Officials host forum spotlighting veterans services

By: Brian Louwers, | Warren Weekly | Published October 10, 2017

WARREN — Navigating the myriad of services available for veterans through the various tiers of local, county, state and federal agencies can be overwhelming and exhausting.

However, there are resources that exist specifically to help veterans with that task. Many of them were assembled Oct. 2 at Macomb Community College in Warren, where about 60 vets had a chance to meet with the experts capable of offering needed guidance and assistance.

The session was hosted by state Sens. Steve Bieda and Vincent Gregory; state Reps. John Chirkun, Pat Green and Henry Yanez; Macomb County Commissioner Andrey Duzyj; Warren City Treasurer Lori Barnwell; and City Councilman Keith Sadowski.

“My father was a veteran, as you know, of the Korean War era. I try to help as much as I can with these veterans groups,” Bieda said. “One of the things I’ve found going door to door, there are a lot of veterans that are not really keyed in to some of the things that are available to them.

“These are services that are currently available to veterans. It’s nothing new,” Bieda said. “Sometimes we don’t do a good job connecting point A to point B. That’s what we’re hoping to do today.”

Barnwell said the idea of hosting a forum to connect vets with the agencies that serve them came after the group of officials met last spring with a group of local veterans.

“They told us their main issues were health care, jobs and education,” Barnwell said.

Information presented at the session included the various health care benefits available through the Veterans Administration, information about the GI Bill and other educational opportunities available through the federal government, and a list of programs and services for veterans at the state level.

Laura Rios, a retired U.S. Air Force master sergeant and Macomb County’s chief veteran services officer, offered a summary of benefits and services available for veterans in Macomb County. Those benefits include certified copies of discharge papers and requests for service medals and records. Counselors at the county level are also available to provide assistance for veterans and family members seeking information about federal, state or county agencies in areas including burials and grave markers, survivor and dependent benefits, trust funds, and special compensation for prisoners of war and service members subjected to Agent Orange.

Macomb County also offers a summary of available benefits and resources online through a portal at vets.macombgov.org/vets-benefits.