Friday, June 11, 2021

Michigan Veterans News and Resources for June 10, 2021 (VA, VSOs create expedited decision review process)

Gulf War Frontline

Michigan removes professional license barriers for veterans

bill signing


Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation Wednesday that removes barriers to help veterans and their families continue their careers in Michigan, accelerating the state's economic recovery.


"I am proud to sign these bipartisan bills to clear the path for our military service members, veterans, and their dependents to enter a licensed profession," Whitmer said. "This legislation will help us attract and retain talent in Michigan and boosts our broader effort to put Michigan back to work."

Specifically, the legislation:

  • Eases the process through which an active duty service member, veteran or their qualifying dependents can obtain an initial health profession or occupational license or certification of registration in a profession or occupation for which they hold a license or registration in another state or country; waives the fee for the initial health profession license or registration; and redefines terms.
  • Expands the waiver of an initial license or registration fee for an occupational license to active service members and dependents of veterans and active service members. Under current law, fee waivers were available only to veterans. 
  • Requires the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) to issue certain occupational licenses to members of the armed forces, veterans and/or their dependents, without examinationas long as the individual is licensed or registered in that occupation in another state or country and certain conditions are met.

"As a veteran, the wife of a veteran and as a mother to a military spouse, I understand firsthand many of the struggles veterans and military members face when they return home and seek employment," said Zaneta Adams, director of the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency. "This is a huge step in the right direction of making Michigan more veteran friendly. I am proud to be a part of a mission to make our state a great place for veterans and their families, to live, work and call home."


Read more about the new legislation at  And call the MVAA at 1-800-MICH-VET for information on veteran benefits regarding employment, education, health care and quality of life. 


Veterans unemployment sees big drop in May

The veterans unemployment rate dropped sharply last month to 4.1 percent, the lowest level it has been since the start of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Military Times reports the May 2021 rate is down from the 5.2 percent estimate for a month earlier and matches the unemployment estimate from March 2020, the first month of partial business closures and layoffs due to coronavirus prevention restrictions.


The hospitality industry — largely shuttered by the pandemic — saw the biggest gains, with more than 292,000 jobs added nationwide last month. Those tourism-related jobs are major employers in several southern and western states, many of which have large concentrations of veterans living there.


Still time to register for Michigan Women Veterans 5K

It's not too late to register for the Michigan Women Veterans 5K Fun Run/Walk! MVAA invites all veterans and their family and friends to participate between Saturday, June 12, and Saturday, June 19. The event will be held virtually this year and is hosted by the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency, Mission: Ambition LLC and the Michigan Women's Commission.  


The mission of the Women Veterans 5K Fun Run/Walk is to celebrate women veterans in Michigan, bring attention to women who have served in the military and raise funds for the Veterans Reintegration Center at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township. The weeklong event begins on Women Veterans Day (June 12), nationally recognized as the anniversary of the Women's Armed Services Integration Act, enacted June 12, 1948, which recognized women as permanent, regular members of the armed forces.  


Registrants will receive a race T-shirt and challenge coin for their participation but may not receive them by race time. Register now on Eventbrite, or make a donation if you are unable to participate. 


Participants are welcome to complete the 5K in the location of their choosing and are encouraged to stay connected by posting photos or videos to Facebook or Twitter along with the hashtag #WomenVeterans5K.  


VA, VSOs create expedited decision review process


Through a collaborative effort with VSOs and other representatives, VA launched a Claim Accuracy Request (CAR) pilot program for accredited representatives to request an expeditious review and determination of disability claims decisions.


During the trial period, VA-accredited representatives, agents and attorneys can submit a CAR on behalf of a veteran if the representative alleges an obvious error in fact or law. VA must receive the CAR within 30-calendar days of VA's notification to the claimant.


Read more about the program from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' VAntage Point blog.


New stamp honors Japanese American WWII veterans


The U.S. Postal Service unveiled a new commemorative stamp this week that honors WWII veterans representing the all-Japanese American 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442 Regimental Combat Team from Kauai.

According to the Military Times, the "Go For Broke: Japanese Americans of World War II" stamp honors the second generation Japanese Americans who fought during the war and faced discrimination in the United States.

The stamp, based on a 1944 photograph, features Shiroku "Whitey" Yamamoto from the Big Island, a member of the combat team. It is the first US Postal stamp featuring an Asian American soldier, recognizing the 33,000 Japanese American soldiers who fought in the U.S. Army during the war.

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations

As we return to a sense of normalcy, you might be thinking about travel plans this summer. Luckily, for veterans and history buffs there's no shortage of places to go and things to do.


AARP has compiled a list of their top 10 key sites to visit. From memorials to military museum and other historic locations, these sites offer visitors thoughtful, moving portrayals of the sacrifices veterans have made throughout American history.

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Thursday, June 3, 2021

Michigan Veterans News and Resources for June 3, 2021 (Biden's First Budget Includes Big Funding Increase For VA)

Vietnam Veteran News

Biden's first budget includes big funding increase for VA

The White House has requested nearly $270 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs budget for fiscal 2022, a 10% increase from 2021 that would fund priorities including the agency's caregiver programs, suicide prevention and GI Bill modernization.


According to, under the fiscal 2022 budget proposal, the VA would receive $113.1 billion in discretionary spending, an 8.2% increase from 2021, not including medical care collections.


With the release of the budget, Congress will deliberate over actual funding and the final language of the spending bill, with a goal to complete it by Oct. 1. In the past several years, however, the House and Senate have not met the deadline for passing most appropriations bills.


The Biden budget is the latest ever released, increasing the likelihood that the VA appropriations bill will not be completed by the deadline.


Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said he looks forward to hearing from VA Secretary Denis McDonough on the budget proposal, which includes funding for health care, programs and benefits. But, he added, Congress also will focus on other needs at the VA.


"The White House blueprint includes important tools to combat veteran suicide and prevent homelessness, while also investing in claims processing to expedite benefits for thousands of veterans suffering from bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, Parkinsonism – three Agent Orange presumptive conditions covered under my Fair Care for Vietnam Veterans Act," Tester said. "But as Congress considers this proposal, we also need to continue to ensure VA has the capacity to fill health care vacancies and improve infrastructure."


Lawmakers seek solutions to hunger among service members, veterans

There's scant information on how widespread the problem of hunger is among currently serving military families and veteran families, but there are some actions that could help those who are struggling to put food on the table, advocates recently told lawmakers.


As Military Times reported, one such suggestion is providing automatic SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps, to service members in the lower ranks as they separate from the military, said Colleen Heflin, professor of public administration and international affairs at Syracuse University. She and other advocates participated in a roundtable discussion of hunger in the military and veteran communities before the House Rules Committee.


They discussed the stigma in asking for help that's perceived by service members, veterans and their families; difficulties families face in qualifying for assistance; and lack of real data to quantify the extent of the problem.


"Across America today, there are spouses and children of service members who may not know where their next meal is coming from," said Rules Committee Chairman James McGovern, D-Mass. "And for too many men and women who served our nation and are back in the civilian community, they and their families are struggling to put food on the table.


Some limited information has been available in recent surveys. For example, 14 percent of active-duty enlisted family member respondents to the online 2020 Blue Star Family Lifestyle Survey said they had food insecurity within the past 12 months. The survey was available online from September 2020 to October 2020, so the responses also reflected pandemic experiences.


Veterans and their families in Michigan who are struggling financially and/or may not be connected to the full benefits they earned for their service can call the MVAA at 1-800-MICH-VET to find out what may be available to them.


mvaa ming

Be aware of veteran pension poaching scams

If you currently receive VA pension payments or if you are thinking about applying for Veterans PensionSurvivors Pension, or Aid and Attendance (A&A) and housebound benefits, you could be the target of a scam known as pension poaching. Don't let scammers take advantage of you. Read on to see how you can protect the benefits you have earned.


What is pension poaching?

Every year, VA distributes a billion dollars in pension payments to help low-income veterans who served in wartime and their families through financial challenges. Pension poaching is a financial scam that targets veterans, survivors and family members who may be eligible for these benefits. The most popular type of pension poaching occurs when dishonest people falsely qualify veterans and survivors for VA pension benefits. These individuals may be attorneys, financial planners or benefits advisors.


Veterans should be on the lookout for people or organizations who:

  • Tell you to move your money around to qualify for VA pension payments.
  • Claim that pension benefits can be deposited into a caregiver's account.
  • Charge you money for assisting with a VA pension claim.
  • Take your credit card information over the phone.
  • Charge you money upfront to represent your claim with VA.


Most poaching scams target veterans and family members who do not qualify for VA pension benefits. If VA approves your pension benefits and later determines that eligibility did not exist, you may be required to repay the benefits to the government.


Read more in the VA's VAntage Point blog.


Former military police officer rises up to help her fellow veterans



As a military police officer in the late 2000s, Meghan Shellington took pride in enforcing the law at a U.S. Army base in Germany. Her fellow soldiers would become the "greatest family" she never knew she needed, she says, while serving overseas was an eye-opening experience that allowed her to immerse herself in other cultures and lifestyles.


But the Army would also bring dark times. Meghan, a Lansing-area native who enlisted during high school, says she was sexually assaulted by a soldier in her unit. She experienced sexual harassment almost daily, was forced to hide a pregnancy from her superiors and repeatedly fought to be treated as an equal.


"Being a female serving, I've been a giant inconvenience the entire time," says Meghan, now 30. "And they made sure to let you know that you were an inconvenience."


Transitioning back into civilian life in 2013 brought its own difficulties. Meghan faced discrimination when she identified as a veteran and couldn't find a good, full-time job as she and her then-husband struggled to provide for their children.


Today, however, the mother of four is financially stable – working as a federal technician for the Michigan National Guard – and helps her fellow veterans meet their basic needs through her role with the Lansing Area Veterans Coalition.


"I finally have reached a phase in my life where I am proud to be a veteran," Meghan says. "And it doesn't matter what people think they know about me."


Meghan is sharing her story as part of MVAA's She is A Veteran campaign. Read the rest of the story here, and watch the accompanying video here.


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