- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan on Wednesday formally launched a help line that military veterans can call at any time to get assistance about their government benefits and services.

The Veteran Resource Service Center is a partnership between the state Veterans Affairs Agency and the United Way’s 211 phone system. Veterans who want help navigating various government agencies are encouraged to call 1-800-MICH-VET during business hours and 211 after hours and on the weekends.

“We’re going to get you to the right place, the right way and we’re going to get you those services you deserve,” Gov. Rick Snyder said while announcing the initiative at the Veterans Affairs Agency in Lansing.

The governor created the veterans affairs office last year because Michigan ranked last among the states in federal money spent per person on services provided through the U.S. Veterans Administration - medical treatment, pensions, schooling, disability compensation and employment assistance.

The phone lines are designed to complement a website where veterans and their families can learn about federal benefits and state programs.

Suzanne Thelen, communications and veteran engagement director for the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency, said the call center was “soft” launched in July and has received more than 2,000 calls. About 30 veterans on average have been helped per day.

Thirty-eight percent of calls involved Michigan’s driver’s license designation for veterans and legal assistance. Housing questions accounted for 16 percent; health care another 16 percent; quality of life 13 percent; education 11 percent; and employment 6 percent.

Thelen said Michigan’s new center is the first statewide resource center in the U.S. to fully integrate with 211 and provide referrals to service members and veterans.

Fifteen cabinet members and Snyder’s top aides attended Wednesday’s launch. The goal of the new program to aggregate all veteran services across state government and provide “no wrong door” access to veteran resources, said Jeff Barnes, director of the Veterans Affairs Agency.

___

Online:

Veterans website: www.MichiganVeterans.com

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