According to some critics, this year’s state budget seems
to sideline a prominent group of citizens – veterans and
their families.

The Michigan Association of County Veterans Counselors, a group
that assists veterans and their families in obtaining government
benefits, has been pushing the state to resume granting money to a
fund providing emergency services to veterans.

The group is criticizing state lawmakers for not providing and
aid for the Michigan Veterans Trust Fund in the proposed state
budget.

The state intervened in 1996 to cover a shortage in
the fund, and the Veterans Counselors claim that the fund is facing
another lack of money this year – a $3.5 million shortfall.

One of the significant drains to the veterans fund is that since
1996 the money has been used to provide educational grants of up to
$2,800 for children of those killed in combat or who have returned
completely disabled, the Veterans Counselors claim.

The educational grants were initially funded by the
state’s Education Department, but the state ceased funding
the grants in 1996.

This year the Michigan House of Representatives passed a bill
which would have reinstated funding for the grants, but the state
Senate voted it down.

The Michigan Veterans Trust Fund was endowed with $50 million
from the state government in 1945, and the interest derived from
the fund was to be spent on veterans’ aid.

However, due to the economy and the excessive need in the past
few years, many veterans have been turned down for aid, Veterans
Counselors President Charles Lerner said. The fund is down to $46.5
million, partly because most available resources have been used to
fund the educational grants, he said.

“We’ve been working with the legislature for the
last three years (about funding),” Lerner said.
“Nothing has made it through and we are down $4
million.”

The trust fund has spent an average of $900,000 each year
providing education grants. This past year, 441 students received
some form of aid from the fund. According to Ann Dutcher, director
of the Michigan Veterans Trust Fund, 22 of the 441 students attend
the University.

James Pintar, trustee of the fund, said that the money is used
to help veterans and their families who are down on their luck,
also adding that it is not a source of supplementary income.

Over the course of the summer, the Michigan House of
Representatives passed a bill that fully funded the act for the
year. But the state Senate voted against the proposed
legislation.

Rep. Sandra Caul (R-99th District) said that the Legislature is
“working diligently to put money into the Michigan Veterans
Trust Fund” while removing the responsibility and expenditure
of the educational grants from the fund. She also said they are in
process of developing other sources of revenue that would not
include a tax increase.

Hubert Hess, deputy director of the state’s Military and
Veterans Affairs department, said that the Senate will be voting on
an appropriations bill this week that would provide a commitment to
funding the educational grants.

Veterans’ benefits

The Michigan Association of County Veterans Counselors are
demanding state funding for the Michigan Veterans Trust Fund.

The trust fund has been supplying education grants for children
of veterans, an endeavor the state’s Board of Education used
to undertake before 1996.

Among other factors, these education grants have caused a
$3.5 million shortage in the $50 million fund.

The trust fund spends an average of $900,000 each year on
grants.

This past year, 441 students received some sort of aid
from the fund. Twenty-two of these students are from the
University.

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