This informational guide was produced on behalf of our membership, the wartime veterans of the 20th and the 21st century, who can be found in more than 14,000 posts and nearly every community across our great nation.



Still serving: it’s who we are

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 service members, 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 committee and commission members who represent 2.6 million wartime veterans and their families. These programs, and the men and women who take the time to perform them, are what allow The American Legion to make a difference locally, and on the state and national levels. It’s who we are and what we do.

Pillar I: Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation

For nearly 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 world.

Pillar II: National Security

Since its founding in 1919, The American Legion remains steadfast in its support of a strong national defense, which is reflected in the Preamble to The American Legion Constitution: “To uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America,” and “to safeguard the principles of justice, freedom, and democracy.”  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 its steadfast protection of U.S. borders, ports and other points of access.

• Comprehensive disaster preparedness.

A 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 the Defense by providing counseling, guidance and representation for service members through the proceedings of the medical evaluation boards and physical evaluation boards. Staff regularly meets one-on-one with military personnel and in group settings to alert them to 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. Among The American Legion’s highest Americanism priorities are:

U.S. Flag Protection

The U.S. Constitution should be amended to add the following: “The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.” The American Legion joins all the states and an overwhelming majority of citizens in its position that the American flag deserves legal protection from acts of intentional public physical desecration. In 1989, the U.S. Supreme Court declared flag desecration to be a “right” protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. The American Legion disagreed then and reaffirms now that flag desecration is a form of conduct – not speech – that can and should be regulated by law. All 50 state legislatures have petitioned Congress for a constitutional amendment that would give power to Congress to prohibit such conduct. Poll after poll show that upwards of 80 percent of Americans support flag protection. Lopsided majorities in both chambers of Congress have supported a flag amendment. The House of Representatives has passed such a proposed amendment in six consecutive votes; the measure has fallen just slightly short of achieving super-majority in the Senate, leaving it just one vote short of passing in the 109th Congress. As a symbol of our nation, the U.S. flag belongs to the people, who should be given the power to protect it. The American Legion’s position on its protection is inviolate.

Illegal Immigration

The American Legion supports manageable, legal immigration. By multiple resolutions that determine policy, the Legion adamantly opposes illegal immigration, amnesty for those who illegally enter the United States, and ineffective measures to prevent illegal border crossing, particularly during a time of war. The Legion’s strategy to combat illegal immigration calls for strong border security, including physical barriers and high-tech surveillance methods; the elimination of economic and social-services benefits for illegal immigrants; employer sanctions against those who knowingly hire illegal immigrants; and the enforcement of existing immigration laws. The Legion also supports new laws that deny illegal immigrant’s driver’s licenses, establish parameters for non-criminal deportation, and designate English as the official language of the U.S. government. The Legion’s position on illegal immigration seeks elimination of the visa lottery program, the creation of new visa categories for temporary agricultural workers to replace those who are working illegally, and authority to track foreign visitors to include college students, press, and members of any foreign diplomatic corps. Illegal immigration stands as one of the most serious problems facing America, with as many as 20 million illegal immigrants inside our borders, and billions of dollars spent providing social services, education and jobs for them. The American Legion supports the law on this matter and strongly urges the U.S. government to enforce it. Providing assistance and instruction to immigrants following the legal path to U.S. citizenship has been a long-standing and proud tradition upheld by The American Legion since it’s founding in 1919. Helping legal immigrants prepare for their Naturalization test and assimilation into American society is in the best interest of our nation. For decades many Legionnaires and Legion posts throughout the country have hosted naturalization orientation sessions to help teach proficiency of the English language and lessons in U.S. history and civics.

Voter Registration and Participation

The American Legion connects good government with active citizen participation in the electoral process. Legion posts throughout the country offer their services and facilities to stimulate registration and turnout at the polls. Posts also provide facilities and opportunities for non-partisan, voter-education forums and debates. Under the provisions of its federal charter, it is important to note that The American Legion is prohibited from supporting, opposing or providing aid to any political party or any candidate for public office.

Boy Scouts of America

The American Legion vigorously opposes attempts to strip the Boy Scouts of public support, sponsorship and facility space due to the organization’s membership or leadership criteria. The Scouts teach skills, build character, and provide a healthy and wholesome outlet for young Americans. The organization should not be punished or persecuted for acknowledging God in its oath or for setting leadership restrictions based on a moral code that the majority of Americans endorse.

The Pledge of Allegiance

Recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance by students and teachers in our nation’s schools should be a regular part of school activities and events. In support of keeping “under God” in the pledge, The American Legion affirms that pledging allegiance to the flag is the voluntary offering of a patriotic oath to the nation, that no one should be denied this opportunity, and that the removal of these words will set a precedent that questions the propriety of numerous references to a supreme being in historical documents, on currency and on many of our government buildings, including the U.S. Supreme Court.

Establishment-Clause Lawsuits

The American Legion is dedicated to combating the secular cleansing of our American heritage, performed by lawsuits that attack the Boy Scouts, the public display of the Ten Commandments and other symbols of America’s religious history. The authority given by Congress to the courts to impose damages, or attorney fees, in establishment-clause cases is being used by the American Civil Liberties Union and others to compel municipalities, state and federal agencies, along with private groups, to cast off religious association, often in pursuit of tax-funded attorney fees.

The American Legion Legacy Run

“My dad had an impact on my life that no one else could have on me. He was so many things to me; he was my support, my guide, my confidant and my comfort. Losing him was the worst thing that I have ever had happen in my life. I would like to honor him and would like to make him and my family proud by achieving my goals. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to make this happen.”

The words of a college student whose military father lost his life after the tragic terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, demonstrate just how important it is to live up to one of The American Legion’s – and our nation’s – most important obligations. Within weeks of the attacks, The American Legion Legacy Scholarship was established to help young people whose parents have lost their lives serving in the armed forces in the years following 9/11. Children of U.S. military personnel killed at war are entitled to receive federal money toward their college educations, but these funds do not cover the entire cost, and the gap widens as college tuitions and expenses continue to climb. It is especially difficult for a single parent to afford. The goal of The American Legion Legacy Scholarship fund is $20 million, enough to fund college educations for young people years from now through earnings on the principal. To reach that goal, The American Legion relies heavily on one of its most popular and fast-growing programs: The American Legion Riders. Motorcycle riding veterans from across the country have joined the Legion Riders for annual cross country treks, raising funds while riding from Indianapolis to national conventions in Salt Lake City, Reno, Nev., and Phoenix. Another is planned for the 2009 National Convention in Louisville, Ky. The rides have raised more than $1 million for the scholarship program, which is already distributing scholarship dollars while simultaneously building up the principal. Legion Riders chapters have flourished in recent years and became an official program of the organization in 2007. It has since expanded to more than 800 chapters.

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 to nonprofit organizations each year 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 loss of a parent, and funded projects that increased public awareness of Huntington’s Disease, autism, Reyes Syndrome, meningitis, spinabifida, 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, Family Support Network and Temporary Financial Assistance for families of the deployed, and Operation: Military Kids, among 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. The American Legion’s Children & Youth pillar includes positions on:

Child Pornography. The Legion opposes any attempts to weaken U.S. laws governing production, sale and distribution of pornographic materials.

Catastrophic Illness. The American Legion supports enacting legislation to financially assist families facing catastrophic illness of a child.

Intellectual Disabilities. The American Legion supports continuing research, and early intervention efforts, to prevent intellectual disabilities, including research on the development and function of the nervous system, fetal treatments and gene therapy to correct abnormalities produced by defective genes and early intervention programs with high-risk infants and children.

Immunization for Needy Children. The Legion urges federal funding for state and local health agencies to ensure that indigent children are afforded the opportunity to receive needed vaccines and treatments.

Family Integrity. The Legion promotes the family as the cornerstone of society and supports National Family Week in November. The Legion further recognizes that the natural family is the fundamental unit, inscribed in human nature and centered on the voluntary union of a man and woman in a lifelong covenant of marriage.

Media Violence. The American Legion supports appropriate state and federal legislation to restrict the excessive use of violence, vulgarity and immoral expressions in movies, television programs, news, video games and the Internet.

Drug Abuse. The American Legion fully supports adequate funding for all border, state, federal and military drug-trafficking prevention programs to keep illegal substances from reaching our nation’s young people.

Child Sexual Exploitation. The American Legion supports appropriate legislation aimed at the prevention, investigation and prosecution of child sexual exploitation, and seeks to empower the public to take immediate and direct action to enforce a zero-tolerance policy on the problem.

Family Support Network An e-mail sent to The American Legion’s Family Support Network in 2008 read, “I am currently in Afghanistan, and I am worried about my children’s safety.” A Massachusetts National Guardsman and father of five children learned that a section of his backyard fence had fallen down. With a busy highway only a few feet away, the children’s only play area became a safety concern. The local post responded by repairing the fence at no cost to the family. The Family Support Network is ready to provide immediate assistance to U.S. military personnel and their families whose lives have been directly affected by the war on terrorism. As National Guard and reserve units are mobilized in record numbers, the families of these men and women often find themselves unable to meet normal monthly expenses and needing assistance for a variety of everyday chores like grocery shopping, child care, mowing the grass, fixing the car and other routine household jobs. To address these issues, The American Legion has a nationwide toll-free telephone number for service members and their families to call for assistance. Requests also can be made online. All inquiries are referred to The American Legion department in which the call originated. Departments relay the collected information to a local American Legion post. The local post then contacts the military service member or family to see how assistance can be provided. Since the creation of the Family Support Network during the Gulf War, thousands of American Legion posts have responded to meet these families’ needs. Posts are reminded that families in financial need with minor children are encouraged to call on the Temporary Financial Assistance program at National Headquarters to assist. Otherwise, it is up to local posts to provide or develop the resources necessary to meet the need. More than 2,700 requests through the Family Support Network came to National Headquarters in 2008, despite a lower activation rate for service members. Most cases are handled locally without notification or involvement from the national organization. Creating an ongoing and active relationship with local military units allows posts to respond immediately when needs arise.

Temporary Financial Assistance

Diana, a Lebanon/Grenada-era veteran and single mother of three, bought her first home when she was able to secure a favorable variable interest rate. With the decline of the housing market and increased interest rates, Diana’s monthly payment doubled overnight. No longer able to afford her payment and suddenly in default, Diana discovered the mortgage company would not refinance the loan until she caught up on payments. Temporary Financial Assistance was able to bring her mortgage current, allowing the veteran to refinance her mortgage to an affordable monthly payment.

The American Legion’s Temporary Financial Assistance program helps military and veteran families with minor children at home. Through TFA, a local American Legion post can call upon the national organization for cash assistance to help meet basic needs of veterans’ children. Funding for TFA comes through The American Legion Endowment Fund. In a record-setting 2008, nearly 1,500 children were helped by the fund, amounting to more than $705,700 in disbursements from National Headquarters.

The Samsung American Legion Scholarship

After researching dozens of veterans’ organizations, Samsung Group – a worldwide leader in electronics – chose The American Legion in 1995 to administer an endowed scholarship fund of $5 million. The endowment was established to show appreciation to U.S. veterans who came to the aid of Korea during its struggle against communist forces during the Korean War. The scholarship is for undergraduate study only and may be used for tuition, books, fees, and room and board. Seven to 10 students are chosen each year for the $20,000 scholarships, which are awarded to direct descendants of U.S. wartime veterans.

Child Welfare Foundation 

Not all American children grow up with the same opportunities. Some face physical disabilities, parenting problems and even homelessness. For thousands, each day is a challenge marked by pain, prayer and perseverance. Many require specialized care. That is why The American Legion Child Welfare Foundation exists. Established in 1954, the foundation was developed to collect donations from individuals who wished to contribute to the betterment of children in this country. To date, nearly $10 million has been awarded to organizations to support worthwhile projects through the dissemination of information to the general public and specific target groups. In 2008 the foundation awarded grants totaling $639,695 to 18 nonprofit organizations. Among those grants was $40,000 for the Children’s Organ Transplant Association of Bloomington, Ind., for their project “Miracle Makers: COTA Volunteers in Action.” This grant will provide opportunities for COTA patients across the country to raise awareness of the need for more organ and tissue donors. Other 2008 grants went to such groups as the Huntington’s Disease Society of America, KidsPeace, The Progeria Research Foundation, Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, and Our Military Kids, Inc.