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(The American Legion) The American Legion called on President Biden to issue an Executive Order authorizing the reinstitution of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for Naturalization at Basic Training Initiative and reopening all USCIS field offices abroad for servicemembers and deported veterans. “The American Legion believes that non-citizen veterans who are honorably discharged and have not been charged or convicted with felonious or heinous crimes should be guaranteed the promise they were made of citizenship,” said James W. “Bill” Oxford, national commander of The American Legion. Current citizenship status and deportation have no impact on a veteran’s eligibility for receiving benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and veterans who have been deported remain eligible for VA services and care. However, ensuring these veterans are receiving the care they have earned through service is difficult. The American Legion recommended to the White House that VA assess barriers to care for these veterans and develop a plan to address this issue. The American Legion’s National Executive Committee passed two resolutions in 2018 that affirmed the organizaztion’s dedication in advocating for the rights of servicemembers who seek citizenship during their military service, as well as those of veterans who have been deported. Resolution No. 15: Expedited Citizenship Through Military Service, urges Congress to implement measures within the Department of Defense to ensure the process of naturalization through honorable military service is completed prior to discharge. Resolution No. 10: Expedited Citizenship Applications For Deported Veterans, calls on the federal government to grant expedited citizenship applications to deported veterans who were honorably discharged and have no felony convictions. “It is imperative that we strengthen military naturalization programs, prevent veteran deportation, and repatriate deported veterans. These policies would protect our servicemembers and veterans permanently with recognition for their honorable service to the United States,” Oxford concluded. Photo Credit:  A deployed National Guard soldier takes the oath of allegiance during a naturalization ceremony. U.S. Army photo.
As Americans are managing life with the Coronavirus and now with the vaccine finally rolling out, the travel industry is continuing to come back.  Hotels and travel destinations in many parts of the country are open in anticipation of travelers ready to throw off their cabin fever and venture out.  Your plans may be for a weekend get away to a cozy bed and breakfast, or perhaps a fishing trip to catch that “big one” that won’t get away this time. Maybe it’s a camping trip full of hiking adventures with stunning vistas, or possibly you would rather walk through America’s glorious past by taking in all the amenities offered in any of hundreds of museums.  How about a week’s stay at a ranch out west?  Whatever your travel desires are, your options are plentiful and, more importantly, clean, safe and following all CDC guidelines for Coronavirus.  Each week we will list state by state travel options we recommend to help make your vacation choices easy.   ALABAMA: Autauga Creek RV – Prattville.   ARIZONA: Eagle View RV Resort– Scottsdale.   ARKANSAS: Stetsons on the White Trout Guides – Flippin. Hot Springs National Park KOA – Hot Springs National Park. Arkansas National Guard Musem – North Little Rock.   CALIFORNIA: Castle Air Museum – Atwater. Estrella Warbirds Museum – Paso Robles. Rio Bend RV & Golf Resort – El Centro. JGW RV Park – Redding.   COLORADO: Boxwood Gulch – Shawnee.   FLORIDA: Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort  – Daytona Beach. Travelers Rest RV Resort & Golf Course – Dade City. Henry Flagler Morrison Museum– Palm Beach.   IDAHO: Sleep Cabins – Sagle. Lemhi Museum – Salmon. Hearthstone Lodge – Kamiah.   INDIANA: Lake Monroe Jellystone Park – Bloomington. CANDLES Holocaust Museum & Education Center – Terre Haute.   IOWA: Hotel Greenfield – Greenfield.   KENTUCKY: Westgate RV Campground – London.   LOUISIANA: The Mansion at Red Hill – Delhi. Cypress Bend RV – Many.   MAINE: OMM Outfitters – Eagle Lake. Old Mill Marina – Eagle Lake. Eagle Lake Sporting Camps – Eagle Lake.   MICHIGAN: Econolodge Inn & Suites – Grand Rapids. Lansing Cottonwood Campground – Lansing. Mitchell Creek Inn – Traverse City.   MINNESOTA: Pioneer Resort – Bemidji.   MISSOURI:              Eminence Cottages and Camp – Eminence Veterans Memorial Museum – Branson. Mark Twain Boyhood Home – Hannibal. Village at Indian Point – Branson. Ye Olde English Inn – Hollister. Hall of Fame Motel – Branson. Treehouse Condo Rentals – Branson Willow Tree Inn & RV Park– Branson Museum of Transportation – St. Louis   NEBRASKA: Enders Golf Course and RV Park – Enders.   NEW HAMPSHIRE: Cheney House Bed & Breakfast – Ashland.   NEW YORK: Erie Canal Camillus Museum – Camillus. Holland Land Office Museum – Batavia. Camp Bell Campground – Campbell.   NORTH CAROLINA: Forest Lake RV & Camping Resort – Advance. Lake Myers RV Resort – Mocksville.   OREGON: Deschutes County Historical Society – Bend.   PENNSYLVANIA: Harrisburg East Campground – Harrisburg. America On Wheels Museum – Allentown. The MoonShine Ranch Outfitters – Equinunk.   SOUTH CAROLINA: Bass Lake Campground – Dillon Lake Thurmond RV Park – Plum Branch. Ocean Lakes Campground – Myrtle Beach. Vacation Time Rentals – Hilton Head.   SOUTH DAKOTA: Spring Creek Inn – Hill City. Elm Lake Lodge – Elm Lake. Crazy Horse Memorial – Custer. Granite Springs Lodge – Alexandria.   TENNESSEE: Floyd Garrett’s Muscle Car Museum – Sevierville. Tennessee International Dude and Guest Ranch – Dunlap.   TEXAS: Holiday Trav-L-Park for Campers – Del Rio. Museum of the Gulf Coast – Port Arthur. Centennial Museum & Chihuahua Desert Gardens – El Paso. American GI Museum – College Station. Taft Blackland Museum – Taft. Wilder RV Resorts – Alamo, Harlingen, Mission, Pharr and Rio Grande Valley. Hood County Museum – Granbury. West of the Pecos Museum – Pecos   UTAH: The Lodge at Red River Ranch – Teasdale. Sky Ridge Inn Bed and Breakast / Broken Spur Steakhouse – Torrey.   VIRGINIA: Best Western – Williamsburg.   WASHINGTON: Northwest Carriage Museum – Raymond. Port Gamble Weddings – Port Gamble.   WISCONSIN: Edgewater Resort and Condominium – Ephraim Military Veterans Museum – Oshkosh. Annie’s Campground– Gresham.   When you are ready to travel, we are here to help!  Keep checking back every week for more featured locations.  Our travel hosts are eager to see you and work with you to provide safe and clean facilities.
WASHINGTON — This February the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) launched Ethics Principles for Access to and Use of Veteran Data as part of ongoing efforts to protect Veteran data. The new online resource outlines nine principles for communicating clear expectations on how Veteran data is to be managed and viewed by Veterans, staff, VA partners and other stakeholders. These principles reinforce VA’s standards of data privacy and protection maintained during VA’s distribution of nearly 2 million COVID-19 vaccinations to date, and other critical health care services during the coronavirus pandemic. “VA’s principle-based ethics framework takes a proactive approach to data management and privacy by setting standards for our partners to follow,” says Acting VA Under Secretary for Health Richard Stone, M.D. “VA is applying this framework to all data interoperability initiatives, including those tied to our COVID-19 response and modernization efforts.” Having clearly defined integrities for everyone who accesses or uses Veteran data puts VA at the forefront of organizational responsibility for ethical data practices. Veterans trust VA to promote and respect their privacy, confidentiality and autonomy within the services the department provides and supports. The department will continue to uphold that trust by remaining consistent with VA’s I-CARE values of integrity, commitment, advocacy, respect and excellence to promote and ensure responsible practices whenever Veteran data is accessed or used. The ethics framework was developed by the Data Ethics Work Group established by the VA Interoperability Leadership team and the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) National Center for Ethics in Health Care, along with input from Veterans. The department is actively working to ensure all VA directives, policies and standards reflect these principles which the agency anticipates completing by the end of 2022. Learn more about VA’s COVID-19 vaccination response and how VHA’s National Center for Ethics in Health Care continues to work proactively to build trust in managing access and use of Veteran data.
WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will extend the existing moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, as well as extend VA loan forbearance requests, to June 30, because of COVID-19.  The current moratorium extensions for evictions and foreclosures were set to end March 31. “We will do everything in our power to help Veterans, their families, survivors and our caregivers get through this pandemic,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “The department’s moratorium and forbearance extensions support President Biden’s Jan. 22 Executive Order to deliver economic relief to Americans amid the COVID-19 crisis by addressing economic hardships the Veteran community faces, through no fault of its own, during the ongoing pandemic.”  VA borrowers experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19 can review VA guidance for borrowers or call 877-827-3702 for additional information.       
(VFW Magazine) WASHINGTON – Today the Senate confirmed the appointment of Denis McDonough, making him the new Veterans Affairs Secretary. A native of Stillwater, Minnesota, Mr. McDonough graduated from Saint John's University in 1992 and Georgetown University's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service with an MSFS degree in 1996. McDonough has extensive experience on Capitol Hill having served as White House chief of staff under President Barack Obama, deputy national security advisor and chief of staff of the National Security Council. As White House chief of staff, McDonough exhibited his commitment to veterans by working closely with the VA and Congress to address the many challenges and obstacles veterans face in receiving veteran’s health care services from the VA. “The VFW believes today’s confirmation of Mr. McDonough will allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to leverage his years of government leadership experience to rebuild trust and confidence in quality VA care throughout the veteran community, especially during these uncertain times,” said Hal Roesch, VFW national commander. “The VFW looks forward to working closely with Mr. McDonough to ensure the VA can continue its aggressive fight against COVID-19, and to improve the delivery of care and benefits to our nation’s heroes.”
The Veteran Farmers Market (VFM) is a local space where senior veterans can come and shop, at no cost for food and household items. Started eight months ago in Cedarhurst, N.Y., it helps at-risk veterans by providing an outdoor space away from stores where they can come without the worry of being infected by Covid 19. Started by Rock and Wrap It Up! CEO Syd Mandelbaum and his wife Diane, food is donated by Trader Joe's, Costco, Wall's Bakery and other local stores to the Veteran Farmers Market. Syd also serves as the commander of American Legion Lawrence Cedarhurst Post 339. Post Adjunct Brig. General Pat Alesia (retired) volunteers with other community members to run the market. The VFM operates from 10-12 p.m. on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings at the Rock and Wrap It up! offices in Cedarhurst. Veterans are required to social distance and wear face-masks. To set up a VFM, please contact Syd at sydmandelbaum@att.net or call 1-516-295-0670. About the author:Syd Mandelbaum graduated Brooklyn College with a BS in geology and Earth science and an MA in science from Brooklyn College. He taught high school Earth science in Brooklyn and Oceanside, N.Y. before going to work in the medical industry as a scientist. He received his MBA from Hofstra University. He is also certified as a building scientist by the BPI and Suffolk County Department of Labor, Licensing and Consumer Affairs. He served as a military service staff sergeant, United States Air Force Reserves, 35th Medical Service Squadron. Training included AFSC 90270, 90250 with honors: Service Ribbon, Sharpshooters Ribbon He also has served since 2014 as commander of Lawrence Cedarhurst American Legion Post 339 Web site:http://www.rockandwrapitup.org
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reached a milestone in just a month and a half’s time administering 1 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to Veterans and VA health care workers. As of Feb. 2, VA has dispensed at least one dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine to more than 582,000 Veterans and has fully vaccinated over 44,000, totaling more than 626,000 doses. This is in addition to administering more than 401,000 doses to VA employees, and more than 1,200 vaccine doses to federal partners. “In addition to administering 1 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, VA has begun publishing the number of Veterans who have received Pfizer BioNTech or Moderna vaccines at each facility across its enterprise,” said Acting VA Secretary Dat Tran.  “The number of doses administered to Veterans at each facility will be updated daily on the VA COVID-19 National Summary website.” VA employees across the country are working diligently to vaccinate the department’s health care personnel and the most vulnerable Veterans as quickly as possible. Making the data about vaccine doses administered to Veterans available publicly, VA is taking another step toward being as transparent as possible during the pandemic. VA is currently providing vaccines at more than 215 sites nationally with plans to expand to additional sites as vaccine supplies increase. As with states distributing vaccines, VA is currently in the limited supply phase, anticipating an increase in weekly vaccine doses in March. Until VA receives an increase in vaccines, many facilities may temporarily run out of vaccines for short periods of time. VA will continue to follow current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance and the VA COVID-19 Vaccination Distribution Plan until new CDC guidance is available. The distribution plan lays out VA’s overarching intent but implementation of vaccination on a large scale requires agility and flexibility in order to meet the daily threats posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The federal government will continue to work with states and the private sector to effectively execute an aggressive vaccination strategy, focusing on the immediate actions necessary to convert vaccines into vaccinations. VA is reaching out to Veterans who are eligible for vaccination. Veterans who would like additional information can visit the VA COVID-19 vaccines webpage, visit their local facility’s website or contact their care team.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) is proud to celebrate our nation’s African American service members and veterans throughout the month of February, Black History Month. “The bravery and sacrifice of our African American veterans, service members and their families has been integral to our nation’s success,” said Hal Roesch, VFW national commander. “From fighting on the front lines for the freedom of our nation, to celebrating the first Black Secretary of Defense confirmed only weeks ago, the contributions they have made and continue to make have helped to ensure our military remains the most exceptional force in the free world.” Throughout the month of February, the VFW will spotlight the service stories of African American veterans and their invaluable contributions to our military and society.  
(VFW)  In honoring the memory of a local Army veteran, a VFW Post in San Antonio established a scholarship fund that surpassed more than $75,000 in 2020.  In the 10 years since creating a scholarship fund in memory of Jeremiah J. Geffre, VFW Post 1533 and its members have awarded 69 college scholarships ranging between $1,000 and $1,500 to local JROTC high school students.   Jeremiah J. Geffre’s father, John, left, and Post 1533 trustee and scholarship chairperson Ruben Villafranca, right, stand alongside Judson High School AFROTC members and scholarship recipients Taylor Andrews and Nicole Murillo on April 24, 2018, at the Judson High School JRROTC awards in Converse, Texas, about 15 miles from San Antonio. “We have always valued education at Post 1533, so preserving the memory of a young man like Geffre through a scholarship named in his honor was very fitting,” said Ruben Villafranca, a VFW Post 1533 trustee and scholarship chairperson.    The decision to honor Geffre was voted upon by Post members in 2011, five years after Geffre lost his battle to brain cancer diagnosed while deployed to Kuwait between 2004 and 2005 with the Army’s 328th Human Resources Company. Post 1533 began with two scholarships worth $1,000 each in 2011, but has since allocated funds to donate between six and seven scholarships a year. In 2019 and 2020 alone, the Post awarded 13 yearly scholarships worth $1,500 each. Each year, Post 1533 members raise the funds through barbecue and Bingo nights at the Post, as well as receiving private donations from local businesses and residents such as the Geffres. The program’s success has led to testimonials from former awardees, whose presence at yearly scholarship ceremonies alongside Post 1533 members encourage future participants to propel their own goals forward.  “For Geffre’s parents and the Post, the scholarship keeps a veteran’s memory alive. But it also helps our future leaders get their education,” Villafranca said. “It’s a blessing hearing past awardees come and talk to the youth and speak on how the scholarship has helped them achieve their career goals.” Despite not having the means to raise money for the 2021 campaign as a consequence of COVID-19, Villafranca and other Post 1533 trustees expect the program to continue in 2022. “COVID difficulties had us decide to forgo this year’s scholarships, but it’s not the end,” Villafranca added. “We are very proud of the program and hope to continue it for many years to come.”
(VAntage Point) Veterans who receive federal benefits should sign up for direct deposit to receive their benefit payments electronically. Direct deposit is easier, safer and more reliable than prepaid debit cards or paper checks that often get lost or delayed in the mail. Direct deposit also allows beneficiaries to receive their benefits automatically, without leaving their home, which helps protect their health and safety by limiting unnecessary contact with others. More than 98% of SSA and Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) beneficiaries already receive their monthly benefit payment on time, every time, because they’ve enrolled in direct deposit. To provide Veterans and service members with a safe, reliable and inexpensive way to receive their VA monetary benefits, VA launched the Veterans Benefits Banking Program (VBBP). Through VBBP, Veterans can access federally-insured banking institutions that specialize in services for military personnel, Veterans and their families. Participating VBBP banks offer Veterans and service members low- to no-cost checking accounts into which benefit payments can be direct deposited, as well as other financial services. Since the program’s launch in December 2019, more than 30,000 Veterans have signed up for VBBP. Veterans can learn more about VBBP online, sign up by calling VA at 1-800-827-1000, or visit a participating bank or credit union and request to participate in the program. Partnership To streamline the process for disbursing funds to millions of Americans and ensuring timely receipt of benefit payments, VA and the Social Security Administration are joining forces with the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service. The agencies have teamed up to share ideas and explore new opportunities for collaboration that will improve the federal benefit experience. VA and the Social Security Administration are connected by their shared commitment to serve the American public and to issue payments for federal benefits. From a retiree who receives Social Security benefits to a Veteran who receives disability compensation, monthly benefit payments are essential for millions of Americans. These payments provide beneficiaries with critical support needed to pay rent, buy food, purchase medicine, pay for school, and more. It is crucial that these payments are delivered on time, every time. Joanne Gasparini is the associate commissioner of the Office of Financial Policy and Operations at the Social Security Administration. Charles S. Tapp II is the chief financial officer at VBA. Ronda Kent is the assistant commissioner for Payment Management and Chief Disbursing Officer at the Department of the Treasury’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service.