The two-million-member American Legion is cutting staff and shaking up management in an effort to fine-tune its advocacy role with the Trump administration, as the Department of Veterans Affairs transitions to new leadership.

The cuts will affect approximately 15 percent of the Legion’s total of about 300 staff positions at its Indianapolis and Washington D.C. headquarters, said Legion spokesman Joe Plenzler.

“The last structural reorganization was several decades ago, and staff positions are being adjusted to meet the demands of the modern workforce,” the organization, which has about 13,000 posts nationwide, said in a statement.

“We’ve eliminated some legacy positions that have been made obsolete by technology, such as facsimile (FAX) processing billets and paper claim file processors, and we’ve added other new positions. We have also offered and accepted early retirements and voluntary separation packages,” the statement said.

“We view this as a responsible step in the stewardship of our two-million-member Veterans Service Organization (VSO),” the statement said.

As part of the reorganization, Louis Celli, who had been the Legion’s legislative director, will become the new executive director. Celli was the Legion’s point person in supporting the VA Mission Act, which was signed into law in June by President Donald Trump to expand private health care options for veterans while preserving the VA’s role as primary provider and gatekeeper.

The Legion and other VSOs have pledged to monitor implementation of the VA Mission Act. The bill is still largely unfunded and will be put in place under the leadership of Robert Wilkie, whose confirmation as the new VA secretary is expected to be approved by the full Senate later this month.

The nomination of Wilkie, who had been undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, was approved in a voice vote by the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on Tuesday.

— Richard Sisk can be reached at

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