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.