By George Darany
With Veterans Day right around the corner, I wanted to take the opportunity to pause and thank those who have given so much for our country.
As a member of the House Military and Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security Committee, I have been fortunate to meet with a number of veterans throughout our community that have shared their concerns and stories. Veterans from World War II, who have shared their stories about D-Day. Veterans from Korea who speak of the bitter cold that they endured. Veterans from the Vietnam War, who truly humbled me with their stories. And our most recent veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, who are returning home to a difficult economy and competitive job market.
I was truly honored when I was presented with a United States flag on Memorial Day in remembrance of serviceman, John C. Page, World War I; William A. Schmidt, World War II; and Paul Wilson, World War II. I proudly display this flag in my Lansing office as a constant reminder of how heroic our military service men and women are and how much their sacrifices truly mean to our country.
Recent estimates say that our veterans are one of the most underserved populations in our state and that unclaimed benefits are some of the highest in the nation. In addition, only 40 percent of the veterans in our state are receiving all the benefits they are entitled to. This needs to change and I was encouraged by Gov. Rick Snyder’s recent health message indicating that our veterans are a priority. We need to improve access to quality medical care and we need to assist with the paperwork and logjam of applications awaiting review.
It is important that our veterans know what resources are available to them. A great way for veterans to get information regarding benefits is by contacting the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which can be reached toll-free at 800-827-1000. Additional information can also be found on the United States Veterans Administrations website, www.va.gov/. Those seeking information regarding the new GI Bill can go to www.gibill.va.gov/contact/ or call 888- GIBILL-1 (888-442-4551) from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Military service records can be requested by going to www.archives.gov/veterans/ and to get information on military awards and medals go to www.archives.gov/veterans/replace-medals.html. War veterans in the Dearborn area seeking assistance can contact the United States Veterans Affairs Department at 313-277-1428. Our own Dearborn Allied War Veterans Council is also an excellent resource for our veterans.
The latest studies state that more than 75,000 veterans are homeless on a typical night, and about 135,000 spend at least one night a year in a homeless shelter. The Veterans Administration is encouraging family, friends, and citizens in the community to “Make the Call” and help prevent and end homelessness among veterans. Since March 2010, the Veterans Administration has offered a toll-free telephone number, staffed around the clock by trained professionals, to help homeless veterans, their families, and at-risk people. The number is 877-4AID-VET (877-424-3838).
Additionally, the Department of Veterans Affairs recently launched a campaign to increase awareness about traumatic brain injury and services provided by the VA for service members recovering from TBI. More information about TBI and the VA’s Polytrauma/TBI System of Care is available at www.polytrauma.va.gov. In that respect, I have also introduced House Concurrent Resolution 29 which passed the House on Oct. 25, urging the Department of Defense to apply uniform standards when awarding the Purple Heart so that it applies to individuals with traumatic brain injuries. As I am sure we can all agree, those serving in our armed forces are completely deserving of our respect and admiration and it is so important that we acknowledge the tremendous sacrifices of all our military men and women who serve our nation.
This Veterans Day, please take the opportunity to thank our men and women of the armed services for all of the sacrifices they have made. Please join me at the Dearborn Veterans Day ceremony at 11 a.m. Nov. 11 at the Dearborn City Hall.
(State Rep. George Darany represents the 15th House District. To contact him, call 855-775-1515 or email him at [email protected]. To sign up for his e-newsletter, go to his website, www.house.mi.gov/gdarany.)