State Rep. Beau LaFave of Iron Mountain cosponsored legislation Wednesday encouraging counties across the state to establish and maintain veteran service offices through a new grant program.
Under the measure, each county with a veteran service office that satisfies pre-approved requirements would receive $25,000, plus an additional amount based on the number of veterans in the county. To continue receiving the grant, an established county veteran service office must meet benchmarks for staff performance and reporting while maintaining the previous year’s funding level.
“One of the biggest headaches for veterans is finding their local liaison to help connect them to the benefits they are seeking,” LaFave said. “Not every county in Michigan has a veteran service office. This makes access to important services difficult for veterans in those counties. If Michigan wants to be a leader in veteran services, we need to prioritize it at a local level.”
Under the current veterans benefit model, the state supplies the Veteran Service Coalition with a grant to provide benefit services to veterans. Depending on the county, a Veteran Service Officer may only be available for a few hours each month at a single location.
“The grant will encourage counties to establish their own veteran service office with accredited service officers,” LaFave said. “I can’t stress enough how crucial it is to have an accredited service officer present in every county to extend the reach of our services. The window of opportunity for some cases is too slim to not have a presence statewide.”
The measure, House Bill 5536, now moves to the House Military and Veterans Affairs Committee for consideration.