State Rep. Michael Webber, of Rochester Hills, has cosponsored legislation providing financial incentive to encourage Michigan counties to establish and maintain veteran service offices.
Currently, 11 counties do not have a local veteran support department and many other counties are understaffed. This poses a great barrier for veterans who are looking for help navigating their hard-earned benefits.
“Having a local office provides for that in-person experience that sometimes helps make applying for benefits or working through the process a little more comfortable,“ Webber said. ““Oakland County has been ahead of the curve on this effort, which is recognized in this legislation. Our veterans have sacrificed their lives for our freedoms and I fully support efforts to provide them the resources they deserve.”
Under the bill, each county with a veteran service office which satisfies the requirements outlined in the bill will receive $25,000, plus an additional amount based on the number of veterans in the county. The bill calls for $5 million in state budget dollars to fund the incentive.
In order to receive funds a county must:
- Maintain a county veteran service office;
- Have an accredited veterans benefit claims employee on staff;
- Provide at least 20 hours of service each month assisting veterans;
- Maintain the previous year’s county funding level for the veteran service office;
- Report to the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency and Legislature regarding the amount of claims completed throughout the year.
House Bill 5536 was referred to the House Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.