LANSING, Mich. – After visiting the federal VA’s website a few weeks ago, Michelle Fox wasn’t sure what sort of assistance was available for her father – a 92-year-old World War II veteran residing in an assisted living facility. Luckily, she noticed the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency’s (MVAA) 800-MICH-VET number on TV and decided to give it a call.

“I was looking for help with my father’s expenses because he needs help bathing and dressing,” Fox said. “I gave MVAA a call, and they gave me the information I needed and even put me in touch with my local veterans service officer so I could file a claim with the VA. MVAA really helped me out, and I know that if I ever run into a problem again, they’ll be able to help me out in the future.”

This is just one of many success stories for MVAA, which today celebrated its second anniversary of helping connect Michigan’s more than 660,000 veterans to the services and benefits they have earned.

Fox, of Warren, is now working with an Oakland County veterans service officer to submit forms for Aid & Attendance pension benefits on behalf of her father, Paul Fox, who served as a medic in the Army. Though the process is just beginning, Fox is confident MVAA will be there to assist her if she needs it.

“Between their website and the individuals who work there, everyone is very knowledgeable and helpful. It’s an excellent resource for Michigan veterans,” she said. “MVAA even called me back earlier this week to make sure I was on the right track. That says an awful lot about their commitment.”

Since its launch, MVAA has worked to make Michigan a better place for veterans to live and work, focusing on the areas of health care, employment, education and quality of life.

“When this agency was created two years ago we were tasked with reinventing how Michigan serves its veterans, and I believe we have made great strides toward that goal,” MVAA Director Jeff Barnes said. “No matter where a veteran first encounters MVAA, we want it to be a positive experience where they get the help they need and are treated with the respect they deserve.”

To do so, MVAA works hand-in-hand with the federal VA, other state and county agencies as well as more than 1,000 community and veterans service organizations. By building a comprehensive network of resources and service providers, MVAA and its partners ensure veterans receive the assistance they need regardless of where they begin.

In the past year, MVAA has partnered with the Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) to create the Michigan Veteran Education Initiative, designed to support veterans transitioning to civilian life and aid in their pursuit of a college education.

MVAA also created the Certified Veteran-Friendly Employer program in 2014, which recognizes the continuing efforts of Michigan organizations as they hire and support veteran talent in the workforce. So far, 18 employers have received the designation.

To date, MVAA has:

· Helped more than 4,000 veterans alleviate short-term, emergency financial situations through the Michigan Veterans Trust Fund;

· Reached nearly 425,000 veterans through the Veterans Community Action Team (VCAT) program, which provides easier access to a network of local service providers and coordinates efforts to help veterans in their communities. By the end of 2015, VCATs will serve 523,000 veterans – 79 percent of the state’s veteran population;

· Offered skilled nursing, rehabilitation and long-term care to the more than 600 veterans who live at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans and Jacobetti Home for Veterans;

· Provided 4,200 veterans and their families with chances to learn about education and employment opportunities, meet with accredited benefit counselors and receive health screenings at three Veteran Expos in Detroit, Grand Rapids and Marquette; and

· Assisted more than 8,000 veterans through 800-MICH-VET (800-642-4838) and the Michigan Veterans Resource Service Center – MVAA’s 24/7 hotline that is integrated with Michigan 2-1-1 services.

“We have worked tirelessly to make veterans’ lives better since our agency was established, and we hope that veterans throughout Michigan have benefitted from these efforts,” Barnes said. “MVAA has much to be proud of, but we have even more to accomplish on behalf of the brave men and women who have served our country.”

The agency was launched on March 20, 2013 with the mission of connecting veterans and their families with services and benefits throughout Michigan.

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