WASHINGTON D.C. (WBUP) — Many people who served in the military may be eligible for benefits that they are not receiving.
About 28,000 veterans live in the Upper Peninsula, according to the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency.
But that number could actually be much higher because many people leave the military with discharges that are other than honorable which can cripple a veterans opportunity to obtain benefits.
After many members of the military have faithfully served our country, they are unable to get the benefits they deserve.
A compelling story of a homeless man in Grand Rapids particularly stood out for U.S. Senator from Michigan, Gary Peters.
The result was Peters introducing the landmark Fairness for Veterans Act which was included in the 2017 military funding bill.
If a veteran is kicked out of the military because of negative behavior related to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, traumatic brain injury or sexual trauma they can upgrade their discharges.
Hundreds of thousands of people who served are potentially left without access to care because of less than honorable discharges.
The 2017 law requires military officials to review medical evidence to see whether mental illness or injury led to a discharge.
Unfortunately a study from Harvard Law School found that since 1980, nearly 400,000 veterans were left without care.
Discharges that are other than honorable are referred to as “bad paper” because of the negative consequences they have and the stigma they carry.
Many people still carry bad papers because an upgrade is not easy. Although review boards are supposed to lean on the veteran’s side, the process involves legal hurdles where the burden falls on veterans who have to be very well prepared for the review.
It is also a lengthy bureaucratic process where the Navy Review Board which includes the Marine Corps can take three to six months, while the army can take up to three years.
Although the process isn’t perfect, getting an upgrade can open up opportunities to access G.I. benefits as well as be treated fairly when seeking health care.
The state of Michigan has an agency dedicated to helping veterans break down barriers they might encounter for issues ranging from education to health care.
You can contact the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency at 1-800-MICH-VET to find information, resources, and support.