their inductions July 21 alongside fellow Class of 2024 inductees Adrian Beltre and Todd Helton.

"How lucky and unique it was to have three big leaguers and future role models hail from my same city. Watching them as a kid was my first glimpse of hope that maybe I could make it in baseball as well," Mauer said in his induction speech.

"It'll never be lost on me that the same guys I pretended to be in my yard are men I grew up to know personally, and I even had one of them (Molitor) become my manager."

Mauer, who like Molitor and Winfield played Legion Baseball for Post 606 in St. Paul, spent his entire 15-year major league career with his hometown Minnesota Twins. The 2009 American League MVP, he won batting titles that year and in 2006 and 2008.

Mauer became just the third catcher to be selected to the Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot, joining Johnny Bench and Ivan Rodriguez. They played Legion Baseball as well — Bench in Anadarko, Okla., and Rodriguez for Post Vega Baja in Puerto Rico.

Leyland won 1,769 games in 22 seasons as a manager with the Pirates, Marlins, Rockies and Tigers, winning the 1997 World Series in the Marlins' fifth year of existence. He also managed Team USA to the 2017 World Baseball Classic title — four years after retiring from major league managing. Leyland was a three-time Manager of the Year, with Pittsburgh in 1990 and 1992 and with Detroit in 2006.

"My contributions to our beautiful pastime pale in comparison to the joy it has brought to my life," said Leyland, who played for Post 183 in Pemberville, Ohio.

Next article: Five Things to Know, July 22, 2024

Five Things to Know, July 22, 2024

Source: July 22, 2024

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1.   Vice President Kamala Harris moved swiftly to lock up Democratic delegates behind her campaign for the White House after President Joe Biden stepped aside amid concerns from within their own party that he would be unable to defeat Donald Trump. Biden's exit Sunday, prompted by Democratic worries over his fitness for office, was a seismic shift to the presidential contest that upended both parties' carefully honed plans for the race.

2.   At 1:45 p.m. Sunday, President Joe Biden's senior staff was notified that he was stepping away from the 2024 race. At 1:46 p.m., that message was made public. It was never Biden's intention to leave the race: Up until he decided to step aside Sunday, he was all in. His campaign was planning fundraisers and events and setting up travel over the next few weeks. But even as Biden was publicly dug in and insisting he was staying in the race, he was quietly reflecting on the disaster of the past few weeks, on the past three years of his presidency and on the scope of his half-century career in politics.

3.   Two U.S. Air Force long-range bombers that had a close encounter over the weekend with Russian fighters over the Barents Sea landed at an allied base near the Black Sea hours later, according to the service. The arrival of the B-52H Stratofortress bombers at Romania's Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base on Sunday marks the first time U.S. strategic bombers have operated from the installation, U.S. Air Forces Europe and Africa said the same day. The base, known as MK to forces deployed there, serves as the main operational hub for the U.S. military in the Black Sea region. It is undergoing a multibillion-dollar expansion by NATO that will make it larger than even Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

4.   South Korea said Sunday it was bolstering its anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts across the tense border with rival North Korea, after the North launched more trash-carrying balloons toward South Korea. The Cold War-style psychological battle between the two Koreas is adding to already-high tensions on the Korean Peninsula, with the rivals threatening stronger steps against each other and warning of devastating consequences.

5.   Israeli airstrikes killed at least 15 people, including women and children overnight in Gaza, according to hospital officials and a body count by an Associated Press journalist on Sunday. The latest strikes occurred as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepared to leave Monday for the United States, where he is expected to meet with President Joe Biden and address Congress to make his case for the nine-month war against Hamas while cease-fire negotiations continue. A team will be sent to continue talks on Thursday, Netanyahu's office said.

Next article: Travel issues just a bump in the road as Boys Nation 2024 begins

Travel issues just a bump in the road as Boys Nation 2024 begins

Source: July 22, 2024

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The senators of American Legion Boys Nation crowded together on the floor in front of the screen as a short film depicting the events surrounding Francis Scott Key's ode to the American flag played out in the Fort McHenry visitors center Sunday afternoon.

Key's description of the flag still standing strong after the fort was bombarded by the British Navy in September 1814 would, of course, serve as the basis for the national anthem.

For the 100 Boys Nation senators from across the nation, it was a chance to see a piece of history as their own week that shapes a lifetime — the 78th such session of Boys Nation — began in earnest over the weekend.

"History does leave out a lot of details about so many events," said Chance Bradford of Arkansas, who said he took notes throughout the movie.

Bradford, who was sponsored to Arkansas Boys State by Mills University Studies High School in Little Rock, Ark., said it was "an honor" to get the chance to visit Fort McHenry as part of his week at Boys Nation.

"I'm especially thankful, because I'm not the most devoted to all the politics and stuff like that. I respect so much of it, because people do so much to make sure their country is the type of place that they want to live in, and seeing remnants of what they fought for, seeing it all played back, it's a different perspective," Bradford said.

Nader of North Dakota said Fort McHenry and the giant flag flying above it was "an impressive spectacle."

"I didn't expect it to be this historically accurate," he said, referring to the wooden flagpole at the center of the fort itself. "I can really sense the history here."

Nader was sponsored to North Dakota Boys State by Post 297 in Harwood, N.D.

The senators capped their Sunday afternoon off campus with a visit to American Legion Post 136 in Greenbelt, Md., where the Legion Family provided dinner and National Commander Daniel J. Seehafer spoke about the importance this week will have for the young men from across the nation.

He also took the opportunity to emphasize the Be the One campaign and how anyone, even the teen senators from Boys Nation, can "Be The One" to save a life.

"You're leaders. You can make a difference, you can change lives, you can save lives," Seehafer said. "… You never know when somebody could cross your path, and you could be the difference between life and death."

Taking charge

On Saturday afternoon, the senators voted for half of the slate of four elected officials who will lead Boys Nation — the president pro tempore and the secretary of the senate. The president and vice president will be elected later in the week.

Eshaam Bhattad, F-Ill., was elected president pro tempore and will lead the Boys Nation senate for the first part of the week. He was sponsored to Illinois Boys State by Post 964 in Lake Zurich, Ill.

Bhattad emerged from a field of 12 initial candidates and received the necessary majority vote on the fourth ballot.

Elected secretary of the senate was Charan Bala, F-Md. He was sponsored to Maryland Boys State by Post 300 in Columbia, Md.

Waiting on a jet plane

Sunday's excursions and Saturday's activities came after the global tech outage played havoc with senators' flight plans on Friday — traditionally a day which ends with section meetings that help set the tone for the week.

Instead, those section meetings were pushed to Saturday morning, giving more, though not all, of the senators a chance to get acclimated to the sections they're divided into by state. Indeed, a handful of senators didn't arrive until Saturday night and very early Sunday.

That in turn pushed the Boys Nation senate oath of office ceremony back a bit. But there was still time for American Legion National Security Commission Chairman Matthew Shuman to delve into the oath and ensure the senators understood the deeper meaning behind each line.

After the oath, Shuman and Will Smith, a fellow Arizona native and the legislative director for Rep. Nick Langworthy, R-N.Y., took questions from the senators and posed for a selfie with them.


Next article: A combined 55 years of dedication to air rifle program

A combined 55 years of dedication to air rifle program

Source: July 22, 2024

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Volunteers are the heart of American Legion youth programs with their time, leadership and dedication to the youth they serve. Two volunteers of The American Legion Junior 3-Position Air Rifle National Championship who have been integral to the program's success and the positive experiences youth have for a combined 55 years – Loren "Bud" Sperry and Ida Jewell – are stepping away from the national program but continuing their love for the program within their posts and departments.

"It wasn't an easy decision," said Sperry, a member of American Legion Post 181 in Lake Stevens, Wash., about leaving the national program after 28 years serving as match director. "This program has been very important to me."

Sperry and Jewell, the chief range officer, said their farewell during this year's air rifle championships July 18-20 in Hillsdale, Mich.

The youth competitors are a main reason Sperry has returned to the program year after a year, and it's a reason that he instills upon other volunteers.

"It is about the kids. The whole program is about the kids," he said. "They are getting a chance to learn not only the competition end of it, but they're getting the chance to learn how to teach themselves positions that they have to have to shoot at this level. We make sure they get everything they need to have a good program, and I always say that we do tend to spoil the kids here because we have fun with them, we treat them as an individual shooter. Kids in other competitions are treated like a number because they are so big; there are 300 shooters. Here we have 30 shooters, and each kid is treated exactly the same. Every shooter has the same opportunity as the one next to them, and they rely upon their own training."

Jewell, a member of Post 122 in Bath, Ind., has continued to come back for the past 27 years because "I love the program. I love the kids. And I love these people," she said. "The athletes that I see in shooting have got to be the most caring, kind kids that I've ever dealt with. Shooting teaches them to be so honest. And I think that makes such a big difference with the kids. And they get to meet new friends and they get to meet us. And when other kids hear about the experience they've had, it makes our program grow."

Both Sperry and Jewell have seen a lot of changes with the national tournament over the years, especially with advancement in technology. Volunteers used to hand score paper targets, which would take hours. Now they are electronic, which makes the role of match director for Sperry easier and allows him more time to "be there with the kids to make sure everyone is following the rules, and everybody has the same level of playing field." In his role Sperry also helps the marksmen with the mental side of air rifle. "A lot of these kids will get into their own head. They will try to outthink themselves. We stress here that they keep the process and shoot the way you learned how to shoot. Keep that position going."

Jewell also recalls the days of paper targets and has a fond memory from it.

"At the end of the day targets were spread out on the floor for the kids to look at and they could challenge any shot," she said. "This always tears me up. One year one kid said, ‘I challenge that shot. That's not a 10. That's a 9.' It just really got me. That as much as anything else has kept me here. The program instills patience and honesty."

Concentration and respect are two other life qualities learned for the sport of shooting, Sperry said, adding that "sometimes for kids nowadays you don't know where they come from, you don't know how their raised and if we can give them that little bit to change their life ... we did something."

Sperry and Jewell will be missed next year and the years to come at the Legion's Junior 3-Position Air Rifle National Championships, yet the impact they've had on youth air rifle athletes for the past 28 years will continue. "It's good to look back and see what these kids have accomplished, something that you started or that you helped," Sperry said as many of the Legion's air rifle champions and competitors who have gone to place in the Olympics. "It's fun to watch them see what they can become and what they have become."

Many hugs and tears were shared over the past week while Sperry and Jewell were in Hillsdale for their final American Legion air rifle championship. As they too will miss the program, the athletes, the camaraderie, the family.

"The people. And the kids," Jewell said tearfully of what she will miss. "I'm going to miss this program terribly."

Sperry reiterated those sentiments as for him, the program has always been about one thing.

"The kids," he said. "I've always said that I want the kids to be what they can be. They're the ones that have to do it; I can't do it for them. We can't do it for them. We can give them a place to be able to shine and that's what this program is about."











Next article: Grouper and American Legion partner to promote social connection and health