American Legion eligibility changes

By David Brinson

Congress officially voted to reduce the number of eligibility periods to join the American Legion. What used to be seven specific periods has been reduced down to two broad sections of time, opening the doors to more veterans.

The qualifying periods are now April 6, 1917, to Nov. 11, 1918, along with Dec. 7, 1941 through today. This means all those who served in the past 78 years, and were not dishonorably discharged, are now eligible.

David Burnette, Indiana’s 5th District Commander, has been travelling the surrounding counties to educate local posts about the new rules. He was excited when he heard the news of the act’s official passing.

“I’m excited, because the American Legion has always recognized veterans as veterans and there are programs we use to help those veterans,” Burnette said. “But unfortunately, some of those men and women were restricted from being a member. Now that door is open, that means we can help more veterans with our programs."

Relief programs include services like TFA (Temporary Financial Assistance): a one-time-only service that helps provide up to $1,500 for a member in need.

This initiative was labeled the “LEGION act,” which is an acronym for “Let Everyone Get Involved in Opportunities for National Service.” First introduced back in February, the act was passed by the Senate in March and passed by Congress in July. It was signed into law by President Donald Trump on July 30.

Burnette urges those who were previously turned away and may have a bad taste left in their mouth from the experience to reconsider joining their local American Legion post.

“Come be a part of the world’s largest veteran organization that helps other veterans,” Burnette said. “We fight for VA (Veteran Affairs) rights. I want to get the word out. There are people who have came to sign up and found out they were ineligible. Understandably, sometimes that can leave a bitter taste in their mouth. I just hope we can get past that.”

The American Legion has been around since 1919 and led in the drafting and passing of what later be known as the G.I. Bill.
With nearly two million active members before the signing, the Legion Act’s passing makes an additional six million veterans eligible. This also means the new members’ family members will be able to join the Sons of the American Legion and the American Legion auxiliary.

Posted on 2019 Aug 13