Veterans benefits

Over 150 vets and families receive tips and resources at Veterans Benefits Fair | New

EAST TAWAS – Many programs and resources are available to our country’s veterans who have served selflessly in the military, and rightly so. However, Iosco County Veterans Services Officer Ron Whitney said the number of people who aren’t aware of the benefits available — let alone how to acquire them — is astounding.

But Whitney is among those looking to change that. In a recent example, he and the Iosco County Veterans Affairs office teamed up with Veterans Community Engagement Officer Ryan Sanderson of the Michigan Veterans Agency (VA) to host an event. at Rushman Hall in East Tawas on May 19.

The Veterans Benefits Fair hosted a steady stream of guests for four hours straight and was open to all veterans, their families and surviving spouses.

In addition to being treated to a meal courtesy of the local Knights of Columbus, as well as plenty of coffee and donuts from area businesses, attendees could take home gifts from participating organizations such as T-shirts , drink bottles, flashlights, coozies, hats, key chains, magnets and bookmarks.

While it’s always nice to pick up fun goodies, the most valuable element of the event was the information shared with veterans about the benefits they can enjoy – many of which, if not completely free, are at least at a reduced cost for those who have served our country.

With the venue brimming with different booths, guests were able to explore everything from health care information, federal and state benefit claims, and help obtaining military records, to details about organizations at local non-profits/other helps in their community, veterans loans, housing. employment and educational resources and opportunities.

Sanderson said when the first Veterans Benefits Fair was held at Rushman Hall in 2019, the plan was to continue the offering as an annual event. But, like many other activities, it was put on hold until the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. So last fall, he and Whitney got together to begin their work to bring the fair back to 2022.

The efforts were well received, as volunteers noted that more than 150 veterans and families from Iosco County and surrounding communities have been assisted.

Sanderson pointed out that although there are many ways to publicize various services, one of the main reasons for organizing the fair is that it is extremely important to connect people. face to face with veteran resources.

And there were plenty of reps on hand to do it. The providers present were Banyan treatment centers; Blue Star Assistance Dogs; CaptionCall; DTE consultations on home energy; Food Bank of Eastern Michigan; Michigan Footprints; Humana, Inc.; Iosco County Commission on Aging; Ladies of the Holy Family Sewing Ministries; Michigan Department of Health and Human Services; Michigan State University-Extension; Michigan VA Agency-Michigan Veteran Resource Service Center; Michigan works! Region 7B; Mid Michigan Honor Flight; OneSource Military; Northern Michigan Veterans Coalition; Northern Michigan Regional Entity Veterans Navigator; Northland Region Federal Credit Union; Quilts of Valor Foundation; The Salvation Army; Veteran Family Support Services, through the Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency (NMCAA); Pegasus Springs Therapeutic Riding Center; The home health care and palliative care team; US Department of Agriculture and Rural Development; VA Department of Veterans Administration; VA Veterinary Center; Business Outreach Centers for Veterans; Employment Services for Veterans; Northeast Michigan Veterans Memorial Park; and the Iosco County Veterans Recognition Plaza.

Additionally, a veteran duty officer from the Disabled American Veterans organization was available, as were duty officers from VA offices in Alcona, Iosco, and Oscoda counties.

There was a wide range of options for veterans and their loved ones to consider, from the nonprofit Quilts of Valor Foundation – whose handmade creations provide comfort and healing to service members and veterans affected by the war – to the free telephone services offered by CaptionCall, for those who have a hearing loss or difficulty.

Mid-Michigan Honor Flight Vice President Kathy Barnes and Hub Director/President Robert Green even signed up Army veteran Darel Reed, Oscoda, for the next excursion in June.

“It’s the least we can do,” said Green, an Army veteran who served in the military police.

Charitable 501c3 is a regional hub of the Honor Flight Network and offers Michigan veterans a free “Honor Tour” in Washington, D.C. They spend all day visiting places as significant as the US Air Force, World War II and Vietnam Veterans memorials and experiences such as the Changing of the Guard at Arlington National Cemetery.

Flight participants are often sent off with greetings and applause before they depart, then given a warm and welcome welcome back at the airport — which Barnes says is especially touching for Vietnam veterans who don’t. have not received in the past.

Covering more than 50 counties in the state, the organization is 100% volunteer and strives to give all veterans the opportunity to view their memorials, free of charge.

Mid-Michigan Honor Flight is also selecting guardians to escort heroes to Washington, D.C. Applications for volunteers seeking to assist and veterans wishing to take a flight, along with other details, can be found at

Highlights of the event also included the unique programs and homeowner incentives outlined by the NMCAA, to help end veteran homelessness; summaries of projects already completed, as well as plans underway, for the Northeast Michigan Veterans Memorial Park in Oscoda and the Iosco County Veterans Recognition Center in Tawas City; and a description of the countless ways Blue Star Service Dogs can help veterans diagnosed with PTSD and traumatic brain injury.

Using shelter dogs, the motto of the latter, “Save one to heal another”, is well formulated.

Director Christine Myran also notes that incarcerated veterans work with many dogs before they are ready for the good canine citizen. This not only allows them to continue to serve their country and other veterans, but has also cut the industry standard cost of a service dog nearly in half. Since there is no cost to the veteran, this allows more of them to be helped through the program.

She added that the goal is to bring a satellite location to Iosco County, which she says is an underserved area for this type of assistance.

In addition to food, health care and financial resources at the veterans benefits fair, another notable offer came through the nonprofit organization Footprints of Michigan. Among their outreach activities is the Soles4Vets program which donates new shoes and socks to veterans who are homeless or in need.

“It’s a small token of our appreciation to those who have served,” said Footprints of Michigan Founder/Executive Director Geronimo Lerma III.

Their mobile shoe closet, dubbed “The Sole Train”, travels Michigan and surrounding areas to bring warmth, comfort and dignity to those in need. Rushman Hall was one of the stops on The Sole Train route, where veterans who attended the fair and their spouses could purchase new shoes.

Sanderson pointed out that any veteran in need, or who may have questions about the benefits and services they are entitled to, can contact Whitney by phone at 362-6571, or by email at [email protected]. The Iosco County Veterans Affairs Office is located at 420 W. Lake St. (US-23) in Tawas City.

Sanderson adds that veterans can also be connected to resources by calling 1-800-MICH-VET.