President Donald Trump signed legislation from Rep. Ben Cline into law on Tuesday that will open the American Legion’s doors to thousands more veterans.
The Let Everyone Get Involved in Opportunities for National Service, or LEGION, Act allows any honorably discharged veterans who has served since Dec. 7, 1941, to join the American Legion. Previously, military veterans who served in what had been considered periods of peacetime between wars were not eligible for membership.
Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, and Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina, first introduced the legislation in the U.S. Senate. Cline, R-Botetourt, introduced the companion measure in the House of Representatives along with Rep. Lou Correa, D-California.
“This is a momentous occasion for all veterans who have honorably served in the United States Armed Forces,” Cline said in a statement. “This is the type of bipartisan work I am proud to do in Congress.”
The American Legion sought the declaration to honor about 1,600 U.S. service members killed or wounded during previously undeclared periods of war.
Membership eligibility is determined by Congress. Previously, membership was open to veterans who served during designated conflicts, such as World War II and Vietnam. There were seven recognized eligibility periods, starting with World War I and concluding with the current period, which spans from the Gulf War to the war on terrorism.
The act redefines the American Legion’s membership eligibility dates. The eligibility criteria have changed from seven war eras to two: April 6, 1917, to Nov. 11, 1918, and Dec. 7, 1941, to a date to be determined later by the federal government. Before, veterans who served during the Cold War, for example, were unable to join.
The American Legion provides a social structure for veterans and advocates for their interests. The organization also helps them access their benefits.