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Desk of the Commissioner - January

Posted on January 16, 2014 at 12:44 PM
Tags: Commissioner

Commissioner ShellitoGreetings to all as we enter a new year . . . a year that is looking to be a ‘watershed’ year for Minnesota Veterans all across the state.

As many of you are aware, the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs has two Divisions.  First is Programs and Services with the mission of providing services to Veterans living in Minnesota.  Key elements include administration of Education Benefits (GI Bill), Housing and Homelessness issues, Claims and Benefits, Veterans Preferences, our Special Assistance Program and personal counseling among others.  The work done through this department, in support of County Veterans Service Offices and the Federal Veterans Administration provides that extra boost in ensuring a higher quality of life for many of our Veterans.

The second Division is our Veterans Homes.  Minnesota has five Homes located across the state in Silver Bay, Fergus Falls, Luverne, Hastings, and Minneapolis.  MDVA has been actively working to upgrade the Minneapolis campus, as well as fielding requests for several additional outstate homes.  While we are operating near capacity for federally authorized beds in Minnesota, our goal is to provide the quality care our heroes deserve.

Over the summer months, the State’s House of Representatives created a special committee to investigate ways to make Veterans Homes more ‘state friendly’ in terms of costs, infrastructure, and return on investments.  The committee’s recommendations, which were recently released, may impact future Veteran's Homes procedures and costs.  Part of the committee’s focus was a push for more housing options for homeless Veterans.  The ‘ground truth’ is health care and our aging population is growing exponentially, and with that the State is looking for ways to reduce the costs as well as determining the future role(s) of our State Veterans Homes.

This review is still a ‘work in progress’ and until specific legislation is introduced, we will have to wait and see.  MDVA is working closely with our Veterans Service Organizations to keep the Veterans Community aware.  Yet with a short session and a large bonding bill, it will be more important than ever to keep this issue on the radar of our lawmakers and communities. We all have experienced the years following a conflict.  Often referred as the ‘peace dividend,’ support and programs drop off and Veterans are often lost in the shuffle.  We must work together to be sure this doesn’t happen.  Let’s learn from the past and make careful, strategic decisions that benefit Veterans and their families.  One quick step is joining or renewing your membership in your Veteran Service Organization (VSO).  I am a member of five VSO’s.  Even if you are not able to attend meetings to be involved in-person, by joining and showing your support, you are empowering these organizations to work on your behalf.  My support is measured in their membership numbers and in caring for my fellow Veterans.    Stay tuned – more to follow!

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