Congress passes bill expanding veteran eligibility for American Legion

Veterans of the Cold War have been denied benefits for decades. It’s been the reality for those veterans who wanted to join the American Legion. But things are changing with new legislation put through the process in support of these service members.

And we spoke to a local veteran who said now veterans who have been turned away in the past can be welcomed with open arms they deserve.

Congress recently passed the Legion Act, a bill that expands membership criteria and extends benefits that go with it to all American military veterans.

“To not be recognized for the service that you did provide is a real pain,” said Chuck Weber, a retired naval officer.

We met Weber at American Legion Post 110 in Port Charlotte. Weber has met hundreds of veterans since he started volunteering for the American Legion in 1983. The legion is the nation’s largest wartime veteran service organization.

“It has a whole bunch of programs to take care of the veterans, specifically their families, their children, their orphans if necessary,” Weber said.

Still, hundreds of thousands of veterans are not eligible for membership.

“We had to turn a lot of people away that would’ve been really good members,” Weber said. “And in every other case would’ve been eligible.”

The bill heading to President Donald Trump’s desk would redefine member eligibility dates, allowing anyone who served, dating back to Pearl harbor, to join the American Legion.

“It’s just going to bring veterans issues more to the forefront through our representation to Congress,” Weber said.

The legislation would extend more benefits like scholarships and financial assistance to hundreds of thousands of veterans and their families.

“I think a lot of them are going to say, ‘finally,’” Weber said.

Reporter:Erika Jackson
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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