Veterans deserve more funding for services

By MICHAEL MILLER

Director, Office of Veterans Affairs

After last Monday’s County Board meeting, many veterans felt hopeful. During that meeting, the commissioners decided to hold a special meeting to debate and decide on a long-term funding solution for the Office of Veterans’ Affairs. This meeting and the forthcoming action is due in large part to the foresight and initiative of Commissioner John Degenaer. He brought the idea forward. He insisted a solution was needed.

There are some important concerns that need to be addressed before a solution will be found. Here are the most important ones.

First, some commissioners are satisfied with the current funding and employment situation. While the DC/OVA agreement satisfies the flexibility requirements of the commissioners, Commissioner Degenaer recognized the current arrangement has kept the veterans office in constant flux, resulting in unpredictable services and decreasing availability from the veterans office. Monday night, Commissioner Degenaer (supported by Commissioner Joe Stevens) suggested it’s time to flip that relationship and place the needs of the veterans before the preferences of the board.

Second, some commissioners are concerned approving this measure would jeopardize the outcome of the millage vote on the Aug. 2 primary ballot. It’s true, many veterans did not vote for the past millage increases because there were no assurances for veteran support, but the Degenaer-led solution has changed everything. Recently, the Veterans Council Executive Board voted to unequivocally support the Aug. 2 millage increase.

“Government efficiency is important,” said Bob Clutter, chairman of the veterans council, “but county services are necessary, too. It’s clear the Commissioners have tried everything to make ends meet. It was encouraging to hear what John and Joe said tonight.”

He added, “Nearly every member of the council attended Monday night’s meeting, I’m confident they will vote to support the millage in our July meeting, and more importantly, starting next Wednesday, will work for its passage.”

Lastly, for some time the county commissioners believed creating a county Office of Veterans Affairs, supported by its own millage, violated Michigan law. Last Monday, county Treasurer Dolly Cook reported the model used by Marquette County was legal and allowable.

She added that Dickinson County can propose a ballot measure that will allow voters to decide if they want an Office of Veteran Affairs, and if funding for that office should come from a separate millage.

At 6 p.m. Wednesday in the county courthouse, led by the courage and foresight of John Degenaer, the commissioners will begin the process to “Let (the veterans) have what they deserve” as Commissioner Joe Stevens said Monday.

The commissioners need to hear from you. If you are a veteran, or a family member of a veteran, or if you support veterans services, then please attend this important meeting, or at least let your commissioner know your position. Let the commissioners know you support a county Office of Veterans Affairs, you support the commissioners’ hard work and will support the Aug. 2 millage.