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New guidelines expand American Legion eligibility requirements

HOULTON, Maine — Officials with the Chester L. Briggs Post No. 47 of the American Legion are optimistic that changes in the federal eligibility requirements will bolster the group’s membership.

“The Legion Act passed by Congress and President Trump reduced the eligibility requirements from seven periods (of conflict) to two,” explained Gerry “Butch” Riley, of the Chester L. Briggs Post No. 47. “Our hope is that it expands not only the Legion, but the Sons of the American Legion and for the Ladies Auxiliary.”

The legislation extends the ongoing declared periods of war to be April 6, 1917, to Nov. 11, 1918; and Dec. 7, 1941, to present (and continuing), which opens up a greater pool of veterans who may join the program.

This change of eligibility dates means that veterans who previously did not fall into the defined “war eras” may now join the American Legion. It also means that any son or grandson of a living American Legion member is now eligible to join the Sons of the American Legion. Previously, a son or grandson of a veteran who served between 1985 and 1988 was not eligible to join.

Riley said the signing of the Legion Act,also opens the door for about 6 million veterans to access American Legion programs and benefits that they previously had not been eligible for.

“This gives us an excellent recruiting tool that we did not have before,” Riley said. “Plus it gives veterans who signed the same pledge that many of us did an opportunity to take advantage of the many services that are available.”

Locally, the American Legion has a service officer who helps veterans get in contact with  Veteran’s Affairs for medical needs; contributes to Project Graduation at various high schools; assists with American Legion baseball squads; performs military funeral honors; and visits veterans in local nursing homes.

According to the Legion’s website, the American Legion’s primary mission is to help American veterans and their families, as well as America’s children. The United States Veterans Bureau, the forerunner of the Veterans Administration was created in 1921 as a result of the efforts led by the American Legion. The American Legion also authored the first draft of the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act, popularly known as the GI Bill, passed by the U.S. Congress in 1944. The organization continues to press for improved educational and medical benefits for new veterans and for a complete accounting of all prisoners of war (POWs) and soldiers listed as missing in action (MIAs). 

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