The Four Pillars of The American Legion
In 1919, The American Legion was founded on four pillars: Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation, National Security, Americanism, and Children & Youth. Each of these pillars encompasses a variety of programs that benefit our nation’s veterans, its servicemembers, 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 by committee and commission members who represent 2.5 million wartime veterans and their families. These programs, and the men and women who take the time to perform them allow The American Legion to make a difference on the local, state and national levels. It’s who we are and what we do.
Pillar I: Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation
For more than 90 years, The American Legion has acted as the nation’s leading advocate for proper health care, economic opportunity and legal benefits for U.S. military veterans. The Legion was instrumental in the creation of the Veterans Administration in 1930, and an ardent supporter of its elevation to cabinet status when it became the Department of Veterans Affairs in 1989. The relationship between VA and The American Legion continues to evolve today.
As it has for decades, The American Legion continues to aggressively lobby for adequate funding of VA health care, timely access to facilities, fair rulings on benefit claims, and economic opportunities for those who have come home changed by their military experiences. A nationwide network of American Legion department service officers works diligently to assist veterans as they pursue benefits and care they earned and deserve. At the local, state and national levels, thousands of Legionnaires provide countless hours to help veterans obtain their benefits. The American Legion provides professional representation in claims appeals, discharge disputes and transition assistance from active-duty to civilian status throughout the country.
Today, as the number of discharged veterans from the global war on terrorism has surpassed 500,000, the Legion’s federally chartered role to support them could not be more profound. The Legion strongly believes that a veteran is a veteran, no matter the war era, nature or location of service. In that light, The American Legion is the only organization that works on behalf of all 24.5 million U.S. veterans and all who will follow.
The American Legion stands on the front line of change in the pillar of service known as “Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation.” It is a complex and vital part of the organization’s mission – particularly now, as a new generation of wartime veterans enters the civilian and VA worlds.
Pillar II: National Security
The National Security Division of The American Legion represents the organization’s positions on national defense, homeland security and quality of life for our service- members and their families. Since its inception, The American Legion has steadfastly supported a strong national defense. The American Legion closely monitors issues that are most relevant to our nation’s vital security interests. The American Legion works closely with each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces in an effort to stay well informed about issues that affect our troops and our military families. As such, The American Legion continues to make troop strength and military quality of life a top priority.
The American Legion’s national-security position is multifaceted. Key aspects include:
• A well-funded, well-equipped and well-trained military.
• Awareness and surveillance of rogue nations, terrorist groups and global threats to U.S. security around the world.
• Support for the Department of Homeland Security and urging protection of U.S. borders, ports and other points of access.
• Comprehensive disaster preparedness.
• Decent quality of life for troops and their families – active-duty and reserve components alike – that includes reasonable compensation, benefits, health care, child care and family-support programs; and an efficient and compassionate healing and transition program for wounded and ill warriors.
• Matters such as transition to civilian life and using the VA health-care system, TRICARE or TRICARE For Life also fall within the realm of national security. The American Legion represents military members during the medical-discharge process and assists in their pursuit of education benefits, employment counseling, training and health care.
• The American Legion works as an advocate for an improved disability-evaluation system within the Department of Defense by providing counseling, guidance and representation for servicemembers through the proceedings of the medical-evaluation and physical-evaluation boards. Staff regularly meets with military personnel one-on-one and in group settings to alert them about the resources and opportunities available as they prepare to return home.
Pillar III: Americanism
Many cultural, moral and patriotic values have come under serious attack in the United States in recent years. Prayer has been removed from schools. The U.S. flag is no longer protected from anarchists. Boy Scouts of America faces serious legal duels in the communities it serves. The institution of marriage is under siege. Immigration laws are defied. References to God have been challenged on U.S. currency, in the Pledge of Allegiance and in the public square, all by a minority of voices whose vision for America is far different from that of our Founding Fathers. Our nation’s very identity is at stake as more and more values are driven toward extinction. As an organization dedicated to God and country, with a membership of military veterans that takes deep pride in the U.S. flag and all it means, The American Legion has always been a stalwart champion of patriotism, morality and citizenship. Upon the pillar of Americanism is The American Legion’s devotion to law and order, the raising of wholesome youth, respectful observance of patriotic holidays and remembrances, education and law-abiding citizenship.
Pillar IV: Children & Youth
The American Legion’s Commission on Children & Youth manages a pillar of service guided by three main objectives: to strengthen the family unit, to support quality organizations that provide services for children and youth, and to provide communities with well-rounded programs that meet the physical, educational, emotional and spiritual needs of young people. The commission works to provide hope for children who face health, safety, discipline or home-life challenges, and provides opportunities for young people to succeed. The American Legion Child Welfare Foundation provides more than $500,000 in grants each year to nonprofit organizations that work to improve the lives of young people. These grants have aided organ-donor campaigns, supported efforts to help military children cope with deployment or the loss of a parent, and funded projects that increased public awareness of Huntington’s disease, autism, Reye’s syndrome, meningitis, spina bifida, diabetes, cancer and other conditions.
The Commission on Children & Youth has focused recent attention on several important national programs, including the Children’s Miracle Network, Ronald McDonald House Charities, Special Olympics, youth-suicide prevention, Halloween safety, the Family Support Network, Temporary Financial Assistance, Operation: Military Kids, and others. The American Legion has been a staunch supporter of the children and youth of our nation since its founding in 1919. The commitment continues today for the National Commission on Children & Youth as it seeks to improve the well-being of all children. Every generation of veterans knows that the key to the future of a free and prosperous country is held by the children and youth of today. The Legion strongly supports traditional family values, assistance for at-risk children, and activities that promote their healthy and wholesome development. While there is no way of knowing what issues will face our youth tomorrow, our survival may well depend on the quality of care, education and training that we, as parents and citizens, provide for young people today.