Upon entering the Hastings Veterans Home woodshop, one is greeted with the strong aroma of freshly cut wood accompanied with the consistent clamor of men hard at work. Mike Kriel, the Woodshop Coordinator, steps proudly into the room and states with a smile, “Welcome to my playground.”
Gerry Falkowski, the coordinator for the Disabled American Veterans of Minnesota (DAV) Donor Connection Program, recently received a Certificate of Recognition on behalf of Governor Mark Dayton for his dedicated service to the program. The MN Donor Connection Program works to connect Minnesotans looking to donate medical equipment with Veterans in need. Falkowski has been the vital link between linking this equipment and Minnesota Veterans in need.
Since mid-2009, Disabled Veterans have been able to ride the transit systems throughout the state for free; some Veterans are still unaware of this benefit. It is one more way the State of Minnesota has chosen to honor Veterans. And with each adult Transit ticket costing between $2.25 and $3.00, this benefit helps Veterans keep a couple extra dollars in their pockets, and helps tremendously for Veterans needing special disability vehicles to travel.
Governor Mark Dayton and the Minnesota State Legislature voted to expand the Minnesota GI Bill to include more Veterans. Previously only Veterans who served after September 11, 2001 were eligible for the Minnesota GI Bill, which supplements other Veteran education programs. Now, under the new law any Veteran under age of 62 who has served honorably in any branch of the armed forces during any time period may be eligible.
“This is important because the program will now assist the Veterans who need it the most,” said David Bellefeuille, director of the Higher Education Veterans Programs for the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs. Many pre-9/11 Veterans have either used all their federal education benefits, or they have expired. The enhancements to this program will now assist all Minnesotan Veterans with long-term employment opportunities. The plan starts with education and financial assistance to help Veterans, who have served and sacrificed for this country, achieve their goals.
Legislative Director, MDVA
Once again another budget year has come to an end - but not without challenges. The Legislature literally finished their work in the eleventh hour - minutes before midnight on May 20 – and achieved much in order to keep Minnesota moving ahead. It was a strong year for Veterans. Initiatives that were necessary and supported by the Governor and the legislature was able to put the final linchpin in several Veterans initiatives. Governor Dayton delivered a budget that invests in Minnesota Veterans, ensuring they receive the education, opportunities, and benefits they earned through their service.
» Minneapolis Veterans Home. The budget includes $18.9 million in the bonding bill to complete Phase 3 of the Minneapolis Veterans Home replacement project. With this state funding, the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs hopes to leverage $35.2 million in federal funds through a compflagetitive grant process and will provide high-quality skilled nursing services for Minnesota’s Veterans.
» Expansion of the Minnesota GI Bill. With an additional $1 million investment, the Minnesota GI Bill program will expand to include all generations of veterans – not just those serving on or after 9/11. This expansion will help ensure all Minnesota veterans have access to the education and training they need to get good-paying jobs.
» One-on-One Help for Veterans. The budget provides $2 million in increased grant funding for County Veteran Services Offices, which help veterans and their families obtain the benefits and services they earned through military service.