GUEST COLUMN: Michigan cuts essential veterans outreach program just when it’s needed most

Sharing is caring!

Joshua Parish

On the same day that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended her stay-in-place order, she quietly defunded the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency’s most successful veteran’s outreach program, commonly known as the Regional Coordinator (RC) program, which was designed to identify gaps in resources for veterans and their families and connect them to the benefits they deserve through their service.

This program was literally saving veteran’s lives. During this pandemic, I have helped several suicidal veterans, and with the swipe of a pen the program was shut down under the guise of saving money. If this isn’t the definition of an essential program, I don’t know what is.

The veteran suicide rate in Michigan is significantly higher than the national suicide rate.

Just ask Afghanistan war veteran Joe Riker.

“The RC program was doing so many great things in the communities they served, and this is the last program I thought they would ever cut,” Riker said. “Expect to see a rise in unresolved veterans’ issues now that this program is cut.”

I know full well the importance of this program. I am an Iraq war veteran, and I have small children at home. Now I don’t have health care for them.

Michigan is broken up into prosperity regions based upon veteran’s population.  There are 10 prosperity regions in the state that serve all 83 counties. Regional coordinators work closely with veterans to ensure that they are given a “warm hand-off” to agencies that can effectively assist with their needs. Over the past five years the RC program has connected tens of thousands of veterans to their benefits and have formed partnerships with agencies to improve the lives of our veterans and their families.

Michigan is ranked among the bottom three states in the nation in regard to services that are provided to its veterans. The state’s decision to cut this program confirms why Michigan remains in the bottom for veteran care.

Veterans served their country and when they come home, they deserve to be taken care of to the fullest extent. To cut veteran outreach when veterans are at their most vulnerable is appalling.

If you would like to see this essential program reinstated call Gov. Whitmer at (517) 335-7858; or contact the MVAA Director Zaneta Adams at (517) 284-5217 or (517) 599-9492, or email her at Adamsz@michigan.gov.

Joshua Parish is the chief executive officer of My Veteran Records. Deployed to Iraq in 2003 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom/Enduring Freedom, Jhe is an Army veteran with more than eight years of service. He previously served as the program administrator for the Livingston County Veterans Services Veterans Relief Fund. He is the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency Southeast Michigan Regional Coordinator in Region 9, which includes Livingston, Hillsdale, Jackson, Lenawee, Monroe and Washtenaw counties.

Sharing is caring!

6 Comments

  1. This Governor has finally decided to make sure she won’t be reelected. She has made some horrible decisions but this is the worst yet. I am a Veteran and am getting assistance from the VA. I was in the Army from October 1954 until July 1956 serving in the Artillery. I am getting an allowance each month due to the damage to my hearing while serving in the Artillery’ She has thumbed her nose at all those military people who,have lost their limbs. She is really a lame brain..

  2. Being the wife of a retired disabled veteran, this is a very vital program and absolutely needs to be reinstated. Living in the Upper Peninsula the services are that much more important. PLEASE GET THE GOVERNOR TO REINSTATE THIS PROGRAM AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

  3. I think she is a disgrace to Michigan veterans I guess she doesn’t realize that all those veterans put their life on the line for freedom and she is taking it all away shame on you .

  4. As a former Mental Health worker, it’s frustrating to see cuts or defunding. Our veterans have service related vulnerabilities, they are due critical services when they need MH supports.

  5. As the daughter of a veteran and a former Michigan resident, I am feeling very sad for the Michigan veterans. I hope that the governed can re-think this decision and re-fund the program.

    • The following is an email I sent today to our governors VA staff coordinator regarding funding cuts for our Veterans Affairs Regional Coordinators initiated earlier this month:

      Dear Sir or Mam,

      I recently was informed via state media news reports that our VA Regional Coordinator funding here in the great state of Michigan was stopped by our Governor and deemed non essential.

      While I do agree with our governor on several decisions she and our legislation have made during the covid-19 pandemic, I wholeheartedly disagree with our governor’s decision to cut funding for our state’s veterans and their families. This decision is heartbreaking and is an absolute kick in the face and groin to our veterans and their families that are in greater need now more than ever. Our heroes are essential and are do not deserve this funding cut.

      Michigan is the home of thousands of veterans and their families that depend and rely on VA Regional Coordinators especially during this nations global pandemic. Classifying these VA funds and positions as non essential is ludicrous, immoral, unethical and disturbing to say the least. Apparently from our governors perspective, liquor and lottery tickets have taken priority over veterans health and wellbeing as well as their families. I ask you simply, how can anyone with a heart and clear functioning mind kick veterans to the gutters to keep paths to liquor and lottery sales open?

      I encourage you to inform our governor to take the time to reconsider and reverse this immoral and unethical action immediately and without delay. I further ask that your office call me directly Monday through Friday from 0800 to 1800 hrs @ 517 XXX XXXX concerning this matter to assist in getting this disgusting decision corrected. Should you decide not to work with our state’s veterans to reverse this issue, hold the horns and I’ll gladly corral this bull you’ve allowed to run loose.

      The decision to continue cutting funding for our state’s veterans and their families is not a morally acceptable option and one that could lead to legal class action lead by myself against the governor through our state judiciary system. Instead of ” fixing the dam roads ” to the liquor stores and lottery machines, how about we work together to fix the ” dam disconnection between the governor, her mind and her heart regarding our state’s heroes and Veterans health and welbeing?” Stomping on our veterans and their families and their health and wellbeing is no way to fix anything morally and it never will be. Our veterans are not bricks for paths to the liquor and lottery aisles in Michigan or anywhere else!!! got it??

      Your constituent,

      Sean E. Knudsen
      Commander, VFW Post 6333
      Kaleva, Michigan
      Operation Iraqi freedom 3 Veteran

What do you think?