Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Michigan Honors Vietnam War-Era Veterans. Michigan Veterans News & Resources for Aug. 8, 2023

On Tuesday, August 8, 2023, 6:31 AM, Michigan Dept of Military & Veterans Affairs <MVAA@govsubscriptions.michigan.gov> wrote:
Michigan Veterans News

Michigan honors Vietnam War-era veterans

David Mester and Bob Bezotte

Vietnam veterans Bob Bezotte, left, and David Mester both played a role in creating the Michigan Vietnam Veteran Recognition Certificate — Bezotte as a state representative and Mester as a veteran advocate. Mester received the first certificate on Aug 1. Photo: Michigan National Guard

Michigan is recognizing its veterans who served in the Vietnam War era with a special certificate program developed by the state Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The Michigan Vietnam Veteran Recognition Certificate honors a generation of veterans — both alive and deceased — who were treated poorly by many fellow citizens for serving in an unpopular war and who found VA benefits lacking when they returned home.

Veterans or their representatives can submit their information for a certificate at Michigan.gov/VietnamCertificate. The Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA) is facilitating the certificate program.

More than 400,000 Michigan servicemen and women served during the Vietnam War era. A total of 2,651 Michigan service members lost their lives in the war.

"The Michigan Vietnam Veteran Recognition Certificate honors our Vietnam War-era veterans for their service," said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. "This new certificate ensures that these veterans, many who were mistreated and received insufficient VA benefits when they returned home, get the recognition they deserve for serving our nation in uniform."

The certificate is available to those who served during the Vietnam War era, were honorably discharged and are citizens of Michigan or were citizens of the state while serving in the Armed Forces (including the Michigan National Guard and Reserve).

The certificate also includes an option of a special designation recognizing individuals who were exposed to Agent Orange during their service. To receive this designation, the service member must have been exposed to dioxin or phenoxy herbicides, as evidenced by a medical diagnosis of a disease associated with dioxin or phenoxy herbicides.

Read more at Michigan.gov/MVAA.

Veterans see historic expansion of benefits for toxic exposure

Pact Act thumbnail photo

Nicole Leger always thought of the burn pits at military bases in Afghanistan as more like campfires than health hazards. Ordered to dispose of sensitive documents, the Army medic would toss the paperwork into the flames while catching up with fellow soldiers.

"We really didn't see that it was dangerous at the time," she told the Associated Press. "It was just part of the mission."

But then her sinus problems began, only worsening after she returned home, where she sometimes found herself gasping for breath at night. She remembered thinking, "This wasn't who I was before I got in."

Although Leger already received disability benefits for PTSD, migraines and a hip fracture, it wasn't until President Biden signed legislation known as the PACT Act last year that her monthly payments expanded to take into account the impact of the burn pits. Now 34, Leger and her fiancĂ© have moved out of a cramped townhouse and into a larger home in a suburb of Tampa, Florida, where their four children can each have a bedroom.

Leger is one beneficiary of the largest expansion of veterans assistance in decades, and the administration is racing to sign up as many people as possible as the first anniversary of the law approaches. Although there's no deadline to apply, anyone who files a claim or simply signals the intent to do so by Wednesday, Aug. 9, could collect payments retroactive to last year if the claim is approved.

For veterans who file a PACT Act claim, there is a 97% chance that their benefits will either increase or stay the same, according to the VA. 

File a disability claim online.

Learn how to submit your intent to file.

Read more at va.gov/pact.

The Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA) can help connect you to VA and other benefits. To locate an accredited Veteran Service Officer in your area who can help you file a claim, visit our online search page or call us at 1-800-MICH-VET (1-800-642-4838). As a state agency that works closely with the federal VA, our services are free and confidential.

Nominations open for Michigan military, veteran and veteran advocate awards

Ryan Sanderson at the 2022 Gala

Ryan Sanderson, right, received the Community Outreach and Regional Engagement Award at the 2022 Michigan Military & Veterans Gala. With him, from left, are MVAA Deputy Director Robert Near, Maj. Gen. Paul D. Rogers and former MVAA Director Zaneta Adams.

Nominations are now open for the 2023 Michigan Military and Veterans Gala awards.

Do you know a veteran who dedicates their time to serving fellow veterans? Or a veteran service provider who made a big impact on your life? What about a civilian volunteer who has gone above and beyond to impact the veteran/military community?

Fill out the nomination forms for the seven awards at michigan.gov/MVAA by Sept.1. 

Coast Guard veteran Crystal Murry: 'Living my life for me'

Crystal Murry with dog

Coast Guard veteran Crystal Murry is part of MVAA's "I Served. I Am a Veteran" campaign. Murry, who now works as a court bailiff, is proud of her service and her decision to live her life authentically. Photo by Ara Howrani

Crystal Murry in Coast Guard

As a university student in the late 1980s, Crystal Murry worked as a security officer in the dorms and picked up extra shifts whenever possible. But the job forced her to miss class and she ended up on academic probation.

So Murry joined the Coast Guard, where she could put her strong work ethic and sense of duty to good use. And this, she says, was the true beginning of her journey — a journey in which she would grow up and come out as gay, but also face adversity simply because of who she is.

"I decided to live my life for me," says Murry, now 53 and living near Muskegon. "It's very stressful to try to be something you're not to please other people."

Read Murry's full story at michigan.gov/IAmAVeteran.

Veterans who would like to submit their story for our "I Served. I Am a Veteran" campaign can fill out this Nomination Form and send it to MVAA-Newsroom@michigan.gov

Thousands expected at Vet Fest in Fowlerville on Saturday

Vet Fest

Vet Fest, which bills itself as Michigan's largest veteran-engagement event of the year, is Saturday, Aug. 12 in Fowlerville.

Attracting several thousand veterans and family members from around the state, Vet Fest is free for all active duty, retired or military veteran families. Veterans can enjoy a day of camaraderie while learning about a variety of veteran-specific resources. This event is family orientated and veterans and their family members can enjoy food, bounce houses, live music, backpack and school-supply giveaways, and more. All veterans in attendance are also eligible to win a wide variety of prizes valued from $300-$1500.

The event, presented by Vetlife, runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Fowlerville Fairgrounds, 8800 W. Grand River Road in Fowlerville. 

Registration is required for free entry, and you will be asked to show your military ID (Department of Defense Identification Card, Health Identification Card, Veteran ID Card or veteran designation on a state-issued driver's license) at check-in.

Register at Eventbrite.

'Why We Serve Veterans:' Erika Hoover, MVAA's women veterans and special populations coordinator

Why We Serve - Erika Hoover

Erika Hoover has been serving her fellow veterans for the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency since October 2017. In her role, Hoover identifies challenges and barriers that female veterans and special populations face, works with community partners to implement best practices and innovative solutions and performs interagency, public and federal VA advocacy efforts. 

"I advocate for veterans who are underserved in Michigan," said Hoover, who served in the Navy from 2009 to 2013. "That's any veteran — from LGBTQ+ veterans to those experiencing homelessness, women veterans, justice-involved veterans and tribal veterans."

In our latest video highlighting MVAA's staff members, hear why Erika is proud to work at the MVAA and serve Michigan veterans and their families every day.

The MVAA is the central coordinating agency for Michigan's 530,000-plus veterans and their families. We connect veterans to their earned benefits. For more information, visit michigan.gov/MVAA or call 1-800-MICH-VET (1-800-642-4838). 

Fight brews in Congress over companies that charge veterans for filing claims

A fight is bubbling up over competing proposals in Congress to address companies that charge fees to help veterans file disability benefits claims.

On the one side is a bipartisan group of lawmakers, veterans service organizations and the Department of Veterans Affairs that wants to impose criminal penalties on any unaccredited company that charges veterans to file claims on their behalf.

On the other side is another group of lawmakers and some unaccredited companies that argue a small number of bad actors charging outrageous fees is making the whole industry look bad and that veterans should be able to choose to hire someone to help them if they want. That side is pushing to change the accreditation process so companies can legally continue their operations, in addition to imposing criminal penalties on businesses that remain unaccredited.

Read the full story at Military.com.

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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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