Senator Cris Dush E-Newsletter

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If you know a Veteran, please forward this issue to them.  There are some important updates, resources and information they can use. As this is our January issue, I’d also like to wish all our veterans a Happy New Year.

In this Update:

  • It’s a New Year and that Means it’s Time for Veterans to Review, Update Benefits Earned in Service
  • Real Estate Tax Exemption
  • Educational Gratuity Program
    Food Assistance for Veterans and Their Families in Clinton County
  • Substance Use Teletherapy for Veterans
  • Vet Centers

It’s a New Year and that Means it’s Time for Veterans to Review, Update Benefits Earned in Service

With the start to 2022, the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) says it’s a good time for veterans to review and update their military benefits.

The DMVA is reminding veterans to meet with an accredited veteran service professional to ensure they are receiving or maximizing the benefits they have earned through their service and sacrifice. Currently, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a benefits review can take place by phone or virtually on the computer.

Anyone needing assistance locating their military documentation can contact the DMVA by calling toll-free 800-547-2838 or emailing: RA-REQ@pa.gov.

Veterans are also urged to apply for federal healthcare and state benefits by visiting their local county director of veterans affairs or area accredited veteran service organizations to take a look at what benefits they may be eligible for and to get help applying for those benefits.

Pennsylvania’s nearly 800,000 veterans should likewise sign up for the DMVA Veterans Registry, a free tool from the DMVA that electronically delivers timely information about the many state benefits, programs and services available to veterans. Veterans, family members and people who work with veterans can sign up by computer or mobile device at register.dmva.pa.gov.

Real Estate Tax Exemption

The DMVA administers a Real Estate Tax Exemption program to provide real estate tax exemption to any honorably discharged veteran who is 100% disabled, a resident of the commonwealth, and has a financial need.

To find out more about the program, see the DMVA’s website.

Educational Gratuity Program

The DMVA Educational Gratuity Program provides financial assistance to children of honorably discharged veterans who have service-connected disabilities and served during a period of war or armed conflict or children of veterans who died in service during a period of war or armed conflict.

For those who are eligible, payments will not exceed $500 per term or semester per qualified child to each approved educational institution upon submission by that approved educational institution of proof of matriculation of the applicant. Educational gratuity payments are paid directly to the educational institution and may not be made for longer than 4 scholastic years.

To find out more about the program, see the DMVA’s website.

Food Assistance for Veterans and Their Families in Clinton County

In Northwest and Central Pennsylvania, roughly 20% of households receiving food assistance have at least one member who has served, or is currently serving, in the military.

In Clinton County, the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank’s Williamsport Health Food Hub (serving Bradford, Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Columbia, Lycoming, Montour, Northumberland, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga and Union counties) works with the Clinton County Veterans Affairs Office to offer MilitaryShare, a Produce Express Program designed to provide fresh, nutritious foods for families with at least one member who has served in the armed forces. Pre-registration and proof of military service is required.

Clinton County’s program currently distributes food to over 260 veteran families each month with the help of 20 to 30 volunteers, many of which are veterans.

The Castanea Fire Company’s picnic grounds, located at 859 Lower Creek Rd. in Lock Haven, hosts the Clinton County distributions every third Thursday of the month (except June) from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. For more information, contact Jennifer Hagaman at (570) 893-4339 or jhagaman@clintoncountypa.com.

Substance Use Teletherapy for Veterans

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has partnered with Forge VFR (Veterans and First Responders) to offer outpatient behavioral health services to veterans to improve access to substance abuse and mental health services, with a goal of reducing suicide.

Forge VFR offers confidential, outpatient treatment programs designed for veterans, first responders, and their families, with services available at their physical locations and through their telehealth services, all in-network with Humana Military (TRICARE) and the Veterans Community Care Network (VACCN).

According to the DMVA, the services are supplied at low cost, and in some cases, no cost.

For more about what Forge VFR has to offer, see their website.

What are Vet Centers?

VA Vet Centers provide free and confidential readjustment counseling for War-Zone Veterans and their families, World War II to the current Global War on Terror.

Vet Centers are small, non-medical, counseling centers conveniently located in your community. They’re staffed by highly trained counselors and team members dedicated to seeing you through the challenges that come with managing life during and after the military.

Our region is served by the DuBois Vet Center, which is one of 12 Vet Centers in Pennsylvania and over 300 across the country. Whether you come in for one-on-one counseling or to participate in a group session, at Vet Centers you can form social connections, try new things, and build a support system with people who understand you and want to help you succeed. The Dubois Vet Center has a new website which is designed to provide veterans, family members, and community partners the ability to see what services the center offers, as well as the center’s Community Access Points with a picture of the entrance so first time visitors have a frame of reference to help guide them in.

Who is eligible to receive services at Vet Centers?

Vet Center services are available to Veterans at no cost, regardless of discharge character, and without the need to be enrolled in VA health care or having a service-connected disability. If you are a Veteran or service member, including members of the National Guard and Reserve, you can access Vet Center services if you:

  • Served on active military duty in any combat theater or area of hostility.
  • Experienced military sexual trauma (regardless of gender or service era.)
  • Provided mortuary services or direct emergent medical care to treat the casualties of war while serving on active military duty.
  • Performed as a member of an unmanned aerial vehicle crew that provided direct support to operations in a combat theater or area of hostility.
  • Accessed care at a Vet Center prior to January 2, 2013 as a Vietnam-Era Veteran.
  • Served on active military duty in response to a national emergency or major disaster declared by the president, or under orders of the governor or chief executive of a state in response to a disaster or civil disorder in that state.
  • Are a current or former member of the Coast Guard who participated in a drug interdiction operation, regardless of the location.

Contacting your local Vet Center

Even if you are unsure if you meet the criteria to receive services from a Vet Center, please contact a center – if the center can’t help you, they’ll find someone who will.

Center services are also available to family members when their participation would support the growth and goals of the Veteran or active-duty service member. If you consider them family, so does your local center. Bereavement services are also available to family members of Veterans who were receiving Vet Center services at the time of the Veteran’s death, and to the families of service members who died while serving on active duty.

The DuBois Vet Center, located at 100 Meadow Lane, Suite 8, DuBois, PA 15801, can be contacted at 814-372-2095 or toll free 24/7 at 1-877-WAR-VETS(927-8387).

The other Vet Center locations in Pennsylvania are:

  • Bucks County Vet Center, 2 Canals End Road, Suite 201B, Bristol, PA 19007, 215-823-4590
  • Erie Vet Center, 240 West 11th Street, Suite 105, Erie, PA 16501, 814-453-7955
  • Harrisburg Vet Center, 1500 N. Second Street, Harrisburg, PA 17102, 717-782-3954
  • Lancaster Vet Center, 1817 Olde Homestead Lane, Suite 207, Lancaster, PA 17601, 717-283-0735
  • Norristown Vet Center, 320 East Johnson Highway, Suite 201, Norristown, PA 19401, 215-823-5245
  • City Center Philadelphia Vet Center, 801 Arch Street, Suite 502, Philadelphia, PA 19107, 215-627-0238
  • Northeast Philadelphia Vet Center, 101 East Olney Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19120, 215-924-4670
  • Pittsburgh Vet Center, 2500 Baldwick Road, Suite 15, Pittsburgh, PA 15205, 412-920-1765
  • Scranton Vet Center, 1002 Pittston Avenue, Scranton, PA 18505, 570-344-2676
  • White Oak Vet Center, 2001 Lincoln Way, Suite 280, White Oak, PA 15131, 412-678-7704
  • Williamsport Vet Center, 49 East Fourth Street, Suite 104, Williamsport, PA 17701, 570-327-5281

For more information, please visit www.vetcenter.va.gov

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