In a significant legislative victory for the American Legion, President Trump signed a bill July 30 that declares the United States has been in a state of war since Dec. 7, 1941.

The American Legion sought the declaration as a way to honor approximately 1,600 U.S. service members who were killed or wounded during previously undeclared periods of war.

The LEGION Act (Let Everyone Get Involved In Opportunities for National Service Act) also opens the door for approximately 6 million veterans to access American Legion programs and benefits for which they previously had not been eligible.

“Recognizing the service of these wartime veterans is the right thing do and it is long overdue,” National Commander Brett Reistad said.

“The families of those who were killed or wounded during these wartime acts should take pride in knowing that we recognize their sacrifice and service,” he said. “Moreover, we are proud to welcome any of the 6 million living veterans from the previously unrecognized periods into our organization and call them ‘Legionnaires.’ ”

Now that the legislation has been signed, the American Legion’s eligibility criteria immediately changes from seven war eras to two: April 6, 1917, to Nov. 11, 1918, and Dec. 7, 1941, to a time later determined by the federal government. 

“We are grateful that President Trump fully acknowledges the importance of The American Legion by signing the LEGION Act in the White House — just one week after it passed the House of Representatives,” he said. “In an era of partisan gridlock, Republicans and Democrats in Congress overwhelmingly recognized the importance of allowing thousands of honorable but previously ineligible veterans the right to join the largest and most influential veterans organization in the country.”

Reistad pointed out that existing American Legion membership applications are in the process of being updated but can still be used.

“In the meantime, I recommend that prospective Legionnaires and recruiters write ‘LEGION Act’ in the eligibility date section of American Legion membership applications if they fall outside the previous war eras,” he said. “The larger pool of veterans now eligible for the American Legion also will open their family members to eligibility in the Sons of the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary as well.”

To join Washington American Legion Post 218, visit www.post218.org/join-us-.html. That page also has a link to explain eligibility in detail, including for those who served in the National Guard or Reserve units.