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2021 Accomplishments Countdown: Supporting Michigan's Military Service Members, Veterans and their Families
December 30, 2021
2021 Accomplishments Countdown: Supporting Military Service Members, Veterans and Their Families
Governor Whitmer counts down to 2022 by highlighting administration's progress on ten kitchen-table issues that makes a difference in people's lives
LANSING, Mich. - The Whitmer-Gilchrist administration is counting down the last ten days of 2021 by celebrating Michigan's progress on ten fundamental kitchen-table issues. Today we celebrate progress Michigan has made to support military service members, veterans and their families.
"The men and women of the Michigan National Guard and those from Michigan in active-duty and other reserve components of our military serve our state and nation with honor and distinction. We must do everything we can to support them and help them thrive," said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. "I've been focused on growing and establishing programs to expand opportunity, deliver resources and make changes at the state-level to recognize the sacrifices made by our veterans, service members and their families. Together, we can ensure they have access to great healthcare, have pathways to higher education or skills training and the opportunity to find a good-paying job."
"The Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs is guided by one fundamental promise: that those who are serving or have honorably served our state and nation are 'members for life'," said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul D. Rogers, Director and Adjutant General of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. "In all that we do, we are driven by this underlying commitment, and I could not be prouder of what we have accomplished this year in support of Governor Whitmer's priority to help Michigan's military service members and veterans thrive."
Governor Whitmer has worked to ensure Michigan's veterans, military service members and their families have the opportunities and support they need to succeed. She has signed legislation to reduce barriers to professional licensure, provided funding to lower the costs of higher education and skills training for service members and proposed investments to ensure Michigan's female soldiers have equitable facilities at National Guard facilities.
Additionally, the governor and her administration have expanded key initiatives and boosted outreach to our veterans, ensuring that these individuals and their families have the resources they need.
"With the Governor's support, we are proud of what we were able to accomplish in 2021 including the removal of professional licensing barriers for veterans, expansion of the state's veteran's hiring preference program, providing emergency grants to peacetime-era veterans and increased recognition of veteran-friendly employers and veteran advocates," said Zaneta Adams, director of the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA) and a U.S. Army veteran. "Through its collaborative approach with the state's veteran service organization and county veteran service offices, the MVAA will continue to take steps to connect veterans, transitioning service members and their families with the benefits they have earned and the resources they need in order to thrive here in Michigan."
The state also celebrated the opening of two new State Veteran Homes, one in Grand Rapids and one in Macomb County. This momentous occasion marked an ongoing focus and commitment to modernizing the way we provide skilled nursing care to our state's veterans and their eligible dependents.
"The new Michigan Veteran Homes at Chesterfield Township and Michigan Veteran Homes at Grand Rapids, provide extraordinary skilled nursing care in a home-like setting to veterans and their dependents," said Anne Zerbe, executive director of Michigan Veteran Homes. "We are excited for what the future holds as we continue to expand the range of services we offer and continue on the path to constructing additional new Homes so that we can better serve this most deserving population."
- Opened two new Michigan Veterans Homes, one replacement Home in Grand Rapids, and a new Home in Chesterfield Township in Macomb County.
- Signed four bipartisan bills to help veterans and their families advance in their careers by removing barriers that prevent service members, veterans and dependents from entering a licensed profession.
- Signed legislation to implement "Even Exchange" which waives the knowledge test requirement for a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) for qualified military drivers. This combined with the already existing skills test waiver will now allow military members and veterans with certain Military Occupation Specialty training (truck driving) to get their CDL in Michigan without additional testing required.
- Conducted over 2,300 coronavirus response missions - administered by 3,150 service members from Joint Task Force Michigan - in all 83 counties.
- Supported the Michigan Youth Challenge Academy, a program to educate, train and mentor at-risk youth at no cost to participants, giving young people the skills to become productive and responsible citizens. In 2021, 200+ cadets graduated from the program.
- Provided $6.5 million in funding for the Michigan National Guard Tuition Assistance Program (MINGSTAP) that provides up to $14,400 for tuition at in-state institutions for associate and baccalaureate degrees and up to $6,000 for certificate and master's degree programs annually to members of the MING. Over 1,400 service members utilized this benefit in the past year.
- Proposed an over $100 million investment (split between state and federal governments) to upgrade and make improvements to ensure Michigan's female soldiers have equitable facilities at the state's Army National Guard facilities. Design work has begun, and construction can commence as soon as the legislature appropriates the funds.
- The Michigan Veteran Resource Service Center (1-800-MICHVET) handled 26,205 cases for veterans and their dependents in fiscal year 2021 (FY21), an average of 2,183 cases per month. That is the most cases they have ever handled in a single year - by a wide margin - and represents a 58% increase in cases from FY20.
- The Michigan Veterans Trust Fund approved 426 applications for $1.3 million in emergency grant assistance. That is a 26% increase in emergency aid from the year prior and an average of more than $3,000 per grant recipient.
- Sign legislation, as soon as the Legislature passes it, to allow for the transferability of MINGSTAP benefits to a service member's spouse.
- Ensure that veterans, service members and their families are properly connected to local community groups, including veteran service organizations (VSOs), that can help connect veterans to the benefits they have earned and provide employment, healthcare and other services and resources.
- Provide funding to construct one or more new State Veteran Homes to ensure 95% of Michigan's veterans have access to focused, high-quality, long-term care services within 75 miles of their home.
- Continue to invest in and expand the capabilities of the National All-Domain Warfighting Center (NADWC) to better position Michigan as a key destination for military training and innovation.
- Continue to attract and serve as a destination for research and development innovators to test emerging technologies for Department of Defense programs.
"The Governor has worked collaboratively to both honor and recognize the sacrifices of our service members, veterans and their families. Through a broad range of new initiatives and programs, more opportunities are being afforded to those who have served or currently serve our communities, state and nation. With the support of these programs, Michigan will continue to be a leader in services and improved quality of life for our most honored citizens," said Jason Wallner, OIF/OEF Army Veteran, Upper Peninsula.
"The American Legion applauds Governor Whitmer for her advocacy for Michigan's veterans and we are proud to have her support of The American Legion, VFW, VVA and DAV's officers across the state," said Richard Dubay Sr., state commander of The American Legion.
"Governor Whitmer and her team have done an amazing job in supporting Michigan's veterans and Michigan's Veteran Service Organizations," said Kevin Conklin, state commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. "The funding increase the Governor supported for the VFW, American Legion, DAV and VVA's service officers are changing people's lives. We are excited that this funding increase will enable our organizations to scale the amazing work we do every day."