The American Legion has maintained an ongoing commitment to disabled veterans and their families since the founding of the organization in 1919. The American Legion in the 1920s was instrumental in creating the U.S. Veterans Bureau, the forerunner of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The American Legion has continued to be a watchdog as well as an advocate of veterans programs and benefits. The mission of The American Legion Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation (VA&R) Commission is to ensure veterans, survivors, and eligible dependents receive appropriate health care, education, and training, and delivery of benefits.
The goal of the VA&R Commission is to develop policy on all VA health care, benefits, and national cemetery issues that come before The American Legion.
The VA&R Commission breaks down into four separate branches: Health Care, Field Service, Insurance & Debt Management, and Veterans Claims and Appeals.
The Health Care branch staff is involved with testimony before Congress. Specific issues of concern include the 22 VA Networks, the VA Budget, Long Term Care, Persian Gulf Illnesses, Agent Orange, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Committees follow minority and women’s health care issues.
The volunteer program is the most important aspect of VA&R since it involves veterans helping veterans. Legionnaires log more than one million hours each year volunteering at VA hospitals and in the community. The VA could not survive without the endless hours provided by these volunteers.
Field Service staff makes site visits to each of the VA hospitals around the country, reporting on the quality of care, patient accessibility, and patient satisfaction. The reports are sent to the VA Central Office, Network directors, hospital directors, and local members of Congress. The Field Service unit has been influential in identifying and solving various problems that veterans encounter when they seek treatment from a VA facility. It also provides valuable data for The American Legion in support of resolutions and testimony.
The Insurance and Debt Management offices, located in Philadelphia and St. Paul, Minnesota, handle overpayment issues and insurance contracts and claims for The American Legion.
The largest unit of VA&R deals with Veterans Claims and Appeals, Its primary tasks to provide veterans with counseling, assist veterans with the filing of claims for benefits, represent veterans in claims on appeal and provide representation before the military/naval reviews and corrections boards, and case reviews on behalf of the Pro Bono Consortium, before the U.S. Courts of Veterans Appeals.
In addition to the Washington, D.C. staff, there is an extensive network of Department Service Officers (DSOs) in each state who assist veterans, dependents, and survivors in the filing and representation of their claims at 58 VA regional offices nationwide and San Juan, Puerto Rico and Manila, Philippine Islands.