Health

American Legion National Commander speaks in Brewster on veterans’ mental health, more – The Globe

BREWSTER — Veterans’ voices need to be heard, their problems need to be addressed and their communities need their veterans too, American Legion National Commander Paul E. Dillard said Thursday to a crowd of about 60 people at Brewster Legion Post 464.

Dillard, who hails from Texas and served four campaigns in Vietnam, outlined some of the work the American Legion has done recently and highlighted its continuing efforts to combat veteran suicide, advocate for veterans’ health and assist military families.

“We’ve got to stop veteran suicide,” he said, emphasizing the importance of simply talking to veterans and doing buddy checks. “It might be a phone call that saves their life.”

Dillard praised the VA system for its work, and noted in an interview that the last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic had been particularly difficult for older veterans, many of whom prefer face-to-face health care but had to go through telemedicine instead.

“The VA system is so important for our veterans,” Dillard added.

About 60 people came to Brewster Post 464 Thursday to hear American Legion National Commander Paul E. Dillard speak about a number of veterans' issues, including mental health.

About 60 people came to Brewster Post 464 Thursday to hear American Legion National Commander Paul E. Dillard speak about a number of veterans’ issues, including mental health.

Kari Lucin/The Globe

He also spoke about the Honoring our PACT Act of 2021, which would allow veterans to more easily get health care for exposure to toxic substances during military service. The US House of Representatives has passed the bill and it was received in the Senate in March.

“You can’t fight a toxin with a rifle,” Dillard said, noting that three and a half million veterans could be affected.

A bipartisan bill to expand eligibility for hospital care, medical services and nursing home care from the Department of Veterans Affairs to include all World War II veterans should also be passed into law, Dillard said, and sooner rather than later.

“We need to do it now. It’s the right time,” he said, so Americans can show the remaining members of the Greatest Generation their appreciation for their sacrifices.

Dillard also touched on the VA’s need to increase services for women veterans, as their numbers have grown significantly in recent years and they require specific care such as mammograms.

American Legion National Commander Paul E. Dillard, who hails from Texas, visited Brewster Post 464 Thursday.

American Legion National Commander Paul E. Dillard, who hails from Texas, visited Brewster Post 464 Thursday.

Kari Lucin/The Globe

Dillard spoke about the American Legion Veterans & Children Foundation’s efforts during the 2019 government shutdown, when active duty US Coast Guardsmen were not being paid. The Foundation expedited $1.2 million in temporary financial assistance grants to Coast Guard families and advocated that the Guardsmen be paid.

The Foundation offers financial assistance to disabled veterans, military families and young people who’ve lost parents in the service, according to its website, and Dillard said he hoped to raise $2 million for the foundation in 2022.

He also emphasized the importance of membership and recruiting new veterans into the American Legion, particularly in advocacy for veterans issues.

“The larger our numbers are, the louder our voices when we go to testify,” Dillard said, encouraging members to ask people if they’ve renewed their memberships and invite young people to join.

Dillard accepted donations for the Foundation of $1,000 from the Brewster Legion Auxiliary and another $237 from Post 464 — plus a bag of snickerdoodles. He went on Thursday to tour the Luverne Veterans Home and visited Pipestone Post 6.

For those in crisis or seeking to help someone else in crisis, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1 (800) 273-8255. Press 1 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line and Military Crisis Line.

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