Throughout the year, the MN American Legion works to serve both veterans and our wider community in a multitude of ways. As the year comes to a close, we’d like to take a moment to celebrate some of our successes from 2021. Here is just a sampling of what the MN American Legion accomplished this year.
Veterans Restorative Justice Act
In June, state lawmakers passed the Veterans Restorative Justice Act (VRJA), helping combat-traumatized veterans with legal troubles get the counseling they need.
This legislation provides guidance to Minnesota courts on sentencing justice-involved veterans. Courts can now offer access to programs and treatment for service-related conditions that contributed to a criminal offense. The VRJA also allows courts to offer opportunities to collaborate with County Veterans Service Officers and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to maximize benefits and services available to veterans.
This legislation was nearly dead until letters written by Minnesota Legion members brought it back to life last year.
A Successful 2021 Legislative Session for Veterans
The VRJA wasn’t the only legislative win for veterans in 2021. In fact, the 2021 legislative session was the most successful for veteran-related funding and causes in recent memory. The MN American Legion played a key part in that success. For instance, we pushed for three new state veterans homes (in Preston, Montevideo, and Bemidji) and a new state veterans cemetery (in Redwood Falls) to better serve veterans in rural communities.
Resolutions Passed at the National American Legion Level
Our Minnesota Department also had three resolutions pass at the National American Legion level. These resolutions push the VA to improve care for veterans by adding a list of in-network providers to the VA online locator tool, paying for emergency air and land transportation, and ending the Gulf War syndrome filing deadline.
And just days after the resolution calling for an end to the Gulf War syndrome filing deadline passed, the VA acted to move that deadline back 5 years.
The Minnesota Legionnaire Paper Kept Us Informed
The Minnesota Legionnaire continued its work keeping us up-to-date on issues important to veterans. In its September issue, for instance, it reported that Minnesota National Guard soldiers were heading to the airport in Kabul to aid with the withdrawal — a story no other Twin Cities media reported on (only the Duluth market reported on it).
Working To Prevent Veteran Suicides
In December, the MN American Legion partnered with the Minneapolis VA to take our efforts to prevent veteran suicides to the next level. We are working to form the Minnesota American Legion Family Suicide Prevention Coalition, a community-based effort that aims to ensure the health, safety, and wellbeing of servicemembers, veterans, and their families.
The Veterans Assistance Fund Helped Struggling Veterans
The MN American Legion bolstered its Veterans Assistance Fund and made grants up to $5,000 available for struggling veterans. Anyone wishing to donate to this fund can do so by sending a check written out to “Minnesota American Legion Foundation Fund 85” to the following address:
American Legion Department of Minnesota
20 W 12th St., Room 300A
St. Paul, MN 55155
Fastpitch Softball For High School Girls
In September, we announced that we would begin offering MN American Legion Fastpitch Softball to teams of high school girls starting in the summer of 2022. As MN American Legion Commander Tom Fernlund said, this will be “an opportunity to provide an activity for young women in the summer, a time when many communities have baseball for the boys but nothing for the girls.”
MN American Legion Baseball Is Back!
On a similar note, MN American Legion Baseball bounced back in 2021 from the COVID-canceled 2020 season. We were thrilled to be back with even more teams than in 2019. Learn more about MN American Legion Baseball here, including finding a team or registering a team
Assistance With COVID-19 Grants and Business Relief Payments
This year we helped many posts through the process of obtaining COVID-19 Business Relief Payments (payments from the Department of Revenue to eligible businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic). We also helped several individual veterans apply for the state’s COVID-19 grants for veterans struggling financially.
Getting the Word Out About COVID-19 Vaccines
When COVID-19 vaccines became available last year, the MN American Legion was instrumental in helping the VA get the word out to veterans that they could get vaccinated at the Minneapolis VA hospital. That communication was so successful that the VA hospital was overwhelmed with calls! This highlights the capability of the American Legion as a network of veterans helping veterans.
These are just a few examples of what we can accomplish when we band together to serve one another and our communities. If you or a veteran you know is not yet a member of the MN American Legion and would like to join, we’d love to have you. Learn more and sign up for membership here.