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senate Bill S. 504

Should Veterans Who Served During Periods of Undeclared Hostilities Be Eligible to Join the American Legion?

Argument in favor

As the American Legion is one of the foremost veterans’ advocacy organizations, many veterans want to be able to join it and benefit from membership. However, many veterans are currently unable to join the Legion because they served during periods of relative peacetime — this bill resolves that problem.

burrkitty's Opinion
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07/22/2019
Since every single “war” the USA has been in since 1942 has been “undeclared hostilities”, I should think so. FDR was the last president who actually respected that Congress is supposed to be the branch to do that. We are currently conducting 7 known “undeclared wars”. Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Niger. Presidential war powers need to be SEVERELY CURTAILED. I object to all these endless wars!
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jimK's Opinion
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07/23/2019
Were they given a choice to not serve in an undeclared war? NO. They honored their commitment to follow our leaders and defend our countries interests. Should they be denied membership in the American Legion? NO. They honored their commitment to defend our country. How could anyone interpret this differently?
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Kodiwodi's Opinion
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07/22/2019
Absolutely. They fought for their country. They had no way of knowing it would be politically expedient for their country to never declare it a war.
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Argument opposed

While only certain veterans are able to join the American Legion, all veterans — regardless of Legion affiliation or lack thereof — are already able to benefit from the Legion’s assistance. Thus, it’s unnecessary to pass this bill because all veterans can already benefit from the Legion.

Tracy's Opinion
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07/23/2019
Shouldn’t the American Legion members decide this? Why do we need a law for this? It seems like a false flag of patriotism for the sponsors.
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Bryan's Opinion
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07/23/2019
I’m a veteran of two wars. The government has no place to tell a private organization who it should allow in. Stay in your lane Congress. And I’m certain this bill will also have pork barrel additions that have nothing to do with the title of the bill...used only to label those opposed to over spending as “unpatriotic” for “voting against vets”
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Jim2423's Opinion
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07/23/2019
I believe you got your horses on the wrong cart. Any service member who received an Honorable Discharge can join the American Legion. They only had to serve I believe 179 days. VFW is different, you had to serve in an active declared action area such as WWII, Korea, Vietnam and Grenada, Afghanistan and Iraq. I hope I am correct on this. From a Vietnam Veteran.
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What is Senate Bill S. 504?

This bill — the LEGION Act — would extend American Legion membership to all honorably discharged veterans since World War II. Currently, only veterans who served during periods of declared hostilities are able to join the Legion. This bill would extend membership to servicemembers from 12 “unrecognized war eras” such as the Cuban Missile Crisis, Libyan Conflict, Iran Hostage Crisis, and the Salvadoran Civil War.

This bill’s full title is the Let Everyone Get Involved in Opportunities for National Service Act.

Impact

Veterans; veterans who are currently ineligible to join the American Legion because they served during periods of undeclared hostilities; and the American Legion.

Cost of Senate Bill S. 504

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthSen. Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) introduced this bill to extend American Legion membership to honorably discharged veterans since World War II. When she introduced this bill, Sen. Sinema said

“The American Legion provides critical resources to our veterans, but currently, only veterans who served during formally recognized conflicts can belong to the Legion. That restriction leaves out thousands of former American servicemembers who signed up to defend our country. Our legislation rights this wrong and ensures veterans have the opportunity to join the American Legion.”

After this bill passed the Senate, original cosponsor Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) added:

“For 100 years, The American Legion has fostered a community for servicemembers and veterans throughout our great nation. The bipartisan LEGION Act will expand access to the American Legion to all veterans who served honorably, and I hope this legislation quickly passes the House and is signed into law soon.”

The American Legion supports this bill. When it was introduced in the Senate, American Legion National Commander Brett P. Reistad said:

“Nearly 1,600 brave American men and women were killed or wounded since World War II, while defending our nation during times not officially recognized as periods of war by the U.S. government. These veterans are unable to receive some of the benefits and recognition available to their counterparts who served during official wartime periods. Because The American Legion is congressionally chartered, we are unable to welcome many of these veterans as members of the nation’s largest veterans organization. It is fitting that during the 100th anniversary of the founding of The American Legion, Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Thom Tillis are introducing the LEGION Act, bipartisan legislation that will recognize all veterans who served honorably since the start of World War II, while also fostering growth within the veteran community. Moreover, we salute Sen. Sinema for making this the first bill that she has introduced as a newly elected U.S. senator. We hope that the American people will encourage all members of Congress to support the LEGION Act. It is an appropriate ‘thank you’ to those who served.”

This bill unanimously passed the Senate with the support of 35 bipartisan cosponsors, including 19 Republicans and 16 Democrats. Its House companion, sponsored by Rep. Luis Correa (D-CA), has 108 bipartisan cosponsors, including 56 Democrats and 52 Republicans and has yet to receive a committee vote


Of NoteThe American Legion is a private nonprofit organization that was founded by a group of World War I veterans. It was set up by an act of Congress in 1919, and was critical to the passage of the first GI Bill, which helped veterans go to college, launch careers, and buy homes. Today, there are over 12,000 Legion posts around the U.S. and about two million members of the Legion. The Legion helps veterans, military personnel and their families through cash grants, donations and comfort for recovering veterans as well as legislative advocacy.

The Legion’s criteria for membership is defined by how Congress classifies service periods, and at present can only include servicemembers who served during periods of declared hostilities. Thus, servicemembers who served during periods of relative peacetime since WWII’s end are currently ineligible for Legion membership. 

If passed, this bill would allow an additional three to four million veterans to join the Legion. It would affect veterans from 12 “unrecognized war eras,” including the Cuban Missile Crisis, Libyan Conflict, Iran Hostage Crisis, and the Salvadoran Civil War. 

In October 2018, the Legion introduced a resolution calling on Congress to direct the VA to consider all veterans who served honorably since the start of World War II (in 1941) as “war-time veterans.” This bill doesn’t go as far as that Legion resolution, but it does significantly expand the criteria for Legion membership.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / BDMcIntosh)

AKA

LEGION Act

Official Title

A bill to amend title 36, United States Code, to authorize The American Legion to determine the requirements for membership in The American Legion, and for other purposes.

bill Progress


  • EnactedJuly 30th, 2019
    The President signed this bill into law
  • The house Passed on a voice vote
      house Committees
      Committee on the Judiciary
      Immigration and Citizenship
  • The senate Passed on a voice vote
      senate Committees
      Committee on the Judiciary
    IntroducedFebruary 14th, 2019
    Since every single “war” the USA has been in since 1942 has been “undeclared hostilities”, I should think so. FDR was the last president who actually respected that Congress is supposed to be the branch to do that. We are currently conducting 7 known “undeclared wars”. Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Niger. Presidential war powers need to be SEVERELY CURTAILED. I object to all these endless wars!
    Like (51)
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    Shouldn’t the American Legion members decide this? Why do we need a law for this? It seems like a false flag of patriotism for the sponsors.
    Like (22)
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    Were they given a choice to not serve in an undeclared war? NO. They honored their commitment to follow our leaders and defend our countries interests. Should they be denied membership in the American Legion? NO. They honored their commitment to defend our country. How could anyone interpret this differently?
    Like (40)
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    Absolutely. They fought for their country. They had no way of knowing it would be politically expedient for their country to never declare it a war.
    Like (22)
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    A veteran is a veteran! Honor them & let them in!
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    Pass this bill! Support our veterans!
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    👍🏻👍🏻 Senate Bill S- 504 AKA “the LEGION Act” 👍🏻👍🏻 I support the passage of the Senate Bill S- 504 AKA “the LEGION Act” which would extend American Legion membership to all honorably discharged veterans since World War II. Currently, only veterans who served during periods of declared hostilities are able to join the Legion. This bill would extend membership to servicemembers from 12 “unrecognized war eras” such as the Cuban Missile Crisis, Libyan Conflict, Iran Hostage Crisis, and the Salvadoran Civil War. As the American Legion is one of the foremost veterans’ advocacy organizations, many veterans want to be able to join it and benefit from membership. However, many veterans are currently unable to join the Legion because they served during periods of relative peacetime — this bill resolves that problem. SneakyPete..... 👍🏻👍🏻 S-504 👍🏻👍🏻. 7.22.....
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    Certainly. I strongly support the idea.
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    If this is what the Veterans want, then sure. Republicans are notorious for excluding certain groups and why would this be any different. Republicans are also notorious for creating wars and declaring wars and getting involved in unsanctioned wars and profiting off every one of those unethical acts. Republicans profit from your children’s unnecessarily deaths during the unnecessary wars that Republicans created and/ or got involved with for profits, but Republican politicians will do everything to make sure they or their children do not go to war or see the front lines.
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    The legion is dying off... mostly because our newer vets are gravitating towards other VSO’s. We need to figure out ways to bring young blood into it. This bill makes good sense.
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    Pass this bill! Support our veterans!
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    Anything for veterans! Semper Fi
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    In these so called undeclared hostilities, American soldiers and citizens and patriots served in service to our country and should be able to join the American Legions
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    The largest veterans service organization needs the ability to include more men and women who have served our country.
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    I’m a veteran of two wars. The government has no place to tell a private organization who it should allow in. Stay in your lane Congress. And I’m certain this bill will also have pork barrel additions that have nothing to do with the title of the bill...used only to label those opposed to over spending as “unpatriotic” for “voting against vets”
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    Let’s honor all vets.
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    Works for me... no one is keeping up with today’s wars in Congress so I don’t expect them to care
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    Eligibility Information If you have served federal active duty in the United States Armed Forces during any of the war eras listed below, and have been honorably discharged or are still serving -- you are eligible for membership in The American Legion! WWI APRIL 6, 1917 - NOVEMBER 11, 1918 WWII DECEMBER 7, 1941 - DECEMBER 31, 1946 KOREAN WAR JUNE 25, 1950 - JANUARY 31, 1955 VIETNAM WAR FEBRUARY 28, 1961 - MAY 7, 1975 LEBANON/GRENADA AUGUST 24, 1982 - JULY 31, 1984 PANAMA DECEMBER 20, 1989 - JANUARY 31, 1990 GULF WAR/WAR ON TERRORISM AUGUST 2, 1990 - PRESENT *Because eligibility dates remain open, all members of the U.S. Armed Forces are eligible to join The American Legion at this time, until the date of the end of hostilities as determined by the government of the United States. U.S. Merchant Marine eligible only from December 7, 1941 to December 31, 1946 (WWII).
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    Of course. We are in a constant state of war it seems, ergo....... But, should there be a time when there is no conflict, these soldiers chose to serve our country and deserve a chance to join.
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    All veterans were in to serve their country regardless of hostilities.
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