In this Update:
Resources for Understanding Military Benefits and Tax Filing
Members of the military or veterans may find these resources on taxes and their benefits helpful this tax season.
For Pennsylvania state taxes, this U.S. Army site provides information on such things as:
For federal taxes, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides information on how veterans can maximize their tax benefits. It covers what’s taxable and what’s not and includes the AARP Foundation’s Tax-Aide program, which offers free tax help to anyone, with a focus on taxpayers who are 50 and older and have low to moderate incomes.
Helping Veterans Apply for Benefits: DMVA Mobile Outreach Van Teams
The Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) operates Mobile Veterans Outreach Vans throughout the state to assist veterans in obtaining information and initiating benefit claim paperwork through the assistance of DMVA accredited veteran service officers.
To book an outreach van for community events, complete the Van Request Form and submit it six months but not less than 45 days prior to your event using email (RA-VA-Info@pa.gov), fax (717‐861‐8121) or the following mailing address: Pennsylvania Mobile Veteran Service Van, Office of Veterans Affairs, Attn: Outreach and Reintegration Team Building 9-26, Fort Indiantown Gap Annville, PA 17003-5002.
The DMVA says it will make every effort to fulfill requests, but that will depend on the demand, so they cannot guarantee every request will be accommodated as submitted. If alternate dates are available, please indicate this on the form.
Requests with less than a 30-day turnaround will be handled on a space available basis only, according to the DMVA.
Good News for Veterans, Caregivers in VA’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers
The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) has announced that for its Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC), the department is extending eligibility and applicable benefits for legacy participants and legacy applicants through Sept. 30, 2025. If you or a family member are participating in the program you should go to the web sites here to check on your continuing eligibility.
During this time, the VA will not discharge or decrease any support to legacy participants, legacy applicants and their family caregivers, based on reassessment, to include monthly stipends paid to primary family caregivers.
This extends the transition period and timeline to complete reassessments for legacy participants, legacy applicants and their family caregivers for an additional three years.
The VA has indicated it will continue to complete reassessments of legacy participants, legacy applicants and their family caregivers at the request of the veteran or family caregiver or if evidence of an increased need for personal care services is identified.
Any primary family caregiver eligible for an increase in their monthly stipend will receive it.
If you receive a PCAFC decision and disagree with that decision, the options to seek further review or appeal of the decision remain the same. Information about review and appeal options for PCAFC decisions can be found on the VA Caregiver Support Program website.
PA’s Military Occupational Crosswalk
The Pennsylvania Department of State (DOS) has developed a Military Occupational Crosswalk to identify and relate civilian career opportunities and requirements to veterans’ military experience.
The crosswalk compares qualification details from nearly 300 military occupations to the initial requirements for DOS licensure for related professions. These have been matched to licensed professions administered by the professional licensing boards and commissions in Pennsylvania. The purpose of the crosswalk is to relate skills, experience, credentials and education obtained in the military and help servicemembers/veterans align them with civilian opportunities.
The crosswalk helps determine which military occupations qualifications are “substantially equivalent” to the state’s requirements for licensure and identify gaps between civilian occupational licensure requirements and a veteran’s current knowledge, skills, education and training.
Translation of a veteran’s education, training, experience and skills into civilian career goals is a multi-step process that can have a variety of outcomes. More about that process and how to use the Military Occupational Crosswalk can be found here.
Winners of $20 Million Mission Daybreak Veteran Suicide Grant Challenge Announced
In June, this mission report mentioned the VA’s open invitation to innovators across the country to participate in Mission Daybreak, a $20 million challenge designed to help the VA develop new suicide prevention strategies for veterans.
During this challenge, the VA received more than 1,300 innovation submissions from veterans, veteran service organizations, community-based organizations, health technology companies, startups and universities with solutions ranging from lethal means safety concepts, to targeted virtual care programs, to other promising suicide prevention solutions that offer healing and recovery to veterans.
This effort is a key part of the VA’s 10-year National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide. In September, the VA released the 2022 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, which showed that veteran suicides decreased in 2020 for the second year in a row, and that fewer veterans died by suicide in 2020 than in any year since 2006.
If you’re a veteran in crisis or concerned about one, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive 24/7 confidential support. You don’t have to be enrolled in VA benefits or health care to connect. To reach responders, Dial 988 then Press 1, chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat, or text 838255.
VA Offers $30 Million in Grant Funding to Assist Formerly Homeless Veterans
The VA has announced $30 million in grant funding will be made available for organizations to help formerly homeless veterans maintain their independence and housing stability.
This funding opportunity will give organizations the funding they need to hire case managers, who will help veterans search for, obtain and successfully transition to permanent housing; troubleshoot challenges and barriers to maintaining permanent housing; connect with services to address issues such as poor credit history, rent arrears, and legal issues; and more.
The VA anticipates awarding 100 Case Management Grants for up to $300,000 each to support approximately 150 case manager positions nationwide. Awards will fund two years of operations, starting on Oct. 1, 2023, and ending Sept. 30, 2025. The funds are available through VA’s Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem (GPD) Program.
Eligible entities, as described in the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), may apply for these Case Management Grants. Grant applications must be received by the GPD Program Office by 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 4, 2023. To learn more about GPD, view the NOFO or email GPDGrants@va.gov.
If you are a veteran or know a veteran who is experiencing homelessness or at risk for homelessness, call the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 877-4AID-VET (877-424-3838). Visit the VA Homeless Programs website to learn about housing initiatives and other programs for Veterans exiting homelessness.
My Recommended Read for Veterans in the Month of March: Warnings Unheeded
On June 20, 1994, a gunman opened fire, killing five and wounding 22, in the hospital at Fairchild Air Force Base, located about twelve miles southwest of Spokane, Washington. Four days later, a rogue pilot crashed a B-52 bomber during an air show practice flight at the air base.
The military police officer – former Staff Sergeant Andy Brown – who stopped the gunman has written Warnings Unheeded. In the book, Brown writes both the crash and shooting spree could have been prevented.
According to Brown, his heroism came at a cost to his own mental health, and writing this book served as an important part of his therapy.
This book is the true story of the Air Force men and women who struggled to prevent a mass murder and a fatal plane crash.
Using information garnered from interviews, reports, witness statements, medical records, letters and journal entries, Brown’s narrative reveals the events before, during and after the tragedies.
What are Vet Centers?
I’ve been asked this question by a number of my fellow vets and feel it’s important to provide an answer to those who haven’t reached out yet.
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 our region. 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’ website 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.
From my time in the State House through my current position, I’ve had a strong relationship with the Dubois Vet Center. They have helped me help many of my fellow vets including a couple in serious, time-critical events.
Two Recreational Therapy Groups Available at the Dubois Vet Center
As part of a national competition, the DuBois Vet Center was approved for initial funding for two recreational therapy groups.
One of the groups is an introduction to fly tying for fly fishing, with one of the center’s counselors being an avid fly tyer and fisherman. The other group is a no sew blanket group, which the center hopes will generate interest from women veterans, but the group is open to anyone who would like to join.
The groups will be held at the Vet Center with approximately 4 cohorts to run quarterly with 6 vets in each cohort. The center says it hopes to grow these groups and potentially be able to have them at the center’s Community Access Points (CAPs) in McKean, Centre and Blair counties, with the possibility of adding more recreational therapy groups in the future.
The center noted the initial funding will help them launch the groups, but they will be actively trying to obtain additional funding they can expand on them.
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:
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. From personal experience I can tell you that, 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 DuBois Vet Center recently announced counseling and referral services are now being provided at the State College American Legion Post 245, in addition to the many services they offer at their locations in DuBois, Altoona, Bradford, Penn State-DuBois, Smethport and their mobile Vet Center.
The other Vet Center locations in Pennsylvania are:
For more information, please visit www.vetcenter.va.gov
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