American Legion Post #16 Lewistown, MT

American Legion News

Legion testifies in support of bills to aid veterans, Guard and Reserve seeking education

Source: June 12, 2024

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The American Legion expressed its support for legislation that would improve educational and economic opportunities for veterans and servicemembers during a House subcommittee hearing on June 12.

Kevin O'Neil, senior policy associate for the Legion's Veterans Employment and Education Division, testified before the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity.

"Keeping in line with the theme of education, The American Legion would like to express its support for two bills that will greatly improve education and training outcomes for veterans," O'Neil said in his opening statement to the subcommittee.

H.R. 8529, the Warriors to Workforce Act, would increase the monthly basic housing allowance paid by the VA to eligible individuals during the first year of a full-time apprenticeship or other on-the-job training program. "If passed, this bill will be a significant step towards ensuring that veterans have the necessary support to transition into the civilian workforce," O'Neil said. American Legion Resolution 296 supports the aim of the legislation. "We firmly believe that no veteran should be forced to discontinue their education due to housing costs."

H.R. 7543, the Guard and Reserve GI Bill Parity Act of 2024, would expand eligibility for Post-9/11 educational assistance to National Guard and Reserve servicemembers. "From safeguarding our borders and capitols to providing pandemic aid and supporting local law enforcement, National Guard and Reserve servicemembers have been increasingly called upon to face unique challenges," O'Neil said. "They often make significant sacrifices, leaving their families and civilian employers for extended periods of time —sometimes even accepting substantial pay cuts. Yet, despite all we ask of them, they often are denied fundamental benefits of their service, particularly the GI Bill. The American Legion believes that every day in uniform counts." American Legion Resolution No. 24: GI Bill Fairness for Activated National Guard and Reserve Servicemembers supports counting every day in uniform toward GI Bill eligibility.

O'Neil also noted the Legion's support of the VA Housing Loan Forever Act. "The American Legion supports transferring housing loan benefits to spouses and biological or legally adopted children. There's no option for servicemembers and veterans to transfer VA home loan benefits to their spouse or child. By enabling and supporting the families of our veterans and servicemembers, we are supporting the military community as a whole," O'Neil said.

The American Legion supports those benefits through Resolution No. 8: Home Loan Guaranty Program Eligibility.

In written testimony provided before the hearing, the Legion expressed support for other pending legislation:

H.R. 8560, the End Veteran Homelessness Act of 2024, would improve the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program. Among the improvements:

*Streamlining case management by prioritizing vulnerable veterans;

*Advocating for an annual HUD-VASH report to detail veterans served, qualifications of case managers and more;

*Clarifying rental assistance for homeless or at-risk veterans.

Resolutions 357 and 332 reiterate the Legion's call for Congress to immediately improve the HUD-VASH program.

H.R. 7920, the AG VETS Act, "recognizes veterans' potential in agriculture and directs the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a grant program to establish and enhance farming and ranching opportunities for veterans," the Legion wrote. "… Awarding grants to entities that provide veterans with targeted training and classroom education will lead to more opportunities."

The Legion's support for the AG VETS Act is demonstrated through Resolutions 318, 296 and 25.

In written support of H.R. 7896, the VETS Opportunity Act of 2024, the Legion wrote, "The Post-9/11 GI Bill fails to adequately benefit veterans in hybrid versions of skilled trade training programs. This bill would extend educational benefits in the Post-9/11 GI Bill for veterans enrolled in hybrid certificate programs offered by higher education institutions; these hybrid programs teach in-demand skilled trades.

"Endorsed by the American Legion through Resolution No. 14: Preserve Housing Benefits for Online Education, we urge Congress to expand the Post-9/11 GI Bill to better support veterans in hybrid versions of skilled trade training programs."

H.R. 8661, the Reforming Education for Veterans Act, would allow "servicemembers seeking an education to withdraw, take a leave of absence, or otherwise come to an agreement with the institution if they receive orders to enter a period of covered service. Second, it requires the VA to allow educational institutions with multiple campuses to file only one compliance survey. Last, if the VA updates its official handbook, it must notify all school certifying officials (SCOs). These reforms will improve the protection of education benefits and simplify the reporting process for SCOs and institutions, which ensures better outcomes," the Legion wrote. The Legion supports the legislation through Resolution 318.

"Historically, on-campus educational and vocational counseling has suffered from a lack of qualified personnel. Additionally, those who may be qualified are administratively burdened by the number of students being served at any given time, leading to a disparity in the services provided to veterans on campus," the Legion wrote. "(H.R. 8646, the Modernizing the Veterans On-Campus Experience Act of 2024) seeks to improve the provision of on-campus educational and vocational counseling by the Department of Veterans Affairs." Provisions of the bill are supported by Legion resolutions 318 and 343.

Through resolutions 228 and 59, the Legion supports H.R. 8627, the Student Veteran Debt Relief Act of 2024, which "aims to alleviate the financial burden and stress associated with overpayment recovery for veterans pursuing education," the Legion wrote. The bill would stipulate that overpayments would not be made a liability for veterans if due to a VA error or incorrect information from DoD; would include a hardship waiver if the overpayment liability would prevent a veteran from continuing their education; and would establish a payment plan if an overpayment cannot be recovered.

H.R. 8647, the VA Home Loan Program Reform Act, would authorize the VA Secretary to take actions to prevent or resolve a default on a housing loan guaranteed by the VA.

"Many veterans still face foreclosure because of the pandemic's impacts. Additional resources provided through this bill will alleviate problems of delinquency and allow veterans to remain in their homes without fear of foreclosure," the Legion wrote. "… Based upon Resolution No. 8: Home Loan Guaranty Program Eligibility, The American Legion supports legislation that helps veterans seeking a home and, therefore, any administrative or legislative effort to make this process easier for veterans."

Next article: NY Legionnaires conduct 3rd annual Women Veterans Day event

NY Legionnaires conduct 3rd annual Women Veterans Day event

Source: June 12, 2024

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On June 12, 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed the Women's Armed Services Integration Act, enabling women to serve as permanent, regular members of the U.S. Armed Forces. That date now is honored annually as Women Veterans Recognition Day or Women Veterans Day.

In New York, not too far from the Finger Lakes area, members of The American Legion have made sure that date has commemorated each of the past three years, most recently on June 9.

At Skinner Ernest American Legion Post 1612 in Big Flats, the Chemung County American Legion conducted its third Women Veterans Recognition Day. The event was open to women veterans and their families, and served as a way to both honor and educate women veterans.

Ciji Remick-Sheremeta, who serves as Chemung County second vice commander – the same position she holds at American Legion Harry Bentley Post 443 in Elmira – said the idea for the first recognition event came from fellow Legionnaire Terri Souder and now is an annual event. Remick-Sheremeta has worked with Souder to coordinate the event the past two years.

"A lot of veterans I've talked to who are females say they've had a negative experience in the military," Remick-Sheremeta said. "I just want them to know they deserve to take up space as well. And it's paying tribute to all those female veterans who served before us and connecting with them.

"On Sunday, I got to meet a Korean War veteran who is a female and a Vietnam War veteran who is a female. They had so much gratitude. They were like, ‘No one sees us as veterans.' All of that meant so much, hearing that from them. They had so much joy on their faces. It was amazing."

Remick-Sheremeta, who served in the U.S. Army from 2000 to 2008 and also now serves as chaplain for American Legion Riders Chapter 443, also gained some perspective during the event. "We honored a female World War II veteran who had recently passed away … and had actually served in the military prior to that 1948 enactment," she said. "I was thinking about that and thought that was really amazing. So, in the speech that I gave at the event, I talked about how it's not just about female veterans. It's about showing respect to those individuals back in 1948 who said, ‘Hey, this isn't right. Let's do something about this.' The females deserved just as a much (as male servicemembers)."

While honoring women veterans, which included a lunch and a raffle, the event served to share what resources are available to women veterans. Also in attendance at Post 1612 were representatives from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Chemung County Veterans Affairs and the Women Veterans Alliance.

"We want to get people connected with the VA. And the Chemung County veteran service officer was there, too," Remick-Sheremeta said. "We want it known that ‘Hey, these are options for you when you're ready. Just know that you're not alone.'

"Prior to me becoming a part of The American Legion, I kind of felt alone. We're not really connected. That's why I also talked about the importance of The American Legion, the VFW. Start there. There's lots of connections."

Next article: A new membership record for the Sons of The American Legion

A new membership record for the Sons of The American Legion

Source: June 12, 2024

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For the second year in a row, the Sons of The American Legion have set a new membership record.

Through June 6, membership in the SAL is at 384,400. Last August, just before National Convention, the SAL set a record at 375,743 members and finished 2023 with 380,743 members.

Thirty of the 55 detachments surpassed their 100 percent membership goal through June 6, led by South Dakota (118.25% of membership goal). The rest of the top 10:

2. New Mexico, 116.06%

3. Puerto Rico, 113.46%

4. Latin America, 112.12%

5. Hawaii, 110%

6. Florida, 107.96%

7. Arizona, 107.69%

8. District of Columbia, 106.59%

9. Oregon, 105.67%

10. Idaho, 105.61%

Full membership reports are available here. The next target date (105%) is July 22.

 

Next article: Texas Legionnaires raise American flag inside a Penske Logistics 

Texas Legionnaires raise American flag inside a Penske Logistics 

Source: June 12, 2024

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A worn 30-foot American flag inside a Penske Logistics Truck Co. location in Fort Worth, Texas, has been replaced with a new one thanks to the efforts of The American Legion.

A flag ceremony was held at the Penske Logistics location Friday, June 7, with Department of Texas District 12 Legionnaires, Penske leadership and employees. The flag was lowered, properly folded and handed to the local Daughters of the American Revolution chapter to be repaired and donated to a school. Then a new one purchased by Penske through Post 467 in Saginaw, Texas, and American Legion Emblem Sales was raised.

"I'm blessed to be in this situation," said John Kirby, commander of Post 467, who helped orchestrate the flag ceremony after being contacted by department leadership. "It's really neat and exciting that we are able to raise an American flag in their hub. And it goes in line with The American Legion mission of helping veterans."

Kirby set up an American Legion membership table for Penske employees who are veterans to learn more about the organization, get connected with a local post, and hear about Department of Veterans Affairs benefits.

"We can now reach a group of their employees that we really want to help out, which is veterans and their family members," he said. "This is an opportunity to strengthen the bond between The American Legion and Penske at the local level here in Fort Worth and hopefully national."

Kirby hopes to see other American Legion posts get involved with one of the more than 3,000 Penske Logistics locations to raise an American flag. Penske Operations Manger Melissa Tibbs is working with Kirby to help spearhead this initiative.  

"We can supply the flags, we can supply the ceremony," Kirby said. "It's an opportunity for us to take an American flag and put it inside the building or outside, depending on how the (Penske) hub wants it. The beauty is that every American Legion post (near a Penske location) has an to do a membership drive and take care of veterans."

Flag Day

Flag Day is Friday, June 14, and The American Legion has resources available for Legion Family members to use on social media and for community celebrations or post ceremonies. On Flag Day is the annual Pause for the Pledge will occur at 7 p.m. EDT.

American Legion Family members conducting Flag Day events are encouraged to share their stories and photos on Legiontown under the Rally Around the Flag section.

Next article: American Legion event to honor 80th anniversary of GI Bill

American Legion event to honor 80th anniversary of GI Bill

Source: June 11, 2024

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The American Legion is coordinating a special 80th anniversary celebration of the 1944 Servicemen's Readjustment Act, better known as the GI Bill, on June 20 in the nation's capital. The public is invited to attend the event, which will take place from 4-7 p.m. at the United States Navy Memorial, 701 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20004.

To reserve a spot, click here.

The event will honor the impact on veterans and families provided by the GI Bill, which now has provided millions of veterans with college educations and more. The components of the 1944 Servicemen's Readjustment Act were originally drafted by American Legion Past National Commander Harry W. Colmery in the winter of 1943.

The original GI Bill, which also provides veterans with housing loans and unemployment benefits, has been updated throughout the years to remain modern and serve generations of veterans from World War II through today.

The event honoring the GI Bill also will include guest speakers, including:

·       Joe Garcia, Executive Director, Education Service, Veterans Benefits Administration.

·       Patrick Murphy, 32nd Under Secretary of the Army.

·       Retired Army Col. Adam Rocke, master of ceremonies for the event.

The event will also feature a student panel that will discuss "The GI Bill, Higher Education for our Veterans since WWII," which will be moderated by Tammy Barlet, Vice President, Government Affairs, Student Veterans of America.

Next article: Leveraging the power of veteran-to-veteran connection

Leveraging the power of veteran-to-veteran connection

Source: June 11, 2024

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This week on the American Legion Tango Alpha Lima podcast, VA psychologist Dr. Jay Gorman discusses veteran socials and how they are helping to decrease social isolation and loneliness among veterans.

Veteran socials are veteran-led weekly community-based social events with a purpose – getting veterans of all ages and service branches in one place to support and build connection with each other. It can be having coffee, fishing, play board games or volunteering in the community.

"The idea is that this a regularly occurring event and that's how you build a social support system," Gorman said. "You want to offer opportunities for increased contact over time. That's essentially how we form friendships. We have regularly occurring positive contact. It kind of reminds me of in a lot of ways what we've taken on some of the mantle of The American Legion is the spirit of the Buddy Check … is to check on one another, look out for one another. It's that power of veteran-to-veteran connection and getting that culture of everyone having your six."

Gorman is a clinical psychologist; education director of the VISN 1 Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center at the VA Bedford Healthcare System; assistant professor of psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine; director of VA's Veteran Outreach Into the Community to Expand Social Support Team; and a 2024 VHA Innovation Fellow. He helped form the veteran social program after VA peer specialists and therapists noticed that veterans receiving VA mental health care would often return for the same treatment because the lack of a support system within their community.

"As a therapist, we can provide a lot of mental health services, but what we really can't do is provide social connection and friendship," Gorman said. "And what we know is individuals who have social support systems, who have social connections in their lives, are healthier in all sorts of ways – better heart health, less cognitive decline, it buffers symptoms of post-traumatic stress. If you're lonely and isolated, your risk of death increases by 32 percent. We know there's all these health enhancements that happen."  

Veteran socials are held across 20 states at 98 locations that include American Legion Post 98 in Rockport, Mass., and Post 113 in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass. Each one is customized based on the needs of veterans in the community. Want to start a veteran social? Learn how here.  

"The goal is to increase social connection across the nation and doing it one community at a time," Gorman said, adding that just like the Legion's suicide prevention mission of Be the One, veteran socials are about peer-to peer-connection and decreasing the mental health stigma. "Before the point of crisis, it's increasing protective factors and decreasing risk factors. One of those ways we can do that is increase social connection and social support system. People with healthier support systems can manage the bumps and challenges of life a little easier. What we're trying to do with veteran socials and your Be the One goes a long way in making those efforts."

Also, co-hosts Stacy Pearsall, Joe Worley and Adam Marr discuss:

·         New bipartisan legislation that will allow servicemembers awarded the Purple Heart after their service the ability to transfer education benefits to independents.

·         How the U.S.-built Gaza peer structure can trace its origins back to 1930s cigar boxes.

·         The more than 3,250 keepsakes left on gravestones in Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery that need someone to store them in a meaningful way.

·         A Bravo Zulu to Post 127 in Sugar Hill, Ga., for helping a veteran living in his car get a new transmission and other repairs done and finding him housing.

 Check out this week's episode, which is among more than 250 Tango Alpha Lima podcasts available in both audio and video formats here. You can also download episodes on Apple Podcasts, Google Play or other major podcast-hosting sites. The video version is available at the Legion's YouTube channel.

 

Next article: Listen to the recorded conflict resolution training

Listen to the recorded conflict resolution training

Source: June 11, 2024

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The recorded May virtual Training Tuesday session on conflict resolution is now available for listening. Watch the video

The training was presented by American Legion Department of Indiana Legionnaire Wayne Zeman. "How we say things makes up about 35 percent of how what you say is perceived or received by the person you're talking to," he said. "And over half of communication is tied to body language (and active listening)." 

During his presentation, Wayne discussed:

- Understanding power dynamics

- Behavioral classification

- Self-assessment of assertiveness

- Effective communication

- Active listening skills 

- Assertive body language

- Effective rule enforcement

- Identifying potentially violent persons

- Diffusion strategies

"The goal with this is to prevent situations from getting too heated, to reduce the volume, to calm the tempers, and get everyone talking rationally again," Zeman said. "We should never be seeking to drive people away from our organization. We do a lot of really great work in our American Legion, and we need to make sure that every member feels heard. A lot of times by you remaining calm and listening, truly listening, people will feel heard and respected. There is no one size fits all solution to these situations, but continuing to engage with people and involving them in the solution, we will become a stronger team in the long run."

The American Legion Internal Affairs & Membership Division hosts the monthly virtual training to educate members on issues important to the organization. The training is held on the last Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. Eastern. Listen to recordings at legion.org/training/training-tuesdays

 

Next article: We must never forget our veterans' sacrifices

We must never forget our veterans' sacrifices

Source: June 10, 2024

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Hello again, Legion Family,

The Sons of The American Legion have been working hard to finish our year strong and I want to share some great updates. In May, I stated I thought we would be hitting the $10 million mark for the Child Welfare Foundation (CWF), and we did it. Plan on celebrating in New Orleans.

I also said I thought we would be celebrating a new all-time high in membership, and we checked that box also. Wow, what work is being done by our blue cap members.

We did not raise over $10 million with a snap of our fingers; it took a lot of hard work, selling products, raffles and getting donations from all of our members, and I want to say thank you and job well done. To our squadrons and membership team, thank you also for a great job getting your memberships in and doing such a great job growing the Sons of The American Legion. We are over 384,000 members, and I can't wait to see how high we will go. I look forward to New Orleans where we can all celebrate our accomplishments.

As I am writing this, I just got home from the Legion Family trip to Normandy; oh, what a trip it was. The entire Legion Family was there as American Legion National Commander Daniel J. Seehafer spoke at the unveiling of President Eisenhower's statue. Together we all laid wreaths the same day at memorials for Alexandre Renaud and the airborne companies that were part of the D-Day air invasion. The next day we were together again as Commander Seehafer spoke at the founding father of the American Legion Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr.'s statue, and together we each laid wreaths to honor him while representing our three organizations.

For me, personally, the next morning when we went to Omaha Beach was the most rewarding and touching. I was able to stand and see the beach my grandfather and so many of our soldiers stormed on D-Day. As I stood there thinking of all the brave young men that went against the odds, it was a very emotional morning. These men fought for our freedom and for love of country so we could have the lives we live today.

It is always good to celebrate when good overcomes bad; we must never forget all of the sacrifices made by our armed forces. I could write about the trip for a while, but I want to say thank you Sons and Legion Family. Thanks for the opportunity to represent you and my grandfather as the national commander, along with my wife Margie to take part in all of the ceremonies. We will never forget.

Hoping everyone is closing out the year strong and having great conventions.

 

"Representing More Than Me"

Don "JR" Hall

SAL National Commander

 

Next article: Lundqvist shows resilience after 1st-lap Road America mishap

Lundqvist shows resilience after 1st-lap Road America mishap

Source: June 10, 2024

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A dream Saturday became a nightmare Sunday start for Linus Lundqvist on the opening lap of the XPEL Grand Prix at Road American in Wisconsin. But as the race unfolded, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES rookie showed why Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR) has put Lundqvist behind the wheel of the No. 8 American Legion Honda this season.

After earning his first-ever INDYCAR pole on Saturday and leading the field on the opening lap – sharing the Legion's Be the One message on his livery – Lundqvist was pushed into a spin by CGR teammate Marcus Armstrong, who had qualified third.

The contact, which resulted in a penalty for Armstrong, happened in Turn 1 and allowed the field to pass Lundqvist. But he was able to battle back, running in the top 10 at times before settling into a 12th-place finish, his second-best finish in a points race this season. He was able to build on his Rookie of the Year lead over teammate Kyffin Simpson, upping the advantage to 19 points.  

"It's a shame man. I was so excited for this race," Lundqvist said. "It would've been great to see what we could have done out there because I think after that our race was actually pretty decent. I think after all it was a solid recovery from the No. 8 American Legion team to get to P12."

Defending NTT INDYCAR SERIES champ Alex Palou started the race seventh driving the No. 10 DHL Honda featuring American Legion branding, led three laps on his way to a fourth-place finish. He remains in second place in the series points race, five points behind Sunday's winner, Will Power.  

"It was a solid day for us. I think we just maximized everything we had," Palou said. "The No. 10 DHL team did an amazing job, we just really didn't have that speed that the top three had. A bit sad that I was just there alone all race, just trying to catch the top three guys, but we didn't really have it today. Solid day for us and looking forward to the next one."

The NTT INDYCAR SERIES finally gets a weekend off and will resume June 23 with the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

To learn about The American Legion's Be the One veteran suicide prevention program, click here.

 

 

Next article: Five Things to Know, June 10, 2024

Five Things to Know, June 10, 2024

Source: June 10, 2024

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1.   Among the 1,300 paratroopers from six nations who jumped into Normandy on Sunday were two Americans whose family members helped liberate France 80 years ago. Spc. Logan Crawford's great-grandfather, Jack Schuyler Gray, fought in the Battle of Metz during World War II. He was injured while serving as a medic and lived with shrapnel in his leg for the rest of his life. "He was stationed just an hour away from where I am today," Crawford said from Saint-Mere-Eglise. "This means the world to me, even being able to talk to men who were in the 95th Infantry, the same unit my great-grandfather was in. I'm really honored to get chosen to come out here."

2.   U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken returns to the Middle East this week as a proposed Israel-Hamas cease-fire deal hangs in the balance after the dramatic rescue of four Israeli hostages held in Gaza in a major military raid and turmoil in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government. With no firm response yet from Hamas to the proposal received 10 days ago, Blinken on Monday will start his eighth diplomatic mission to the region since the conflict began in October. He will meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi in Cairo before traveling to Israel, Jordan and Qatar.

3.   The first aid from an American-built pier arrived in Gaza on Saturday since storm damage required repairs to the project, the U.S. military said, relaunching an effort to bring supplies to Palestinians by sea that had been plagued with problems. The pier constructed by the U.S. military was operational for only about a week before it was blown apart in high winds and heavy seas on May 25. A damaged section was reconnected to the beach in Gaza on Friday after being repaired at an Israeli port. About 1.1 million pounds (492 metric tons) of humanitarian aid was delivered to Gaza through the pier on Saturday, U.S. Central Command said in a statement. It reiterated that no U.S. military personnel went ashore in Gaza. The U.S. Agency for International Development works with the U.N. World Food Program and their humanitarian partners in Gaza to distribute food and other aid coming from the U.S.-operated pier.

4.   South Korea and the United States were set to hold talks on Monday in Seoul on better coordinating an allied nuclear response during a war with North Korea, amid anxiety over Pyongyang's growing arsenal, Seoul officials said. The third meeting of the Nuclear Consultative Group (NCG) is designed to follow up on last year's summit, during which the United States promised to give South Korea more insight into its nuclear planning for a conflict with the North. The talks came as North Korea races ahead to advance its nuclear weapons and their delivery systems, which triggered questions in South Korea about its reliance on "extended deterrence" - in essence the American nuclear umbrella.

5.   The Senate Armed Services Committee will mark up its draft of the annual defense authorization bill this week, but most of the work will take place behind closed doors and out of sight of the public. Unlike the House Armed Services Committee — which held its markup of the measure during a daylong, public session last month — the Senate panel traditionally debates defense policy and budget issues in closed sessions. The committee's final draft is expected to be released by Friday. It will detail differences with the House version of the bill and set the outline for chamber negotiations for the rest of the summer. A final compromise is expected sometime this fall.

Next article: Legion testifies in support of bills to aid veterans, Guard and Reserve seeking education