Who We Are
The Oceana County Department of Veterans’ Affairs is responsible to care for the needs of veterans, their widows, widowers, and orphans within the governmental boundaries of Oceana County. The department has and will continue to provide service to veterans and their families in neighboring counties, for example Mason and Lake Counties, on a space available basis only. We will do this in-part out of fairness because our veterans benefitted from other counties for many years before we opened an office in Oceana County.
Honorably discharged veterans who served their country were granted certain benefits from the federal and state governments that included health, education, home mortgages, compensation for service connected injuries or illnesses, pensions for the unemployable, and other benefits including assistance with filing claims if necessary. These veterans usually looked to their local Post Service Officer. Service Officers with minimal training usually forwarded those requests to veteran’s service officers of the various fraternal military organizations. Veterans’ Service Officers (VSO) would then process their cases with the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs. This process took time and frustrated many veterans. Many denied claims caused further frustration and veterans just gave up. To make matters worse, in actuality, many veterans went un-represented or underrepresented and as a result did not receive the compensation or medical care they deserved.
Since 2006, funding for veterans service organizations has decreased causing a decrease in the number of VSOs throughout the country. This has only exacerbated an already intolerable condition not only nationally, but also locally.
Veterans of Oceana County started seeing independent VSOs from other areas because there was none in Oceana County. A small group of veterans polled local veterans and found an interest and a need to establish our own County VSO. The task force collected data, researched Public Acts, and acquired opinions from the Attorney General. The County Commissioners approved a ballot proposal and added the proposal to the ballot.
Veterans and veteran’s organizations began to campaign urging the passage of a 1/10 mill on Property Taxes for the purpose of funding and establishing an Oceana County Department of Veterans Affairs and to also fund the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Relief Act provisions. The voters approved this proposal and work begun on standing up the new Department.
The County Commission approved a five-person Department Committee to manage and operate the Department and to disburse relief funds. According to PA 192, the members had to be veterans, submit a resume, meet specific experience requirements, and interview for selection at the local post level. The Post Commanders of the various Congressionally Chartered veterans’ organizations selected the veterans presented to the County Commission for approval. The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Relief is now a part of this newly established organization. The Department’s budget is independent of the County Budget. A small millage funds the OCDVA. The Department works closely with the Veterans Trust even though governed by separate state laws and guidelines. The Committee stood up the VSO Office and had it functioning in January 2013 and a newly trained VSO were on duty by April 2013 after undergoing national training and certification.
Because of the efforts of a handful of concerned veterans and citizens, the Oceana County Dept. of Veterans Affairs exists today. The Department is the first in the State. It is now a role model for organizing and operating other county DVAs under Public Act 192. Finally, because of these individuals, and the support of the property owners of Oceana County veterans will now receive the kind of care and support they have deserved. Economic stress on the county and state resources diminish because of direct VA care awarded to county veterans through the efforts of the Department and its VSO.
Chapter 35 of Public Act 192 (1953) is the enabling legislation that allows several counties in the State of Michigan to create their own Department of Veterans’ Affairs. A five (5)-member committee, who have met the qualifications outlined in the Act, administers those departments. The County Commissioners approve members of the committee upon the recommendation of the congressionally chartered veterans’ organizations within the counties.
To make the process as efficient and effective as possible, these veterans’ organizations in Oceana formed a veterans’ coalition made up of the commanders of the posts to review the recommendations and resumes of candidates. The coalition recommends selectees to the Commissioners for consideration and appointment.
Key Legislative Authority
Public Act 192 and Public Act 214 Relationship
Public Act 190  – Uniformity of Service Dates
Public Act 192  – County Department of Veterans’ Affairs
Public Act 214  – Veteran’s Relief Fund
Public Act 235  – Funeral Expenses of Veterans