2012 VA PERFORMANCE AND ACCOUNTABILITY REPORT NOW AVAILABLE The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) 2012 Performance and Accountability Report (PAR) is now available for review or download on the VA website. The PAR is VA’s report card created to inform Americans on VA’s progress, the tangible public benefits VA has produced, and the forward looking strategies VA is employing to achieve and maintain excellence. The PAR contains 2012 performance targets and results achieved against those targets during Fiscal Year 2012. The report highlights key metrics such as timeliness, accessibility, and quality of health care and benefits service delivery that veterans have earned through their sacrifice and service. To view the report online, go to www.va.gov/budget/report. NATIONAL COMMANDER ADDRESSES ALARMING RATE OF SUICIDE AMONG U.S. TROOPS Suicides accounted for 20 percent of U.S. military deaths last year. “More servicemembers are dying by their own hand than are killed by our enemies on the battlefield,” said American Legion National Commander James E. Koutz. “This is becoming a huge problem, and every one of these suicides is a national tragedy.” The American Legion has instituted a national committee on Traumatic Brain Injury/Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and vows to share its findings with lawmakers and the Department of Defense to try to lower the suicide rate. JUNIOR ACTIVITIES HANDBOOK NOW AVAILABLE ONLINE Informed Junior members are engaged Junior members, so make the most of the many tools and resources available at www.ALAforVeterans.org to help your Junior Activities program soar to new heights. Increase their understanding of the ins and outs of the American Legion Auxiliary by presenting the National Junior Leadership Course. This downloadable PowerPoint presentation provides an overview of ALA history, basic protocol, and parliamentary procedure. In addition, the Junior Activities Handbook provides step-by-step instructions for conducting meetings, ceremonies, and mission-related projects. These great resources are available with the click of a mouse, so jazz up your Junior Activities program by putting these tools to work in your unit. LEGION RIDERS RALLY FOR RECOVERING WOUNDED Last fall, a group of American Legion Riders, family, friends, and supporters departed Arizona for Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego on the first “AZ Riders’ Goodwill Ride for America’s Wounded Heroes” in a procession of 48 motorcycles and five vehicles. The purpose of the ride was to show support for the brave, young men and women being treated at the hospital and Legion Family gratitude and appreciation for their service and sacrifices. While the event was not billed as a fundraiser, donations exceeded $10,300. The funds were used to provide a pizza luncheon with the troops and were given to the Armed Services YMCA for its recreation and rehabilitation fund. ALA NATIONAL PRESIDENT AND LEGION COMMANDER EMBARK ON GOODWILL TOUR OF FAR EAST AND PEARL HARBOR, HAWAII During their goodwill tour of the Far East, American Legion Auxiliary National President Peggy Thomas and American Legion National Commander James E. Koutz met with the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) and were briefed on the U.S. efforts to recover and identify all the unknowns from previous wars. This initiative is a priority for the entire Legion Family who are committed to support efforts to make sure all of our soldiers come home, and all of the families have closure. In addition, on the 71st anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks, Koutz, Thomas, and SAL Commander Chris Huntzinger represented The American Legion Family on the USS Arizona to honor those who lost their lives Dec. 7, 1941, and later laid a wreath from The American Legion Family at the national cemetery during a memorial service. LEGION FAMILY MAKES THE GRADE IN SUPPORTING STUDENT VETERANS On Dec. 30, H.R. 4057, the Improving Transparency of Education Opportunities for Veterans Act of 2012 passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 392 to 3. It passed the Senate on Dec. 19. The American Legion Family has played a major role in the creation and acceptance of H.R. 4057 since the bill’s introduction in early 2012. The legislation, when enacted by President Obama’s signature, will help student veterans make more informed decisions when choosing schools in which to enroll using their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. VETERANS FOUGHT FOR FILMMAKER TO SPEAK FREELY On Jan. 2, American Legion National Commander James E. Koutz said that the nation’s largest Veterans Service Organization does not care that controversial documentary filmmaker Michael Moore has resolved to stop saying he supports the troops in 2013. Moore recently announced on his blog that for a New Year’s resolution he won’t say he supports the troops because “I don’t. I used to.” Koutz explained that Moore is able to openly express his opinions because American troops have fought and given their lives for freedom for more than two centuries, as they are doing today in Afghanistan and other theaters in the global war on terrorism. “The American Legion fully supports all the men and women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, always has and always will,” Koutz said. “We don’t need to make a New Year’s resolution for that. It’s what we do every day, every year.” LEGION FAMILY DEPLOYED TO EMPLOY The American Legion’s longstanding campaign to gain full employment for the nation’s job-seeking veterans accelerated rapidly this past year. According to a report by its Economic Division in Washington, D.C., the Legion hosted, sponsored or participated in more than 200 job fairs hiring veterans in the 2012 calendar year – a record number. In addition, approximately 7,000 of those attending the veterans hiring fairs were hired. While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an overall unemployment rate of 6.6 percent among veterans, joblessness among young veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is dramatically higher: 9.5 percent among male veterans and 12.9 percent among female veterans.
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