American Legion Department of Minnesota behind congressional letter to VA secretary

ST. PAUL — Recently in statewide news, members of Congress from Minnesota jointly signed and sent a letter to VA Secretary Denis McDonough urging the Department of Veterans Affairs to pay for emergency transportation as part of the episode of care when veterans need emergency care.

The American Legion Department of Minnesota was behind getting the U.S. senators and representatives from Minnesota together on this letter. Department Adjutant Mike Maxa, Service Officer Jeremy Wolfsteller and Communications Director Tim Engstrom brought congressional aides together for a meeting to discuss the issue on July 6 at the Veterans Service Building. There, aides met a veteran from Northern Minnesota who had suffered a chainsaw injury but ended up having to pay the ambulance costs out of pocket because the VA wouldn’t cover it, and he was getting dinged on his credit score for nonpayment.

His situation was similar to many other veterans, and they were voicing the concern to the Minnesota American Legion.

Engstrom also spoke with The American Legion’s legislative staff at the National Convention in Milwaukee to coordinate efforts. And Wolfsteller and Engstrom worked with Rep. Tom Emmer’s staff to write the letter itself, and they assisted in reaching out to Minnesota’s U.S. senators and representatives.

Download a copy of the letter here.

“Our efforts often go unsung. We don’t get the headlines. We sometimes don’t get included in the story, like this time,” Maxa said. “However, you can rest assured your department staff are working on behalf of veterans daily. We care more about making Minnesota better for veterans and not as much about receiving credit.”

It is rare, as the Star-Tribune pointed out, for members of Congress to come together in a bipartisan fashion and sign a letter. Your Department of Minnesota accomplished what few other organizations in St. Paul can.

“This is all the more reason it is important to grow our membership, so that we can stand together as veterans as one voice in D.C. and in St. Paul,” Maxa said.