|LEGION Act signed into law
|President Trump signs bill that honors 1,600 veterans from previously undeclared war eras and opens American Legion eligibility and benefits to 6 million potential new members.
In a significant legislative victory for The American Legion, President Trump signed a bill July 30 that declares the United States has been in a state of war since Dec. 7, 1941.
The American Legion sought the declaration as a way to honor approximately 1,600 U.S. servicemembers who were killed or wounded during previously undeclared periods of war.
The LEGION Act (Let Everyone Get Involved In Opportunities for National Service Act) also opens the door for approximately 6 million Veterans to access American Legion programs and benefits for which they previously had not been eligible.
“Recognizing the service of these wartime veterans is the right thing do and it is long overdue,” National Commander Brett Reistad said. “The families of those who were killed or wounded during these wartime acts should take pride in knowing that we recognize their sacrifice and service. Moreover, we are proud to welcome any of the six million living veterans from the previously unrecognized periods into our organization and call them ‘Legionnaires.’”
Now that the legislation has been signed, The American Legion’s eligibility criteria immediately changes from seven war eras to two: April 6, 1917, to Nov. 11, 1918, and Dec. 7, 1941 to a time later determined by the federal government. No other restrictions to American Legion membership are changed.
The law’s journey began on Feb. 14 when Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., introduced S. 504, along with Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C. A companion measure, H.R. 1641, was introduced in the House by Reps. Lou Correa, D-Calif., and Ben Cline, R-Va.
Reistad expressed gratitude to the bipartisan members of Congress for passing the legislation.
“We are grateful that President Trump fully acknowledges the importance of The American Legion by signing the LEGION Act in the White House today – just one week after it passed the House of Representatives,” Reistad said. “In an era of partisan gridlock, Republicans and Democrats in Congress overwhelmingly recognized the importance of allowing thousands of honorable but previously ineligible veterans the right to join the largest and most influential veterans organization in the country.”
Reistad pointed out that existing American Legion membership applications are in the process of being updated but can still be used. “In the meantime, I recommend that prospective Legionnaires and recruiters write ‘LEGION Act’ in the eligibility date section of American Legion membership applications if they fall outside the previous war eras,” Reistad said. “The larger pool of veterans now eligible for The American Legion will also open their family members to eligibility in the Sons of the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary as well.”
Question: How does this change the eligibility requirements for The American Legion?
Answer: The only change is that Congress has reduced the number of eligibility periods from seven to two. They are April 6, 1917, to Nov. 11, 1918, and Dec. 7, 1941, and continuing. No other restrictions are changed.
Question: What’s the impact on veterans who previously were not eligible for American Legion membership?
Answer: Veterans who were honorably discharged but whose service did not fall into the previous defined war eras may now join The American Legion immediately. To do so, eligible members may sign up at www.legion.org/join. (NOTE: Easier still, bring a copy of your DD Form 214 & $40 to the New Lenox American Legion Post 1977’s Canteen, fill out a small form and we’ll take care of the rest for you.)
Question: I am among the veterans who were not allowed to join previously, so why do you want me now?
Answer: The American Legion’s founding fathers believed, “a veteran is a veteran,” an axiom that has held true throughout the organization’s more than century of service. Some veterans were ineligible to join because of the war eras that were defined by Congress. The recent bill passage and president’s signature changed that.
Question: So how does this differentiate The American Legion from AMVETS?
Answer: The American Legion’s eligibility criteria states that veterans must have served during “wartime.” When Congress decides the U.S. is no longer in a state of war, the Legion’s membership eligibility period will close, while AMVETS will still be open to those who served.
Question: How does this affect the Sons of The American Legion (SAL)?
Answer: The Sons’ eligibility criteria will change along with that of The American Legion. Any son or grandson of a living American Legion member will be able to join the SAL program. (Sons and grandsons of deceased veterans are also eligible.) For example, a son of a veteran who served between 1985 and 1988 previously would not have been eligible. With the extension of the war period, that veteran would immediately be eligible for The American Legion and the son would be able to join the SAL.
Question: How does this affect the eligibility for the American Legion Auxiliary?
Answer: This follows the same concept as the SAL, as noted previously. Membership in the American Legion Auxiliary is currently open to grandmothers, mothers, sisters, wives, and adopted female descendants of eligible veterans.
Question: How does this affect membership for departments, districts and posts?
Answer: This change opens up American Legion membership to thousands more veterans who likely live in your communities. They may become members immediately.
Question: The current membership applications don’t address the eligibility change. How do we process those members?
Answer: New membership materials will be developed and provided as quickly as possible. Until then, it is recommended that prospective members from a previously undocumented war era write “Other Conflicts” in the eligibility date section and send it in to their department with the appropriate dues.
Question: What steps should departments, districts and posts focus on?
Answer: A good first step would be to review all recruiting materials to look for eligibility dates. Information on electronic media (websites, social media channels, etc.) should be changed immediately. It is up to departments to decide on the best way to handle printed materials, while updated ones are being produced.
Question: How does this change the Paid Up For Life program?
Answer: There are no changes to the PUFL program, though the newly eligible members would be able to become PUFLs. To learn more about the program, visit https://www.legion.org/PUFL
Question: Who can I contact for more information about this change as it applies to membership and recruiting?
Answer: Contact the national Membership Division. Visit this web page to find the representative in your state. https://www.legion.org/membership/contactus
Your membership helps support Department Service Officers nationwide who assist veterans in preparing claims and obtaining their full military healthcare benefits through the VA. Your membership gives you and your family practical, money-saving discounts that can easily save you many times the cost of your annual membership dues.
The American Legion is the nation’s most influential, effective and dependable advocate of veteran affairs fighting for better active-duty pay, improved housing for active-duty families and helping to ensure that the VA’s medical system can properly care for veterans.
Join the American Legion today! Download and print the application or stop into Post 1977 and ask the canteen bartender for one. We will also need a copy of your DD214 and the yearly dues fee of $40.