LANSING – It starts with a phone call. A frustrated veteran or family member has hit a dead end trying to sign up for benefits on their own, and they don’t know where to turn next. That’s where the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency and its network of partners across the state make a difference.
“A few years ago, my brother and I wanted to help my dad apply for his VA benefits. We submitted paperwork for him, but his claim fell into the abyss and we didn’t know where to turn next,” said Bill Wolters, whose father was held as a POW during World War II. “We found the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency online, and working with one of their accredited service officers made all the difference in the world. Not only was my dad able to collect back pay from his original claim, he is now receiving monthly disability compensation at close to 100 percent. Based on my experience, MVAA is fulfilling its mission 110 percent.”
MVAA has been working with the 14 state agencies and more than 400 community organizations that serve veterans to build that network of services so veterans encounter ‘no wrong doors’ when they are looking for services. Helping those organizations connect with one another will ensure veterans are better served.
“We are reinventing how Michigan serves its veterans,” said MVAA Director Jeff Barnes. “No matter where they start or what they need, we are building a network where Michigan veterans find ‘no wrong doors’ in their search for benefits or services.”
MVAA this week embarks on its second year of reinventing the way the state serves our veterans, with its new Veterans Resource Service Center, new tools for connecting employers with veteran talent and new partnerships that create a more seamless network to help veterans transition to the next chapter of their lives.
“We’re hitting the ground running in our second year, with new opportunities and new partnerships that will build on what we accomplished in 2013,” Barnes said. “Our new Veterans Resource Service Center and new licensing and credentialing reforms to help veterans put their skills to work more quickly are just a couple examples of the initiatives we’ll be deploying in the coming months.”
The agency was formed on March 20, 2013, with a mission serve as the central point that connects those who have served and their families to the services and benefits they’ve earned. Already, in its first year, MVAA has:
• Launched the agency’s one-stop web portal for veterans and their families, www.MichiganVeterans.com
• Reformed veterans’ service delivery in Michigan to make it easier for veterans to connect with a service officer for help with their federal benefits by:
• Aligning service delivery regions with the governor’s prosperity regions
• Increasing the number of service hours available to veterans throughout the state
• Placing veterans’ service officers closer to where veterans live
• Kicked off pilot programs in the Detroit and Grand Rapids areas to identify and bring together organizations offering veteran services and support so veterans and their families experience “no wrong doors” when seeking those services
· Awarded more than $2.3 million in grants, assisting thousands of veterans facing short-term financial crises through the Michigan Veterans Trust Fund, including more than $275,000 through a partnership with the Michigan Dental Association to provide needed dental care to veterans.
· Distributed nearly $1.9 million in grants to more than 300 veterans and military families across the state through the Michigan Veterans Homeowners Assistance Program (MiVHAP).
As a result of efforts by MVAA and its partners, Michigan has dramatically improved its rate of Fully Developed Claims (FDCs) from just 11.4% at the beginning of Fiscal Year 2013 to 52% today. This is vital because FDCs are complete claims – all the I’s are dotted and all the t’s are crossed, and that can reduce a veteran’s wait time for a decision from well over a year to less than five months, putting benefits in veterans’ hands much more quickly.
“Our first year was about laying a foundation for future success,” Barnes said. “We brought everyone to the table, developed our strategic plan, launched our one-stop web portal and reformed veterans’ service delivery so it’s easier for veterans to connect with service officers to apply for their benefits. Looking ahead to our second year and beyond, I’m excited about the opportunities we have to keep working towards making Michigan the best state in the nation for veterans.”
The Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency mission is to serve as the central coordinating point, connecting those who have served in the United States Armed Services and their families, to services and benefits throughout the state of Michigan. The agency values inclusion, integrity, transparency, innovation and respect and aspires to provide the customer service experience that veterans deserve. For more information or to connect with a service officer, visit www.MichiganVeterans.com or call 517-284-5298.
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