Michigan Veterans Trail Rest of U.S. in Their Utilization of State Services

Bloomfield Hills, MI (Law Firm Newswire) January 22, 2014 — The Great Lakes State has earned a dubious distinction: Michigan is home to the lowest percentage of benefits-using veterans in the U.S.

With about 700,000 veteran residents, Michigan has long boasted a large concentration of former members of the military. But in December, it was revealed that the Great Lakes State has acquired a less favorable distinction as the state with the lowest percentage of veterans who avail themselves of benefits and services.

The Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency has released data that shows that only 142,260 — or approximately 20 percent — of the state’s veterans have utilized services available to them, including health care and education resources. And that number exists in spite of the fact that Michigan spends almost $3 billion on veterans services.

At least two causal problems have been identified, and they, along with other issues, were discussed at a late November forum at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Annis-Fint Post 1584, hosted by state Representative Nancy Jenkins, R-Clayton, in Adrian.

Information technology (and the lack of organized information distribution) gained attention at the forum. “The problem is, there is no central database,” said Jason Allen, senior policy adviser for the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency. “You’ve got several different agencies with information, but it isn’t all centralized.”

The low services-utilization rate was also attributed to a shortage of the trained and on-staff service officers necessary to match the needs of the growing number of veterans leaving the armed services and taking up residence in Michigan.

The Veterans Affairs Agency has launched pilot programs in Wayne County and Grand Rapids to increase staff levels, and Allen has stated that his staff is creating programs and strategies to get assistance to veterans.

But a more elementary problem with the state’s veterans services network was also aired at the Adrian forum. Michigan has only two homes for veterans: the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans and the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans in Marquette. According to Allen, the system is an outdated one, based on a model developed after World War I.

“We have to build additional homes to help the veterans coming back,” Allen said. “We have a much different type of veteran coming back. We are seeing a lot of closed-head injuries and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) cases. We plan to build two or three more veterans homes.”

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