Friday, December 17, 2021

Michigan Veterans News & Resources for Dec. 17, 2021 (Helpful info for veterans regarding winter property taxes)



Gulf War Frontline

New Michigan law allows more tax deductions for disabled vets

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently signed Senate Bill 25 to expand income tax deductions to disabled veterans.

 

The law allows disabled veterans to deduct taxable income attributed to cancellation or forgiveness of a student loan pursuant to the U.S. Department of Education's Total and Permanent Disability Discharge Program. Under this bill, disabled veterans can deduct income attributed to the forgiveness of a student loan for the 2016 to 2019 tax years and going forward beginning in 2025.

 

"Our nation's disabled veterans have served our country with honor and dignity, and this bill helps alleviate some of their financial burdens," said Whitmer. "I am proud to sign Senate Bill 25 to recognize the sacrifices made by our veterans and their families and help make their lives easier."

 

Read more about Senate Bill 25 on Michigan.gov.


Veteran Buddy to Buddy volunteers needed

Is volunteer work part of your New Year's resolution? Consider becoming a volunteer veteran mentor! The MVAA Buddy to Buddy program gives honorably discharged veterans a way to continue their service by mentoring their fellow veterans. Visit michigan.gov/MVAA to learn more.

 

Buddy 2 Buddy volunteers needed

Student vets taking remote classes to get full GI Bill benefits

Congress on Wednesday finalized plans to extend GI Bill protections for student veterans still forced into remote classes by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, ensuring they'll receive full benefits until next summer.

 

The move is expected to affect about 57,000 students currently enrolled in degree programs, according to Veterans Affairs data.

 

The difference between half of a housing stipend and the full payout can range from a few hundred dollars to nearly $2,000, since the payouts depend on the location of the student and school. Making up that difference could force some individuals move out mid-semester or drop course entirely.

 

To avoid those types of financial problems, Congress granted VA leaders broad authority to continue paying out the full housing stipends even if students had been forced out of the classroom. That authority was set to expire on Dec. 21.

 

But the Senate on Wednesday finalized legislation to push that date back to summer 2022, in recognition of the ongoing transition from online to in-person classes.

 

Read more in Military Times.


'Make a Veteran Smile' campaign supports vets over holidays

MVH

Michigan Veteran Homes' "Make a Veteran Smile" campaign encourages Michigan residents to spread holiday cheer by sending a card or letter to veteran members.

 

Rebecca Smit, activity department manager for Michigan Veteran Homes at Grand Rapids, noted that some holiday functions members would attend have been suspended due to the pandemic and that can lead to feelings of isolation around the holidays.

 

"Sending a card is another way our communities and advocates can show support for veteran members," Smit said.

 

"The members are always excited to receive cards or letters especially when the sender shares a little about themselves or their family," added Tiffany Carr, community engagement coordinator for Michigan Veteran Homes.

 

"For some of our members who do not have close friends or family, this might be the only message they receive around the holidays."

 

Cards and letters can be addressed to ATTN: Make a Vet Smile and mailed to:

  • Michigan Veteran Homes at Chesterfield Township at 47901 Sugarbush Road, Chesterfield Township, MI 48047.
  • Michigan Veteran Homes at Grand Rapids at 3000 Monroe Ave., Grand Rapids, MI 49505.
  • Michigan Veteran Homes D.J. Jacobetti at 425 Fisher St., Marquette, MI 49855.

Helpful info for veterans regarding winter property taxes

Winter property taxes are being released all across the state. Did you know that in Michigan, 100% permanently and totally disabled veterans and veterans who are entitled to veterans benefits at the 100% rate or unremarried surviving spouses may request a property tax waiver? Learn more at Michigan.gov.


Volunteer of the Year honors late father through service to veterans

Tom Antor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This week we recognize the last of our 2021 award winners by profiling Tom Antor, Veteran Friendly Volunteer of the Year; Michael J. Scott, Community Outreach and Regional Engagement award winner; and Macomb County, Veteran Friendly County of the Year. See all the recipients at Michigan.gov.mvaa.

 

In 2014, Tom Antor recognized a gap in veteran services in Kent County and stepped in to fill the need.

 

Antor, a Kent County Commissioner, business owner and former police officer, had entered a local veterans' facility to visit his father, who had Alzheimer's disease. Struck by how alone and vulnerable his father and the other veterans were, Antor dedicated himself to bettering the quality of life of West Michigan veterans.

 

Antor created the Finish the Mission Veteran Relief Fund with an all-volunteer board as a way to assist veteran or dependents in need when no one else could. To raise funds, he started Freedom Cruise, a classic car and motorcycle cruise through West Michigan to bring awareness of the sacrifice of our service members with Gold Star Families leading the 30-mile procession.

 

Freedom Cruise profits go to Finish the Mission, which in turn partners with Kent County Veterans Service to assist veterans who are in the gap of not having any benefits from the federal, state or local government.

 

The Sept. 11, 2021 Freedom Cruise brought together over 2,000 patrons to honor Army Sgt. 1st Class Rick Herrema of Grand Rapids, who was killed in action in Iraq in 2006.

 

To date, Finish the Mission has granted resources, assistance, grants and partnerships with other local veteran organizations to the sum of over $100,000.

 

Antor, of Sparta, has been married to Beth Antor for 34 years and the couple has three daughters and six grandchildren. He likes to fish and hunt in his spare time. Of winning the MVAA's first-ever Veteran Friendly Volunteer Award, he says, "I am honored to be chosen among so many honorable and dedicated supporters of our nation's heroes. I started Finish the Mission Veteran Relief Fund in honor of my father, who served in WWII. I cannot express how appreciative I am for the past six years of support that Michigan veterans, their families and patrons of veterans have given us at Freedom Cruise."


DeWitt man works to improve lives of fellow veterans

Michael Scott
 

 

 

Service has remained a constant throughout Michael J. Scott's career.

 

After high school, Scott joined the Army in 1988 and served as a combat engineer for nine years, rising to the rank of staff sergeant. Deployed to Iraq during Operation Desert Storm, he was awarded the Bronze Star for selfless service during combat. 

 

"Serving in the Army taught me to think outside of myself, to stand up for others in times of need and to live for a purpose much greater than my own aspirations," Scott says. "Sharing the deepest of sorrows with others or celebrating unbelievable victories forms eternal bonds with those you serve alongside of - a bond that you will rarely experience in the civilian world."

 

After discharge, the DeWitt resident served his fellow veterans. He worked as a Veteran Mentor Coordinator for the Ingham County Veterans Treatment Court, training veteran mentors and liaisons in the court system and developing treatment plans for veterans within the tribunal system. 

 

Scott, whose family includes wife Patricia and daughter Megan, reenlisted in the Army Reserve and was deployed to Africa where he served as manager for psychological operations. After his second honorable discharge, in 2016, he began a master's program at Michigan State University with a concentration in human resources concentrated in military relations; he now works as a human resource training specialist for a nutritional company.

 

Beginning in April 2018, Scott served as one of the first Veteran Navigators through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, helping shape this program to where it is today. Veteran Navigators across the state serve veterans as the expert in their community and help with housing, mental health needs and connections to federal, state and local programs. Scott also served on the Veteran Community Action Team (VCAT) in the Lansing region and helped bring together a network of veteran-friendly local and regional agencies.

 

As an integral part of the veteran community in Michigan, Scott has tailored his efforts to breaking down barriers, improving access to care and bolstering the livelihood of the patriots who have served our nation. Of winning the Community Outreach and Regional Engagement Award, he says, "Many veterans struggle to reintegrate after being on active duty or deployment. The comradery and social support that comes from being around other like-minded veterans is critical for someone who does not feel like they fit in anymore. I have been greatly honored to work alongside people who are passionately working to improve the lives of veterans in the great state of Michigan. To be chosen for this award among these tireless and amazing individuals who continue to serve is truly an honor."


Macomb is Veteran Friendly County of the Year

Macomb County

Macomb County, which employs 15 people in its Veterans Services office and offers a host of innovative services and resources for veterans and their families, is the MVAA's first Veteran Friendly County of the Year.

 

Through the years, the county has had a significant impact on its veterans and their families. Macomb has about 45,100 veterans, the third most of any county in Michigan.

 

Nearly 400 Macomb County veterans have benefited from the county's free financial coaching since April 2019. More than 675 veterans and spouses have participated in the county's Employment Camp - a weeklong session that covers resume-building, cover letters, interviews skills and more, and has a 62% employment rate.

 

For 14 years, the county has provided $25 gas cards and bus passes to help veterans look for jobs and get to VA medical appointments and Veterans Treatment Court; more than 1,600 gas cards and 260 bus passes have been issued since 2015. The county also operates a van that offers door-to-door service to and from VA medical appointments.

 

Since 2016, the county has provided free income tax preparation for veterans and their families, and now offers the service from seven locations. Thirty volunteers prepared more than 2,000 tax returns for veterans this year.

 

Among its other services, Macomb County provides assistance for homeless veterans, hearing loss exams, access to a specialist for diagnosis of PTSD and a dental day for free dental exams and cleanings for uninsured veterans.

 

Finally, in a unique agreement between the county and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, changes were made in how veterans are identified and ultimately helped. As a result, the state has identified 927 Macomb County veterans in its system, 36 veterans have filed benefit claims they didn't know were available and 21 veterans now receive either service-connected disability benefits or non-service-connected pension.


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Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Membership Flash Competition


Could your Post use $1,000 Cash?
**FLASH COMPETITION**
 
Could your Post use $1,000 Cash?
 
The Department of Michigan's Membership Committee is sponsoring a FLASH Competition, with a single prize of $1,000 awarded to the Post that renews for 2022, the highest percentage of members during the contest period as compared to your 2022 Membership Goal.

 It's easy to do…deploy your Post Membership Team…get on the phone…get the emails going…get the snail mail going…knock on doors!

  •  Here's the Rules of Engagement… 
  • Contest Begins at 1500 on 3 Dec 2021
  • Contest Ends at 2359 on 11 Jan 2022
  • Highest Percentage of Online + Traditional Renewals Wins
  • MyLegion is the Official Source of Data
  •  Postmarks do NOT count

 In the event of a tie, the winning Posts will share the $1,000 equally
 Post Activity is Key to Renewing Members!
If you need ANY assistance with MyLegion entries, please don't hesitate to call 269-579-6458 as soon as possible.
 Good Luck!

 
The Highest % of renewals WINS!!

 Brian
 Brian A. Mohlman, Membership Director
The American Legion Department of Michigan
269-579-6458

Company Name | Website

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Michigan Veterans News & Resources for Dec. 9, 2021 (Eligible Peacetime Veterans 65 and Older Can Now Receive Emergency Aid From Michigan Veterans Trust Fund


Vietnam Veteran News

Eligible peacetime veterans 65 and older can now receive emergency aid from Michigan Veterans Trust Fund

For the first time in its 75-year history, the Michigan Veterans Trust Fund (MVTF) will provide emergency assistance to eligible peacetime-era veterans 65 years and older under a new pilot program.

 

Similar to its Emergency Grant Program for wartime-era veterans, the MVTF's 65+ Peacetime Program allows veterans who served in a peacetime era, have at least 180 days of service and were discharged under honorable conditions to apply for emergency assistance.

 

The assistance helps veterans overcome unforeseen situations causing a temporary or short-term financial emergency or hardship that a grant will resolve and for which the applicant can demonstrate the ability to meet future expenses. Covered expenses under the 65+ Program include utility bills, home repairs and rent and mortgage assistance.

 

The MVTF was created by the state Legislature in 1946 to help wartime-era veterans with a $50 million corpus that has since grown to more than $72 million. The MVTF Board of Trustees have expanded Trust Fund services to veterans in recent years to offer financial counseling, food cards, career and entrepreneurial assistance and, now, emergency assistance for peacetime veterans.

 

Veterans interested in applying for the 65+ Peacetime Program should contact the MVTF county committee serving the county they reside in or fill out and submit the emergency assistance form available on the MVAA's website. Veterans can call 1-800-MICH-VET to be connected to their county veteran representative.

 

Read more about the new program at michigan.gov/MVAA.

mvtf 75

Remembering Pearl Harbor, 80 years later

This week we recognize the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, where 2,403 service members and civilians lost their lives. The Japanese attack would injure another 1,178 people and permanently sink two US Navy battleships, the USS Arizona and USS Utah, and destroy 188 aircraft. President Franklin Roosevelt would address the nation calling it "a date which will live in infamy." The following day on Dec. 8, 1941, Roosevelt declared war against Japan.

 

In the years following the attack on Pearl Harbor, 613,543 Michiganders would answer the call to serve in the armed forces. Read Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's proclamation declaring Dec. 7 as Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

pharbor

Here's how to connect with other veterans this holiday season

Holidays can be a difficult time for many veterans. The flurry of expectations many feel during holidays can cause stress or feelings of loneliness. This is especially true for veterans who may be separated from friends and family due to distance or COVID-19.

 

Many veterans also miss the camaraderie and kinship they felt during service. Or they may find it difficult to relate to those outside the military.

 

From volunteering to playing online games with newly met veterans, here are 12 things you can do to create a new community and connect with other veterans, according to VA's VAntage Point blog.

 

Veterans experiencing a mental health emergency can contact the Veteran Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and select option 1 for a VA staffer. Veterans, troops or their family members can also text 838255 or visit VeteransCrisisLine.net for assistance.

 

mvaa/crisis line

Congrats to our November Student/Apprentice of the Month

Jordan Spears

Jordan Swears is one of the top students in his class at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, earning a 3.96 GPA.

 

Faculty and staff at WMU-Cooley say Jordan is always willing to help other students with academics. He is also an associate editor for the Homeland & National Security Law Review and published an article on bail reform in the WMU Cooley Journal of Practical and Clinical Law.

 

Jordan Served as a Field Artillery Officer from 2008-2014 with the 41st Fire Brigade and 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas. He began his military career leading a small group of soldiers and worked his way up to become a battalion leader, developing and leading training programs. He was deployed as a NATO Training Instructor with the Afghan National Army in support of Operation Enduring Freedom from 2011-2012. Throughout his career, Jordan has mentored many soldiers.

 

For his academic and professional achievements, the MVAA congratulates Jordan for his selection as the Student/Apprentice Veteran of the Month for November 2021.

 

Learn more about the MVAA's Student/Apprentice of the Month initiative at Michigan.gov/MVAA.  


Cool things to look for at Army-Navy football game

This Saturday, Dec. 11, marks the 122nd meeting of the US Military Academy and US Naval Academy football teams. This year, the Army Black Knights and the Navy Midshipmen will meet at New Jersey's MetLife Stadium for the first time. 

 

Did you know the two institutions do a "prisoner exchange" before every game? A handful of West Point cadets and Annapolis midshipmen are chosen every year to spend a semester studying at their rival academy. Seven cadets and seven mids participate in the Service Academy Exchange Program. Before every Army-Navy Game since the program began in 1975, these 14 soon-to-be-officers are marched to midfield for the "Prisoner Exchange," which allows them to sit with their fellow fans during the game before heading home.

 

Read more about that tradition and other interesting things to watch for at this year's Army-Navy game from Military.com.

 

Watch the game at 3 p.m. ET Saturday on CBS.


VA Employee of the Year honored to serve those who served

Tara Consolino

This week we continue recognizing our first-ever round of award winners by profiling Tara Consolino, VA Employee of the Year, and Jill Hinton Wolfe, Educational Veteran Advocate of the Year. See all the recipients at Michigan.gov.mvaa.

 

Although Tara Consolino didn't serve in the Armed Forces, she grew up in a military family and has worked for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for the past 14 years - currently as a Suicide Prevention Program Manager.

 

"Growing up with a Marine Corps father, and presently working with veterans, when I thank someone for their service, I am thanking them for the sacrifices they may have made when they enlisted, but also for the ignorance I am afforded as a civilian," Consolino says. "Ignorance meaning recognizing those hardships and unknown stressors that accompany a life in uniform. The strength, discipline, character and qualities that all individuals serving in the Armed Forces possess and the resiliency they personify ultimately reflects to me their selfless service in all aspects of their lives."

 

For her service to veterans, Consolino was named this year's VA Employee of the Year. Working in veteran suicide prevention with the Veterans Health Administration, an arm of the VA, she has been instrumental in the success of the Michigan Governor's Challenge to Prevent Suicide Among Service Members, Veterans and their Families.

 

"Tara truly encompasses all the values of the VHA and is a leader in her field," her nomination form says. "Regardless of what is needed or if it is outside of her scope of practice, she will assist with making the appropriate connections within the VA to ensure that our veterans are served at the highest quality possible. Tara is a leader, full of energy, presents innovative ideas, and is a true team player."

 

Consolino, of Farmington Hills, enjoys photography, running, hiking, yoga and writing. Her family includes husband Todd Peltier, daughter Cye Consolino, Chloe the dog and Elena, Coco and Big Larry the cats.

 

"I came to the VA fourteen years ago to fulfill the VA mission to serve those who served," she says. "This is an honor to receive this award recognizing the work that myself and our teams have been completing, supporting that mission. I am overwhelmed with gratitude to have been selected to receive this award and I am humbled, appreciative and invigorated to continue this work."


Army vet, GVSU staffer is Educational Advocate of the Year

Jill Wolfe

In less than two years, Grand Valley State University has built a truly veteran-inclusive campus, experienced an increase in military-connected student enrollment and landed on several publications' "Best Colleges for Veterans" lists.

 

And Jill Hinton Wolfe is the driving force behind that success.

 

Wolfe, who served three years in the Army, became the university's first Military and Veteran Resource Manager in June 2020. In the short time since, the university has initiated a host of veteran-centric efforts including Veteran's Promise, which promises a spot at GVSU for high school graduates who enlist in the military.

 

"I started this position after losing my own business to COVID, and it would've been very easy to become cynical and despondent," Wolfe says. "But I applied for the position in the same spirit that I joined the military - seeking service and humility. I also needed to continue my own story of what it means to be a veteran. Every day these students inspire me to work harder, to laugh more often and to care not who gets the credit, only that somebody, somewhere, feels like they matter and becomes inspired to do the same thing for others. This is what got me out of my bunk when I was 19 years old in BDUs and still gets me out bed today."

 

Wolfe received several nominations for the Educational Veteran Advocate of the Year Award. Among the accolades from her colleagues, she was described as a "steadfast problem-solver, extraordinarily committed leader and community builder" and was praised for her "intellectual curiosity, strong work ethic, creativity and compassion."

 

The married mother of two children and three stepchildren lives in Grand Rapids and enjoys backpacking, books and writing. Of serving in the military, she says: "I grew up in a privileged household where I had everything handed to me, yet I never really felt necessary. The military gave me that feeling. Through my military service, I became necessary to protecting not just my fellow citizens, but to a whole new military family. They came from every small town, every big city, every skin color, every religion, both immigrants and born in the U.S. And they are still my family today, a family created out of both hardship and the knowledge that above all, we are necessary."


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