VA program can give boost to low-income vets

A Department of Veterans Affairs program has made up to $300 million in grants available for low-income veterans and their families.

The Supportive Services for Veteran Families program’s main purpose is to provide supportive services grants to private nonprofit organizations and consumer cooperatives that will coordinate or provide supportive services to very low-income veteran families who:

  • Are residing in permanent housing.
  • Are homeless and scheduled to become residents of permanent housing within a specified time period.
  • Are seeking, after exiting permanent housing within a specified time period, other housing that is responsive to such very low-income veteran family’s needs and preferences.

The top funding priority is for existing SSVF grantees seeking to renew their supportive services grants. About $140 million of the ceiling of $300 million available may be awarded, depending on funding available under this priority. The second funding priority is for eligible entities applying for initial supportive services grants.

Applications for initial and renewal supportive services grants under the SSVF program must be received by the SSVF Program Office by 4 p.m. EDT Feb. 1. To read the full NOFA from the Oct. 26, 2012, Federal Register, click here or here.

For more information about the SSVF program and to download the application package, click here.

In other news:

Jobless rate: The U.S. unemployment rate is 7.9 percent (October 2012). However, for Iraq war veterans, the unemployment rate is 10 percent. Currently, the unemployment rate for female veterans is 15.5 percent (down from last month of 19.9 percent). On a related note, the Economic Division was interviewed Nov. 2 by Rick Maze, senior reporter of Military Times, to discuss barriers for veterans, employment programs and solutions to addressing veteran unemployment.

Hiring veterans: Members of the Economic Division met with the Office of Personnel Management for the annual Veterans Service Organization meeting Oct. 31. OPM staff presented a new three-year strategic plan to hire veterans that will run from fiscal year 2013 through fiscal 2015. Details of the plan have not yet been released and are currently pending OPM’s Council of Veterans Employment’s approval. However, OPM explained that more focus was going to shift to reintegration, retention and USERRA enforcement.

Benefits improvement being tested: Deputy Director Rich Dumancas attended the VACO Benefits Assistance Service meeting focused on the latest software development of Veterans Benefit Management System (VBMS). VBMS, according to VA officials, will greatly assist the Veterans Benefits Administration in overcoming the claims backlog by making veterans file paperless, decreasing the days pending and increasing the accuracy. VBMS is currently being tested at the Wichita, Ft. Harrison and Providence Regional Offices. The program will be pushed out to 18 regional offices by the end of this year. By the end of 2013, VBA plans to have all regional offices on line with VBMS. When the program is fully developed, department service officers will have the ability to use one program (instead of the current three) when assisting veterans.

Board of Veterans’ Appeals: During the week ending Oct. 26, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals ruled on 170 American Legion-represented appeals. Of those rulings, 78.2 percent of the denials were overturned with outcomes favorable to the veteran. In 45 cases, the board granted benefits outright after considering The American Legion’s arguments. In 88 cases, The American Legion was able to point out errors in the development of the veteran’s claims that mandated corrective action under the law. Of the total number of dispositions, 32 (18.8 percent) were outright denials.

Election Day: The House and Senate are in recess for the election campaigns. A lame-duck session will begin Nov. 13. One-third of the Senate seats and all 435 seats of the House are up for election Tuesday.

Korean War soldier’s remains identified: The remains of Army Pfc. Casimir F. Walczak, 18, of Harvey, Ill., were identified and returned to his family on Aug. 29 for burial with full military honors. Walczak was buried Sept. 2 in Nordman, Idaho. On Aug. 17, 1950, Walczak and other soldiers of B Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, came under attack as they took a hill, near the town of Waegwan, South Korea. After the battle, Walczak was reported missing in action.

Korean War soldier’s remains returned to family: The remains of Army Pfc. James C. Mullins, 20, of Dunham, Ky., were identified on Oct. 30. They were returned to his family for burial with full military honors on Nov. 2, near Fort Bragg, N.C. On July 22, 1950, Mullins and his unit, H Company, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, battled enemy forces near Yugong-ni, South Korea. After the battle, Mullins was listed as missing in action.

New Legislative director assumes duties: Louis Celli joined the Legislative Division as it director on Nov. 1. Following his 22-year career in the U.S. Army, Master Sgt. Celli founded the company Leaders Advantage, Inc., a seller of sales and leadership training material out of its three Boston-area retail locations. In 2005, Celli transformed the enterprise into a nonprofit organization called the Northeast Veterans Business Resource Center, Inc. (NEVBRC), which is dedicated to assisting veteran entrepreneurs start and grow small businesses. Celli retired from NEVBRC in 2012 to become the Legislative director for the American Legion – the largest veteran service organization in the United States. Louis is a graduate of Harvard University. He and his wife, Elise, have six children ranging fro,m ages 11 to 22.

Insurance claims: The VA&R VA Insurance unit reviewed and processed 91 applications for new insurance coverage, of which 13 were for Supplemental insurance for totally disabled veterans in the Service-Disabled Insurance Program, along with 54 disability and settlement claims on other veteran’s VA policies. Further case development included 49 other insurance inquiries or transactions, 32 phone calls with veterans, family members and VSOs, and contacting 62 veterans by mail on their insurance policies, insurance options and action deadlines. There were also 26 direct contacts with VA personnel in regards to correcting or having additional actions taken on veterans’ accounts.