Drew Carey — comedian, actor, author and host of “The Price is Right” — will emcee the Veterans Inaugural Ball – Salute to Heroes hosted by The American Legion on Jan. 20. The event — organized by the Veterans Inaugural Committee, made up of 15 congressionally chartered veterans service organizations — is the longest-continuous inaugural event for veterans. Carey spent six years in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves and supports the military, veterans, servicemembers and their families. “I am proud and honored to be a part of such a momentous event,” he said. “I look forward to paying tribute to my fellow veterans and the Medal of Honor recipients.” American Legion National Commander Charles E. Schmidt applauded Carey for his service and commitment to honoring veterans. “The American Legion would like to thank Drew Carey for his service to our country and lending his talents to this event,” Schmidt said. “We know with him behind the microphone everyone in attendance will have a fantastic time. It is only fitting that on the night the new commander-in-chief takes office, the opportunity is given to thank the bravest of the brave — our nation’s Medal of Honor recipients — in person and we are proud to provide that opportunity once again.” President Dwight Eisenhower began the tradition of the Veterans Inaugural Ball in 1953 as a way for the newly sworn in commander in chief to pay tribute to Medal of Honor recipients on the night of the inauguration. The president and/or vice president will attend the ball, as has been the case ever since Eisenhower’s inauguration. Other invited guests include members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, congressional representatives, celebrities, corporate citizens and veterans group leaders. The black-tie event begins with a reception at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner at 6:30 p.m., dessert and coffee at 9 p.m., and entertainment and dancing at 10 p.m. It will take place at the Renaissance Washington, 999 Ninth St. The American Bombshells, Janine Stange and renowned band, Free Spirit, will provide the entertainment. Tickets for the reception, dinner, dessert and ball are $300 and are available here. Information on sponsorships, premium packages and table purchases are also available by emailing
WASHINGTON (AP) -- More than one-third of calls to a suicide hotline for troubled veterans are not being answered by front-line staffers because of poor work habits and other problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to the hotline's former director. Some hotline workers handle fewer than five calls per day and leave before their shifts end, even as crisis calls have increased sharply in recent years, said Greg Hughes, the former director of the VA's Veterans Crisis Line. Hughes said in an internal email that some crisis line staffers "spend very little time on the phone or engaged in assigned productive activity." Coverage at the crisis line suffers "because we have staff who routinely request to leave early," he said. An average of 35 to 40 percent of crisis calls received in May rolled over to back-up centers where workers have less training to deal with veterans' problems, said Hughes, who left his post in June, weeks after sending the emails. The House on Monday unanimously approved a bill requiring the VA to ensure that all telephone calls, text messages and other communications received by the crisis line are answered in a timely manner by an appropriately qualified person. Rep. David Young, R-Iowa, the bill's sponsor, said a veteran in his district told him he repeatedly received a busy signal when he called the crisis line this spring. The man later got help from a friend, but "this hotline let him down," Young said. "A veteran in need cannot wait for help, and any incident where a veteran has trouble with the Veterans Crisis Line is simply unacceptable." The VA said Monday it is increasing staff at the New York-based hotline and opening a new hub in Atlanta. The agency also pledged to continue efforts to improve training, as it responds to a report by an internal watchdog that said crisis calls are routinely allowed to go into voicemail and callers do not always receive immediate assistance. David Shulkin, the VA's undersecretary for health, called veterans' suicide a public health crisis and said suicide prevention is a top priority at VA. An estimated 20 veterans commit suicide every day; the vast majority were not connected to VA care in the last year of their lives, Shulkin said. The crisis line dispatched emergency responders an average of 30 times a day last year and made 80,000 referrals to suicide prevention coordinators, he said. "We are saving thousands of lives. But we will not rest as long as there are veterans who remain at risk," Shulkin said in a statement. Approval of the House bill follows a February report by the VA's office of inspector general indicating that about 1 in 6 calls are redirected to backup centers when the crisis line is overloaded. Calls went to voicemail at some backup centers, including at least one center where staffers apparently were unaware there was a voicemail system, the report said. The bill now goes to the Senate. The crisis hotline received more than 500,000 calls last year, 50 times the number it received in 2007, the hotline's first year of operation. The toll-free hotline number is 800-273-8255. -- BY MATTHEW DALYASSOCIATED PRESS  
Chicago veterans voiced their opinions during a recent American Legion System Worth Saving town hall meeting led by Past National Commander Marty Conatser and Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Deputy Director Roscoe Butler. Attendees included local veterans, Department of Illinois leadership, state congressional staff, Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital staff, and Legion national staff from Washington, D.C. Dr. Steven Braverman, newly appointed director of Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital, spent his first day on the job at the town hall meeting with local veterans discussing their concerns about the care and services received at the facility. Braverman, a physician and former Army medical center commander, brings nearly 30 years of experience caring for soldiers and other servicemembers to the Hines VA. “My first priority is to learn about the organization and not take for granted that everything published on the Internet or the news is the absolute truth because there has been a lot of information that’s been negative in regards to Hines,” Braverman said. The hospital has had many documented challenges, but that’s nothing new for Braverman. At the town hall meeting, he candidly described his time as the commander of the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center in Fort Hood, Texas, when one of his doctors fatally shot 13 people and injured more than 30 others in 2009. Of the many lessons he learned from that experience, he said one of the most vital was the importance of community partnerships. After the incident, he worked with local hospitals outside of Fort Hood to assist in providing mental health care to his military and civilian employees. One of his goals as the new director is to establish relationships with community organizations, especially veterans groups, and collectively discuss how to improve the Hines VA and welcomed the questions and comments during the meeting. Feedback from Chicago-area veterans at the town hall focused primarily on improving communication with patients regarding scheduling appointments and wait times for medical services. Harold Toney, commander of American Legion Post 915, described his experience waiting an entire day for an MRI and that he just wants the staff to keep him informed. “They don’t care about the people that are waiting,” Toney said. “There’s no communication, no informing the patients when there is a problem. I can understand if there is a delay and they tell me, then I can make the decision to wait or make another appointment.” Another veteran asked the Hines VA staff if the hospital will increase their number of physicians, and Braverman confirmed the organization facilitated an orientation for new employees that morning. But not all comments regarding the hospital were negative. Bernie Darmetko of Legion Post 96 said he’s had a very positive experience at Hines VA and has helped other veterans enroll in the system as well. Braverman is the first permanent director hired in nearly two years. Since October 2014, each director has served in an interim capacity and Braverman said he thinks he’ll be able to provide a long-term strategy for the organization with a permanent leadership group. “By building a leadership team that is permanent, it takes away doubt from the employees that what they’re seeing is going to just be changed in a short period of time and they’re not having to play ping pong with the priorities of the hospital and priorities of the leadership,” he said. Roscoe, who facilitated the town hall meeting, assured the veterans in attendance that he believes Braverman understands the issues veterans face and can make changes. “I believe if he’s up to the challenge and you’re willing to work with him, he can move mountains. It’s not the end of the process here tonight; I hear from him a commitment to work with you,” Roscoe said.   By Stacy Gault
DENVER (AP) -- The Latest on members of Congress asking prosecutors for a perjury investigation involving cost overruns at a Denver-area veterans hospital (all times local): 7:30 p.m. A bipartisan group of lawmakers has formally asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate whether Veterans Affairs Department executives lied to Congress to conceal massive cost overruns at a Denver-area hospital. Twenty-one members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee made the request Thursday in a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch. The letter asks for an investigation into statements by Glenn Haggstrom, formerly the department's top official in charge of construction projects, and Stella Fiotes, director of the VA's Office of Construction and Facilities Management. No one answered a call to Haggstrom's home phone Thursday. Fiotes didn't immediately return a phone message. The hospital, under construction in suburban Aurora, is expected to cost around $1.7 billion, nearly triple the 2014 estimate. VA officials declined to comment on the lawmakers' letter, and the Justice Department didn't immediately respond to requests for comment. --- 2:50 a.m. Some lawmakers say federal prosecutors should investigate whether a former Veterans Affairs Department executive committed perjury when he testified about the cost of a new Denver-area VA hospital. Florida Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and Colorado Republican Rep. Mike Coffman said Wednesday the Justice Department should investigate Glenn Haggstrom's statements to Congress in 2013 and 2014. Haggstrom didn't immediately return a telephone message seeking comment. The VA's internal watchdog released a report Wednesday saying Haggstrom knew the project was veering toward huge cost overruns but didn't tell lawmakers that. Haggstrom was the department's top official in charge of construction projects nationwide. He retired in 2015. The hospital, now under construction in suburban Aurora, is expected to cost around $1.7 billion, nearly triple the 2014 estimate.
Newswise — Low concentration of fish oil in the blood and lack of physical activity may contribute to the high levels of depressed mood among soldiers returning from combat, according to researchers, including a Texas A&M University professor and his former doctoral student. In a study titled “Fatty Acid Blood Levels, Vitamin D Status, Physical Performance, Activity and Resiliency: A Novel Potential Screening Tool for Depressed Mood in Active Duty Soldiers,” researchers worked with 100 soldiers at Fort Hood to identify which factors affected moods in returning soldiers. The research was conducted by Major Nicholas Barringer when he was a Texas A&M doctoral student under the direction of Health & Kinesiology Professor and Department Head Richard Kreider, in collaboration with several current and former members of the U.S. Army, and colleagues at Texas A&M. “We looked at how physical activity levels and performance measures were related to mood state and resiliency,” Kreider says. “What we found was the decrease in physical activity and the concentration of fish oil and Omega-3s in the blood were all associated with resiliency and mood.” Kreider says fish oil contains Omega-3 fatty acids that help to boost brain function. He says studies also show that fish oil acts as an anti-inflammatory within the body — helping athletes and soldiers manage intense training better. Fish oil content is especially important for soldiers due to the consistent training and physical regiments performed in and out of combat and risk to traumatic brain injury. The study originated from research conducted by Colonel Mike Lewis, M.D. who examined Omega-3 fatty acid levels of soldiers who committed suicide compared to non-suicide control and found lower Omega-3 levels in the blood were associated with increased risk of being in the suicide group. Barringer says he believes these findings to be significant toward addressing some of the issues many soldiers face. “The mental health of our service members is a serious concern and it is exciting to consider that appropriate diet and exercise might have a direct impact on improving resiliency,” Barringer notes. In order to properly measure soldiers physically, Kreider and Barringer developed a formula they say has the potential to assist in effectively screening soldiers with potential PTSD ahead of time. The formula measures a number of factors including: fitness and psychometric assessments, physical activity, and additional analysis. “By improving resiliency in service members, we can potentially decrease the risk of mental health issues,” Barringer says. “Early identification can potentially decrease the risk of negative outcomes for our active service members as well as our separated and retired military veterans.” “The military is using some of our exercise, nutrition, and performance-related work and the findings may help identify soldiers at risk for depression when they return from combat tours,” Kreider notes. He says that by working to identify such high-risk issues faced by soldiers, it can set a precedent that will benefit not only military leadership, but also the general public. “The public must realize that our soldiers need support before, during, and after their service,” Kreider explains. “There needs to be a time for soldiers to transition, become re-engaged within a community, and stay engaged in that community.”More information regarding fish oil and other exercise and nutrition-related research can be found at the Exercise & Sport Nutrition Lab’s website. ####
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The former girlfriend of NASCAR driver Kurt Busch was charged Tuesday with stealing from a military charity she led. Court documents don't say how much prosecutors believe Patricia Driscoll took from the District of Columbia-based Armed Forces Foundation, whose mission is to support service members, veterans and their families. But a 2014 tax form for the nonprofit says that the "foundation has become aware of suspected misappropriations" by Driscoll totaling more than $599,000 for the years 2006 to 2014. It says she misused money for meals, travel, parking tickets, makeup and personal gifts. Driscoll was indicted on seven federal charges: two counts each of wire fraud, mail fraud, and tax evasion, and one count of attempts to interfere with administration of Internal Revenue laws. She also faces a first degree fraud charge under District of Columbia law. An 11-page indictment charges Driscoll with using foundation money to pay her personal bills, diverting foundation funds to her personal bank account and lying to the Internal Revenue Service about her salary and benefits. Driscoll, 38, of Ellicott City, Maryland, declined to comment when reached by phone Tuesday. "All the allegations that have been made are unproven, and Ms. Driscoll contests them and looks forward to her opportunity to do so in court," her attorney, Barry J. Pollack, said Tuesday evening. Driscoll had resigned from the charity in 2015 amid an internal investigation into published reports alleging that she used foundation funds for her personal expenses. At the time she left, she had been president of the foundation for 12 years. Driscoll and Bush had a very public breakup in 2014 after she accused him of physically and verbally abusing her about a week after they split. Driscoll said Busch smashed her head into a bedroom wall and choked her in his motorhome at Dover International Speedway in Delaware. Law enforcement officials said there was not enough evidence to bring criminal charges against him, but a family court commissioner in the state ultimately granted her request for a protective order requiring Busch to stay away from her. As a result, NASCAR suspended Busch two days before the Daytona 500. He sat out the first three races of the 2015 season before being reinstated. --- BY JESSICA GRESKOASSOCIATED PRESS
A 14-year-old boy began to disengage from family and friends following his father’s military deployment, even though family members encouraged him to be proud of his father’s service. But his demeanor changed after he received a $500 grant to attend football camp and an awards packet from Our Military Kids – the young boy told his mother that he was proud of his father’s service and proud to be serving alongside him. The mother called Linda Davidson, co-founder and executive director of Our Military Kids, to thank her and said, “Isn’t it strange that complete strangers can convince your children of things that their family cannot?” Our Military Kids has provided 55,000 grants, totaling $22.5 million, to children of deployed National Guard or reserve servicemembers, and wounded servicemembers since 2004. The grants support extracurricular youth activities such as sports, camps, arts and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) programs. Davidson co-founded Our Military Kids 12 years ago after researching if a program of its nature was needed. She read a quote from a deployed servicemember that solidified her answer – he asked Americans wanting to support troops not to send cookies or care packages, but instead to take care of servicemembers’ children. “What better way to say thank you to the brave men and women who volunteer to serve our country, to make the world a safer place, and to protect our families than to provide a program to help their children with the anxiety and stress that go along with the separation from their military parents, or to help them adjust to living with a parent recovering from the visible and invisible wounds of war,” Davidson told attendees of The American Legion’s National Children & Youth Conference in Indianapolis on Saturday. “Our Military Kids is alleviating the stress and anxiety in military children and boosting the morale of our servicemen and women.” The Legion’s Child Welfare Foundation (CWF) has supported Our Military Kids for the past nine years through grants that have helped the nonprofit create tools that educate Americans nationwide about the needs of military children. The tools include brochures, videos and its website. Our Military Kids saw a 33 percent increase in grant requests last year as military deployments continue. The organization has applied for another CWF grant to support the continuation of its “Top Secret” awards packet that’s mailed to Our Military Kids grant recipients. Since the activity check is sent to the service provider, Davidson said the packet is the “fun part.” It’s sealed with a “top secret” sticker and includes a letter thanking the child’s parent for their service and encouraging the child to keep up the good work while their parent is overseas or recovering from injuries sustained during service; a certificate of appreciation; an Our Military Kids patch; dog tags printed with “I love my military parent” and a wristband that reads “I’m proud of my military parent"; and a stamped postcard with the information and address of the donor that provided the grant the child received. Children are encouraged to write a thank-you letter on the post card, name what extracurricular activity they selected and send it to the donor. “Our Military Kids is the pass-through for our donors' message of hope, gratitude and inspiration,” Davidson said. Davidson received a phone call from a mother after her three children received a grant and the awards packet. The mother was in tears, thanking Our Military Kids for making her children’s day. After her 10-year-old son opened his packet he told his mother he couldn’t believe all the wonderful things he received from Our Military Kids. When his mother asked what he received, he said, “I can’t tell you; it’s top secret.” Our Military Kids annually gauges the impact the grants have on military kids. The surveys consistently reveal that there’s a 92 percent decrease in stress and anxiety, a 68 percent increase in academic performance, a 93 percent improvement in the servicemembers' morale and/or recovery, and a 97 percent increase in the well-being of the entire family when a child is engaged in an activity. “Our Military Kids ensures these children are engaging in positive activities and focusing on the things that make them the happiest,” Davidson said. “The American Legion Child Welfare Foundation has truly enhanced our ability to get the word out and military families are better served because of you.” Learn more about Our Military Kids here.   By Cameran Richardson
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. and the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) are teaming up on October 5, 2016, to provide career-seeking service members, veterans and their spouses the opportunity to connect with job openings being offered by some of the top names in the hospitality industry. The VFW Virtual Career Fair will run from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. EDT, and will feature available opportunities with BJ’s Restaurants, Ecolab, Hyatt, Sodexo and Sysco, all companies with a history of commitment to hiring America’s service members and veterans. Participants are strongly encouraged to preregister for the event at “We’re pleased to join together with the NRAEF on this large-scale hiring initiative,” said VFW National Commander Brian Duffy, a U.S. Air Force veteran and retired UPS assistant chief pilot. “In today’s competitive job market, the VFW is dedicated to providing every possible opportunity for our service members, veterans and their spouses to succeed in their careers. VFW Virtual Career Fairs help bridge the gap between America’s top-tier military and veteran candidates and the industry leaders dedicated to hiring them.” Founded in 1987, the NRAEF is the philanthropic foundation of the National Restaurant Association. The NRAEF impacts the prosperity of the restaurant industry by developing a stronger workforce and building the next generation of industry leaders.  The foundation’s educational initiatives provide culinary, management, food safety and employability skills training to build a pipeline of talent for the growing industry. “The NRAEF is honored to partner with the VFW on this initiative,” said Rob Gifford, executive vice president of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. “More than 250,000 military veterans are currently employed in the restaurant industry, and the number of employment opportunities is projected to increase in the next five years. These veterans have dedicated their lives to fight for the freedoms we enjoy daily. Having the chance to give back by connecting them with new careers through top-notch industry employers honors NRAEF’s commitment to support America's service men and women.” The October 5 hospitality-focused event will seek candidates to fill a myriad of opportunities in the industry, ranging from front of the house and back of the house restaurant positions, to those involving administrative, food services, culinary, facilities management, environmental services, housekeeping, construction, clinical health management and many more. All companies are nationwide and offer an array of opportunities that only large, multi-million dollar corporations can. While preregistering for the event is preferred, participants may register at the time of and during the event. -vfw-
The House of Representatives passed the VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016 Wednesday, a bipartisan legislation that would reform the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs appeals process and reduce wait time for veterans’ claims. Prior to the House vote, The American Legion co-hosted a press conference with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., where he announced that he will introduce separate legislation in the Senate to reform the appeals process. At the press conference, the Legion, other veterans service organizations, and 10 senators and representatives from both sides of the aisle called on Congress to pass legislation to fix the VA’s broken appeals process. “We strongly encourage Congress to pass the legislation so that our nation’s heroes can get the care and support they deserve in a timely manner,” said Verna Jones, executive director of The American Legion. Disabled American Veterans Executive Director Garry Augustine said thousands of veterans are dying while waiting for their appeals to be decided. “This is more than just about compensation. This is about access to health care, recognition of injuries and illnesses sustained or aggravated by defending this nation,” Augustine said. Blumenthal, the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said that passing appeals reform “is not just about money, but it’s also not just about health care. It's about simple justice. An appeals process that delays justice, also denies it.” According to Blumenthal, more than 450,000 veterans are awaiting claim appeals decisions and 80,000 veterans have appeals that are older than five years. By 2027, that will grow to more than two million if the process is not modernized. Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., a former Navy Seal commander, emphasized the importance of the reform as a veteran himself. He stressed veterans are not just numbers, but faces. American Legion National Commander Charles E. Schmidt spoke out earlier this week urging Legionnaires to reach out to Washington and ask that they “pass appeals modernization now! Tell Congress you expect both parties to work together responsibly to pass the legislation, which includes a simple and fair appeals process that provides veterans and their families their earned benefits in a timely manner.” The legislation is currently awaiting a vote in the Senate.   by Stacy Gault
Filled with hope and a prayer, Dee, a displaced U.S. Army veteran, found her way to a Suicide Prevention Awareness Information Expo at the Washington, D.C. Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Little did she know, the bond she formed with American Legion representatives would change the course of her life. “I heard about the event on the radio and decided to attend. I wasn’t suicidal, but I knew that an event at the VA would be a good place to reach out to people and make connections,” she said. At the time, Dee lived in her car and was out of options to help keep her afloat. After learning about her story at the event, American Legion staff immediately stepped in to help. The Legion’s Women and Minority Veteran Outreach Program Assistant Director Charley Yancey and Veterans Employment & Education Division Deputy Director Mark Walker coordinated efforts to help Dee obtain the resources that she needed. In addition to his Legion duties, Walker helps place homeless veterans in transitional and permanent housing and serves in various capacities on homeless veteran related boards in the community. The deputy director also heads the Legion’s homeless veteran outreach efforts at the local and national level. “I work with the folks here in the community a lot, so if I get a call regarding a veteran in D.C., Maryland or Virginia, I know who to call,” Walker said. Walker noted that he is able to better serve the veterans he encounters by helping them dig deep and get to the root of the issues they are experiencing. “First, I try to find out a little bit about their story,” he said. “These are people who have served. At that point in their life they were not homeless. It is best to get a sense of their journey and find out what has happened to them since then.” After identifying the needs of the veterans, Walker said he tries to understand their story by identifying VA benefits they may be eligible for, or already using, and focusing on any other goals or objectives they would like to reach. “Every situation is not the same. Everybody’s issues are different," he said. "Some homeless veterans may need short-term help and immediate housing, treatment or help with other obstacles they are facing. There is a variety of different things they may need to help them integrate back into society." Dee relocated to the nation’s capital Sept. 1 with the hopes of finding employment and housing. Shortly after attaining her master’s degree in May, she came to a crossroads in her life. Forced with the decision to move back to her hometown in Detroit or start a new life elsewhere, she chose D.C. as her new home. “I came to D.C. with nothing but faith and $261 in my pocket. That’s all that I had, but I was determined to make it work,” she said. “I checked in at the VA when I got here. They referred me to a resource center and I slept in my car in the meantime – praying that nothing would happen to me.” Together, Walker and Dee identified programs and benefits available to her. Walker connected with his counterparts at a local United States Veterans Initiative (U.S. VETS) transitional housing facility and facilitated a warm hand-off. “I always make sure I make the calls for the veterans so they are not going into situations blind,” Walker said. Once Dee checked in to the U.S. VETS facility, she began to receive calls regarding job interviews and permanent housing options. “I made a connection with The American Legion. From that point on, it was history," she said. "This means the world to me because it is the beginning of a new life for me. The opportunity to have a roof over my head brings me peace of mind. Thanks to The American Legion I now have a support system around me.” Yancey placed emphasis on the Legion’s dedication to helping women veterans. “There are several unmet needs out in our communities – beyond the scope of homelessness and employment," she said. "What about the intangibles women veterans have to manage while navigating the civilian world? That is one of the main reasons the (Legion's) Women and Minority Veteran Outreach Program was created. We are building this program up so it will meet the needs of women veterans. Through our Women Veterans Survey, we are able to identify what the veterans say they need.” Women veterans can access the Legion’s Women Veterans Survey here until Sept. 18. All information from the survey is kept private and submitted anonymously. Now that the Army veteran is settled in her new town, she set goals for herself to achieve over the next three years. Dee hopes to start her career in the social work field, secure permanent housing and complete her doctorate degree. “I would like to help empower others and help others in the veteran population that need help overcoming their obstacles,” she said. “Hopefully I can help shape people’s lives. People helped me get to this point, so I will extend myself wholeheartedly to assist others that need help.” Walker noted the efforts of The American Legion and Legionnaires across the nation to help combat veteran homelessness. At the ground level, several Legion posts provide temporary housing and hotel lodging to veterans in need. Through the Legion's Operation Comfort Warriors program, wounded veterans can receive comfort items and other asisstance to help with recovery. And the Legion's Temporary Financial Assistance program provides cash grants to eligible veterans with minor children; the grants help families in financial need meet the costs of shelter, utilities, food, clothing and medical expenses. American Legion National Commander Charles E. Schmidt's fundraising goal during his tenure is to raise $1 million for the Temporary Financial Assistance program.