Local veterans discussed information on two new acts that have been implemented for them during a proclamation presentation that was approved by the Parker County commissioners Tuesday morning.
The commissioners unanimously approved the proclamation, which honors veterans during the week of Nov. 11-15.
“This is the 11th time I’ve had the honor of coming to the commissioners court to receive a proclamation naming the week of Nov. 11 as Veterans Week,” Parker County Veterans Services Officer John Hale said. “I do appreciate the commissioners court and the support you give the veterans of Parker County.”
Bret Watson with Parker County American Legion Post 163 presented information about a new law signed by President Donald Trump on July 30 called The LEGION (Let Everyone Get Involved in Opportunities for National Service Act) Act.
“Our veterans in Parker County are being left behind and we’re trying to reach out to them. We are now fortunate enough to have Congress pass The LEGION Act, which makes every veteran from Dec. 7, 1941 eligible,” Watson said. “Hopefully we can get them involved in the American Legion and show them the benefits that the American Legion has to offer them.”
The LEGION Act opens the door for about six million veterans to access American Legion programs and benefits for which they had previously not been eligible, according to legion.org.
“When I first got out of the [U.S.] Navy, I was turned down from the American Legion,” Precinct 1 Commissioner George Conley said. “I tried to join the one in Azle and they wouldn’t let me join. This is a good thing.”
The eligibility criteria immediately changed 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 memberships are changed.
“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,” American Legion National Commander Brett Reistad said in an article from the organization. “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.”
Hale presented information about The MISSION Act, which was implemented to help veterans gain more access to healthcare in Veterans Affairs facilities and the community, expands benefits for caregivers and improves the VA’s ability to recruit and retain the best medical providers. But Hale said the act can be confusing.
“There’s a couple of things in there that are quite confusing. Veterans are under the opinion that they can now go to their own doctor at any time and the VA will pay for it — I’m seeing this almost every day and that’s not true,” Hale said. “If you’re in the VA medical system and you have a service-connected disability, then yes, you can see your own doctor if they will agree to take medicare rates. Then, if the VA approves it, you can even go to urgent care three times a year, but if somebody comes in saying they’re a veteran and want to see their doctor because they’re told they could, they need to come see me because that’s not necessarily true.”
According to the VA website, the program is currently only available to eligible veterans injured in the line of duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001.
“Beginning the summer of 2020, or once the secretary has certified that VA’s new caregiver information technology system is fully implemented, we will be expanding eligibility for our Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers,” according to the website. “Once the system is certified, VA will expand the program in two phases — first, the program will be expanded to family caregivers of eligible veterans who were seriously injured in the line of duty on or before May 7, 1975. After two years, the program will be expanded to family caregivers of eligible veterans who were seriously injured in the line of duty between May 7, 1975 and Sept. 10, 2001.”
The Weatherford Rotary Club also honored veterans Tuesday with a Veterans Day special presentation.
For more information visit the Parker County Veterans Services webpage at parkercountytx.com or call at 817-598-6153.