If you know a veteran, please forward this issue to him or her as it provides important updates, resources, and information.
In this Update:
Recognizing the 20th Anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, when the United States and coalition forces began the mission to liberate Iraq from dictator Saddam Hussein and extend freedom and democracy throughout the region.
We remember all who served from every branch of the military, but especially the more than 200 sons and daughters of Pennsylvania who paid the ultimate sacrifice and gave the last full measure of devotion.
Twenty years ago, I was a young junior captain serving with the 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division. As I reflect, I think of the men and women with whom I had the honor of serving. In their memory, I sponsored a Senate resolution marking the anniversary.
Operation Iraqi Freedom ended on Dec. 15, 2011.
Celebrating a Veteran’s 100th Birthday
Happy belated 100th birthday to Lancaster native John Smith! Mr. Smith honorably served our country in WWII as a member of the U.S. Army in the 870th Chemical Company attached to the 20th Air Force from 1943-46. Best wishes to John Smith on this momentous occasion!
Interviewing with the Pennsylvania Veterans Museum
I recently sat down for an interview with Ed Buffman for a Pennsylvania Veterans Museum video project. Ed asked such thought-provoking questions. I am most grateful for the opportunity to talk about the wonderful soldiers I served with who still inspire me!
Check out the museum here.
Free Veteran Bus Trip to Washington, D.C.
Annually since 2011, veterans from any era and active-duty soldiers gather at Northeastern High School, 300 High St., Manchester, for the Honor Bus Trip. This free trip is sponsored by the Northeastern High School Honor Bus Project, which involves a group of students escorting local veterans on an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C. to visit the memorials dedicated to their service.
This year, the trip will be on Saturday, April 29. Veterans and soldiers who would like to attend are asked to fill out an application here.
While in Washington, veterans visit the Arlington National Cemetery to witness the ceremony of the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. All participants are treated to breakfast (prepared by the women’s auxiliary of the Mount Wolf VFW), a bagged lunch (donated by Applebee’s) and a banquet style dinner (donated by Mission BBQ) upon return to Northeastern High School.
Resources for Understanding Military Benefits and Tax Filing
Members of the military or veterans may find these resources on taxes and their benefits helpful this tax season.
For Pennsylvania state taxes, this U.S. Army site provides information on such things as:
For federal taxes, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides information on how veterans can maximize their tax benefits. It covers what’s taxable and what’s not and includes the AARP Foundation’s Tax-Aide program, which offers free tax help to anyone, with a focus on taxpayers who are 50 and older and have low to moderate incomes.
Helping Veterans Apply for Benefits: DMVA Mobile Outreach Van Teams
The Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) operates Mobile Veterans Outreach Vans throughout the state to assist veterans in obtaining information and initiating benefit claim paperwork through the assistance of DMVA accredited veteran service officers.
To book an outreach van for community events, complete the Van Request Form and submit it six months but not less than 45 days prior to your event using email (RA-VA-Info@pa.gov), fax (717-861-8121), or the following mailing address: Pennsylvania Mobile Veteran Service Van, Office of Veterans Affairs, Attn: Outreach and Reintegration Team Building 9-26, Fort Indiantown Gap Annville, PA 17003-5002.
The DMVA says it will make every effort to fulfill requests, but that will depend on the demand, so it cannot guarantee every request will be accommodated as submitted. If alternate dates are available, please indicate this on the form.
Requests with less than a 30-day turnaround will be handled on a space available basis only, according to the DMVA.
Good News for Veterans, Caregivers in VA’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers
The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) has announced that for its Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC), the department is extending eligibility and applicable benefits for legacy participants and legacy applicants through Sept. 30, 2025.
During this time, the VA will not discharge or decrease any support to legacy participants, legacy applicants, and their family caregivers, based on reassessment, to include monthly stipends paid to primary family caregivers.
This extends the transition period and timeline to complete reassessments for legacy participants, legacy applicants, and their family caregivers for an additional three years.
The VA has indicated it will continue to complete reassessments of legacy participants, legacy applicants, and their family caregivers at the request of the veteran or family caregiver or if evidence of an increased need for personal care services is identified.
Any primary family caregiver eligible for an increase in their monthly stipend will receive it.
If you receive a PCAFC decision and disagree with that decision, the options to seek further review or appeal of the decision remain the same. Information about review and appeal options for PCAFC decisions can be found on the VA Caregiver Support Program website.
PA’s Military Occupational Crosswalk
The Pennsylvania Department of State (DOS) has developed a Military Occupational Crosswalk to identify and relate civilian career opportunities and requirements to veterans’ military experience.
The crosswalk compares qualification details from nearly 300 military occupations to the initial requirements for DOS licensure for related professions. These have been matched to licensed professions administered by the professional licensing boards and commissions in Pennsylvania. The purpose of the crosswalk is to relate skills, experience, credentials, and education obtained in the military and help servicemembers/veterans align them with civilian opportunities.
The crosswalk helps determine which military occupations qualifications are “substantially equivalent” to the state’s requirements for licensure and identify gaps between civilian occupational licensure requirements and a veteran’s current knowledge, skills, education, and training.
Translation of a veteran’s education, training, experience, and skills into civilian career goals is a multi-step process that can have a variety of outcomes. More about that process and how to use the Military Occupational Crosswalk can be found here.
VA Offers $30 Million in Grant Funding to Assist Formerly Homeless Veterans
The VA has announced $30 million in grant funding will be made available for organizations to help formerly homeless veterans maintain their independence and housing stability.
This funding opportunity will give organizations the funding they need to hire case managers, who will help veterans search for, obtain, and successfully transition to permanent housing; troubleshoot challenges and barriers to maintaining permanent housing; connect with services to address issues such as poor credit history, rent arrears, and legal issues; and more.
The VA anticipates awarding 100 Case Management Grants for up to $300,000 each to support approximately 150 case manager positions nationwide. Awards will fund two years of operations, starting on Oct. 1, and ending Sept. 30, 2025. The funds are available through VA’s Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem (GPD) Program.
Eligible entities, as described in the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), may apply for these Case Management Grants. Grant applications must be received by the GPD Program Office by 4 p.m. on May 4. To learn more about GPD, view the NOFO or email GPDGrants@va.gov.
If you are a veteran or know a veteran who is experiencing homelessness or at risk for homelessness, call the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 877-4AID-VET (877-424-3838). Visit the VA Homeless Programs website to learn about housing initiatives and other programs for Veterans exiting homelessness.
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.