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Happy New Year

Michigan Veterans Affairs (MVAA) Agency and the Michigan Veteran Coalition (MVC)

I am not sure about you, but I am hoping that 2021 will be way better than in 2020.  The pandemic continues to strain businesses, government /healthcare resources, families, and everyone’s mental health.

While many Michigan counties have a Veterans’ Affairs office, the others have no primary resource to assist veterans.  There are agencies like the Michigan Veterans Affairs (MVAA) Agency and the Michigan Veteran Coalition (MVC) to help fill those gaps.

The MVAA various programs to help connect with veterans.  The Buddy to Buddy volunteer mentorship program supports veterans of all eras in linking them to resources that address multiple issues.  This program requires volunteers that can provide veterans with one-on-mentorship.  The MVAA also has a program called “Check on MIVet.”  This program aims to provide the employment, education, healthcare, quality of life, or other resource information they need to thrive.  To learn more, go to www.michiganveterans.com/mvaaCheckonMIVET.

The Michigan Veterans Coalition comprises representatives from the following four veteran service organizations: American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Vietnam Veterans of America, and Veterans of Foreign Wars. The MVC employs Veteran Service Officers (VSO) to assist veterans and their dependents in gathering information necessary to support a claim and file a claim.  The MVC can also help with filing appeals for denied claims.  The MVC has VSOs throughout the state of Michigan.  To find out who is in your county, go to www.michiganveterans.com/find-benefits-counselor

We all have our views on how to handle this pandemic.  Whether it aligns with the elected officials and the Michigan Health Department’s or not, please show kindness and courtesy to those around us.  COVID continues to pit people against each other. Please don’t allow it into your bubble of relationship to ruin them. 

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Happy Veterans Day

To all my fellow veterans, thank you. Thank you for raising your hand to commit to serving your country in whatever capacity required of you.  

Most of the time, veterans leave their time in service with a desire to give their time and energy to serving other people. This month’s issue contains stories of extraordinary people that want just to keep helping!

Financial Assistance

Sometimes people experience financial hardship and need help.  Just because someone is a veteran, it doesn’t make us immune to this issue.

Veterans In 2019, the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA) worked with legislators to pass the Community Veterans Service Fund grant statute that provides each county with a $50,000 base grant and additional funds based on the veterans per capita.

Counties that apply can use the funding for anything to further assist or reach out to veterans.  Some counties have used the budget for things like hiring more staff, purchase transportation for veterans, expand technology in their office, offer new services, Meijer grocery vouchers, and expand financial assistance dollars for veterans in need.  These are just a few examples.

With that said, the MVAA CVSF is not the only funding mechanism in assisting veterans experiencing a financial crisis.  The Michigan Veterans Trust Fund (MVTF) is available for wartime veterans experiencing an unforeseen emergent situation.  The MVTF fund is currently over $61 million and is used solely for assisting veterans.  The MVTF has assisted with larger emergencies like roof repair, car repairs, dental work, furnace replacement, etc.

Most local county Department of Veterans Affairs also has funding to assist veterans with emergencies.  Usually, county funding is set aside for smaller emergencies like a utility bill, propane, rent, gas card, work boots, etc.

All these funding sources have an application process that could consider income, expenses and household members. 

If you or a veteran you know needs assistance, please have them check with their county office for further details.

Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas. If you are alone this holiday season, please reach out to your fellow brothers and sister in arms for the community and connection we all need! If you know of a veteran living alone, please, call, visit, or just drop them a quick note to let them know you care.

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State Emergency Aid Available to Michigan Veterans

By Zaneta Adams, Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency Director

State Emergency Aid Available to Veterans through the MVAA. Struggling veterans in many counties across Michigan are able to put food on the table, make essential housing and vehicle repairs and pay medical bills thanks to the County Veteran Service Fund Emergency Relief (CVSF-ER) effort launched by the MVAA during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the state’s coordinating agency for Michigan’s more than 550,000 veterans and their families, the MVAA facilitates $6.4 million in CVSF state-appropriated grants to County Veterans Service Offices

The emergency aid was made available to counties that were previously approved for CVSF grants but wanted to amend the grants to offer emergency relief directly to veterans. Some counties were slated to spend CVSF grants on veteran outreach and activities but were unable due to pandemic restrictions. The emergency relief was also available to counties that either did not qualify or chose not to apply for CVSF grants previously.

The State Emergency Aid Available to Veterans as an emergency relief effort gained considerable traction, with nearly 30 Michigan counties participating to the tune of $1.3 million. The CVSF-ER grants, determined by each county’s veteran population, ranged from $6,000 in Wexford County (with 2,500 veterans) to $519,736 in Wayne County (with 83,400 veterans).

Eligible veterans from all eras – both wartime and peacetime – in participating counties can use the money to make home and vehicle repairs, pay medical expenses, and meet other needs determined emergent. As part of the effort, the MVAA also teamed up with Meijer to provide grocery vouchers to veterans in participating counties.

While the emergency assistance is helping veterans hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic, it also applied to emergent needs stemming from the central Michigan flooding in May. Both Midland and Gladwin counties, which were devastated by flooding, applied for and were approved for CVSF-ER grants.

As Gov. Whitmer said in helping announce the CVSF-ER effort: “The State of Michigan is committed to supporting our veterans and their families during these challenging times and every day throughout the year. These brave men and women put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms and we will continue serving them as they served us.”

Indeed, for those counties that opted in, veterans of all eras could take advantage of emergency funding opportunities while also becoming more familiar with resources that are available to them and their families. No matter which era they served in, they deserve support when they need it the most, especially during these trying and uncertain times.

For more information about emergency funding opportunities and all other benefits and services available to veterans, contact the MVAA’s Veteran Resource Service Center at 1-800-MICH-VET (1-800-642-4838).

Read about other resources available to Michigan veterans here.

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July Director’s Update

In this July Director’s Update, I truly hope everyone has been staying safe through all the COVID-19 protocols.  Our office opened back up full-time on June 15th.  Our staff, like so many others, experienced a lack of personal interactions with clients.  Each of us thrives by helping other veterans and their dependents at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit those already struggling from mental health issues with a deeper level of anxiety, stress, or depression.  While most veterans feel more comfortable around other veterans as we have a sense of what they have been through, the COVID-19 isolations have kept people at home where they are forced to deal with their demons alone.  I hope that if you are struggling you will utilize some of the resources shared within this issue.

Here are some updates pertaining to our current situation.

Benefit Update

COVID-ER Financial Assistance

In response to the high number of people out of work and suffering financial distress, the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA) created the County Veteran Service Fund Emergency Relief (CVSF-ER) grant.  This grant is to help pay for home repairs, medical expenses, buy groceries and personal care items, and other needs determined emergent.  The MVAA also partnered with Meijer to provide grocery vouchers to veterans.  Vouchers of $50 or $100 are used to purchase food, paper products, laundry, and household cleaning products, health and beauty care items, and pet foods.  

Check with your local Veterans Affairs office to see how you can receive CVSF-ER grant money to assist you in meeting your needs.   

Mental Health Counseling 

Those struggling with mental health and the high costs of counseling, there might be an alternative if you served in any combat zone and received a military campaign ribbon (Vietnam, Southwest Asia, OEF, OIF, etc.) then both you and your family are eligible for Vet Center services. 

VA Vet Centers offer a wide range of psychosocial services to eligible Veterans, Servicemembers, and their families in the effort to make a successful transition from military to civilian life.  They include:

  • Individual and group counseling for Veterans, Servicemembers, and their families
  • Family counseling for military-related issues
  • Bereavement counseling for families who experience an active duty death
  • Military sexual trauma counseling and referral
  • Outreach and education including PDHRA, community events, etc.
  • Substance abuse assessment and referral
  • Employment assessment & referral
  • VBA benefits explanation and referral
  • Screening & referral for medical issues including TBI, depression, etc

The Colonel Dema T. Craw VA Clinic located in Traverse City at 701 US Hwy 31 South is one of many clinics across the state that offers Mental Health services including medication management, individual and group counseling such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). There is no requirement to be a combat veteran, but you must be enrolled in VA healthcare to utilize services at any VA Clinics.

For more information on these or other benefits updates, visit or call your local Department of Veterans Affairs office.

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Spousal Benefits

The spouse or widow of a veteran could be eligible for various spousal benefits. 

If you are married to a veteran receiving or they recently filed for VA monthly compensation, you will want to verify that you are listed on their award letter as their spouse.  This might sound a little elementary, but it is sometimes overlooked by the veteran when filing.  This will ensure that they are getting paid the correct amount and make it easier to connect to your spousal benefits after he/she passes.

There are a couple of situations where the surviving spouse can receive a monthly benefit.

  • If the veteran is rated at 100% or is paid at the 100% rate through Individual Unemployability (IU) for at least 10 years.
  • If the veteran passed from something that he/she is compensated for through the VA.

If the veteran is 100% he/she is eligible for CHAMPVA.  A health insurance program through the VA.  This benefit is continued for the spouse even after the passing of the veteran.

Another benefit is the Non-Service Connected Pension.  The basic point of eligibility is that the veteran had to serve during a period of war.  There are some income /asset factors to concern as well, but I would advise talking to a Veteran Service Officer about those details.

The “basic” pension program offers help to those with extremely low income by paying a maximum benefit of $768 monthly. The Aid & Attendance pension program covers paying for in-home, nursing home, or assisted living facilities. For surviving spouses, the maximum benefit is $1,228 monthly.

In the state of Michigan, if the veteran was Permanent & Totally Disabled 100% or IU at the time of death, and he/she owned a permanent residence, then those property taxes could be exempted for the surviving spouse as well.

As always, please call or visit the Grand Traverse County Dept. of Veterans Affairs for more information with these benefits or for assistance in filing a claim.

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New VA Clinic

It was a day that our community came together to celebrate a long-awaited service, our new VA Clinic, to those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in service.  Groups of all ages gathered to share the opening of the Colonel Demas T. Craw VA Clinic located at 701 US Highway 31 South in Traverse City. 

One of the most touching parts of the ceremony was that the community could learn about the history of the honorable man for which the clinic was named. About his journey as a leader, a soldier, and most of all, a family man. The sacrifices made and the lives that he touched. A native of our community, he will not be forgotten but rather a beacon of light to those requiring the much-needed services.

While noting it has been many years in the making, the clinic then officially announced that its doors are finally open to serve. With services ranging from health and medical, various forms of therapy, substance abuse counseling, mental health, and more, the Colonel Demas T. Craw VA Clinic is sure to be a staple in our community for many years to come.

To read all about how this beautiful new clinic got its name, click here.

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Veteran’s Benefits

VA HealthCare

When you enlisted, you might have been told that your veteran’s benefits include free healthcare for life.  Unfortunately, that is just not true.  VA HealthCare eligibility is dependent upon your length of service, your VA disability rating, and/or your income. It is not insurance and we veterans are not free to just go to any Doctor’s office or hospital.

Am I eligible for VA HealthCare benefits?

  • You might be able to get VA healthcare benefits as part of your veteran’s benefits if you served in the active military, naval, or air service and did not get a dishonorable discharge. 
  • If you enlisted after September 7, 1980, or entered active duty after October 15, 1982, you must have served 24 continuous months or the full period for which you were called to active duty.
  • If you were discharged for a disability that caused or made worse by your active duty service, or discharged for a hardship or, served prior to Sept 7, 1980.

When you apply for VA healthcare, you will be assigned 1 of 8 priority groups.  The priority groups affect how much (if anything) you will have to pay toward the cost of your care.  For more detailed information on priority, groups go to www.va.gov/health-care/elgibility/priority-groups.

If you do not have a VA disability rating or discharged within the last five years, then your eligibility is dependent upon your annual income.  For a basic point of reference, a single veteran income threshold is approximately $33,632 for cost-free healthcare.

VA Dental Care

Veterans are not generally eligible for dental care through the VA unless they met specific qualifications.

  • Former prisoner of war
  • A service-connected disability rating of 100%
  • Unemployable paid at 100% disability rate.
  • Service-connected dental condition

If you don’t qualify under the above situations, you may be able to buy dental insurance at a reduced cost through the VA Dental Insurance Program (VADIP).  For more information go to www.va.gov/healthcarebenefits/vadip.

You can apply for any of these benefits by visiting your local county Department of Veterans Affairs.

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