South Dakota American Legion Auxiliary

 

VA&R

Department Plan of Action
Elvira Moen
Department 1st Vice President
Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Chairman (2016-2017)
309 6th Street Circle SW
Watertown, SD 57201
Cell: 605-881-5914
Home: 605-886-9873
Email: eastpioint@iw.net


I would like to thank you for taking on the chairmanship of your unit for VA&R. The VA&R program is the oldest program of the American Legion Auxiliary. The Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation program promotes the mission to enhance the lives of veterans, military and their families.

The Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Program and the 2014-2019 Centennial Strategic Plan -- Our work to enhance the lives of veterans, military and their families provides our members opportunities to serve in volunteer leadership roles within their local Veterans Affairs hospital (Goal 3), which broadens our membership pool (Goal 1) among a target population and builds brand loyalty (Goal 5) with the veterans themselves.. Below are a few ideas that you can use to promote this program at a VA facility, in your hometown or even from your home.

What can you do?


1. Provide opportunities for Auxiliary members to serve veterans and their families as volunteers at VA health care facilities through the VA Voluntary Service (VAVS).
Members
• Become a regular VAVS volunteer.
• Invite others to become VAVS volunteers with you.
• Enter all of your VAVS hours into the VAVS tracking system. Note: VA Healthcare facilities volunteer hour tracking system is different from the tracking utilized for ALA hour bars.

2. There isn’t a VA hospital close to your community? Find opportunities for Auxiliary members to serve veterans in your area. These hours will count toward your Service to Veterans pin and hour bars.
Service to Veterans recognizes volunteers who provide service to veterans, service members and their families outside a VAMC. Volunteers conduct projects and work for military/veterans and/or families from their homes and in their communities. Service to Veterans volunteers maintain their own recordkeeping and dollars spent. A new pin has been designed to reflect the work of those who volunteer in their communities and at home for veterans. Hour bars, which attach to the pin, are also available to earn. More information may be in the Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation: A Guide for Volunteers available online for download at www.alaforveterans.org. To purchase a printed copy, please visit www.emblem.legion.org.
Member
• Support veterans from the comfort of your community or home. Service to Veterans combines community volunteer opportunities and volunteering opportunities created in your home.
• Sew quilts for the Quilts of Valor Foundation. For more information, please visit www.qovf.org/.
• Help a veteran use the Internet.
• Supply postage for local veterans in rest homes or assisted living facilities.
• Organize a clothing drive.
• Organize transportation for veterans to assist them with essential errands.
• Find out what is needed and volunteer.
• Report your Service to Veterans hours to your unit VA&R chairman.
• See Awards section of this Plan for information on Hour Bar Recognition.
Units
• Become the catalyst to find needs and encourage members to help veterans in their community.
• Coordinate with local quilt shops to help your unit sponsor a quilting event in support of Quilts of Valor.
• Contact members, including those who only occasionally attend meetings and events and invite them to participate for specific limited duration projects that would help area veterans.
• Compile and record hours provided by your members.
• Coordinate with your PR chairman to tell the community what work your unit members are doing for veterans.


3. Assist veterans in accessing VA benefits including, but not limited to, health care. This should include coordinating with the local American Legion Post Service Officer.
Members
• Coordinate with local American Legion posts to identify the local Service Officer or see list at www.legion.org/serviceofficers.
• Help eligible veterans attain benefits through referrals.
• Encourage eligible veterans to use the VA health care system and its services, including hospitals, Community Based Outpatient Clinics, Vet Centers, etc.
• Participate in and encourage veterans and their family members to participate in town-hall meetings organized by The American Legion in advance of the Legion’s System Worth Saving site visits to VA health care systems: www.legion.org/systemworthsaving.
Units
• Invite the local, county or state Service Officer to be the guest speaker at a unit/department event.

4. Assist in activities that help homeless veterans.
Members and Units
• Give a helping hand to the Legion's homeless veteran coordinator in your department and offer to assist that coordinator in responding to requests for assistance from homeless veterans or homeless veteran service providers.
• Crochet hats, scarves or mittens to be distributed to homeless veterans. Use information provided by your department chairman to contact the homeless veteran coordinator at the VA health care system nearest you to explore what the unit or you can do to help homeless veterans in your community.
• Participate in the VA Project CHALENG organized by the VA health care system nearest to you. (Project CHALENG for Veterans enhances the care for homeless veterans provided by your local VA and its surrounding community service agencies.)
• Contact your local post chairman and offer your assistance if requests for help come through the Legion’s Family Support Network (FSN).
• Raise funds for local American Legion posts to help veterans and their families through the Family Support Network for veterans at risk of losing their housing or homeless veterans transitioning to permanent housing.
• Make payments of overdue rent, utility payments or deposits and security deposits.
• Host or volunteer at homeless veterans’ stand downs, events where homeless veterans receive free goods and services such as haircuts and medical exams. There are 3 stand downs scheduled for the eastern part of the state: Sept 9, Wagner, Sept. 23 Sioux Falls and Oct 12 Marshall, MN.
• Contact homeless veteran emergency shelters, transitional housing projects and permanent housing projects in your community and identify the organization's volunteer and in-kind contribution needs, including:
o Meal preparation and serving
O Clothes collection and distribution
o Assembly and delivery of hygiene kits, buddy baskets
o Purchasing or securing household items or furniture
• Reach out to specific homeless veterans, such as residents of projects mentioned above to provide her/him practical, social and moral support.
• Compile “blessing bags” to be given to the local police department or other organizations that deal with the homeless veteran population.
• Create a “Tree of Warmth” by collecting scarves, mittens, hats and attaching them to a tree in a location the homeless frequent. Include a sign that says “Please Take if Needed,” “Free if Needed,” or something similar.

5. Support rehabilitation and healing of veterans through arts, crafts and hobbies.
National Veterans Creative Arts Festival (NVCAF)
NVCAF is the national, annual competition and festival that recognizes the progress and recovery made through recreation therapy and raises the visibility of the creative achievements of our nation’s veterans after disease, disability or life crisis. As the national presenting sponsor, the American Legion Auxiliary should strive to increase monetary support by encouraging departments to sponsor fundraisers that will contribute to the increased awareness and support of this program.
Members/Units
• Obtain and become familiar with the 2014 edition of ALA Guide for Volunteers.
• Help your unit and department earn recognition at National Convention through donations to support VA Creative Arts Festivals. Volunteer individually, with a fellow member, or as a unit at a local Creative Arts Festival.
• Identify arts, crafts and hobby projects targeted to veterans (such as writing, oral history recording, visual and performing arts, quilting and gardening). A unit may organize a project of its own or introduce a unit to veteran arts, crafts and hobby projects already operational in the community. See Arts Deployed: Action Guide and Webinars to help you bring the arts to your community. www.alaforveterans.org/Programs/Veterans-Affairs---Rehabilitation/
• Contribute donated supplies to help supplement visual veteran artists’ needs for their projects. Contact your department chairman or your local VA hospital coordinator for a list of items
• Donate, through departments, funds that help local veterans attend state and national Wheel Chairr Games, Veterans Creative Arts Festivals, ParaOlympics, etc.

6. Assist and support caregivers of veterans.
Members / Units
• Familiarize yourself and your unit and community with the services of the VA caregiver support program.
• Familiarize yourself with the Military and Veteran Caregiver Peer Support Network.
• Become a veteran caregiver peer support trainer or volunteer
• Volunteer as a VA Voluntary Service volunteer support caregiver if the VA health care system closest to you offers such volunteer opportunity.
• Invite the VA caregiver support coordinator in the VA healthcare system closest to you to make a presentation to your unit, district or community-wide meeting.



VA&R Reporting


Mid Year Reports
Mid Year reports reflect the program work of units in the department. Each unit VA&R chairman is required to submit a report by November 15,2016, to the district president, Reports due to Department chairman by December 1, 2016

Year End Reports
Annual reports reflect the program work of units in the department. It is requested that these reports are accompanied by photos of select unit projects. Members and units should follow your department’s protocol and deadlines. Each unit VA&R chairman is required to submit a report by April 15, 2017 to the district president, Reports due to Department chairman by May 1, 2017. Members and units should follow your department’s protocol and deadlines.
As part of your narrative report, please include answers to the following questions:
• How did the units participate in the caregiver support program?
• Describe how members earned their Service to Veterans hours.
• What assistance did units give at a stand down in your department? What did units learn about hosting a stand down? What went well; what would they do differently?

Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Awards


1. Service to Veterans
Member Award: Hour Bar Recognition for Service to Veterans Volunteers
Type of Award: Hour Bar
Presented to: Member by her department via the ALA National Headquarters

Unit Award: Outstanding Unit VA&R Program Award
Type of award: Citation
Presented to: One unit chairman per division (5 awards) :
Type of award: Citation Plaque
Presented to: One department chairman per division (5 awards)


2. NVCAF Award: National Veterans Creative Arts Festival (NVCAF) support recognition
Type of Award: Verbal announcement during VA&R chairman’s remarks at the 2017 ALA National Convention
Presented to: Departments, units and/or members who qualify for stated contribution level to NVCAF. Donations are made through the American Legion Auxiliary Foundation.

3. Veteran Affairs Voluntary Service (VAVS) Awards
National Award: VAVS Volunteer of the Year Award/ALA NAC Nominee Type of Award: Citation + $500 donation to VAVS facility or VCAF of her choice presented by the American Legion Auxiliary Presented to: Member

Member Award: 10,000 Hour Volunteer Service Award
Type of Award: Citation + $100 donation to VAVS facility or VCAF of her choice presented by The American Legion Auxiliary Presented to: Member

Member Award: 20,000 Hour Volunteer Service Award
Type of Award: Citation + $200 donation to VAVS facility or VCAF of her choice presented by the American Legion Auxiliary Presented to: Member

Individual Recognition Award: Volunteer Recruitment & Service Department Award
Type of Award: Citation presented by the Department of Veterans Affairs Presented to: Hospital Representative

Individual Recognition
Award: 100 Percent VAVS Meeting Attendance Award
Type of Award: Attendance Card presented by the Department of Veterans Affairs Presented to: Hospital Representative and Deputy

James H. Parke Scholarship
This substantial scholarship is awarded annually by Veterans Affairs to a student volunteer. The American Legion Auxiliary contributes $2,000 annually to this scholarship fund.

Welcome Home Celebrations
Provide assistance to your local VA health care system in supporting returning service members and their families in the community. VA supports this initiative by providing information about the opportunities available to them through the VA. Every VA health care system sponsors welcome home celebrations in their facilities and community.

National Salute to Veterans
This initiative salutes America’s heroes, the more than 98,000 veterans of the U.S. Armed Services who are cared for every day in VA Medical Centers during the week of February 14 annually.

PLEASE VISIT THE NATIONAL WEBSITE FOR THE INFORMATION REGARDING THEIR AWARDS.: www.alaforveterans.org  Forms are available on the state website: www.sdlegionaux.org