(This is the second in a two-part series from Missourinet’s Brian Hauswirth about the American Legion)

The American Legion plans to ask Congress to change the law involving membership eligibility in the nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization.

American Legion National Commander Brett Reistad (left) with Jefferson City American Legion Post 5 Commander Jim Rosenberg on November 15, 2018 in Jefferson City (Brian Hauswirth photo)

American Legion National Commander Brett Reistad made the announcement during a recent visit to Jefferson City. He says the Legion has approved a resolution, calling on Congress to declare the time period from Pearl Harbor in 1941 to today as an open “war time” service period.

“Rather than having the independent periods like we have for Panama, Grenada, Desert Storm, Desert Shield,” Reistad says.

Legion membership is currently open only to men and women who served in active military duty during specific periods designated as “war time” by Congress.

For instance, World War II and World War II-era veterans who served from December 7, 1941 to December 31, 1946 are eligible. However, under current law, veterans who served from 1947 to 1949 are not eligible to join the Legion.

The Korean War-era dates are from June 1950 to January 1955, and the Vietnam War dates are considered to be from 1961 to May 1975.

The Lebanon/Grenada dates are from August 1982 until July 1984, and the Panama dates are from December 20, 1989 until January 1990.

Anyone who’s served from August 1990 until today is also eligible, under current law.

Reistad was elected national commander on August 30 and has been traveling around the nation, meeting with local posts and veterans. He spoke on November 15 to a packed house at the Roscoe Enloe American Legion Post 5 in Jefferson City.

Another top 2019 priority for the Legion is receiving a full accounting of all POWs and troops missing in action.

Commander Reistad says American Legion membership has decreased from 3.2 million in 1992 to about 2 million today. He notes many World War II veterans have died, since 1992.

“And to expect that we’re going to be able to bring young service members, young veterans into our posts to replace those numbers is not a real practical consideration,” says Reistad.

He says many veterans leaving the service are focused on starting their careers or going to school, as well as starting families.

Reistad says he’s been hearing about VA health care, as he travels the nation visiting with local posts and veterans. He tells Missourinet he’s been hearing from individuals about their experiences with the VA medical system.

“We try to take those questions and have them handled at the local level with the local VA’s,” Reistad says.

The American Legion does have department service officers in Washington, who are specially trained to provide information and assistance relating to the VA. The phone number to reach those service officers is (202) 861-2700.

The Legion was established by an act of Congress in 1919, which means they’ll be celebrating their 100th anniversary next year.

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