Michigan veterans from all backgrounds tell their stories in MVAA's 'I Am a Veteran' campaign
The MVAA has launched the latest wave of veterans' stories in its "I Served. I Am a Veteran" outreach and marketing campaign. As MVAA Director Adam Hollier and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson discuss in this introduction video, the campaign features veterans from all walks of life.
Among the veterans featured: a Latino combat veteran who survived a suicide attempt, a Marine veteran who advocates for his fellow tribal veterans on their Upper Peninsula reservation and a biracial woman veteran who overcame verbal abuse and racism in the Army and became a respected leader. The stories are being shared at michigan.gov/IAmAVeteran, in TV and radio advertising and on social media.
The campaign highlights the adversities and triumphs of Michigan veterans from all eras and backgrounds as they move through each chapter of their lives. By engaging more veterans, the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA) aims to link them to the benefits that will help them thrive and avoid the issues that can lead to suicidal ideation. Call us at 1-800-MICH-VET or visit michigan.gov/MVAA to inquire about benefits and resources.
Funded by the State of Michigan, the campaign is part of a larger effort to prevent veteran suicide by Governor Gretchen Whitmer's administration. The governor's budget includes $1.2 million for veteran suicide prevention.
"Veteran suicide remains a persistent problem in Michigan and across the nation," Whitmer said. "Together, we must have our veterans' backs and address the issues that can lead to suicidal ideation, including homelessness, unemployment, PTSD, and lack of quality health care. By engaging our veterans and sharing their stories, we can get them the care and services they need."
Veterans, we want your stories! Veterans of all backgrounds and eras are encouraged to let their voices be heard. Dependents of veterans are also encouraged to tell their loved one's story. To submit a story, fill out this nomination form and send it to MVAA-Newsroom@michigan.gov.
If you're a veteran in crisis or concerned about one, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive free, confidential support and crisis intervention 24/7/365. Call 988 and press 1, text to 838255 or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net.
Guard 'temporarily' pauses some student loan repayments due to funding
The Army National Guard has "temporarily suspended" payments to soldiers eligible for student loan repayment incentives, according to a National Guard Bureau spokesperson.
"The Army National Guard temporarily suspended Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) payments that were owed between FY20-FY22," said bureau spokesperson Deidre Forster in a statement emailed to Army Times. Forster pointed to "insufficient funding specific to the SLRP incentive" as the reason for the halt.
Read the full story at Military Times.
VA lays groundwork for first major survey of moral injury in veterans
The most familiar moral and ethical dilemmas in warfare have to do with inflicting harm: deciding whether to fire on a person who represents an uncertain threat, for example, or living with the knowledge of civilian collateral damage of battle.
Moral injury is the aftermath of circumstances that force a person to participate in or bear witness to events that contradict their own moral beliefs and expectations. The military withdrawal from Afghanistan spurred a new rash of moral injury diagnoses, as troops and veterans questioned the meaning of what they'd fought for and grappled with the reality of Afghan allies left behind and in danger.
While not new, the phenomenon of moral injury and its implications are under-studied, with very little scientific research. The Department of Veterans Affairs is now working to lay the groundwork for better understanding and treatment by undertaking the first-ever large-scale population study of moral injury to be conducted among veterans of the post-9/11 wars.
According to a solicitation published in June, the VA office of Research and Development plans to conduct a mixed-methods study "to determine the U.S. veteran population prevalence of moral injury." The research effort will include an online survey of "a nationally representative probability sample of U.S. veterans," expected to include 3,000 respondents; and a secondary comparison study in which 20 veterans who identify as having moral injury and 20 who do not, all with similar exposure to "morally injurious events" participate in a series of interviews about their thinking and experiences.
Read the full story in Military Times.
Veterans groups petition VA to follow anti-discrimination law
More than a dozen veterans and LGBTQ+ groups, as well as a Democratic senator, are calling on the Department of Veterans Affairs to better prevent what they describe as pervasive discrimination against women and gender-nonconforming veterans by issuing formal anti-discrimination regulations.
The 13 organizations filed a petition Thursday requesting VA regulations to enforce existing anti-discrimination law, arguing that a formal rule is needed to strengthen protections for women and LGBTQ+ veterans.
"For far too long, minority veterans, including racial minorities, women, LGBTQ+ and religious minority veterans, have faced pervasive discrimination when seeking health care at VA," Lindsay Church, executive director of Minority Veterans of America, which is leading the petition, said Thursday at a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol building.
Read the full story in military.com.
Bill to protect veterans' gun rights prompts heated debate in House
Republican lawmakers are accusing VA leaders of depriving some veterans of their right to own firearms and promised changes in coming weeks, but Democratic critics say those proposed moves could end up leading to more suicides and self-harm among vulnerable veterans.
At issue is legislation proposed by House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Mike Bost, R-Ill., dubbed the "Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act." The measure would block VA officials from sharing some information with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, a federal database used to determine whether an individual can buy firearms.
Bost said about 8,000 veterans were reported to the system last year, most for financial incompetence reasons and not criminal acts or specific mental health problems. But the VA action would bar all of those veterans from purchasing weapons regardless of the underlying issues.
The legislation would allow veterans to be reported to the background check database if a judge or other judicial authority rules that an individual veteran "is a danger to themselves or others." Republican supporters said without such protections, veterans will avoid seeking help from VA for financial or mental health issues for fear of losing their constitutional rights.
But Democratic lawmakers — and Veterans Affairs officials — said that language is impractical, mandating extra rounds of bureaucracy to solve a nearly non-existent problem.
Read the full story in Military Times.
VA burial benefits for military spouses and children could become permanent under proposed bill
Burial benefits for family members who die before service members could be extended permanently under new legislation introduced by a bipartisan group of senators.
The measure would give the Department of Veterans Affairs lasting authority to bury the spouse or dependent child of an active-duty service member in a national cemetery and provide a memorial headstone or marker for cases in which remains are unavailable.
Such benefits have been provided for years on a temporary basis and are due to expire Oct. 1, 2024, without congressional action.
Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., described the bill as "common sense." Peters, a former lieutenant commander in the Navy Reserve and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, introduced the legislation alongside Sens. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Kevin Cramer, R-N.D.
Read the full story at Stars & Stripes.
VA Substance Abuse Treatment Program key road to recovery
Jeffrey Decresie separated from the Army in 1997. The experiences he lived through during his time in war, combined with an unshakable feeling that he'd left his brothers behind, became the cradle of an alcohol dependency. It would take nearly 25 years and the VA Substance Abuse Treatment Program to shake his addiction.
He joined the Florida National Guard and later became a sheriff's deputy with Pinellas County. But in 2015, he ended his career in law enforcement and found himself descending into a place he never thought he'd be. Perhaps it was the guilt of leaving active duty finally catching up to him or the weight that comes with constantly adjusting to meet the needs of others. A habit that he once viewed as a casual pastime took root as a disease which slowly began to erode everything around him.
"For quite a few years, I was using alcohol a little more than everyone else. I was still able to function and contribute, so to me everything was fine. But in 2020 my alcohol dependency made me extremely ill. I couldn't keep weight on or hold a job," he said.
Read the full story in VA News.
Learn more about VA's substance use treatment programs.
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