Program helps U.P. veterans get assistance

KEWEENAW — A program designed to help veterans gets the assistance they deserve in coming to the Upper Peninsula.

It’s an ongoing struggle connecting veterans with the benefits they’ve earned. The Veterans Community Action Team (VCAT) was introduced in Lower Michigan as part of Governor Rick Snyder’s Regional Prosperity Initiative.

It’s goal, to help veterans close the gaps that separate them from getting assistance.

Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency Director Jeff Barnes said, “There are a lot of changes in eligibility that occurs on a pretty regular basis at the Federal level, so if you don’t look full time to the VA, you probably aren’t aware of it. We want to make it easier for veterans that may have served during different periods to come into contact with a service provider that can help them when there is an expansion in their eligibility or a change in the services that we can offer.”

The Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency is holding a series of meetings with local service organizations to start bridging those gaps. They also hope to learn from the success that the region has had in providing veteran’s services.

Barnes said, “If you were to look at the U.P., away from the rest of the state, it would actually rank number two in overall utilization of benefits when compared against the other 49 states, which is pretty exciting. So, there are a lot of good lessons learned that we can take from the U.P. veteran’s service providers and take it down state so that we can better service those veterans as well. So, I think it’s going to be a win-win.”

Additional meetings will be held in Harris and Sault Ste. Marie.