Legion's commander planning visit to Kenai

Posted: Wednesday, February 26, 2003

The national commander of the American Legion will be in Kenai for the organization's Western District convention March 6-9. It will be hosted by Kenai Post No. 20.

Ronald F. Conley, who was elected in August to lead the nation's largest veterans organization, will be joined by Department of Alaska Commander Chuck E. Unsworth Sr. and outgoing District Commander Alvin Diaz, a member of the Kenai post.

While visiting the Kenai Peninsula, Conley will be a guest on KSRM radio's "Sound-Off" program at 10 a.m. March 7, allowing listeners to call in with questions or comments about American Legion programs, which advocate veterans' benefits and veterans' rights.

A Vietnam-era U.S. Air Force veteran, Conley also plans to address groups of local American Legion members, Sons of the American Legion and members of the American Legion Auxiliary. Those meetings will not be open to the public.

Conley recently has spoken out against what he terms the Veterans Administration patient "backlog."

"More than 300,000 qualified veterans are waiting six months or longer between setting appointments and actually seeing VA doctors," he said in a Legion magazine article in January.

"Some have died waiting," he said.

Conley has created a survey form, titled "I am not a number," for veterans to fill out if they believe they are waiting too long to receive VA medical care. He pledged to hand deliver the surveys to Capitol Hill in March to show legislators "that lives are at stake."

The lobbying campaign is being coordinated in an effort to support passage of the Veterans Health Care Funding Act of 2002.

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