President Joe Biden signed four veteran reform bills into law on Tuesday, calling the changes part of the country's "sacred obligation" to care for military members and their families even after their service.
"We prepare those we send into harm's way, and care for their families when they're gone, and care for them and their families when they're home," Biden said. "That's a lifetime commitment the nation owes to every one of our veterans."
The first bill — the Protecting Moms Who Served Act — invests $15 million in new maternity care coordination programs at VA facilities. The move requires VA officials to address gaps in care for veteran mothers as well as studies into prenatal and postpartum health.
The Hire Veteran Health Heroes Act will require VA leaders to work with Defense Department officials in helping separating troops with health care skills who apply for open medical jobs in veteran hospitals.
The Colonel John M. McHugh Tuition Fairness for Survivors Act will guarantee that children and spouses of veterans who die from service-connected injuries will get in-state tuition rates. The change is expected to affect about 150,000 surviving dependents, potentially saving them tens of thousands in higher education expenses each year.
The final measure will require the Government Accountability office to investigate potential disparities in VA benefit awards based on race and ethnicity. Past studies have indicated that minorities may receive lesser benefits or face additional obstacles to disability payouts than their white peers.
Read more on the new veteran reform bills in Military Times.
Improving care for American Indian and Alaska Native veterans
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Indian Health Service (IHS) have renewed a partnership to help American Indian and Alaska Native veterans overcome health care access barriers.
The partnership, originally established in 2003, facilitates health care access and improves patient experience, information technology, resource sharing and will now open the door for these agencies to develop a plan to achieve goals and objectives agreed upon with tribal stakeholders.
There are more than 140,000 American Indian and Alaska Native veterans in the United States. Michigan is home to about 3,575 American Indian and Alaska Native veterans, ranking it 13th among the 50 states for the largest population of these historically marginalized veterans.
Thomas Klobucar, executive director of the Veterans Health Administration's Office of Rural Health, said VA and IHS leadership engaged key tribal stakeholders during 90-day tribal consultation sessions in late 2020 and early 2021 to gain insights on how both agencies can better serve these veterans.
"Through these collaborative efforts," Klobucar said, "we will continue to bridge existing gaps and provide equitable care delivery to American Indian and Alaska Native veterans, and ensure they receive the high-quality care they have earned."
The mutual goals of this partnership include increasing access, improving quality of health care and services and facilitating enrollment and seamless navigation for eligible AI/AN veterans in VHA and IHS health care systems.
Read more about the partnership here.
Next veteran employment class is Dec. 7
The next Employment Readiness Series class will cover translating military experience to the civilian workforce, negotiating salaries, networking and more.
Join veteran career advisor Brian Strong from 11 a.m.-noon on Dec. 7 for the free virtual presentation, which also focuses on learning the difference between civilian and federal resume writing. Register for the event here.
The Employment Readiness Series is sponsored by a partnership between the Michigan Veterans' Employment Services (VES) and the Michigan National Guard Family Programs. VES is part of Workforce Development within the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity's Office of Employment and Training.
Veterans needed to serve as youth mentors
The Travis Manion Foundation (TMF) is seeking veterans to serve as youth mentors and help develop character and leadership skills in young adults.
Veterans can become a Veteran Mentor through TMF's Character Does Matter youth mentorship program and help lead positive change in their communities. TMF is dedicated to empowering veterans to share their stories – stories of real people – exemplifying strong character and leadership, and can demonstrate what it means to live TMF's "If Not Me, Then Who…" ethos, challenging youth to do the same.
According to TMF, nearly 84% of veterans report a sense of community as a result of being involved with the program, as well as a significant increase in their sense of thriving as their involvement increases.
Learn more and register to become a Veteran Mentor through Travis Manion Foundation's Spartan Development Center, a 24/7 portal where participants can access Travis Manion Foundation training courses and an extensive resource library to help make a difference in the lives of the youth in the community.
Owosso National Guard member named Warrior Citizen of the Year
This week we continue recognizing our first-ever round of award winners by profiling Jessica Green, Warrior Citizen of the Year, and Katie Carroll, recipient of the MVAA and Trust Fund Exceptional Service Award. See all the recipients at michigan.gov/MVAA.
This past Fourth of July weekend, Jessica Green, a staff sergeant in the Michigan Air National Guard, led a team of volunteers in honoring deceased veterans at Hillcrest Memorial Gardens Cemetery in her hometown of Owosso.
The team uncovered headstones that had been grown over, raised headstones that had sunk and cleaned headstones so these veterans could continue to be known and remembered.
In her civilian life, Green recently started a new position as a department technician with the Michigan Veterans Trust Fund. Prior to that, she served as program manager for the MVAA's successful Food4Vets program, which has provided nearly $200,000 in food assistance to more than 1,900 veterans and their families across Michigan this year during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For her efforts, Green was presented with the Warrior Citizen of the Year Award, which honors an active National Guard member who demonstrates service and commitment through citizenship and volunteerism while out of uniform.
Green, who has served in the Guard since 2013, said she is "humbled" by the award and calls her service "a way to give back to our state and country."
A mother of four, Green is enrolled in a bachelor's program in human services at Baker College. She enjoys photography, hiking and outdoor adventures with her children. Green says her faith is a very important part of her life, leading her to complete a course in discipleship.
Macomb County woman goes above and beyond for veterans
In her role as the Michigan Veterans Trust Fund (MVTF) agent for Macomb County, Katie Carroll does a little bit of everything to serve veterans and their families.
She helps homeless veterans find housing and stability. She assists veterans with everything from food assistance to financial coaching to transportation. And she sits on the boards and committees of county-level and veteran organizations to better support veterans.
Carroll also works hard to make sure the process to apply for a Trust Fund grant goes as smoothly as possible. The Trust Fund is an arm of the MVAA that provides eligible veterans and their families emergency aid for an unforeseen situation causing temporary hardship. That aid may include mortgage and rent assistance or funding for home or vehicle repairs.
For her efforts and dedication to serving veterans, Carroll is the recipient of the first-ever MVAA and Trust Fund Exceptional Service Award.
"There are many counties in Michigan with agents working hard every day to ensure the Trust Fund application process is clear and smooth for our veterans who are experiencing some sort of financial hardship," she says. "I am thankful that my processes have been recognized as excellent service and I will continue to ensure veterans have a great experience with me as their agent regardless of the outcome of their application."
The Mount Clemens resident, who is married and has "one human child and five furry children," said she doesn't have much time for hobbies.
"I work two jobs, own a resale shop and go to school," Carroll says. "However, I do love to do crafts, travel and spend time with my furbabies and family."