2013-06-06 / Front Page

VA: Services available in area

IDs, emergency fund among assistance

MANISTIQUE – Are you a veteran looking for assistance? If so, look no further than the Schoolcraft County Veteran Services Office.

According to Vicki Stewart, local veteran service counselor, the main responsibility of the office is to file claims for veterans for compensation/ disability, pension, widow’s pension, or to be enrolled in the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs’ health system. Another service offered by Schoolcraft County’s office is assistance from the Veteran’s Relief Fund. This fund is maintained with a millage from Schoolcraft County residents.

“It can only be used to help veterans in times of emergency,” Stewart said. “I can do car repairs, food vouchers, gas cards, utility shut-off notices, propane fill-ups.”

She noted that while not every veteran can use the fund, the only way to know if they qualify is to call the office. The fund is only open to Schoolcraft County residents.

One thing Stewart can do for any veteran is file claims for the other VA services for themselves or their families.

She can also enroll veterans in the courtesy veteran ID card program, which was started two years ago. While the state recently approved a veteran ID to be included on licenses, this change won’t take place until May 2014. Until then, Stewart said veterans may come to her.

“There’s only a couple ways that you have an ID card as a veteran,” she said. “A young woman or a young man serves four years in the military and gets out – there’s no way that they can prove that they were in the military except if they would carry their discharge papers around.”

While retired veterans or those enrolled in the VA health system generally have ID cards, others may purchase an ID from Stewart’s office for $5 in-county, $10 out-ofcounty.

“There are 11 businesses in town right now that would give discounts to veterans if they showed a veteran ID card,” she said. “Nationwide, they’re all over the place – major hotels and restaurants … now they have a way to show they’re a veteran.”

Stewart added that the addition of the veteran ID to the licenses will assist everyone in locating veterans who may need assistance.

“That’s going to be a good way for the state of Michigan to finally find out where all of our veterans are,” she explained. “Here, in Schoolcraft County this year, we have 900 veterans – well that’s just 900 veterans who are using the VA system somehow.

That’s how the VA can follow them, because they’re in the system,” she continued. “I’ve already got 115 veterans who came in to get an ID card – they’re not using the VA system, so the VA doesn’t know that they are here – neither does the state of Michigan.”

Stewart currently works three days a week in the office, but is also available via email or telephone

“Give me a call – call the office and ask the questions,” she said.

To contact Stewart, call 341- 3669, email veterans@schoolcraftcounty.net or stop in at the Schoolcraft County Veteran Services office in room 206 in the Schoolcraft County Courthouse.

Quick Facts

Schoolcraft County population: ...............................................8,343
City of Manistique population: ................................................3,097
Schoolcraft County veteran population: ....................................900

VA funding received by Schoolcraft County veterans:

Compensation and pension only:................$3,775,000
Education benefits only: ................................$126,000
Medical care only: .....................................$2,001,000
Total received from all benefits: .................$5,920,000

Source: Department of Veterans Affairs, United States Census Bureau

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