Friday, September 23, 2022

Michigan, VA announce partnership making it easier to vote Fw: Michigan Veterans News & Resources for Sept. 22, 2022

Michigan Veterans News

MVAA launches historic effort to combat veteran suicide

Lean on us

The Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency announced two collaborative initiatives this week to combat veteran suicide in Michigan – a combined investment of up to $3.4 million.

The historic effort includes a $1.2 million investment from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's administration and a federal suicide-prevention grant from the VA of $750,000 per year for up to three years. The funding will support direct outreach to veterans and address the factors that can lead to suicide such as employment, housing, health care and mental health issues.

The announcement coincided with the release of VA's annual suicide report showing that 178 veterans died by suicide in Michigan in 2020. Over a five-year period (2016-2020), 882 veterans died by suicide, an average of 176 per year.

"Veteran suicide remains a persistent problem in Michigan and nationwide, and we must use every resource and tool we have to protect the lives of our former service members," Whitmer said. "Today's investment will expand funding for suicide prevention efforts in Michigan and build on the ongoing efforts of the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency to keep veterans and their families safe and healthy."

MVAA Director Zaneta Adams said effective veteran suicide prevention strategy involves a holistic approach. That means addressing the issues that can start a veteran spiraling toward crisis such as housing and employment challenges, substance abuse and lack of mental health supports for combat PTSD. But the first step is getting our former service members to identify as veterans and to understand the benefits and resources that are available to them.

The MVAA, through its new Michigan Veteran Connector initiative, will connect with organizations and businesses across the state in hopes of getting their help in reaching veterans. By simply asking customers if they served in the military and, if so, referring them to the MVAA's 1-800-MICH-VET hotline, these Veteran Connectors can ultimately help veterans get linked to the resources they need to thrive.  

"We know that connection to health care and other resources reduces suicides for veterans, so when we help a veteran with housing needs or emergency grant assistance, we are part of the prevention," Adams said. "But we need help from everyone. From barbershops to banks to schools to hospitals to churches, we should all take part in preventing suicides among veterans and their families."

The MVAA is also stressing safe gun storage and free gun locks through the VA, as nearly 70% of veteran suicides are the result of firearm injuries. In addition, the agency is promoting the VA's easy-to-remember new Crisis Line number; veterans can now simply dial 988 and press 1 to be connected to a crisis counselor.

How one Michigan couple is giving back to their fellow veterans

Angela and Michael Torrez

Army veterans Angela and Michael Torrez of West Branch

Michael Torrez, 42, of West Branch, has called the Veterans Crisis Line several times to help battle buddies and for his own suicidal ideations. Torrez, a former tank crewman who served two tours in Iraq, lost five friends in battle and three more to suicide after they returned home. At one point following his discharge in 2012, Torrez was homeless and used alcohol to cope.

But Torrez would find hope through VA housing and work therapy programs and by meeting his wife, fellow Army veteran Angela Torrez.

Angela Torrez lost her 16-year-old daughter to suicide in 2018. She decided to give her pain a purpose. She is one of the founding members of a local suicide prevention coalition and is in the process of obtaining her master's degree in social work with a specialization in suicide prevention. She and Michael also volunteer as peer mentors for a national veterans' organization.

In June 2022, Michael and three battle buddies organized a reunion of his former unit near Fort Mitchell, Alabama. More than 70 veterans and family members showed up. One fellow veteran was so thankful to reconnect and stated before the reunion that he was "just waiting to die."

Michael Torrez said the reunion provided healing, forgiveness and even an instance of closure. It also reconnected veterans that live minutes away from one another.

On Sept. 21, Michael and Angela also participated in a roundtable discussion on veteran suicide prevention in Lansing with Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, MVAA Director Zaneta Adams and other veteran advocates.

Here is Michael in own words …

Michael Torrez: 'You don't have to fight alone'

Michael Torrez

During my first deployment with Operation Iraqi Freedom, in 2005, I was three months in and my father passed away from cancer. I did not find out about his condition until I was in basic. I had a very short time to grieve and mourn, and back to Iraq I went. I also experienced getting hit with an IED my first tour. Through all this, the fight and mission continued. 

During my second deployment, in which I was stop-lossed and sent to OIF for the surge in 2007, five of my battle buddies were killed in three separate incidents. At one point in time during my second tour we were ordered to clear a route on foot for explosives, and after that I noticed a change in becoming reckless with my life. I feel as if this reckless behavior was turned on and I had no way to turn it off. I was left with survivors' guilt, severe PTSD and no hope. 

All the while things changed back home. You change. That sacrifice had an effect. 

After returning home and discharging from active duty, I couldn't hold it together. Alcohol misuse, navigating a divorce, Friend of the Court and legal trouble coupled with untreated mental health conditions led me to feel hopeless. I wanted to end my life. 

I called the Veterans Crisis Line to help de-escalate everything I was feeling and experiencing. They helped get me to where I needed to be mentally. I didn't give up hope, and I knew with help and resources my quality of life would improve. I just had to keep seeking help, being transparent in my needs day to day. Knowing that things will get better. I never imagined myself where I am today. 

I have also called the Veterans Crisis Line for a battle buddy who lives out of state. It was the thing to do when you get a phone call from someone telling you, "I love you, goodbye." 

I was able to learn to be vocal with my mental health needs. I started receiving assistance from the VA Compensated Work Therapy Program and HUD-VASH housing voucher. I began seeing a mental health provider who was very supportive and who I still see today. I have had this specific provider involved in my care for nine years now. 

Today, I still have issues with navigating the systems, but I have the tools in place, and a support system to help. I have connected with various agencies, programs and services and allowed myself to begin a healing process. I am going on seven years sober and am continuing forward with my mental health and wellbeing. 

To my battle buddies, we fought together then, and we can fight together now. Reach out to your battle buddies, connect with one another and use the various veteran agencies and services that exist. There are here to help; there is hope. You don't have to fight alone. 

If you're a veteran in crisis or concerned about one, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 988 and press 1; text 838255; or chat online confidentially at

Michigan, VA announce partnership making it easier to vote

On National Voter Registration Day (Sept. 20), the state announced a partnership with the VA, Fox 2 reported.

"We're going to be providing voter registration information and assistance to veterans and their dependents at some VA facilities across the state," said Angela Benander, deputy chief of communications with the Michigan Secretary of State.

The effort allows for quick access to vital information, Benander said.

VA is partnering with Michigan, Kentucky and Pennsylvania to create a pilot voter registration program that provides voter registration information, materials and, if requested, assistance to veterans, eligible dependents and caregivers at select VA facilities.

VA has been working closely with election authorities in these three states to determine how the department can fulfill voter registration requirements set forth by state law and consistent with the spirit and mandates of the National Voter Registration Act to ensure veterans and eligible dependents and caregivers receive accurate and timely information regarding voter registration.

Read more at VA News and Information.

Other news and resources ...

Free career guidance from Fortune 500 mentors can help veterans find jobs

Group tries to overload VA Crisis Line to protest prosecutions of Capitol rioters

National Guard could lose 14,000 soldiers because of COVID vaccine mandate

Smartphone check-in now at most VA health facilities

Veterans Crisis Line: Dial 988 then Press 1


The Veterans Crisis Line is staffed by caring, qualified crisis responders who are there to help. Many of these responders are veterans themselves.

Online Resources



Call 1-800-MICH-VET



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This email was sent to using GovDelivery Communications Cloud on behalf of: Michigan Department of Military & Veterans Affairs · 3411 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. · Lansing, MI 48906

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Michigan Veterans News & Resources for Sept. 14, 2022

Michigan Veterans News

VA, MVAA partner to offer Michigan veterans direct assistance Oct. 4-6

MVRSC technician

The VA is partnering with the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency and other veteran organizations to hold its second Veterans Experience Action Center (VEAC) next month – a three-day virtual event during which Michigan veterans can receive direct assistance to get the benefits they earned for their service.

The event will be Tuesday through Thursday, Oct. 4-6, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. ET each day.

At the VEAC, veterans receive one-on-one personalized assistance for VA benefits, VA health care, crisis resources, memorial affairs, community services and peer-to-peer connection. Veterans and their family members, service members, caregivers and survivors select their preferred date and time and then make an appointment online to connect to the VEAC. A local Veteran Service Officer initiates the appointment by calling the registrant. The appointment is executed over the phone in a virtual environment. Please expect to be transferred to VA experts and community partners as we work to address and meet your needs. Veterans who attend these events often leave enrolled in VA and other resources. Over 94% recommend these events to other veterans.

Register for the Michigan VEAC at this VA website.

At the first Michigan VEAC, held in October 2021, more than 600 appointments with veterans were booked.

Other supporters of the VEAC events include the Michigan Veterans Coalition and county-level Veteran Affairs offices.

New fight opens in Congress over VA policy that sidesteps state abortion bans

Democrats in the U.S. Senate are confident the Department of Veterans Affairs can implement a new policy that allows its doctors to provide abortions when the pregnancy threatens the patient's life or health, or when it's the result of rape or incest. 

The VA announced the new policy last week to cheers from Democrats who have been searching for ways to broaden abortion access in states where the procedure has been outlawed since the U.S. Supreme Court ended the constitutional right to abortion in June. Abortion counseling and services would be provided to pregnant veterans and their beneficiaries in limited circumstances. 

But Republicans have sharply criticized the VA for changing its longstanding no-abortions policy, with some pledging to keep the status quo. 

Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth said this week that because VA hospitals are linked to teaching hospitals, those health care providers will have physicians on staff with the medical knowledge to perform the procedure. 

In addition, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said the Department of Justice would protect doctors from prosecution in states where abortion is now banned or heavily restricted. 

"One of the strengths of VA health care is that every major VA hospital is affiliated with a teaching university, a medical university teaching facility," Duckworth said. "So the skill, the ability to perform the procedures will be there."

VA doctors also aren't necessarily licensed in the state where they practice, she said, which means they likely would not face legal ramifications in states that have banned or restricted abortion.

Read the full story in Government Executive.

MVAA launches FAQ section on website

FAQ section on website

Get your questions answered on everything from DD-214 assistance to education benefits at the new FAQ section of MVAA's website.

How do I file for VA disability compensation? How do I utilize my GI Bill? Am I eligible for burial benefits?

Those questions and more are answered on the new section of our website,

Michigan Dept. of Labor & Economic Opportunity earns Gold-level status for supporting veterans

VFE gold level

The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) has earned Gold-level Veteran-Friendly Employer status from the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA) for its commitment to hire, retain and support military veterans.

Only about 3% of the more than 500 Veteran-Friendly Employers earn Gold-level status. To receive this recognition, employers must retain at least 75% of veteran hires over the most recent 12 months, implement internal veteran support networks, and create either a hiring rotation or leadership development program within their organization – in addition to meeting all other program requirements.

The certification highlights the dedication of LEO's Veterans' Employment Services staff and their personalized approach to helping other veterans find suitable employment opportunities, said Stephanie Beckhorn, deputy director of LEO's Office of Employment and Training

Veterans' Employment Services (VES) helps eligible veterans and their spouses reach their employment goals through customized career solutions. As veterans themselves, VES staff have first-hand knowledge of the types of barriers veterans and transitioning service members face when looking for civilian job opportunities.

VES staff are located in Michigan Works! Service Centers throughout the state. By using a collaborative approach and working side-by-side with Michigan Works!, VES creates personalized career plans for each veteran and advocates to employers about the benefits to hiring veterans.

Learn more about VES and how its team of veterans continues to help those who have served at

How VA is improving its debt collection services

Recently, VA announced that veterans will continue to have the option to request a temporary benefit debt suspension through Dec. 31, 2022. In addition to offering flexible debt collection relief in difficult times, VA has been hard at work making the experience of repaying a VA debt less stressful by removing barriers to requesting debt relief.

VA's debt portal launched in January 2021, allowing veterans to manage their VA debt online. Since launching, the portal has added capability to send email notifications offering online debt resolution for VBA overpayments with email confirmation. In July 2022, the debt portal was updated to allow veterans to see both VBA benefit debt and VHA medical copay information in one place.

Veterans now have a central location to access their VBA debt notices, their VHA medical copay statements, and their debt resolution options.

Read more in VA News & Information.

Other news and resources ...

Laughing through tragedy: Veterans tackle suicide and Afghanistan in comedy show

Got a VA question? Use the new virtual chatbot 24/7

Amid a U.S. teacher shortage, Florida turns to military veterans

Veterans Crisis Line: Dial 988 then Press 1


The Veterans Crisis Line is staffed by caring, qualified crisis responders who are there to help. Many of these responders are veterans themselves.

Online Resources



Call 1-800-MICH-VET



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This email was sent to using GovDelivery Communications Cloud on behalf of: Michigan Department of Military & Veterans Affairs · 3411 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. · Lansing, MI 48906