Michigan Veterans Benefits Bolstered

Many Michigan veterans are eligible for benefits like healthcare and pensions, but may not know this and haven't yet applied for them.

Many Michigan veterans are eligible for benefits like healthcare and pensions, but may not know this and haven’t yet applied for them.

In a state that ranks in the bottom five in the U.S. for federal spending per veteran, there are hundreds of thousands of Michigan vets who qualify for military benefits, like healthcare and pensions.  Surprisingly, many don’t know they qualify, and others simply haven’t filed for the benefits due them.

Aside from the traditional health-and-pension benefits, other Michigan Veterans Benefits include home loans as well as educational subsidies via the GI-bill; also, vets may qualify for disability claims and life insurance. What’s more, Michigan vets can tap the Michigan Veterans Trust Fund Agency (MVTFA) to receive vocational training at the state and local levels.

Vietnam vets among those who may have chosen not to receive their benefits…

Indeed, Michigan vets, particularly those who fought in the Vietnam war, may have chosen not to receive the benefits due them after their military discharge simply because they received excellent health care benefits and pensions from their employer after they came home.

Back then, that usually meant Michigan jobs in the automotive sector, or other industries, that provided them with a full suite of benefits.

Moreover, as reported in the Detroit News, some of those vets never thought of even applying for their military benefits because they didn’t think they qualified. One vet said he thought he needed to be disabled from war injuries to qualify. Later, though, he learned he could qualify for treatment of his post-traumatic stress disorder.

Small-percentage are using their benefits…

Overall, a mere 22 percent of the state’s 660,800 veterans are using what’s coming to them from the coffers of the U.S. Veterans Administration, according to 2013 figures—about 13 percent do receive a disability check.

For Michigan vets, their rights to these benefits are a head-scratcher and begs the question as to ‘How can this be?” “Who’s looking out after those who gave so much for their country?”

Michigan was on the bottom for average fed spending per vet…

Five years ago, before Gov. Rick Snyder established the MVAA, the state was on the bottom rung among all the states in terms of dollars spent per vet: less than $3,000. Now, as of 2013, that has increased to an average of $5,001 per vet.

In an effort to make things right, the state offers a 24-hour hotline at (800) MICH-VET along with its website (michiganveterans.com) as a center for information on emergency housing to “veteran-friendly colleges in Michigan,” for example.

Rural counties may be out of luck for veteran counseling offices…

Rural counties, unlike metro areas, often lack the services of a veterans counselor who can offer vets information about federal, state and local benefits. Unfortunately, counties once lucky enough to have a veterans office are not only facing staffing shortages and funding cuts

Part of the frustration among vets in the past is simply trying to unravel the complexity of the system, notes The Detroit News columnist, Melissa Burke:

“Vets often have difficulty navigating the process on their own…Certified counselors and veterans service officers often help vets (receive) compensation quicker.”

Community action teams’ help veterans.

As such, and before 2013, about 93 percent of the disability claims submitted by Michigan veterans required more paperwork than was submitted in order to meet eligibility requirements.

But thanks to the state’s renewed focus on educating its vets on how to navigate the system that number has dropped to 59 percent just last fall, according to a spokesperson from the Detroit Regional Office of Veterans Benefit Administration.

A major reason for this success has to do with “regional ‘community action teams’” set up by the MTVFA to open up lines of communication with regional services directly serving its veterans.

Over the past five years, the number veterans in the state have declined, but Metro Detroit remains home to one-third of Michigan’s veteran population.

If you are a veteran and would like to discuss your benefits status, please contact us. We offer experienced counsel in this area as well as in elder law and estate planning.

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