Since the 1940s, The American Legion and the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs have enjoyed a unique partnership. State claims representatives – many of whom are Legionnaires – handle the hundreds of new Department of Veterans Affairs federal claims each month. The claims representatives are accredited through the Legion’s service officers program and advocate on behalf of all claims that go through the state, including the more than half that have given power of attorney to The American Legion. The relationship allows American Legion Department of Minnesota service officers to expand their areas of responsibility to include outreach at VA medical facilities, conducting Heroes to Hometowns programs and working with veterans to obtain education benefits.

Recently, one of Minnesota’s claims reps made an enormous difference in the life of an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran suffering from PTSD who had become suicidal. Michael Saniti had reportedly held a gun to his own head while threatening to kill himself, and had even gone so far as to write his own obituary and send it to a local paper.

The Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs in St. Paul heard the story, and claims rep Robert Laguban – himself a Vietnam War combat veteran – sprang into action. Saniti already had a VA rating, but Laguban was able to fast-track an increase to Saniti’s disability rating and personally deliver the news to the 28-year-old Saniti, who is married and is the father of four children.

“It’s just a veteran helping another veteran,” Laguban said. “We need to take care of each other.”

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