To encourage members to take an active role and increase participation, the Kimlau Post has been reimbursing members’ transportation expenses for attending post meetings and functions for many years. The transportation reimbursement was intentionally set at the same rate as the membership dues. Over the years, we also encouraged members to substitute the transportation reimbursement for their membership dues for efficiency and to eliminate the extra steps of back and forth mailing.
During the last membership meeting in June, it was approved to increase this year’s transportation reimbursement from five (5) continuous membership years to thirty (30) continuous membership years for eligible members. This is due to the fact that the Kimlau Post’s current year’s financial outlook is not as strong as previous years. We all realize this change will affect many long time members who have yet to achieve the thirty continuous membership years and possibly place unwanted hardship on some members. Changing the eligibility from five continuous membership years to thirty continuous membership years for receiving transportation reimbursement is by no means the policy of the future. As in previous years, we will revisit this change during next year’s membership meeting to determine whether any adjustment is necessary.
We have received numerous inquiries from some long time members concerning the change. Most of them are frustrated and confused as to why they have to pay membership dues now, when the post had paid their dues in past years. Our members have long been enjoying this special benefit that no one else other than members from Kimlau Post receive. We would like to remind our members; every member is obligated and responsible for their dues. As a matter of fact, the current membership dues for every member are set by the American Legion National Headquarters and the New York Department Headquarters at thirty-eight dollars. The Post has been absorbing membership due increases for years and continues to hold membership dues at twenty-five dollars. This means every member is receiving a substantial subsidy of thirteen dollars.
Delegates of the 98th National Convention unanimously elected Charles E. Schmidt of Burns, Oregon as National Commander to lead the nation’s largest veteran organization for a one-year term. Commander Schmidt said during the National Convention “Our time and responsibility is here for us, you and I…to ensure that the vision is passed on to the next generation of veterans to ensure those who have born the battles, and their families, will be cared for by a grateful nation, you and I must leave our footprints on today’s American Legion”. Commander Schmidt called member participation an important part of the Legion’s membership program, he challenged Legionnaires to sign up one new member and renew one of the current members. He also asked members to accentuate the positive in the coming months.
For the third year, Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald addressed the convention delegates on the subject of veterans’ care. He said the problems that plagued the VA Hospitals across the country and affected millions of veterans waiting for care have improved. Even though there is still a lot more work to be done, he promised with the initiatives that were put in place in the past year, the VA Hospital is working harder and smarter to improve on providing care to veterans. He said, “We’re not perfect, but we’re better”. He disagreed when people said the VA system is broken, he recognized the VA has challenges, but the VA can be transformed. He stressed that transformation is well under way. He cited some statistics of improvement such as reduction of veterans’ homelessness and patient wait time for medical care. He urged Legionnaires to appeal to their congressional representatives not to support privatizing VA healthcare.
Both the democratic and republican presidential candidates addressed the convention delegates. Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton spoke of issues related to national security, diversity and unification on Wednesday. She also stressed that she would not allow the VA to be privatized, she would reform and strengthen the Department of Veterans Affairs and improve healthcare for veterans and their families. Republican candidate Donald Trump addressed the convention delegates on Thursday. He reiterated his campaign theme of “We will stop apologizing for America, and we will celebrate America”. He said supporting those who defend the flag is a priority. He promised to give our military the tools they need to deter violence and aggression from foreign adversaries. He also supported a total reform and cleaning up the Department of Veterans Affairs to better serve the veterans.
In July, the Post leaders also attended the 98th Department Convention in Binghamton, New York. John B. Sampson, City of Salamanca, Hughes-Skiba Post 535, Cattaraugus County, and 8th District was elected Department Commander of the Legion for 2016-2017. Also, congratulations are in order for our Adjutant Gabe Mui as he was elected 1st District Commander. For the first time in 1st District history, the leadership team of commander, vice commander and adjutant are all Chinese-American.