The American Legion is celebrating its 101st birthday today. As the nation’s largest wartime Veterans service organization, this nonprofit has a tremendous impact on the military community — promoting patriotism, national security, and unwavering devotion to Americans who serve and have served.
In February alone, the American Legion Child Welfare Foundation gave out $226,441 in grants to help young people in need. Their program for wounded Veterans, called Operation Comfort Warriors, disbursed $35,600 in grants for wounded and disabled military Vets. And their National Emergency Fund approved $17,250 for victims of the flooding in Missouri and the earthquake in Puerto Rico.
Since 1919, the Legion has been lobbying on behalf of service members and Veterans, and they’ll likely never stop. Especially when the U.S. is facing its worst crisis since the Great Recession.
COVID-19: The Facts
As of March 15, there have been over 3,000 cases of COVID-19 — a new strain of coronavirus — in the United States. 60 people have died. And experts predict that between 160 to 214 million Americans will be infected over the course of the outbreak.
200,000 to 1.7 million could die.
Beyond the infection rate, numbers aren’t looking so good for the economy, either. The stock market is crashing despite the government’s $1.5 trillion bail-out effort, leading us into our first bear market in 11 years. The service and transportation industries are especially being hit hard, with major decreases in travel and consumer spending — the latter of which supports 70% of the economy.
The Washington Post reports that the global economy will have shrunk by 1.2% by the end of the month; which is about 0.4% away from the drop that occurred during the 2008 financial crisis.
All said, coronavirus is a serious matter that’s affecting more than just health.
COVID-19 and Veterans
Veterans may be at higher risk for hardships in the midst of a pandemic. According to Statista, in 2018 the biggest group of Veterans was 65 to 74 years of age. The second biggest group was 75 and older, followed closely by those aged 35 to 54.
Since the U.S. military has become a voluntary service organization, the number of actual service members has steeply dropped. So it makes sense that there’s a lot more Veterans from older generations. Unfortunately, this means that they are disproportionately at risk if they come in contact with coronavirus.
Data released by the China CDC indicates that the death rate for someone over 80 with coronavirus is nearly 15%. It drops off pretty heavily from there, and is only 1.3% in 50-somethings, and miniscule in lower age groups. But overall, people over the age of 60 simply have a higher risk of both contracting and potentially dying from coronavirus.
To make matters worse, homeless Veterans are also disproportionately affected by coronavirus. As many studies have shown, Veterans are more likely to be homeless — they make up 11% of the homeless population while only comprising 2% of the total population. Homeless people are unable to limit their social contact, have a higher probability of physical ailment, and virtually no access to proper healthcare. All of these factors combined makes it easier for them to contract and spread the virus.
So, what can Veterans do to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their community?
The American Legion Speaks Up
“The enemy we are facing isn’t hiding in the bush,” began National Commander Bill Oxford. “Nor has it buried a roadside bomb unbeknownst to us. Yet the enemy is just as dangerous and deadly.”
Here are some of Oxford’s recommendations for minimizing the risk of coronavirus among Veterans:
- Wash your hands.
- Frequently clean surfaces.
- Practice social distancing.
- Perform “buddy checks” on older Veterans to make sure they’re OK — you can do this via phone or email.
- Follow the CDC and WHO for up-to-date news.
Even if your chances of dying are low, be aware that others in your community are at much greater risk; older people, immunocompromised people, and people with underlying health conditions and respiratory issues are all greatly affected by COVID-19.
You can carry the virus around for two weeks before symptoms appear, and the CDC estimates that one person infects two to four others before realizing they have it. Because of this, it’s especially important you take precautions to stay healthy so you don’t infect at-risk people.
Remember: Part of “social distancing” means not going in to work if you’re sick.
“The problem with us as Veterans is we don’t take time off,” said VA official Richard Stone. “And people show up and say, ‘Oh, I just had a little sore throat.’ If you’re sick, don’t come. If you do come, make sure you’re following all the directions you’ve been given. Those include wearing gloves, masks, whatever they tell you to do, make sure you listen closely and you do that.”
You can visit the Legion’s website for more detailed answers to any questions you may have about coronavirus.