Thank you for subscribing to my E-newsletter. I am honored to serve the 36th Senatorial District and look forward to working with you toward building a stronger Pennsylvania. This E-newsletter serves to keep you updated on what is happening throughout Lancaster County and what I am doing as your State Senator in Harrisburg – I hope that you find it helpful! Should you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please DO NOT reply to this email; instead, please feel free to contact me here.
If you know a veteran, please forward this issue to him or her. There are some important updates, resources and information.
In this Update:
VA’s Veteran Crisis Line is Available to Help
If you’re a veteran going through a tough time and thinking about reaching out, know you are not alone and the Veterans Crisis Line is available to support you.
The line is confidential, free, and always a phone call or text away for any veteran any time, day or night – you don’t have to be enrolled in VA benefits or health care to connect.
When you call, you’ll connect to a qualified responder trained to help veterans through any crisis. They’ll work with you to make sure you’re safe and, if you’d like, connect you to the services you need.
You don’t need to meet any special qualifications to contact the Veterans Crisis Line. Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or text 838255 to receive confidential crisis support 24/7.
VA Launches $20 Million Innovation Challenge to Reduce Veteran Suicide
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is inviting innovators across the country to participate in Mission Daybreak, a $20 million challenge designed to help the VA develop new suicide prevention strategies for veterans.
Those interested are encouraged to submit their detailed concept papers, via the Mission Daybreak webpage, to the VA no later than July 8.
Proposed solutions for Mission Daybreak should seek to address one or more of the designated challenge focus areas outlined in the Mission Daybreak webpage.
During Phase 1, which will award $8.5 million (30 recipients each receiving $250,000), all challenge participants will have access to a collection of open data, surveys, and reports on veteran suicide prevention as they prepare their concept papers. Innovators and collaborators are also invited to join the Mission Daybreak solver community, which helps solvers expand and augment their teams with interdisciplinary expertise.
Those who received awards in Phase 1 will then move to the Phase 2 accelerator, where they will gain exclusive access to tailored resources. An additional 10 teams will each receive a Promise Award of $100,000.
Phase 2 will award $11.5 million, with two first-place winners each receiving $3 million, three second-place winners each getting $1 million, and five third-place winners each receiving $500,000.
To learn more and hear from experts, solvers are encouraged to register for the upcoming virtual information sessions and visit missiondaybreak.net.
Honoring Local Veteran Who Fought on D-Day
Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of meeting Ray Wallace, one of the few surviving veterans who fought for our country on June 6, 1944, on the Senate floor. Ray was just 18 years old and a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division on D-Day.
He landed more than 20 miles from his drop zone and ultimately met up with 180 mis-dropped soldiers who fought off more than 2,000 Nazi soldiers for two days. Ray was ultimately captured and spent the remainder of the war in a Nazi prisoner of war camp.
Now 97 years old, Ray lives in Columbia, PA with his family. As the 78th anniversary of D-Day passed this week, we are grateful for all those who fought so bravely for our freedom, and we remember all of those who were not fortunate enough to make it back home after the war. May God bless them all.
Celebrating SMA Daniel Dailey’s Retirement
My son, Jack, and I were in Palmerton, Pennsylvania to honor the 15th Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey, US Army (Retired), his wife, Holly, and their son, Dakota.
Palmerton is proud of their native son, and it was a privilege for me to serve with him (2001-2003).
I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to speak and share some memories and just a few of the lessons I learned during my time serving with him in C Co, 1/8 Infantry.
Recognizing Young Men and Women Who Decided to Serve in the U.S. Military
It was a pleasure to speak at the Our Community Salutes event at the American Legion Post 34 in Lancaster to honor high school seniors from around the county who have made the honorable decision to serve in the U.S. military upon graduation. These students were impressive, and I admire their commitment to our country and the freedoms we’ve fought for centuries to preserve!
Meeting National Guard Officers Poised for Promotion
The Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee unanimously voted to favorably recommend seven exceptional officers in the PA National Guard for promotion. I was pleased to meet with these fine men and thank them for their service to our Commonwealth and our country, and to introduce my constituent, Brig. Gen. Terrence L. Koudelka (pictured far left), to the members of the committee.
Pennsylvania Agriculture Veteran Grant Program
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is soliciting applications to conduct one or more “mini-grant” programs for Fiscal Year 2022-23 for the benefit of military veterans entering or expanding farm operations or related business. Veterans’ services, agricultural, and other organizations are encouraged to apply for the funding to deliver grants to military veterans for farm and related business start-ups and expansion.
Depending upon the quality of applications, one to three awards of up to $100,000 each may be given with a cap of $10,000 per individual veterans for mini-grants. The subgrants to veterans can support a diverse range of expenses from food safety and biosecurity planning to equipment, marketing and working capital.
Applications are due by Friday, June 17, at 5 p.m. Interested applicants must submit a complete electronic proposal and grant application using the Department of Community and Economic Development’s Electronic Single Application.
Unemployed? The VA’s Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program Could Help
If you’re unemployed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program (VRRAP) offers education and training for a variety of high-demand jobs so you can get back to work.
VRRAP covers education and training programs approved under the GI Bill and Veteran Employment Through Technology Education Courses (VET TEC) that lead to high-demand jobs. These include associate degrees, non-college degrees, and certificate programs. The Department of Labor determines what’s considered a high-demand job for VRRAP.
If you’re eligible for VRRAP, you can get up to 12 months of tuition and fees, and a monthly housing allowance based on post-9/11 GI Bill rates.
If you think you might be interested, don’t wait to check out the program because the VA says it will stop accepting new VRRAP enrollments on Dec. 11 or when it reaches either the $386 million funding limit or the 17,250 participant limit, whichever comes first. If you’re already enrolled in a program under VRRAP, you’ll continue to get your payments.
To find out more about the program or how to apply, see the VRRAP website.
Injured Veteran Housing in PA
The organization Homes For Our Troops builds and donates specially adapted custom homes for severely injured post-9/11 veterans to enable them to rebuild their lives.
Each of the homes is equipped with more than 40 major special adaptions and exceeds ADA compliance standards, providing full accessibility for the veteran. For a listing of the organization’s injured veteran home builds in Pennsylvania, click here.
Buying a House Isn’t Easy Right Now for Anyone, and for Veterans, It Could be Tougher
Since the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Home Loan Program originated as part of the original GI Bill in 1944, the VA has guaranteed more than 26 million home loans for veterans.
However, while it’s seen as a pathway to homeownership for middle-class Americans, the VA Home Loan program is not without obstacles, according to the American Legion and some in the home financing industry.
Last month, the Navy Federal Credit Union, a top VA lender, published results of a survey of 1,000 active duty servicemembers and veterans from around the country that indicated there remain serious misconceptions about the loan program by those who could use it. Additionally, in testimony presented to Congress in December 2021, the American Legion stated VA loan homebuyers have struggled to compete with conventional loan homebuyers because of restrictions and inflexibilities within the current real estate market.
While requests have been made of federal lawmakers to provide more flexibility within the VA Home Loan Program, active duty servicemembers and veterans are also urged to learn more about the program and its benefits, and when the time comes, work with experienced real estate agents who understand the VA Home Loan Program.
The VA recently produced two videos in conjunction with the National Association of REALTORS discussing the VA Home Loan Program. Click here for Part 1: VA Loans 101, and here for Part 2: Reducing Barriers for VA Borrowers.
Federal Program Offers Affordable, Low-Cost Internet Access to Eligible Households
The Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) provides a discount of up to $30 per month that can be used toward broadband service for eligible households.
Additionally, 20 leading internet providers will offer ACP-eligible households a high-speed internet plan for no more than $30 per month. Eligible families who pair their ACP benefit with one of these plans can receive high-speed internet at no cost.
According to the VA, approximately 2.5 million veterans are eligible for the program. To check if you’re eligible, go to ACPBenefit.org to submit an application or print out a mail-in application, and contact your preferred participating provider to select an eligible plan and have the discount applied to your bill.
Some providers may have an alternative application that they will ask you to complete.
Eligible households can enroll through a participating broadband provider or directly with the Universal Service Administrative Company using an online or mail-in application.
What are Vet Centers?
VA vet centers provide free and confidential readjustment counseling for war-zone veterans and their families, from World War II to the current Global War on Terror.
Vet centers are small, non-medical, counseling centers conveniently located in our region. They’re staffed by highly trained counselors and team members dedicated to seeing you through the challenges that come with managing life during and after the military.
Our region is served by the Lancaster Vet Center, which is one of 12 vet centers in Pennsylvania and more than 300 across the country. Whether you come in for one-on-one counseling or to participate in a group session, at vet centers you can form social connections, try new things, and build a support system with people who understand you and want to help you succeed.
Who is Eligible to Receive Services at Vet Centers?
Vet center services are available to veterans at no cost, regardless of discharge character, and without the need to be enrolled in VA health care or having a service-connected disability. If you are a veteran or service member, including members of the National Guard and Reserve, you can access vet center services if you:
Contacting Your Local Vet Center
Even if you are unsure if you meet the criteria to receive services from a vet center, please contact a center.
Center services are also available to family members when their participation would support the growth and goals of the veteran or active-duty service member. If you consider them family, so does your local center. Bereavement services are also available to family members of veterans who were receiving vet center services at the time of the veteran’s death, and to the families of service members who died while serving on active duty.
The Lancaster Vet Center, located at 1817 Olde Homestead Lane, Suite 207, Lancaster, PA 17601, can be contacted at 717-283-0735 or toll free 24/7 at 1-877-WAR-VETS (927-8387).
The other vet center locations in Pennsylvania are:
For more information, please visit www.vetcenter.va.gov.