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Alaska Support Our Troops License Plate document sample
Alaska Support Our Troops License Plate document sample
Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs Newsletter In this Issue Volume 2, Issue 4 April 1, 2008 ♦ New State Cemetery Proposed Governor Pawlenty Announces ♦ Legislative Update ♦ From the Desk of the Plans for New State Veterans Cemetery Near Duluth Commissioner On Tuesday, March 11, the Minnesota Department of ♦ MDVA Staff Update ♦ MDVA Program— Veterans Affairs hosted a joint press conference with Claims the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources ♦ Ionizing Radiation Registry where Governor Pawlenty announced a plan to de- ♦ Depleted Uranium Testing velop a new state veterans cemetery on 60 acres of ♦ Support Our Troops License land in Jay Cooke State Park about 20 miles south of Plate Duluth. ♦ Veteran in the Spotlight— Harold Kurvers The DNR will transfer the land to MDVA. MDVA will ♦ MDVA Women’s Coordinator apply for a federal grant form the U.S. Department of Update—WWII Women Veter- Veterans Affairs to fund design and construction of ans to be Honored the new state cemetery. The federal government ♦ Combat Veterans’ Education Map of proposed cemetery site Benefits would cover the construction costs estimated to be ♦ Veterans Health Care approximately $8 million. The state would be responsible for the annual operating costs of approximately Focus—PTSD $300,000. ♦ Combat Veterans’ Health Care Benefits Jay Cooke State Park contains 8,781 acres in Carlton County. The 60 acres that will be utilized for the ♦ Monthly Update from MNVHA new state veterans cemetery are located on the southern boundary of the park near the city of OEF/OIF Programs Wrenshall. ♦ Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Information The landscape design for the new cemetery will take advantage of ♦ Governor Pawlenty recog- nizes April as Military Kids the area’s natural terrain, which is lightly wooded and flat with a rail Month line serving as an effective boundary on the northern portion of the ♦ Camp FA-HO-CHA parcel. The site is also two miles for the Veterans Evergreen Me- ♦ Minnesota Operation Military morial Scenic Drive/Highway 23. The cemetery is expected to draw Kids up to 40,000 visitors annually and could provide as many as 500 ♦ VA Awards $1.6 Million to interments per year. Minneapolis Veterans Home Governor Pawlenty announcing ♦ State Veterans Homes— new state veterans cemetery Following the press conference, more than 100 veterans and vet- Fergus Falls erans advocates enjoyed a box lunch while being briefed by Legis- ♦ Stimulus Payments: Instruc- lative Director Christine Kiel regarding MDVA’s Second Annual Veterans’ Lobby Day on the Hill. Partici- tions for Recipients of Certain Veterans’ Benefits Informa- pants then spent the afternoon visiting with members of the legislature in support of MDVA’s legislative tion initiatives. ♦ Tax Information ♦ MACV StandDown 2008 Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs (MDVA) ♦ Free Vacations for Wounded 20 West 12th Street, St. Paul, MN 55155-2079 OIF/OEF Veterans Phone: 651-296-2562 ▪ FAX: 651-296-3954 ▪ Website: www.mdva.state.mn.us ♦ MNDAV Transportation Pro- gram—Volunteers Needed This information is available in alternative formats such as Braille, large print, audio tape and computer disk. Volume 2, Issue 4 Page 2 Legislative Update On, Friday, March 7, 2008, the governor signed into law the Omnibus Technical Corrections Tax bill. Included in this legisla- tion were two provisions providing a full or partial valuation property tax exclusion for homesteads of disabled veterans with a disability rating of 70 percent or greater, as determined by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. For veterans with a service-connected disability rated 70 percent to 100 percent there is a $150,000 market value exclu- sion, and for veterans with a total and permanent service-connected disability there is a $300,000 market value exclusion. Upon the death of a veteran qualifying for the exclusion because of a total and permanent disability, the market value exclusion carries over to the person’s spouse, if the spouse co-owns or inherits the home and permanently resides there. For an agricultural homestead, the market value exclusion applies to only the house, garage and surrounding acre of land. . Photo by Al Zadon The bill also provides that property qualifying for valuation exclusion Deputy Commissioners Gil Acevedo and under this bill is not Michael Pugliese testify during a committee hearing. eligible for the market value credit. The prop- erty owner must apply to the assessor each year, unless the person’s dis- ability is total and permanent. This new law becomes effective for the as- sessment year 2008, for taxes payable in 2009, and thereafter. Another provision of this new law is a hardship assessment deferral for members of the National Guard and military reserves ordered to active service. Currently, a county, city or town may defer the payment of a spe- cial assessment for any homestead property for seniors and disabled per- sons that it determines would cause a hardship. National Guard and re- Photo by Al Zadon serve members on active duty are now added to this authorization. This Governor Pawlenty visiting with veterans during provision was effective the day following final enactment and applies to any MDVA’s Veterans’ Lobby Day on the Hill. special assessment for which payment is due on or after that date. This legislation also allows subtractions from taxable income for out-of-state military service for members of the National Guard. This provision provides that the 2005 tax enactment that exempts earnings for out-of-state military service now ap- plies to National Guard personnel in the same manner as other military reservists. The tax exemption is extended to basic training at out-of-state military facilities, special training and annual training at out-of-state military facilities and Mexican border patrol duty. This provision is effective beginning in tax year 2008. For more information on this and other legislation, visit the MDVA website at www.mdva.state.mn.us If you are in the military, a veteran or a dependent of a veteran and have questions regarding benefits and services, please call LinkVet at 1-888-546-5838. Trained staff are waiting to help address your concerns 24 hours a day. Volume 2, Issue 4 Page 3 From the Desk of the Commissioner As a community our commitment to our military heroes should begin long before they become veterans by helping their families while they are deployed and away from home. Deployments go a lot smoother for military per- sonnel when they can concentrate on their mission knowing their children are cared for. April is Military Kids Month and is a time set aside to remind us of the profound impact the deployment of a parent has upon a child. Concerts, ball games, camping and fishing trips, picnics and all those fun things these children used to do with their deployed parent are often replaced with adult responsibilities and worry. These children deserve special recognition for their sacrifices on behalf of our freedom and a sincere “thank you.” Commissioner Clark Dyrud Recognizing the sacrifices others make on your behalf is important. Last week Governor Tim Pawlenty signed into law a bill proclaiming March 29 Vietnam Veterans Day acknowledging a generation of veterans who came home from war and did not receive the welcome back and thank you they expected. It is my hope that this well earned and long overdue “thank you” will help many of my fellow Vietnam veterans understand that, while there were disagreements over political policy, your service to this nation was greatly appreciated. The final “thank you” to a veteran occurs when they are buried with military honors. It is very important for families that this honor be provided and even more important that their loved one be laid to rest close to home. Recently, Governor Pawlenty announced construction of a second state veterans cemetery located in Jay Cooke State Park to provide veterans from northern Minnesota with another interment option. This scenic and serene 60 acre portion of the park and will offer the 46,000 veterans who live within 75 miles of the proposed new cemetery a truly a fitting final resting place. Clark Dyrud, Commissioner MDVA Staff Update Anna Lewicki Long recently started as the new communications director. New to MDVA, Anna brings more than twelve years of experience in public relations, marketing and communications to the position. In her previous role in PR at the Mall of America, Anna served as a spokesperson and was responsible for crisis communi- cations, media relations and large-scale event planning. Some of the major TV networks she has worked with include the Today Show, Dr. Phil, ABC News, ESPN, Discovery, MTV, Travel Channel, Nickelodeon and QVC. Anna’s past experi- ence also includes working as a public affairs officer for the Minnesota Department of Military Affairs and a journalist for the Detroit Lakes Tribune. Currently Anna is a captain in the Minnesota National Guard. During Operation Noble Eagle she spent six months on ac- tive duty at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., as chief of media relations for First Air Force under NORAD. In 2002, she repre- sented the United States at the European Military Press Association Conference in Croatia. She has also traveled to Bos- nia, Norway, Germany and Central America for the Guard. Anna earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications and Photojournalism from Minnesota State Univer- sity, Moorhead and is a graduate of the Department of Defense’s Public Affairs Officer Training Program at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland. Volume 2, Issue 4 Page 4 MDVA Program — Claims Reggie Worlds, Senior Director, Claims and Outreach Division, Minnesota De- partment of Veterans Affairs, was one of eight guests speakers who addressed veterans during the Kandiyohi County Veterans Appreciation Day at the Holiday Inn Conference Center in Willmar. This event was made possible with funding from a $5,000 state grant and was held to thank local veterans and provide information regarding benefits and services for which they may be eligible. West Central Tribune photo by Bill Zimmer Guest speakers provided information on the programs available to veterans Senior Director Reggie Worlds addressing through regional VA offices and the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs. Kandiyohi County Veterans Veterans Exposed to Ionizing Radiation If you are a WWII era veteran and were exposed to radiation due to the atmospheric nuclear weapons testing program (1945-1962); during certain underground tests at Amchitka, Alaska; during the occupation of Hiroshima or Nagasaki, Ja- pan (8/6/45-7/1/46); as a POW in Japan during Wold War II when atomic bombs were dropped; at the Department of Energy plants in Paducah, KY, Portsmouth, OH, and the K-25 Area, Oak Ridge, TN (for at least 250 days before 2/1/92); as a result of nasopharyngeal radium treatment while in service you may want to contact the USDVA and ask about an Ionizing Radiation Registry (IRR) Health Examination. For more information regarding this health issue contact your closest VA Medical Center and ask to speak with the IRR Representative. To be placed on the Ionizing Radiation Registry you will be asked to provide your name, branch of ser- vice, and how you believe you were exposed. Once on the registry, you can schedule a health care examination. Minnesota veterans who would like to be placed on the Ionizing Radiation Registry can contact Deb Walzel, Minneapolis VA Medical Center IRR Representative, at 612-725-2000-Ext. 2320, 2721, or Mary Garding, St. Cloud VA Medical Center IRR Representative, at 320-255-6407. Depleted Uranium Testing If you are a veteran and are concerned about Depleted Uranium exposure, VA has a Depleted Uranium Frequently Asked Questions Fact Sheet online at: http://www.index.va.gov/search/va/va_search.jsp?QT=depleted+uranium To be tested for Depleted Uranium exposure call 612-467-2320. Buy a Support Our Troops License Plate! Your contribution is split between the Department of Military Affairs for financial support of military families and the Department of Veterans Affairs for grants to veteran service organizations and outreach to underserved veterans. For more information visit: www.minnesotaveteran.org/PDFs/SOTFactSheet.pdf Volume 2, Issue 4 Page 5 Veteran in the Spotlight—Harold Kurvers Submitted by Alan Rems Attaining age 90 with good health, an active mind and a life-affirming spirit is something everyone wants but few achieve. For Harold “Snuff” Kurvers of St. Paul, this achievement on May 18 is no less than miraculous, a testament to the power of faith in the face of assaults on body and mind hard to even comprehend. Kurvers was drafted in April 1941, assigned at Ft. Lewis, Washington as a medic in the 194th Tank Battalion, and sent to the Philippines. After Japan attacked, the 194th fell back to the Bataan Peninsula. Then came the American surrender and the infamous Bataan Death March, remembered by Kurvers as more like a walk since the weakened men could never have marched. Only once was he fed; otherwise he lived on vegetables dug up during rest stops. Arrival at Camp O’Donnell brought little relief, with ter- rible overcrowding, shortage of water and rampant disease that claimed 30 to 40 lives a day. Kurvers con- tracted beri beri, leaving him with swollen legs and an unrecognizable face as his body water shifted. Later, at Cabanatuan, there was at least an abundance of rice. But, rice lacks essential nutrients, bringing on beri beri and leaving weakened men unable to withstand the ravages of dengue and malaria. Seemingly, Kurvers had been through the worst, but far greater horrors lay ahead. In December 1944 the Japanese crammed Kurvers and 1,600 other prisoners into the hold of an unmarked cargo ship, the Orokyu Maru, bound for Japan. He vividly recalls that hellish 49-day journey--the death toll mounting through suffo- cation, disease, starvation and dehydration, and at- tacks by American planes unaware of the passengers aboard. One of less than 400 men to reach Japan, Kurvers was sent to the Fukuoka #17 camp on Kyushu where he toiled in a mine during grueling 10-hour shifts for 10 straight days at a time. After the atomic bombing and surrender of Japan, Kurvers faced one more hazard, passing through Nagasaki before the dangers of radiation were recognized. He then learned his father had died without knowing his only child had survived the war. Most important, his sweetheart Dorothy had waited. Their marriage in January 1946 produced three children and en- dured for 50 years and one day until Dorothy’s death. Reentry into the workforce was delayed until 1947 while Kurvers was treated for tuberculosis. He then joined the U.S. Postal Service, continuing there for 36 years before retiring in 1983. Ex- tended holiday hours that others might grouse about did not faze Kurvers, who knew the full meaning of long hours and hard labor. Explaining his survival, Kurvers gives most of the credit to his strong faith in God. Often as a prisoner, he fell back on recit- ing prayers composed on the spot. Particularly memorable were the Catholic masses in prison camp. Today, Kurvers never misses mass as a parishioner of Holy Spirit Church in St. Paul. Despite his experiences, he harbors no bitterness toward his captors and the Japanese people. Kurvers believes a sense of humor was another essential for survival and his reply a few years ago to a birthday greeting from President George W. and Laura Bush shows his keen wit remains intact. After expressing his thanks for the card, Kurvers continued tongue in cheek: “Greetings from Presidents frighten me. Early 1941, greetings from President F.D.R. resulted in almost four years of hell.” Volume 2, Issue 4 Page 6 MDVA Women’s Coordinator Update jÉÜÄw jtÜ II jÉÅxÇ ixàxÜtÇá àÉ ux [ÉÇÉÜxw e ns Fre en V eter a Thursday, May 8, 2008 Wom W II 11 a.m.—3:00 p.m. for W 934th Airlift Wing Officer’s Club Reservation fee of $20 includes lunch. RSVP by April 25 to Julie Eszlinger-Jensen, Col. (Ret.) at 651-297-8818 or firstname.lastname@example.org For questions regarding Women Veteran’s Benefits, please contact Brandi Wilson at (612) 970-5662, or by email at: email@example.com. Combat Veteran’s with Multiple Tours could Increase Education Benefits Some members of the National Guard and the Reserves who serve on active duty will see a significant increase in their educational benefits, thanks to improvements announced today by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Under the new provisions, members who accumulate three years on active duty, regardless of breaks in service, may be eligible for the maximum payment under the Reserve Education Assistance Program (REAP). Prior to this change, reserv- ists and guardsmen had to serve two continuous years on active duty to receive the highest payment. The new eligibility rules are retroactive to Oct. 1, 2007, The top payment under REAP is currently $880.80 per month. The new law also expands the period of eligibility for certain Guard and Reserve members who complete their service obligation before separation from the selected reserve. Members meeting these criteria may be eligible to use REAP benefits for a period for ten years following discharge. Benefits typically end upon separation for members who do not complete their full, obligated service. Additionally, some REAP-eligible National Guard and Reserve members may now make an extra contribution to the De- partment of Defense to increase their monthly benefit rates. Service members receive an additional $5 per month for each $20 contributed. With the maximum $600 contribution, this option can add up to $5,400 to a member’s total 36-month edu- cation benefit package. For more information on changes to the USDVA’s GI Bill benefits, go to www.GIBILL.va.gov or contact the USDVA di- rectly at 1-888-442-4551. Volume 2, Issue 4 Page 7 Veterans Health Care Focus—PTSD Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that may occur after a traumatic life-threatening event. Anyone who has experienced a life-threatening event can develop PTSD. These types of events can include combat or military ex- posure, sexual or physical assault (as a child or adult), terrorist attacks, serious accidents (such as a car wreck) or natural disasters (such as a fire, tornado, hurricane, flood or earthquake). Most people who go through a traumatic event have some symptoms immediately following the incident. It is common to feel scared, confused and angry. It is when these feelings do not go away or they get worse and disrupt your life, making it hard to continue with normal activities, that a PTSD screening may be in order. Not all people go on to develop PTSD. Whether or not someone develops PSTD depends on several factors including the length or intensity of the trauma, if someone the person was close to was injured or killed, proximity to the actual event, how strong the original emotional reaction was, whether the per- son felt they had control of the event and what type of help and support was available to the person after the incident. There are a variety of PTSD treatment options. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and prescription medica- tion have proven to be the most effective treatments for PTSD. Receiving appropriate care can make a PTSD sufferer feel more in control of their emotions and result in fewer symptoms. While there may always be bad memories, treatment can greatly improve quality of life. If you are in an immediate crisis, please go to your nearest emergency room or call 911. If you are a veteran and have questions about PTSD intake or are interested in the screening process, contact the VA Minneapolis Medical Center Mental Health Clinic at (612) 467-1921. The clinic is open from 8 a.m.—4:30 Monday through Friday. Combat Veteran Health Care Benefits Eligibility On January, 2008, the “National Defense Authorization Act of 2008” was signed into law. Included in this legislation was a provision that extends the eligibility for health care for veterans who have served in a theater of combat operations after Nov. 11, 1998 (commonly referred to as combat veterans or OEF/OIF veterans.) Under the “Combat Veterans” authority, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides cost-free health care services and nursing home care for conditions possibly related to military service and enrollment in Priority Group 6, unless eligi- ble for enrollment in a higher priority: to currently enrolled veterans and new enrollees who were discharged from active duty on or after Jan. 28, 2003, are eligible for the enhanced benefits, for five years post discharge. and veterans dis- charged from active duty before Jan. 28, 2003, who apply for enrollment on or after Jan. 28, 2008, are eligible for the enhanced benefit until Jan. 27, 2001. Veterans, including activated Reservists and members of the National Guard, are eligible if they served on active duty in a theater of combat operations after Nov. 11, 1998, and have been discharged under other than dishonorable condi- tions. Additional information is available by calling your nearest VA medical facility. The main phone number for the Minnea- polis VA Medical Center is 612-725-2000. St. Cloud VA Medical Center’s main number is 320-252-1670. Sioux Falls VA Medical Center’s main number is 605-336-3230. Volume 2, Issue 4 Page 8 Monthly Update from the MN VHA OEF/OIF Programs Welcome to the VHA OEF/OIF Program page! We will be having a monthly article to inform and update you on issues and concerns related to this newest group of combat veterans. Continuing communication with those caring for this group will be key to making the transition from warrior to civilian as smooth as possible. This month we will highlight a pilot program that is being trialed in four Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISN’s). VISN 23, which includes Minneapolis, St Cloud, Fargo and Sioux Falls VA's, is one of the four VISN’s chosen to pilot the program. Project HERO is the name of the program being piloted within the VA. The program started in January of this year and will last for five years. HERO was developed in response to a House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations Confer- ence Report in November 2005. Objectives of the pilot include: ♦ Providing as much care as possible for veterans within VHA ♦ When applicable, referring veterans to high-quality community based care ♦ Improving exchange of information between VA and community providers ♦ Increasing veteran satisfaction ♦ Promoting high-quality care and patient safety ♦ Maintaining partnerships with university partners Contracts were awarded for HERO to Humana Veterans Health Services and Delta Dental. Humana contracts are for medi- cal/surgical, mental health, diagnostic and dialysis care in the community. VHA will purchase health care from Humana and Delta Dental ONLY when services cannot be provided through the VA. The current focus for HERO is the dental benefit. All new referrals for dental care, including those referred because of their 180 day combat veteran dental benefit, are to be scheduled within 30 days of their requested date. If the VA does not have the capacity to see the veteran, the referral is sent to the private sector via HERO. The VA dental clinic writes a consult to the hospital fee basis department to instruct them to fee the patient for services through HERO. Delta is then contacted with instructions to establish the patient with a HERO associated dentist and schedule an examination. Delta contacts the vet- eran and works with the veteran to assure an appointment is made with one of the Delta providers. If during the examina- tion the dentist determines there is a need for additional work, all recommended work should be written on the form pro- vided. The 180 day dental benefit is for the initial exam, cleaning, and anything authorized based on the one time submitted paper work from that initial appointment. The submitted recommendation for further dental work is reviewed by the dental service at the VA. If approved, the veteran returns to the dentist that completed the initial exam to complete the work. To determine if the HERO objectives as listed above are being met, quarterly reports from the project will measure cost, volume of care, quality of care, and the effect on university partners. The annual report will also provide patient satisfaction based on local surveys and the effect of the project on VA university partners. Positive results may result in expanding HERO to additional VISN’s. If you have further questions about HERO, please call Diane Peterson at 612-467-5087. Veter- ans eligible for VA benefits can call 877-228-8387 if they have questions about HERO. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Information For information on the TBI program for Minnesota veterans call Stacey Tepper at 612-467-3235. Volume 2, Issue 4 Page 9 April is Military Kids Month The month of April is recognized as the Month of the Military Child to emphasize the important role military children play while a parent is serving in uniform. This tradition was established in 1986 by former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinber- ger and has been commemorated annually every since. Military children confront many issues that are unique to their situation, such as moving fre- quently, having a parent deployed for long periods of time and having to live with the knowl- edge that their parent may be in harms way. It is estimated that in Minnesota over 15,000 children have been affected by a parent’s deployment. These young people are in a unique position of having a parent serving on active-duty while their state does not have a military base to offer the family support. Often these young people must step up to help meet the needs of their family and sacrifice much of the freedom of childhood. Governor Tim Pawlenty would like to recognize military children with a communica- tion of gratitude in honor of the service and sacrifice these young Minnesotans make on behalf of our state and nation. If you know of a military child and would like to have them receive a message from the Governor, please submit the following information: • Full name of Military • Branch of Service • Unit • First and last name of each dependent child to receive the recognition • Mailing address of each child • Servicemember email address This information should be submitted on the registration form which will be up on the website at www.minnesotaveteran.org/ child/ in early April. A communication from the Governor will be mailed to the child during the month of April or early May. Camp FA-HO-CHA Inviting all children and grandchildren (age 10-12) of Minnesota Soldiers since 9/11/01 to a one week camp at no cost. Camp Fa-Ho-Cha is located on a 25-acre island on German Lake about 20 miles northeast of Mankato. Eight A-Frame sleeping cabins accommodate five campers each. A large recreation hall also serves as a kitchen area. Activities include fishing, swimming, canoeing, crafts and making new friends. The last two weeks in July are scheduled for boys and girls camps, respectively. The camp is operated by volunteers and can accommodate up to forty kids per session. The campers are sponsored by a Minnesota Odd Fellow or Rebekah Lodge. All applications must be received by May 1st of the current year. For more information on Camp Fa-Ho-Cha, please contact Gene Lewis at 507-420-5389. Volume 2, Issue 4 Page 10 Minnesota Operation Military Kids There are programs available to support military children in our state. Minnesota Operation Military Kids Operation helps kids feel connected, active and supported. This program offers: ♦ Hero Packs are distributed to military kids who have a deployed loved one to thank them for their service and courage. The packs are distributed at various events, including holiday parties and other youth activities. ♦ Speak Out for Military Kids (SOMK) is a speaker’s bureau where youth are given the opportunity to speak out about having a loved one deployed. Retreats are held throughout the year to train youth to speak out and to allow them to have fun with other military youth. SOMK participants are available to speak at various events, including school functions, scout meetings, Legion Conventions and more. ♦ Mobile Technology Lab (MTL) is a lab that travels the state and is available at events for military kids to stay connected to their deployed loved one. The MTL is can be used in a variety of ways, including to create Zoom Albums, SOMK presentations, greeting cards and more. ♦ OMK holds many youth activities throughout the year to provide support for military kids. You can find OMK holding day camps and workshops, as well as at FRG meetings, holiday parties and military family days. Activities may in clude using the MTL, making crafts, playing games, going fishing and a variety of other activities that allow kids to grow and learn. ♦ Ready, Set, Go! (Hidden Heroes) Training professionals around the state regularly visit to community groups, schools and conferences to help build awareness around the issues that military youth face. At these trainings participant learn about the deployment cycle, how kids are affected by deployment and ways that they can help support military youth. ♦ Kissing Hand Kits include the book “The Kissing Hand”, a raccoon puppet, an activity book and other resources avail able to military families to check out to help their kids deal with a loved one’s deployment. The kits are available at Family Assistance Centers, libraries around the state and various other locations. For more information on Operation Military Kids, contact Kia Harries, MN 4-H Military Liaison at firstname.lastname@example.org 507-372-3908, or Amber Runke, MN OMK Program Specialist at email@example.com or 612-624-8198. VA Awards $1.6 Million for Minnesota Veterans Home The USDVA has awarded nearly $1.6 million to Minnesota for improvements to the Minneapolis state veterans home. This grant will cover emergency electrical and back-up generator upgrades. Total estimated cost of the Minneapolis project is $2,457,000 with the USDVA’s grant covering up to 65 percent of the cost. In 2006, USDVA spent more than $1.2 billion in Minnesota serving more than 410,000 veterans who live in the state. USDVA operates major medical centers in Minneapolis and St. Cloud, a nursing home in St. Cloud and community- based outpatient clinics across the state. For more information on Minnesota’s six veterans homes, visit www.mvh.state.mn.us Volume 2, Issue 4 Page 11 Minnesota State Veterans Homes—Fergus Falls March 28, 2008 marks the ten year anniversary of the Fergus Falls State Veterans Home. In the past decade this home has built a reputation for ex- cellence. The 85 residents of this home receive individualized and special- ized care and services through a team approach. Care includes medical ser- vices, 24-hour focused nursing services, social services, recreation therapy services, chaplain services, rehabilitation services, pharmaceutical services, assistance applying for VA benefits and much more. The veterans home’s “Primary Focus Nursing” care method ensures resident needs and care have a consistent approach. This care structure allows staff to maximize responsiveness and effectively meet the individual needs of its residents. The NUW (Nursing Universal Worker) is the core of this team. Entrance of Fergus Falls Veterans Home One person (the NUW) coordinates case management for each resident. This includes their room, personal needs and activities. The Fergus Falls state veterans home offers a variety of activities to ensure that residents enrich their lives and have access to their community. Residents have the opportunity to enjoy horse drawn sleigh rides, ice fishing, dancing, a casino gaming night, bowling and many other events. As you stroll down the home’s Old Town Main Street you immediately know that this is a nostalgic yet state of the art facility. As a pioneer in the “Resident Safe Movement”, they have made resident safety a priority through the inno- vative use of ceiling lifts, multiple other lifts, and a facility wide ergonomics effort. The ceiling lifts have ensured a timely response to resident requests for assistance, and helped residents maintain their independence whenever pos- View of Main Street sible. Besides being an industry leader in innovative care and services, this beautiful facility, for the past eight years, has been home to a VA Community Based Outpa- tient Clinic (VA CBOC). This clinic, the first nurse practitioner veterans home based VA CBOC in the nation, now serves over 1200 area veterans. Services now in- clude a physician, and it is hoped with future expansion this clinic may serve up to 2,400 area veterans. A potential expansion of this facility is being considered which would extending services to 106 veterans and spouses. The staff looks forward to this new opportu- nity to serve veterans and will remain committed to providing the highest quality services and care. VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic Should you want further information regarding the Fergus Falls Veterans Home, please call (218) 736-0400 or toll free (877) 838-4633. Volume 2, Issue 4 Page 12 Stimulus Payments: Instructions for Recipients of Certain Veterans’ Benefits Some low-income workers and recipients of Social Security, certain veterans’ benefits and certain Railroad Retirement benefits may qualify for economic stimulus payments this year from the federal government. In most cases, payments will range from $300 to $600 for individuals and $600 to $1200 for joint filers. Taxpayers may receive $300 for each qualifying child. Most taxpayers do not need to take any extra steps to receive the payment beginning in early May. But there are some exceptions. Individuals who might not otherwise be required to file a 2007 tax return will need to file a return this year to receive the stimulus payment. The return must show at least $3,000 in qualifying income. In other words, low-income workers who had at least $3,000 in earned income in 2007 but do not otherwise earn enough to be required to file a federal tax return need to file a return in or- der to get the stimulus payment. Likewise, Social Security recipients, veterans and retired railroad workers who might not otherwise need to file a tax return must do so to receive the economic stimulus payment. Certain Benefits Count toward Qualifying Income Normally, certain Social Security, Railroad Retirement benefits and certain veterans’ payments are not subject to income tax. However, the economic stimulus law passed in February contains a special provision allowing Social Security recipi- ents and recipients of certain veterans’ benefits and certain Railroad Retirement benefits to count those benefits toward the qualifying income requirement of $3,000 and thereby qualify for the stimulus payment. This means a taxpayer who had, for example, $500 in earned income and $2,500 in any combination of the benefits de- scribed above can count those benefit payments toward his or her qualifying income to reach the $3,000 earned income requirement, even though the individual would not otherwise owe taxes on such income. For purposes of meeting the qualifying income requirement, the following benefits need to be reported in any combination on Line 20a of Form 1040 or Line 14a of the Form 1040A. Social Security benefits are reported on the 2007 Form 1099-SSA, which people would have received in January 2008. People who do not have a Form 1099 may estimate their annual Social Security benefit by taking their monthly benefit, multiplying it by the number of months during the year they received the benefits, and entering the number on Line 20a of Form 1040 or Line 14a of the Form 1040A. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) does not count as qualifying income for the stimulus payment. Railroad Retirement benefits reported on the 2007 Form 1099-RRB, which recipients would have received in January 2008.The sum of veterans’ disability compensation, pension or survivors’ benefits received from the Department of Veter- ans Affairs in 2007. People are allowed to estimate their annual benefit by taking their monthly annual veterans’ benefit, multiplying it by the number of months during the year they received benefits, and entering the number on Line 20a of Form 1040 or Line 14a of the Form 1040A. People should note that Line 20a of Form 1040 and Line 14a of the Form 1040A are designated for Social Security. To qualify for the economic stimulus payments, these lines should also be used to include any qualifying Railroad Retirement or veterans’ benefits. For Those Who Have Already Filed Some recipients of the benefits described above may have filed a 2007 tax return reporting at least $3,000 in qualifying income. They do not need to do anything else. They will begin receiving their stimulus payments in early May. (continued on page 14) Volume 2, Issue 4 Page 13 Free Tax Help for OIF and OEF Veterans and their Families If you are an OIF or OEF veteran, or family member of a OIF or OEF veteran, and have questions about filing taxes, please call: 651-268-8200 or 1-888-234-1274 for FREE tax assistance. Work Opportunity Tax Credit What is the Work Opportunity Tax Credit? The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is a federal tax credit available to all private sector businesses. It was designed as an incentive for employers to hire individuals in certain targeted groups (including disabled veterans) which consistently experience high rates of unemployment. WOTC is a tool for job seekers in these targeted groups to help them obtain gainful employment so that they may acquire the skills and experience needed to be eligible for better, higher paying jobs. For more information on this tax credit contact: Fran Regan, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Develop- ment, WOTC Tax Credit Unit. He can be reached by phone at: 651-205-450, (toll-free at: 1-888-234-5521) or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org Veterans Work Program Ruled Tax-Free The IRS has recently agreed with a U.S. tax court decision that payments given veterans under two specific programs of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) the Compensated Work Therapy (CWT) and Incentive Therapy (IT) programs-are no longer taxable. Nearly 19,000 veterans received CWT benefits last year, and 8,500 received IT benefits. Veterans who paid taxes on these benefits in the past three years can claim refunds. Recipients of the CWT and IT payments will no longer receive a Form 1099 (Miscellaneous Income) from the VA. Veterans who paid taxes on these benefits in tax years 2004, 2005, or 2006 can claim a refund by filing an amended tax return using IRS Form 1040X. The CWT and IT programs provide assistance to veterans who are unable to work and, therefore, cannot financially support themselves. Through CWT, the VA contracts with the private and public sector to employ these veterans. Along with learn- ing new job skills and strengthening work habits, the veterans are compensated for the work by the VA. With the IT pro- gram, seriously disabled veterans receive payments for providing services at medical centers. For more information see the VA press release at: http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel Tax Credit for Military Service in a Combat Zone If you served in a combat zone or hazardous duty area any time on or after Sept. 11, 2001, you may be eligible for a tax credit of $59 for each month you served. To claim the credit, complete Form M99, Credit for Military Service in a Combat Zone. You will need to include documentation with your form. To access Form M99 visit: http://www.taxes.state.mn.us/ taxes/individ/other_supporting_content/military_credit.shtml For further tax information, assistance or to download other tax forms, visit the Minnesota Department of Revenue website at: http://www.taxes.state.mn.us, or call: 1-800-657-3989. For Minnesota Relay for hearing impaired call 711(TTY). Volume 2, Issue 4 Page 14 Combat Pay Counts toward Economic Stimulus Payment Eligibility Military personnel serving in combat zones have the option of including their nontaxable combat pay on their 2007 or 2008 income tax returns if it helps their eligibility for the 2008 economic stimulus payments. To receive the stimulus pay- ment this year, combat zone personnel or their spouses must file a 2007 income tax return by October 15, or they can claim the economic stimulus payment on next year’s income tax return. To access the package 1040A-3 (an 8-page publication containing tax tips, a sample Form 1040A and a blank form 1040A) located at www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/k1040a3.pdf. The IRS Free File — Economic Stimulus Payment is located at www.irs.gov/efile/lists/0,,id=179739,00.html. ( stimulus tax rebates continued from page 12) Others may need to amend a previously filed tax return to include benefits to reach the $3,000 qualifying income level. Add- ing these benefits on an amended tax return will not increase an individual’s tax liability but will establish eligibility for the stimulus payment. Taxpayers can use IRS Form 1040X to amend a tax return in order to qualify for the stimulus payment. Free Tax Help Available Individuals who need to file a return this year to receive a stimulus payment may be able to take advantage of thousands of free tax preparation sites nationwide for low-income and elderly taxpayers.The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program provides help to low- and moderate-income taxpayers. Call 1-800-906-9887 to locate the nearest VITA site. The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Program provides free tax help to people age 60 and older. As part of the IRS- sponsored TCE Program, AARP offers the Tax-Aide counseling program at more than 7,000 sites nationwide during the filing season. To find an AARP tax assistance site call 1-888-227-7669 or visit the AARP website. MACV-StandDown 2008 The Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV) invites all veterans to Stand Down 2008. This event is scheduled for Monday, May 12, and Tuesday, May 13, at the Fort Snelling Army Reserve Complex. The StandDown will feature food, clothing, AA/NA meetings, onsite legal assistance, tax assistance, stress counseling, housing and employment assistance, assistance with VA benefits and claims and live entertainment. Gates will be open from 7a.m.—9 p.m. Registration is from 7 a.m.— 5 p.m. A welcoming ceremony will be held at 2:00 p.m. on May 12. Overnight shelter will be provided May 12 and 13. Free hourly shuttles will run from 7a.m. to 8p.m. from the Dorothy Day Center in St. Paul, the VA Medical Center in Minneapolis, and Branch III in Minneapolis. Register online at www.mac-v.org, or contact your County Veterans Service Officer. To find a County Veterans Service Officer directory online visit http://mdva.state.mn.us/public/CVSO%20e-mail/. For more information, please call (651) 292-0145. Volume 2, Issue 4 Page 15 Free Vacations for Wounded OIF/OEF Military Service Members To thank returning service men and women Mount Olivet Rolling Acres, a private, non-profit corporation serving people with disabilities, is reserving blocks of time at their McGregor Resort for use by wounded veterans and their families for short vacations—free of charge. This former resort was donated to Mount Olivet Rolling Acres in 1997, and is located 2.7 miles west of the town of McGregor, Minnesota. Located between Bass and Rock Lakes, the over 40 acres of woodlands, ponds and lakes offers a beautiful and relaxing vacation destination. The property includes three fully handicapped accessible cabins, the newly remodeled lodge, which is partially handicapped accessible, and a recreation building that is perfect for those rainy days or to play a board/card game with friends and family. This great vacation opportunity is free! The family only needs to pro- vide transportation to the resort and bring their own food. The resort includes: ♦ Completely furnished cabins ♦ Docks on both lakes ♦ Boat launch on Rock Lake ♦ A variety of boats (small fishing boats, pontoon and motorized paddleboat) ♦ Lifejackets of all sizes ♦ Assorted recreation equipment ♦ Fire Pits ♦ Charcoal grills near each cabin ♦ Swings/Playground ♦ Assorted patio furniture The available vacation dates are: May 15-25, 2008, and August 3-10, 2008. For more information contact: Stephanie Kohl, Recreation Coordinator, 7200 Rolling Acres Road, P.O. Box 220, Victoria, MN 55386-0220 or phone at: 952-474-5974. MN DAV Transportation Program —Volunteers Needed MN DAV transportation offices in the Minneapolis/St. Cloud Medical Centers manage a program that is one of the largest in the country when it comes to total volunteer driver hours and miles traveled. Last year alone they logged almost 2 mil- lion miles and helped almost 30,000 veterans get to their medical appointments. If you would like to be a part of this exciting and successful team all you need to do is complete an application, provide a copy of your driver’s license and driver’s history from your local law enforcement office, complete a driver’s physical and complete the DAV’s driver’s orientation training. For more information on this important volunteer opportunity please call: 612-467-2768.
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