New Michigan law allows more tax deductions for disabled vets
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently signed Senate Bill 25 to expand income tax deductions to disabled veterans.
The law allows disabled veterans to deduct taxable income attributed to cancellation or forgiveness of a student loan pursuant to the U.S. Department of Education's Total and Permanent Disability Discharge Program. Under this bill, disabled veterans can deduct income attributed to the forgiveness of a student loan for the 2016 to 2019 tax years and going forward beginning in 2025.
"Our nation's disabled veterans have served our country with honor and dignity, and this bill helps alleviate some of their financial burdens," said Whitmer. "I am proud to sign Senate Bill 25 to recognize the sacrifices made by our veterans and their families and help make their lives easier."
Read more about Senate Bill 25 on Michigan.gov.
Veteran Buddy to Buddy volunteers needed
Is volunteer work part of your New Year's resolution? Consider becoming a volunteer veteran mentor! The MVAA Buddy to Buddy program gives honorably discharged veterans a way to continue their service by mentoring their fellow veterans. Visit michigan.gov/MVAA to learn more.
Student vets taking remote classes to get full GI Bill benefits
Congress on Wednesday finalized plans to extend GI Bill protections for student veterans still forced into remote classes by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, ensuring they'll receive full benefits until next summer.
The move is expected to affect about 57,000 students currently enrolled in degree programs, according to Veterans Affairs data.
The difference between half of a housing stipend and the full payout can range from a few hundred dollars to nearly $2,000, since the payouts depend on the location of the student and school. Making up that difference could force some individuals move out mid-semester or drop course entirely.
To avoid those types of financial problems, Congress granted VA leaders broad authority to continue paying out the full housing stipends even if students had been forced out of the classroom. That authority was set to expire on Dec. 21.
But the Senate on Wednesday finalized legislation to push that date back to summer 2022, in recognition of the ongoing transition from online to in-person classes.
Read more in Military Times.
'Make a Veteran Smile' campaign supports vets over holidays
Michigan Veteran Homes' "Make a Veteran Smile" campaign encourages Michigan residents to spread holiday cheer by sending a card or letter to veteran members.
Rebecca Smit, activity department manager for Michigan Veteran Homes at Grand Rapids, noted that some holiday functions members would attend have been suspended due to the pandemic and that can lead to feelings of isolation around the holidays.
"Sending a card is another way our communities and advocates can show support for veteran members," Smit said.
"The members are always excited to receive cards or letters especially when the sender shares a little about themselves or their family," added Tiffany Carr, community engagement coordinator for Michigan Veteran Homes.
"For some of our members who do not have close friends or family, this might be the only message they receive around the holidays."
Cards and letters can be addressed to ATTN: Make a Vet Smile and mailed to:
- Michigan Veteran Homes at Chesterfield Township at 47901 Sugarbush Road, Chesterfield Township, MI 48047.
- Michigan Veteran Homes at Grand Rapids at 3000 Monroe Ave., Grand Rapids, MI 49505.
- Michigan Veteran Homes D.J. Jacobetti at 425 Fisher St., Marquette, MI 49855.
Helpful info for veterans regarding winter property taxes
Winter property taxes are being released all across the state. Did you know that in Michigan, 100% permanently and totally disabled veterans and veterans who are entitled to veterans benefits at the 100% rate or unremarried surviving spouses may request a property tax waiver? Learn more at Michigan.gov.
Volunteer of the Year honors late father through service to veterans
This week we recognize the last of our 2021 award winners by profiling Tom Antor, Veteran Friendly Volunteer of the Year; Michael J. Scott, Community Outreach and Regional Engagement award winner; and Macomb County, Veteran Friendly County of the Year. See all the recipients at Michigan.gov.mvaa.
In 2014, Tom Antor recognized a gap in veteran services in Kent County and stepped in to fill the need.
Antor, a Kent County Commissioner, business owner and former police officer, had entered a local veterans' facility to visit his father, who had Alzheimer's disease. Struck by how alone and vulnerable his father and the other veterans were, Antor dedicated himself to bettering the quality of life of West Michigan veterans.
Antor created the Finish the Mission Veteran Relief Fund with an all-volunteer board as a way to assist veteran or dependents in need when no one else could. To raise funds, he started Freedom Cruise, a classic car and motorcycle cruise through West Michigan to bring awareness of the sacrifice of our service members with Gold Star Families leading the 30-mile procession.
Freedom Cruise profits go to Finish the Mission, which in turn partners with Kent County Veterans Service to assist veterans who are in the gap of not having any benefits from the federal, state or local government.
The Sept. 11, 2021 Freedom Cruise brought together over 2,000 patrons to honor Army Sgt. 1st Class Rick Herrema of Grand Rapids, who was killed in action in Iraq in 2006.
To date, Finish the Mission has granted resources, assistance, grants and partnerships with other local veteran organizations to the sum of over $100,000.
Antor, of Sparta, has been married to Beth Antor for 34 years and the couple has three daughters and six grandchildren. He likes to fish and hunt in his spare time. Of winning the MVAA's first-ever Veteran Friendly Volunteer Award, he says, "I am honored to be chosen among so many honorable and dedicated supporters of our nation's heroes. I started Finish the Mission Veteran Relief Fund in honor of my father, who served in WWII. I cannot express how appreciative I am for the past six years of support that Michigan veterans, their families and patrons of veterans have given us at Freedom Cruise."
DeWitt man works to improve lives of fellow veterans
Service has remained a constant throughout Michael J. Scott's career.
After high school, Scott joined the Army in 1988 and served as a combat engineer for nine years, rising to the rank of staff sergeant. Deployed to Iraq during Operation Desert Storm, he was awarded the Bronze Star for selfless service during combat.
"Serving in the Army taught me to think outside of myself, to stand up for others in times of need and to live for a purpose much greater than my own aspirations," Scott says. "Sharing the deepest of sorrows with others or celebrating unbelievable victories forms eternal bonds with those you serve alongside of - a bond that you will rarely experience in the civilian world."
After discharge, the DeWitt resident served his fellow veterans. He worked as a Veteran Mentor Coordinator for the Ingham County Veterans Treatment Court, training veteran mentors and liaisons in the court system and developing treatment plans for veterans within the tribunal system.
Scott, whose family includes wife Patricia and daughter Megan, reenlisted in the Army Reserve and was deployed to Africa where he served as manager for psychological operations. After his second honorable discharge, in 2016, he began a master's program at Michigan State University with a concentration in human resources concentrated in military relations; he now works as a human resource training specialist for a nutritional company.
Beginning in April 2018, Scott served as one of the first Veteran Navigators through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, helping shape this program to where it is today. Veteran Navigators across the state serve veterans as the expert in their community and help with housing, mental health needs and connections to federal, state and local programs. Scott also served on the Veteran Community Action Team (VCAT) in the Lansing region and helped bring together a network of veteran-friendly local and regional agencies.
As an integral part of the veteran community in Michigan, Scott has tailored his efforts to breaking down barriers, improving access to care and bolstering the livelihood of the patriots who have served our nation. Of winning the Community Outreach and Regional Engagement Award, he says, "Many veterans struggle to reintegrate after being on active duty or deployment. The comradery and social support that comes from being around other like-minded veterans is critical for someone who does not feel like they fit in anymore. I have been greatly honored to work alongside people who are passionately working to improve the lives of veterans in the great state of Michigan. To be chosen for this award among these tireless and amazing individuals who continue to serve is truly an honor."
Macomb is Veteran Friendly County of the Year
Macomb County, which employs 15 people in its Veterans Services office and offers a host of innovative services and resources for veterans and their families, is the MVAA's first Veteran Friendly County of the Year.
Through the years, the county has had a significant impact on its veterans and their families. Macomb has about 45,100 veterans, the third most of any county in Michigan.
Nearly 400 Macomb County veterans have benefited from the county's free financial coaching since April 2019. More than 675 veterans and spouses have participated in the county's Employment Camp - a weeklong session that covers resume-building, cover letters, interviews skills and more, and has a 62% employment rate.
For 14 years, the county has provided $25 gas cards and bus passes to help veterans look for jobs and get to VA medical appointments and Veterans Treatment Court; more than 1,600 gas cards and 260 bus passes have been issued since 2015. The county also operates a van that offers door-to-door service to and from VA medical appointments.
Since 2016, the county has provided free income tax preparation for veterans and their families, and now offers the service from seven locations. Thirty volunteers prepared more than 2,000 tax returns for veterans this year.
Among its other services, Macomb County provides assistance for homeless veterans, hearing loss exams, access to a specialist for diagnosis of PTSD and a dental day for free dental exams and cleanings for uninsured veterans.
Finally, in a unique agreement between the county and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, changes were made in how veterans are identified and ultimately helped. As a result, the state has identified 927 Macomb County veterans in its system, 36 veterans have filed benefit claims they didn't know were available and 21 veterans now receive either service-connected disability benefits or non-service-connected pension.
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