Denise Rohan, the first female national commander of the American Legion (coincidentally sworn in during the group’s national convention in Sparks in 2017), toured Southern Nevada this month. During a visit to Post 40 in Henderson, she said too often individuals think it’s “all bad news” when they hear the name “VA,” short for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
That’s an incorrect assumption, she explained.
“The secretary of the VA (David Shulkin) is doing amazing things.”
She added that veterans issues are nonpartisan and “lots of bills are being passed” in Washington to help veterans. She also noted that the recently enacted Accountability Act that allows for speedier dismissal of VA employees found to be derelict in their duties has made a major difference in staffing. Although she didn’t go into detail, it might seem that those not doing their jobs have been terminated, and employees who have done well continue to do so and perhaps work just a little harder.
Rohan acknowledged that the VA has long had difficulty in attracting doctors and other health care professionals because of lower pay scales.
“I will be testifying in Washington about compensation and will bring up that topic,” she said.
An Army veteran, the Iowa native initially attempted to join an American Legion post when she lived in Wisconsin. But she was incorrectly told in 1982 that women could only join the auxiliary. Not knowing that she was eligible to become a full Legion member, she declined the auxiliary offer. She was a veteran and should have been welcomed by the Legion.
Several years earlier she had joined the Army because “I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I grew up.” She laughed when she added that after she left the service, “I still didn’t know what I wanted to do!”
As time went on she was approached by another Legionnaire who knew the rules, and he asked her to join the organization as a full-fledged member. She became the post commander and then was elected to the adjutant’s post. She continued to move up, reaching the peak in 2017 when she was elected national commander.
Rohan was welcomed at Post 40 by local American Legion committeeman Ron Michalski, alternate committeeman Jeanette Rae-Evans and the commander of the Legion’s Department of Nevada, Yvette Weigold.
Weigold said is important to get the word out to veterans who are eligible to apply for VA benefits. The Legion supports veteran service officers who provide legal representation to veterans applying for earned benefits. There is no charge for the service.
Also attending was Ruth Taylor, longtime chaplain of the Boulder City Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 31. She pointed out that at the post, member Joe Rowe sells red “Support Our Troops” T-shirts as a fundraiser to help local veterans.
Also at the event was Nevada Legion Adjutant Lionel Motta, who discussed a new program called “Hear Today, Learn Tomorrow.” The program helps elementary school-age children who have hearing problems gain access to medical attention.
Chuck N. Baker is a Purple Heart veteran of the Vietnam War and the host of “That’s America to Me” every Sunday at 7 a.m. on 97.1-FM.