Twenty-seven North Carolina American Legion members traveled to Washington, D.C., on Feb. 26 for the annual Washington Conference.
The American Legion’s Washington Conference gives the organization a chance to meet with elected officials to discuss legislative initiatives and priorities that are important to Legion members and their families.
The Legion members met with almost all of North Carolina’s Congressional members.
This year, some of the initiatives the Legion spoke about were protecting veterans and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) from harmful cuts impose through the sequestration, military sexual trauma, opposing any further increase in TRICARE fees including prescription drug fees, the Stolen Valor Act, backlogged disability claims, disabled veterans tax/widows tax, small business verification, DOL-VETS and TAP, ending veteran homelessness, quality education through post 9/11 GI Bill, military to civilian credentialing and the American flag.
Concerned about the sequester and the impact it will have on the military, the initiatives ask Congress to “develop deficit reducing strategies that do not degrade the nation’s ability to defend itself, or further assault the earned benefits currently being received by our nation’s military veterans.”
Chairman of the Legislative Commission of North Carolina and American Legion Member Jeff Joyner said, “The military and veterans are taking a bigger hit because of the sequester.”
According to the initiatives, Legion members also encouraged Congress to pass legislation to ensure reporting, tracking and actions are taken because of incidents of sexual assaults at all VA facilities. “Furthermore, the American Legion urges the DOD to improve their investigation and prosecution of reported cases of Military Sexual Trauma,” the initiative said.
The backlogged disability claims were also in the initiatives which said “over 69% of claims are delayed over VA’s target of 125 days to complete.” The Legion believes the solution to this problem is a work credit system “that places as much incentive on getting a claim done right the first time as it does on the raw volume of claims processed.”
The initiatives also talk about the GI Bill and said that “as one of the founding authors of the original GI Bill, The American Legion wants to protect our veterans with oversight that include provisions to evaluate post-secondary education institutions on quality factors such as accreditation, transferability, cost, graduation rates, and acceptance in the job market.”
The Legion wants student-veterans to be allowed in-state tuition rates at any college regardless of residency status.
“I thought it went well,” Joyner said, “They sat down and listened to us.”
One of the members of Congress the Legion met with was U.S. Senator Kay Hagan.
“I was honored to meet with members of the American Legion — true American heroes who continue to serve our country by coming together in support of our returning heroes. As a Senator for North Carolina and member of the Armed Service Committee, keeping our promises to those who have served in uniform is a responsibility I take both seriously and personally. I thank the American Legion for their steadfast work on behalf of our veterans in North Carolina and around the country, and I will continue working with them to ensure our brave veterans have the support they need and deserve,” said Hagan.
— Staff Writer Laura Edington can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.