Lest We Forget, Part 4

It’s Mike Hoey writing again.

The state Senate has a new bill in front of it that could dramatically change the jobs of people who help veterans get their V.A. benefits.

They might even *lose* their jobs.

So, what do U.P. veterans think about that?

It’s Part 4 of my week-long series, ‘Lest We Forget’.

The veterans’ groups that the service officers work for pay them with state funding.

But Senate Bill 250 would eliminate that funding.

For some area veterans, it’s not the idea of the bill that’s bad…it’s how the bill accomplishes its goal.

Wally Kari, commander of the Gwinn VFW post, says it appears the state wants more control over the money that it gives to the veterans’ organizations.

He doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting that, but he doesn’t like the idea of adding another level of government to the chain of command.

Jim Shelly says the idea of a state Veterans’ Affairs Directorate is a long way off, and it may never happen at all, so it would be a mistake to rush to judgment.

He thinks everything in the bill that people disagree with will be worked out before it’s voted on.

For Chic LaFave, the bill is actually a good thing because it shows the state is serious about monitoring spending during the recession.

He knows there probably aren’t many veterans who share his view of it, but he thinks the proposal is a good starting point.

Veterans are paying close attention to Bill 250, especially on the Internet.

Websites and online message boards catering to Michigan veterans have been buzzing about the bill, and its potential consequences, ever since the bill entered the Senate Appropriations Committee in late March.

LaFave hopes all veterans are paying attention, and he wants everyone to contact state representatives and state senators to let them know how you feel.

Because the bill is on its 1st draft and it had an amendment last week that would allow the groups to keep their funding, the groups themselves aren’t getting the word out about it on an official basis.

But Kari thinks all 11 veterans’ groups in the state will do that in the near future.

Shelly says as long as veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan can continue to get the care they deserve, especially soldiers who’ve been hurt by things like homemade bombs, he’ll be OK with whatever comes down the pipeline.

As for that V.A. care, the V.A. is trying to make itself more accessible in Manistique through a plan to re-use an unlikely old building.

I’ll have that Friday night in the 5th and final part of ‘Lest We Forget’.