Program: Veterans Service Organizations

Appropriation:

All from GF/GP:

$3,912,300

Total:

$3,912,300

Program Description:

This appropriation funds Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs). In some states, the government department that handles veterans’ affairs employs personnel to assist veterans in filling out the required paperwork for obtaining veterans’ benefits. In Michigan, the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs does not employ such people, so the job of assisting veterans falls to veterans groups themselves.

In Michigan, there are 12 VSOs that receive yearly grants from the state general fund. [4] According to state documents, these funds are primarily used to pay the salaries of organizational personnel who "assist veterans in obtaining benefits, primarily from the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs." [5]

The VSOs are required to submit an annual report to the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to account for the grant monies they receive from the state. Some groups submit audited reports while others do not, depending on their size, resources, etc. Although the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs serves as the conduit for distributing the funds, the VSOs are not accountable to the department for how the funds are spent.

Recommended Action:

This program should be eliminated. While it is well intentioned, veterans are quite capable, in most instances, of relying on their own efforts, and it is in their self-interest to do so. Disabled veterans who need the help of friends, family, church or other institutions should have no trouble obtaining the benefits due to them without this program. Moreover, VSO funds are distributed in part to religious and ethnic groups: Catholic veterans, Polish veterans, Jewish veterans. Savings: $3,912,300. Governor Granholm’s 2005 proposal leaves this appropriation unchanged over the previous year’s budget.