The Four Pillars of Service
See pamphlet: FOUR PILLARS of The American Legion
In 1919, The American Legion was founded on four pillars:
- Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation
- National Security
- Children & Youth
Each of these pillars encompasses a variety of programs that benefit our nation's veterans, its service members, their families, the youth of America and ordinary citizens. These programs make a difference in hundreds of thousands of lives each year.
Our organization's positions and programs are guided by resolutions passed by American Legion National Convention delegates, and committee and commission members who represent 2.6 million wartime veterans and their families. These programs, and the men and women who take the time to perform them, are what allow The American Legion to make a difference locally, and on the state and national levels.
The American Legion Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation pillar is composed of programs, services and advocacy efforts that improve the lives of those who served, along with their families and dependents. The Legion lobbies Congress for a well-funded, appropriately staffed VA that can handle benefits claims efficiently, quickly and accurately. Locally, Legion volunteers work individually with veterans to help them navigate the complicated benefits application process. As the VA backlog continues, The American Legion is leading a national conversation about accountability to veterans and reforms aimed at veterans receiving timely appointments and the benefits they earned throughout their service. The Legion conducts System Worth Saving visits to VA centers across the country. These monthly visits include a thorough assessment of the facility, and discussions with patients and staff at VA. This information is then compiled and published in a report. The American Legion also works one-on-one with veterans to ensure they receive proper benefits. Accredited American Legion service officers are specially trained to provide expert assistance, free of charge, to veterans and their families. The majority of service officer work involves claims for VA disability benefits, but these compassionate professionals also provide information, referrals and resources on education, employment and business, death benefits and other topics.
Message Points: Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation
EMPLOYMENT AND BUSINESS
The American Legion conducts, promotes and supports hundreds of veteran career events nationwide each year. Thousands of veterans land jobs because of these efforts. Meanwhile, the Legion helps place hundreds of other veterans in job-training programs every year. Working veteran-to-veteran with The American Legion Small Business Task Force, along with the Small Business Administration, Department of Labor, VA and corporate associates, the Legion helps veterans understand the federal contracting process and offers personal guidance for career-seeking veterans.
VETERANS EDUCATION AND THE GI BILL
The American Legion was instrumental in the creation of the modern Post-9/11 GI Bill, providing veterans with education benefits that better meet today's needs. Following its passage, the Legion has continued to fight for even more improvements to the benefit, making it more helpful to National Guardsmen, reservists and those pursuing online education.
COMBATING THE CLAIMS BACKLOG
VA and The American Legion are working side by side to reverse a massive backlog of unresolved benefits claims. Through its Regional Office Action Review (ROAR) initiative, the Legion travels the nation to pinpoint problems and identify best practices in VA claims management.
VA VOLUNTEER SERVICES
Legionnaires collectively donate around 1 million hours of service a year at veterans health-care facilities, working through the VA Volunteer Services program. These volunteer hours save the federal government at least $18.5 million a year and connect Legionnaires with veteran patients and their families.
BOARD OF VETERANS APPEALS
For veterans and families disputing benefits decisions by VA, The American Legion has staff representatives in Washington, D.C., who can help with the appeals process or strengthen a case, free of charge to veterans.
The American Legion offers free assistance to those applying to their service branches for corrections to military records and discharge statuses. Legion experts help veterans with claims for Combat Related Special Compensation and with the procurement of accurate records. Send Email to firstname.lastname@example.org
HELP FOR HOMELESS VETERANS
At the local, state and national levels, The American Legion provides support for homeless veterans and programs. Legion posts throughout the country build shelters or provide financial and volunteer support. At the national level, the Legion works with VA to raise awareness and allocate funds to help reverse the problem.
The American Legion fulfills a sacred duty by honoring the memories of U.S. military veterans after their deaths. Legion honor guards salute their fallen comrades at funeral services throughout the country every day. Legion Riders provide motorcycle escorts and security at services for fallen troops and veterans. The Legion also works closely with the National Cemetery Administration, Arlington National Cemetery and the American Battle Monuments Commission to ensure their respect and honor are bestowed upon fallen service-members.
The American Legion's positions on national defense, homeland security, border control and military support are all part of the long-held Legion value that the key to peace and world stability is a strong, well-resourced defense. In order to protect America, troops and their families must have support. The American Legion plays a vital role in supporting the men and women who risk their lives to protect our freedoms. American Legion posts throughout the nation adopt military units, deliver care packages, provide emotional support for families of deployed service-members and welcome the troops home. Specific examples of their efforts include arranging transportation to reunite soldiers with their families for the holidays and organizing fundraisers to buy phone cards for use in combat zones. Such assistance doesn't end when service-members return home. At U.S. military installations across the country, including Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland, Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas, and Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, WA, Legion staff members help troops work through the medical discharge process and provide representation before medical examination boards to reconcile disability ratings.
Message Points: National Security
OPERATION COMFORT WARRIORS
This program provides wounded service-members with rehabilitation equipment for physical therapy and entertainment in the form of special clothing, electronics, sports equipment, music and more. One hundred percent of donations to OCW go toward gifts for injured servicemen and women.
MILITARY QUALITY OF LIFE
The Legion's support of the U.S. military “from adequate funding for weapons systems to reasonable child-care services for deployed troops” is respected in the Pentagon, at the White House and on Capitol Hill.
SUPPPORT FOR TRICARE
The U.S. military’s health-care system and medical insurance program frequently face challenges in Washington. The American Legion persistently testifies on the need to keep TRICARE and TRICARE For Life viable and affordable benefits of military service.
The American Legion works with the Department of Homeland Security at the national, state and local levels to prepare for natural disasters. In many communities, American Legion posts serve as civil-defense shelters and havens of relief in the event of catastrophe or attack on U.S. soil. The Legion and DHS collaborate to help posts prepare their communities.
BORDER SECURITY AND IMMIGRATION
The American Legion opposes illegal immigration and amnesty for those who came to the United States illegally. The Legion advocates for strict border and port security as a defense against invasion or attack by foreign enemies, illegal drug trafficking and adverse economic impact. The Legion, however, strongly supports legal naturalization.
NATIONAL EMERGENCY FUND
The National Emergency Fund has provided more than $8 million in direct financial assistance to American Legion Family members and posts affected by natural disasters in recent years. The donations have enabled Legion Family members to rebuild their homes and their lives.
BLUE STAR BANNERS
The American Legion's Blue Star Banner was resurrected after 9/11 to acknowledge U.S. families with loved ones serving in the Armed Forces during wartime. American Legion Blue Star Salutes and other post sponsored events to distribute the banners are effective expressions of home-front support for military families.
BLOOD DONOR PROGRAM
The American Legion conducts state competitions throughout the country for posts that donate blood or host blood drives.
The American Legion maintains a strong working relationship with the State Department to promote peace, human rights and trade on a global scale. The Legion urges the president and Congress to continue pursuing the “smart power” strategy of using military and economic strength in tandem with foreign aid and human-rights negotiations to fulfill U.S. foreign policy.
FULL ACCOUNTING OF POW/MIAs
The American Legion maintains unwavering support for the full accounting of all U.S. military personnel taken as prisoners of war, missing or killed in action on foreign soil. Official meetings of the Legion start with a prayer to honor our nation's POWs. POW/MIA flags, patches and pins are displayed at Legion events to demonstrate the organization's eternal vigilance
For those looking to make differences in their local communities, The American Legion is a great place to start. From Legion Baseball to Boys State / Boys Nation to Legion Riders, there are plenty of opportunities to make your mark. Take, for example, the experience of Pat Unger, commander of Tyler Cates American Legion Post 281 in Mount Juliet, Tenn. Unger’s vision of creating a Legion Baseball team came true in 2012. Post 281 Legionnaires provided support by supplying uniforms, attending games, serving refreshments and meeting players’ transportation needs to and from games. “The enthusiasm and camaraderie among the Legion members and players has been one of the most rewarding experiences for everyone,” Unger says. The experience of going to a baseball game and knowing that The American Legion is a driving force behind the teams is both gratifying and satisfying. American Legion Baseball is truly a rewarding and fun endeavor for any American Legion post to be involved with Legion posts and volunteers like Unger coordinate each season, culminating with the Legion World Series in Shelby, N.C., watched by millions on ESPN3. More than 100,000 young athletes compete for nearly 5,000 American Legion Baseball teams each year. Some of these baseball players go on to play professionally, including more than 60 who have been enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.
Message Points: Americanism
Action Programs of Americanism
AMERICAN LEGION BASEBALL
Each year, nearly 90,000 athletes participate in American Legion Baseball, the nation's oldest and most-respected amateur baseball program. Legion posts sponsor teams in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, giving young men wholesome, healthy activity and lessons in sportsmanship, loyalty, respect for rules and fair play.
Many of the greatest names in the sport spent their teen-age summers in American Legion Baseball uniforms. Hall of Famers such as Dave Winfield, Rollie Fingers, Reggie Jackson and Yogi Berra still speak of the influence Legion ball has had on their lives and careers.
Berra, the legendary New York Yankees catcher, also served as a gunner's mate in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Although Berra played on teams with Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Roger Maris and other legendary players, he said, "The most fun I ever had playing baseball was when I played American Legion Baseball."
BOYS STATE / BOYS NATION
Young men throughout the country learn firsthand how government works during American Legion Boys State and American Legion Boys Nation. From each Boys State program, two delegates are selected to attend Boys Nation in Washington, D.C., where they form a mock federal Senate and meet with top officials in the nation's capital.
JUNIOR SHOOTING SPORTS
American Legion youth air-rifle teams compete throughout the country for a possible berth in the National Junior Shooting Sports championships at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO, each year.
The American Legion High School Oratorical Scholarship Program gives thousands of young people the opportunity to hone their speaking skills and learn about the U.S. Constitution. Competitions at the local and state levels lead up to the National American Legion High School Oratorical Contest in Indianapolis, where top finishers are awarded more than $138,000 in scholarships.
BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA
American Legion posts nationwide sponsor more than 2,500 Scouting units and provide thousands of dollars in scholarships. The Legion offers a national scholarship for Eagle Scout of the Year, and the Square Knot Award for Legionnaires who work for the Scouting programs in their communities.
At the national, state and local levels, The American Legion provides access to dozens of scholarships and education programs.
Opportunities to attend college should not be out of reach for children left behind because a parent died on active duty. This is why The American Legion established The American Legion Legacy Scholarship, which provides funds for the children of military personnel who lost their lives on duty on or after 9/11.
The Legion Riders, with more than 1,500 chapters, have helped raise more than $10 million for the Legacy Scholarship Fund. The Riders also perform a number of services for Legion-supported causes and provide support at military funerals.
The American Legion is actively involved in the support, organization and coordination of high school Junior ROTC and college ROTC programs throughout the country.
American Legion posts serve as polling places, political debate venues and forums during campaigns. The Legion is a nonpartisan organization but takes an active role in the political process.
The American Legion's Children & Youth pillar is guided by three main objectives: strengthen the family unit, support organizations that help children in need, and provide communities with well-rounded programs to provide hope and opportunity for young people facing difficult challenges. One program within this pillar is Temporary Financial Assistance (TFA). This program provides funds to veterans and military service-members’ families who are struggling and have minor children at home. For example, when health problems forced a Vietnam War veteran and his wife to quit their jobs, they still had to care for their five children at home. A local American Legion post in Washington state raised funds to help out and provided money through Temporary Financial Assistance. After a fire at an apartment complex in New Hampshire left the families of five active-duty service-members’ homeless, The American Legion stepped in with $500 in TFA funds for each family. The American Legion provides temporary cash grants to hundreds of families in need each year. Posts make requests for funds from the TFA program, which annually distributes more than $500,000 to help families.
Message Points: Children & Youth
Children & Youth Programs
FAMILY SUPPORT NETWORK
Established during Operation Desert Storm, this program connects American Legion members with families struggling at home when loved ones are called to military duty. The program takes many shapes. Legion volunteers provide child-care services, yard work, car repairs or other forms of personal help. A dedicated hotline - 800-504-4098 - is available for families looking for assistance.
CHILD WELFARE FOUNDATION
Nonprofit organizations that reach out to help young people in need are supported through American Legion Child Welfare Foundation grants. The foundation provides grants to enhance communications for groups that tackle problems ranging from childhood neglect to substance abuse.
The American Legion opposes attempts to weaken U.S. laws governing the production and distribution of pornographic materials and takes a zero-tolerance stance on sexual exploitation of children. The Legion also works with local programs, law-enforcement officials and schools to prevent substance abuse among young people in their communities. Other issues of Legion concern include Halloween safety, suicide prevention, support for children of deployed troops, and control over excessive use of violence in the entertainment media.