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Witness Testimony of Chuck Lantz, Director, Dickinson County Office of Veterans' Affairs, Iron Mountain, MI

Congressman, Congresswoman, and Guests I would like to thank you for the invitation and allowing me to testify  today on this big issue of our Veterans today.  I would like to start out with the subject at hand which is Rural Veterans healthcare. I think Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center and VISN 12 has taken many steps forward to extend access to the Veterans in the upper peninsula which is one of the most rural areas of Michigan if not the nation.  By building many CBOC's (community based outpatient clinics) in and around the Upper Peninsula and northern Wisconsin, it allows  the Veteran to have Veterans health care closer to their community. However,  there are still several issues in regards to the healthcare of the rural Veterans,   1. Transportation 2. Better access to mental health caregivers for the veterans having issues with PTSD and TBI, and the related health issue that come with that. 3. Better access to substance abuse programs due to the PTSD issues. The Veterans Affairs have grown by leaps and bounds but need to keep thinking outside the box to keep growing and caring for our Nations Veterans.  There are still many Veterans that cannot get VA healthcare due to the income threshold laws unless they have been injured while serving and receiving a service connected injury. Many of these Veterans served voluntarily and need to be cared for as a Veteran. Even if they are put in a priority group that requires co pays, at least our nations Veterans would be cared for regardless of their income status.

Next I would like to discuss the issue of the underrepresented Veteran, most of all in the state of Michigan. Of the 69 counties in Michigan with CVSO's (County Veterans Service Officers) only 37 provide full time VB counseling, 32 counties have part time VB Counseling, 14 Counties without CVSO'S. The Veteran population of 66,525 has no Veteran representation in those 14 Counties. The Veteran cannot establish their benefits alone, the veteran needs an advocate to assist them in the application process of VBA benefits as well as VHA benefits. The Veteran also needs that advocacy to assist them in gaining the benefits and keeping them in place; it is a constant struggle for the Veteran. I would like to just point out a comparison of 2 Counties in Michigan 1being Dickinson County with a fulltime CVSO, Veteran population of 2,671 with a total VA expenditure of $30,643,000.00 and of that $7,830,000.00 was compensation and pension, and that being liquid income comes directly back into the local Dickinson County community. Now take Antrim County with a part time CVSO. Veteran population 2,673 (2 Veterans more than Dickinson County), their total VA expenditure of $7,109,000.00 and of that $4,339,000.00 was compensation and pension. So you can see the difference we as CVSO's make advocating for the Veterans Benefits. Michigan has changed the grant funding to VSO's (Veterans Service Officers) and now with those changes, the number of VSO's had to be reduced. That brings more travel for the VSO'S, and the time they are traveling they are not meeting with the Veteran which is a disservice to our Veterans. Also, with that reduction, no more services were added or changed to take up for the Veteran they can no longer reach in a timely manner. I am advocating that the state of Michigan and or the nation mandate there be Service officers in each county of each state. The process of the VA Benefits is so cumbersome that the Veterans cannot accomplish these tasks on their own; they need an advocate to accomplish their struggles with the system. Why is it that we as a nation send our soldier to war with no questions asked and yet once they come home with injuries they have to prove without a shadow of a doubt that injury was due to their military service and if they do not have any injuries they have to prove they are under a certain income threshold to get health care. Changes need to be made to cover our nations Veterans ALL OF THEM.

Office of Veterans Affairs (serving Dickinson County) has a motto: IF SEND THEM WE MUST MEND
THEM. Thank you for allowing me to express the needs of our nations Veterans and the need for all the Veteran advocates to assist them. This is a very important job in our nation and funding and laws need to be established and changed so that our nation as and state has the VSO'S and CVSO's to take care of our true American hero's. For my last comment I would like to say and challenge congress to establish CVSO's in each and every county of Michigan and the Nation.

Thank you.


Counties' Commitment

  • To assist veterans and their dependents in obtaining any and all federal, state, and local veterans benefits to which they are entitled.
  • This service is best provided through a local veterans office where the veterans' programs and assistance are consolidated into an easily accessible "one-stop shopping" location.

Enabling Legislation

  • Public Act 214 of 1899 (MCL35.21- 35.27)
  • An Act to provide relief outside of the soldiers' home for honorably discharged indigent soldiers, sailors, marines, nurses and members of women's auxiliaries and the indigent wives, widows and minor children of such .....
  • Public Act 235 of 1911 (MCL 35.801- 35.804)
  • An Act to provide for the payment and reimbursement by counties, in certain cases upon application therefore, of expenses incurred in the burial of bodies of honorably discharged members of the armed forces of the United States and their spouses, .....
  • Public Act 9 of 1946 (MCL35.601-35.610)
  • An Act to create the Michigan veterans' trust fund, and to define who shall be eligible to receive assistance therefrom; to provide for the disbursement .....
  • Public Act 192 of 1953 CMCL35.621- 35.624)
  • An Act to create a County Department of Veterans Affairs in certain counties, and to prescribe its powers and duties; and to transfer the powers and duties of the Soldiers Relief Commission in such counties....
  • Board of Commissioners Resolution/Letter of Agreement

Other Enabling Legislation

  • Public Act 156 of 1851 (MCL 46.12b)
  • Excerpt from the Act to create County Boards of Commissioners regarding "Local councils of veterans affairs; appropriation by board of supervisors for operation."
  • Public Act 77 of 1945 (MCL 35.11)
  • An Act to provide for local councils of veterans' affairs; and to authorize appropriations by counties, cities, villages and townships.
  • Public Act 139 of 1973 (MCL 45.554)
  • An Act to provide forms of county government; to provide for county managers and county executives and to prescribe their powers and duties;
  • Trained and accredited county counselors...
  • Initiate, develop and prosecute claims for federal, state and local veterans benefits.
  • Assist veterans to enroll in the USDVA medical care system.
  • Administer the county veterans burial allowance program and assist with other death benefits for veterans survivors.
  • Utilize and coordinate emergency assistance from the Michigan Veterans Trust Fund and County Veterans Relief.
  • Refer veterans and their families to other appropriate programs.
  • May host part-time service from related veterans agencies and other community services.

 

Network

CVSO -- County Veterans Service Office NVSO - National Veterans Service Organization
MDMVA -- Michigan Department of Military & Veterans USDVA -- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
     MVTF -- Michigan Veterans Trust Fund      VBA -- Veterans Benefits Administration
     MHV -- Michigan Homes for Veterans      VHA -- Veterans Health Administration
MDOL -- Michigan Department of Labor      NCA -- National Cemetery Administration

Of the 69 Counties with CVSO
37 provide full time VB Counseling

  • Alpena
  • Isabella
  • Barry
  • Jackson
  • Berrien
  • Kalamazoo
  • Branch
  • Kent
  • Calhoun
  • Lapeer
  • Cheboygan
  • Leelanau
  • Chippewaw
  • Lenawee
  • Clare
  • Livingston
  • Clinton
  • Macomb
  • Dickenson
  • Midland
  • Eaton
  • Monroe
  • Genesee
  • Oakland
  • Gladwin
  • Ogemaw
  • Gogebic
  • Sanilac
  • Grand Traverse
  • St. Clair
  • Hillsdale
  • Tuscola
  • Huron
  • Washtenaw
  • Ingham
  • Wayne

32 have part-time VB Counseling

  • Alcona
  • Mackinaw
  • Allegan
  • Manistee
  • Alger
  • Mecosta
  • Antrim
  • Menominee
  • Baraga
  • Montomrency
  • Benzi
  • Newaygo
  • Cass
  • Ontanogan
  • Charlevoix
  • Otsego
  • Delta
  • Ottawa
  • Emmet
  • Presque Isle
  • Gratiot
  • Roscommon
  • Houghton
  • Schoolcraft
  • Ionia
  • Shiawassee
  • Iosco
  • St. Joseph
  • Iron
  • Van Buren
  • Kalkaska
 

14 Counties without CVSO

  • Arenac
  • Missaukee
  • Bay
  • Montcalm
  • Crawford
  • Muskegon
  • Lake
  • Oceana
  • Luce
  • Osceola
  • Marquette
  • Oscoda
  • Mason
  • Saginaw

Veterans Represented by CVSOs

  • Counties with Full time Offices:
  • 532,650 veterans plus their families
  • Counties with Part time offices
  • 104,795 veterans plus their families
  • Counties without CVSOs
  • 66,525 veterans plus their families

****703,970-VA estimated Michigan veteran population for 2010, which represents a decrease of 100,041 since 2006.****

Commitment to Maintain CVSO Training

  • State of Michigan
  • $50,000 Training Appropriation (revoked 4/12/07)
  • Counties
  • Registration/Conference Costs
  • VBC salary/leave time
  • Host training conferences
  • Individual
  • Personal time
  • Miscellaneous expenses

Accreditation & CEU Training

  • Approximate 65 Veterans Benefits Counselors attend the Spring Training Conference each year.
  • Training conferences provide:
  • USDVA accreditation training and/or continuing education unite training
  • Reference materials
  • Opportunities to network collaborate and cooperate with other County Counselors, USDVA and MDMVA staff and Veterans Service Officers.

Benefits/Outcome

  • For the Veteran/families

  • Financial
  • Service Connected Compensation
  • Non-service-connected disability pension
  • Dependency and Indemnity Compensation
  • Death pension
  • USDVA and County Burial Benefits
  • State and County Emergency Financial Relief
  •    Health
  • USDVA Medical Centers
  • Community Based Outpatient Clinics
  • Vet Centers
  • Education
  • Various USDVA Veterans and Dependents Education benefits
  • -Vocational Rehabilitation
  • -Ml Childrens' of Veterans Tuition Grant
  • Quality of Life
  • National Cemetery Burial
  • Military Records
  • Michigan Veterans Homes

Benefit to Michigan Veterans

For the Community, County, State

  • Economy
  • USDVATotalFY2010ExpendituresforMl-$2.4Billion
  • Compensation and Pension-$1.1Billion
  • State/Local monetary/non-monetary  benefits
  • Health
  • USDVA Medical Care  (5 VA Medica1Center (16 CBOCS)
  • Vet Centers
  • Quality of Life
  • Federal Non-monetary Benefits
  • Government Marker, US Flag, Military Records
  • National Cemeteries
  • Fort Custer

    Great Lakes National Cemetery

  • State Veterans Homes

MACVC Challenge to you:

... is to help us accomplish our mission which is to provide consistent and professional veterans services through out every county in our great State of Michigan

Glossary

DOD ESGR--Dept of Defense - Employment Support Guard & Reserves
GLNCAC--Great Lakes National Cemetery Advisory Council
JVC--Joint Veterans Council
MAC--Michigan Association of Counties
MDMVA--Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs
MDOL--Michigan Department of Labor
MHV--Michigan Homes for Veterans
MVTF--Michigan Veterans Trust Fund
NACVSO--National Association of Veterans Service Officers
NCA--National Cemetery Administration
NVSO--National Veterans Service Organization
TAP--Transitional Assistance Program
USDVA--US Department of Veterans Affairs
VBA--Veterans Benefits Administration
VHA--Veterans Health Administration
VISN 11 & 12--Veterans Integrated Services Network
& MAC--& Management Assistance Committee

FY 2009 GEOGRAPHIC DISTRIBUTION OF VA EXPENDITURES (GDX)

Table Showing FY 2009 Geographic Distribution of VA Expendutures

Table Showing FY 2009 Geographic Distribution of VA Expendutures

Table Showing FY 2009 Geographic Distribution of VA Expendutures