Story by Deonta Larkins
INDIANAPOLIS | The Statehouse File - Legislation to make it easier to identify the spouses of deceased veterans passed out of a House committee Wednesday by a unanimous vote.
Sen. Michael Crider, R- Greenfield, said that Senate Bill 382 would allow a surviving spouse of a veteran to request veteran status on his or her driver’s license or state identification cards.
File photo of an Indiana driver’s license. Photo by Shelby Mullis, TheStatehouseFile.com
The current law only provides that the veteran may have that status on the driver’s license or other identification.
Jim Bauerly, of the Military/Veteran Coalition of Indiana, said his group helped draft the proposed legislation.
Bauerly said there are 469,210 veterans living in Indiana and fewer than 28 percent of veterans in Indiana receive benefits they are entitled to. On average, 38 percent of veterans across the country receive their benefits, which amounts to $2.8 billion annually, he added.
By providing surviving spouses with the ability to gain a veteran designation on their IDs, the state could identify more people eligible for benefits.
In addition, the bill would allow veterans to add the veteran status to their IDs when renewing their driver’s license. Currently, veterans have to go to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and file a special form in order to receive identification as a veteran.
William Henry of the American Legion, Department of Indiana, also testified in favor of the bill.
Henry said it’s a smart approach that will help organizations like his identify and notify veterans and their surviving spouses of benefits available to them.
Deonta Larkins is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a website powered by Franklin College journalism students.
Story by Sherri McGee
MARTINSVILLE, Ind., - American Legion Post 230 hosted a purse bingo March 18 to raise funds for Ava Bowen. Ava’s support group “All About Ava” approached the Legion and asked if they would host a purse bingo.
Ava is a cancer patient and has been battling Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma since October 2015. Ava’s mother, Sammi hasn’t been able to return to work since the diagnosis because of the care Ava requires. They make numerous visits to the hospital and have other related expenses so the family has been in need.
Ava made an appearance at the beginning of the purse bingo. She pulled tickets for the first door prize winners! With 250 people in the room she had to wear a mask to protect her from any germs. Ava only removed her mask long enough to get a picture of her with her new BIG Teddy Bear donated to her from the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 230!
The family and friends support group, “All About Ava”, provided all the purses for the event and sold food throughout the evening. In addition, other items were donated to raise funds. Ace Hardware donated an ice chest with stand and one of the Legion’s Auxiliary members donated a handmade quilt.
Guests played 20 rounds of bingo. Each winner picked a purse in lieu of the customary cash prize. Four of the more expensive purses were raffled and awarded at the end of the evening.
During the event, numerous door prizes were drawn and 3 “50/50” games were played! The 50/50’s were all over $160.00! There were numerous donations given during the evening. One of those donations was given by a woman who lost her husband last week and done in his honor.
All the organizations at the American Legion, the Legionnaires, Ladies Auxiliary and the Sons of the Legion volunteered to work the purse bingo along with the volunteers from “All About Ava”. In little more than 4 hours, the 30 volunteers raised over $10,000!
RENSSELAER, Ind., | Rensselaer Republican - Seventeen year-old Kyle Eenigenburg, a Boy Scout from the town of DeMotte, recently undertook a project to teach Jasper County about the military veterans who have lived and died here. The project, which took years to complete, may earn the young man his Eagle Scout status. The list of veterans has been separated into books, according to the area a veteran was buried. The books will be donated to the corresponding library in Jasper County.
Story by Sherri McGee,
MARTINSVILLE, Ind., - American Legion Riders Chapter 230 hosted a birthday party for a very special young lady, Josie Enochs. Josie is a 12-year-old girl who suffered terrible burns from throwing gas on an open fire in 2016.
Josie’s burns require numerous visits to Riley. Parents who have children with disabilities, illnesses, injuries, etc. can tell you that constant trips to hospitals in another city cause a financial burden.
The Enochs family has an additional burden as they don’t own a car. They currently live in Bloomington and make the trip to Riley Hospital in Indianapolis, frequently!
Josie’s grandmother, Karol, plays bingo every Wednesday at American Legion Post 230. One evening she shared the story of her granddaughter and the numerous procedures and surgeries Josie has undergone.
After learning about the family’s need the Riders decided to help. The Riders decided they would celebrate Josie’s birthday, with her friends and family on March 11, and to give the funds collected for the family at that time!
Michael Lorian the Director of ALR Chapter 230, (American Legion Riders) put together a group that set about fund raising and party planning. All the organizations at Post 230, the Legionnaires, Ladies Auxiliary and the Sons donated their time, monies, food and gifts for the party!
Director Lorian and Membership/Finance Officer Sherri McGee contacted local car dealerships hoping to provide a car for the family but it wasn’t looking good!
Josie has a twin brother, Dustin. He has blue/green hair and will tell you, he’s 9 minutes older! They made sure he was included in the festivities!
Josie checked in with Director Lorain daily to ensure the party plans were going well!
The day of the party finally arrived! The room was decked out in a basketball theme as Josie wants to be a basketball player.
Dustin, Josie and a posse of friends and family arrived about 2:00p.m. Representatives from American Legion Post 103, Mooresville and American Legion Post 64, attended the party!
Guests enjoyed home cooked food with cake and ice cream. The kids played cornhole, basketball, musical chairs and Simon Says!
After playing games Josie and Dustin opened their gifts! Afterward, Director Lorian presented Kimberly Enochs, Josie’s mother, Dustin and Josie with a check totaling nearly $4,000.00. American Legion Post 64 gave the family a check for $2,000.00 making the total raised almost $6,000.00!
Kimberly, Josie and Dustin thanked everyone for the wonderful party and money! BUT, the party wasn’t over yet! There was one more BIG surprise to come!
The television series, Steel Horse, taped the party and asked that everyone come outside to help “close” the show! Everyone gathered around to do a group shot in front of the Legion. Kimberly, Dustin and Josie were being interviewed for the final segment of the show while the crowd looked on.
The interviewer told Kimberly he had heard they needed a car and wished he could just give them the car they were standing in front of! Then before, she could respond, he continued and said, “Well, you know what? The car your standing in front of, is actually yours!” As he said this he was handing her the keys and the look on the family’s face was priceless!
At the final hour, Andy Mohr donated a car! He was very touched after hearing the family’s struggle!
The party was a huge success! Grandmother, Karol said that Josie needs a new bed and these funds will allow her to buy a bed which will meet her needs. She said the family was overwhelmed with the kindness and support they have received from the American Legion family!
WASHINGTON | Military Times — More than one-fourth of calls to the Veterans Crisis Line end up being redirected to other emergency response services because of ongoing problems with the services’ operations, according to a new report released Monday.
Those problems persist despite leadership changes and promised reforms at the crisis hotline in the last year, and a years-long emphasis on suicide prevention efforts from Department of Veterans Affairs officials.
“Staff did not respond adequately to a veteran’s urgent needs during multiple calls to the (crisis line) and its backup call centers,” officials from the VA Inspector General’s office said in the report. “Supervisory staff did not identify the deficiencies in their internal review of the matter.”
Last spring, a similar report by the office found at least 23 callers to the crisis line were transferred to voicemail systems instead of reaching emergency help. That revelation prompted harsh criticism from lawmakers, who said the mistakes literally could kill unstable veterans trying to get help.
The new analysis of crisis line operations for the last six months of 2016 found that more than 28 percent of calls to the hotline were redirected to backup centers that might not have the same training and resources to help veterans in crisis.
VA has set a goal of no more than 10 percent for “rollover” calls to the crisis line.
The report also found “deficiencies in governance and oversight” of the program’s operations, including poor record keeping to detect and correct problems with missed calls.
In a statement, VA’s acting Under Secretary for Health Poonam Alaigh said the crisis line “is the strongest it’s ever been since its inception in 2007” but acknowledged that further improvements are needed in the system.
Veterans Crisis Line
The department opened a new Atlanta satellite office for the New York-based crisis line in October — midway through the inspector general’s review — and “has implemented a comprehensive workforce management system and optimized staffing patterns” to “provide callers with immediate service” in the future.
But officials critiquing the system say that’s not enough. The Inspector General’s office has recommended better staff education, technology support, performance reviews and call monitoring to better the system.
Calls which go unanswered by the line are mandated to be directed to backup crisis centers, so veterans seeking help aren’t left without help. But the inspector general notes that those backups may not have the same training in military-specific issues and services, limiting some of the assistance they can provide.
In a statement, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe, R-Tenn., called the ongoing problems “unacceptable” and asked for immediate fixes.
“The Veterans Crisis Line is intended to be the first line of defense against veteran suicide, and we must ensure calls are being answered by a trained professional in a timely manner,” he said. “I am extremely frustrated by the findings and will continue to conduct oversight so the men and women who answered the call to serve have their calls answered when they need help the most."
The Veterans Crisis Line, launched in 2007, has fielded 2.5 million calls in the last decade and dispatched emergency services more than 66,000 times to callers in need of emergency help.
In fiscal 2016 alone, staffers answered more than 510,000 calls, 53,000 chat requests and 15,000 texts.
VA statistics show roughly 20 veterans a day nationwide commit suicide. Of those, only six are active users of VA services.
To contact the Veteran Crisis Line, callers can dial 1-800-273-8255 and select option 1 for a VA staffer. Veterans, troops or their families members can also text 838255 or visit VeteransCrisisLine.net for assistance.
The full report is available on the inspector general’s web site.
Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.
March 15, the designated birthday of The American Legion, is the day in 1919 when the first American Legion caucus, held by members of the American Expeditionary Force, convened in Paris. Much as the birthday of the United States is celebrated on July 4 – for the day in 1776 when revolting patriots declared the independence of the British colonies and the spirit of America was born – March 15 is the date on which the Legion came to life.
The American Legion was chartered by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization. Focusing on service to veterans, servicemembers and communities, the Legion evolved from a group of war-weary veterans of World War I into one of the most influential nonprofit groups in the United States. Membership swiftly grew to over 1 million, and local posts sprang up across the country. Today, membership stands at over 2.4 million in 14,000 posts worldwide. The posts are organized into 55 departments: one each for the 50 states, along with the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, France, Mexico and the Philippines.
Over the years, the Legion has influenced considerable social change in America, won hundreds of benefits for veterans and produced many important programs for children and youth.
Indiana Military Veterans Hall of Fame
P.O. Box 269098, Indianapolis, IN 46226
The Indiana Military Veterans Hall of Fame (IMVHOF) is calling for nominations for its fourth class of veteran honorees. The not-for-profit organization honors Hoosier veterans for service during and after active duty. To date, the IMVHOF has recognized 46 men and women for their outstanding military and civilian service.
Up to fifteen veterans will be honored for military service achievements and/or community contributions. To be eligible, a nominee must meet any one of these criteria:
All branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, all ages, living or deceased, and males and females will be considered equally. The induction ceremony will take place on November 3, 2017 at the Garrison at Ft. Benjamin Harrison in Lawrence, Indiana.
The complete nomination packet and criteria can be found at imvhof.com/nominate/. Nominations will be accepted through end of day, August 1, 2017.
The Indiana Military Veterans Hall of Fame (IMVHOF) broke ground on a permanent building on September 11, 2016, on ground near The American Legion’s Department of Indiana Headquarters in Lawrence. The building will pay tribute to all five branches of the military services and recognize veterans who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. The IMVHOF has partnered with Indiana Credit Unions to raise funds for construction and plans to begin building this spring.
Tax deductible donations can be made via check or money order made payable to IMVHOF and sent to IMVHOF, P.O. Box 269098, Indianapolis, IN 46226. Online donations can also be made at www.imvhof.com.
About the IMHOF: The Indiana Military Veterans Hall of Fame is a 501(c)3 organization that was founded in 2014. Formed by representatives from government, business, and retired military, the organization strives to publically emphasize the honor brought to the state of Indiana and the nation by the sacrifice of Indiana military veterans and their families. Indiana follows only a handful of other states who have established similar organizations.
SEYMOUR, Ind., – More than 70 teenagers competed in 24th Annual The American Legion Junior Shooting Sports Scholarship Competition held at Seymour Post 89, Saturday, March 18.
First place finisher, Isaiah Cole from Bellmont High School in Decatur, Ind., will receive the first ever, $1,000 Ida May Jewell JSSP Championship Scholarship to be presented at the Indiana Legion Spring Conference in Indianapolis on April 8.
The American Legion Junior Shooting Sports Program is a gun safety education and marksmanship program that encompasses the basic elements of safety, education, enjoyment and competition. Shooters use the .177 caliber air rifle.
This unique program gives students across Indiana, ages 12 – 18, the opportunity to learn marksmanship from National Rifle Association trained coaches.
Both males and females can participate, through Legion sponsorship; disabled youth are encouraged to join, as competitive shooting is a sport that creates an equal playing field for all competitors.
“It’s really a fun competition,” said Taylor Sorah, 2016 Indiana JSSP Champion. “It’s competitive but we’re all here together with our friends and family.” Sorah finished in third place overall and plans to compete again next year during her senior year of high school. “I would recommend it to anyone that wants to learn more about marksmanship.”
Junior Shooting Sports is a three-part program that combines the Basic Marksmanship Course, Qualification Awards and Air Rifle Competition into a well-rounded activity.
Contestants are judged by accuracy through a three-position tournament consisting of standing, kneeling and prone, of which the highest combined score determines the overall tournament winners.
Additionally, the Indiana Rifle and Pistol Association presented competitors with trophies in marksmanship, sharpshooter, distinguished shooter and championship categories.
“We’ve got a really great group of volunteers and we just enjoy mentoring these kids,” said Ida May Jewell, Chairwoman of the Indiana Legion Junior Shooting Sports Program. “They really give you hope for the future.”
Students and parents interested in participating in next year’s program are encouraged to contact their local American Legion post. Learn more about JSSP at: www.indianalegion.org/junior-shooting-sports.
WASHINGTON — President Trump held his first face-to-face meeting with representatives from prominent veterans groups on Friday, a step that community advocates called a productive and critical step in advancing the White House’s promises to veterans.
The hour-long meeting with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and senior White House staff covered issues including medical care access for veterans, accountability for VA employees, veterans caregiver programs and the president’s campaign pledges to make veterans services more efficient.
It included top officials from 10 veterans groups and was billed as a listening session for the president, with no policy or legislative proposals presented to the community leaders.
But individuals at the event said Trump was involved in the conversation throughout the meeting, questioning the groups on their priorities and ways the White House can help.
“We’ve been asking for this meeting for a long time, and I think it was a great way to start a working relationship with this White House,” said Joe Chenelly, national executive director of AMVETS. “Both the president and vice president were very engaged on the issues and wanted to hear from us.”
Since his election last fall and inauguration in January, Trump has held several meetings with health care officials to talk about ways to solve problems with VA health care offerings. Earlier this month, veterans groups were invited to talk to senior staff about their priorities, but Trump did not attend.
That worried veterans advocates and Capitol Hill lawmakers, who warned that the White House needed to include the groups in any reform conversations. After Friday’s meeting, those concerns largely disappeared.
“Coming out of the meeting, we believe that the president and his administration are committed to improving the VA system of care and expanding choices for veterans seeking healthcare outside of the VA system,” Sherman Gillums Jr., executive director of Paralyzed Veterans of America, said after the meeting.
“What’s more, we are optimistic that with further collaboration between his administration and Secretary Shulkin, there is a new day dawning for the future of all healthcare for veterans that includes convenience, quality and adequate protections.”
Trump spoke briefly to press at the start of the meeting, saying that “as commander in chief, I will not accept substandard service for our great veterans,” and repeating his assertion that veterans have been treated poorly by VA in recent years.
“I outlined a detailed plan to reforming veterans’ care throughout the country, and we’re working to put that plan into effect,” he said. “And it’s moving, I think I can say, honestly, ahead of schedule.”
Officials in Friday’s meeting said Trump made no new promises to the groups, but did direct Pence to discuss the idea of a White House office for veteran empowerment after a suggestion from Got Your 6.
Bill Rausch, executive director of the group, said he pushed for administration officials to look beyond Veterans Affairs programs and challenges to larger societal issues for ways to help veterans, noting that not every veterans issue is one tied to health care and benefits.
Along with Got Your 6, the meeting included Student Veterans of America, the Military Order of the Purple Heart and the “big six” veterans groups — American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, PVA, Vietnam Veterans of America and AMVETS.
It was also the second White House veterans meeting for Concerned Veterans for America, a conservative-backed group that was shut out of similar meetings during President Barack Obama.
In a statement, CVA Executive Director Mark Lucas praised Trump for “a bold vision of VA reform that includes choice and accountability” and said his group is grateful that he “has given us a seat at the table in these important discussions.”
Accountability was a highlighted topic at the meeting, as it was for Trump on the campaign trail. At one point, he promised to quickly fire any VA employee found committing criminal acts or workplace negligence, and if it violates federal employment policies, “they can sue me, I don’t care.”
Officials from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America said they were disappointed to be left off the event. Group officials are scheduled to meet with congressional and VA leadership next week in Washington D.C.
Trump said before Friday’s meeting that he’ll also again be discussing VA reform with health care executives this weekend, at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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