MVAA TURNS 10 TODAY!
Today, the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA) celebrates its 10th anniversary by recognizing the gains it has made in supporting veteran families and reinforcing its commitment to serve as Michigan's central coordinating point for veteran resources and services.
The MVAA was signed into existence as a state agency on Jan. 18, 2013, with the explicit mission of connecting Michigan's more than half-million veterans to the federal and state benefits and resources they earned for their service. Michigan has the 11th largest veteran population in the nation, but many former service members are not receiving VA health care, disability compensation, education benefits or other resources.
In its first decade, the MVAA has significantly increased engagement with Michigan veterans and their families. The agency's award-winning 1-800-MICH-VET call center has handled more than 140,000 veterans' cases over 10 years, and last fiscal year handled a record 2,370 cases per month. All MVAA services are confidential and complimentary.
The MVAA has also established hundreds of partnerships with veteran-friendly organizations, higher education institutions and businesses; created numerous programs and outreach campaigns designed to help veterans thrive; distributed tens of millions of dollars in grant funding to county veterans' affairs offices and veteran service organizations; and championed veteran-centric causes and legislation.
"For the past decade MVAA has had one mission: to support veterans and their families," said MVAA Director Adam Hollier. "Today, we reaffirm our commitment to making Michigan the best state for veterans by addressing veteran suicide, homelessness and ensuring every service member has a community supporting them. Our service members earned their health care, education, housing and disability benefits. Our team stands ready to serve our veterans, National Guard and Reserve members just as they have served our state and nation."
The MVAA started operations on March 20, 2013, two months after it officially became a state agency under the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA). Initially operating out of the Joint Forces Headquarters (JFHQ) on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Lansing, the MVAA moved after a few months to the Phoenix Building in downtown Lansing. It has since returned to the JFHQ complex.
Read the full story on michigan.gov/mvaa.
Veterans can now get free emergency mental health care
All veterans can now access emergency mental health care free of charge at any Veterans Affairs medical facility or outside clinic, regardless of whether they are already enrolled in department health care services.
Department officials announced the new policy on Friday as part of nationwide efforts to prevent suicide among veterans. According to the latest department data, about 17 veterans a day die by suicide.
The new policy applies to all veterans with any separation status except a dishonorable discharge, regardless of whether they qualify for other VA medical services.
About 18 million veterans are living in America today, but only about half are currently enrolled in veterans health care through the VA.
Read more at VA News.
VA publishes new airborne hazards and open burn pit registry data
Recently, VA launched a new webpage that shows the number of Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry (AHOBPR) participants by state and congressional district.
The current webpage contains breakouts as of Sept. 12, 2022, for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five other jurisdictions (Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, United States Virgin Islands and Northern Mariana Islands). The data will be updated biannually.
Michigan has 5,265 participants currently in the registry. That's compared to 7,990 in Ohio, 4,360 in Indiana and 4,222 in Wisconsin.
Section 808(b)(2) of the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022 (PACT Act) requires VA to make information public about the number of participants in the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry (AHOBPR) by State and congressional district.
Learn more about the PACT Act benefits and registration.
'Widow's tax' on survivors to be eliminated
Feb. 1 benefits checks won't have the so-called "widow's tax" reducing income for the surviving spouses of military retirees who participate in two programs.
Until 2020, survivors couldn't receive the full amount of two survivor benefits at the same time. Under the rule known as the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) "offset," the government reduced payments that were part of that program by the amount of Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) that beneficiaries received from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
DIC is generally for the families of veterans who died in the line of duty or as the result of a service-connected injury or illness. With the Defense Department's SBP, by contrast, veterans elect whether to pay premiums that will guarantee their spouses or other beneficiaries a percentage of their retirement pay after they die. That choice is typically made upon retirement.
The monthly DIC payment for a veteran who died on or after Jan. 1, 1993, is $1,562.74 for 2023. Without the change in law, the government would have reduced SBP beneficiaries' payments by that much.
The decision to eliminate the "widow's tax" was a "huge win" and "the right thing to do," said Mark Belinsky, director of currently serving/retired affairs for the Military Officers Association of America and an Army retiree.
Read more in military.com.
VA to waive medical copays for Native American veterans
Veterans Affairs officials soon will waive most copayments related to medical care for American Indian and Alaska Native veterans in an effort to encourage more of them to use VA health services.
Officials detailed the effort in a proposed rule released in the Federal Register last week. They have not yet released a timeline for exactly when the copayments will be ended, but the final rule is expected to be approved in coming months.
The department has already pledged to reimburse all eligible veterans for any copayments made between Jan. 5, 2022, and the date of that final approval.
VA estimates about 150,000 American Indian and Alaska Native veterans are living in the country today, and Defense Department officials have estimated that roughly 24,000 active duty service members belong to the same groups.
Read more in Military Times.
IF YOU OR A LOVED ONE
ARE IN CRISIS:
The Veterans Crisis Line is staffed by caring, qualified crisis responders who are there to help. Many of these responders are veterans themselves.
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