Millage would raise $1M more for vets

Ross Starkweather looks though his application for VA benefits. (April 29, 2014)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — On Nov. 4, Kent County residents will decide whether to pass a millage to increase the amount of money spent on support for area veterans.

If the measure passes, most of the collected tax dollars would go toward hiring of more staff to help veterans sift through the paperwork in the federal filing process to get benefits.

Simeon Switzer, a veteran and administrator for the Vote Yes campaign, said Kent County currently employs only three part-time staff members to handle the paperwork load.

“They deal with disability claims, pension claims, enrolling people for VA Health Care, getting them enrolled in educational benefits and just in general letting people know what’s available,” Switzer explained.

Millage funds would also go to some basic services like community outreach and transportation for veterans between facilities.

The millage revenue — expected to be more than $1 million in the first year — would be added to the $346,000 per year already budgeted for county veterans.

“That money will stay with the department,” Switzer said.

It is worth noting that by law, a portion of the millage money collected — about $34,000 in the first year — will go to 27 local agencies, including the downtown development authorities for each city in Kent County.

The millage would cost the owner of a $200,000 home around $5 per year.

Supporters say that’s a small price to pay.

“They bring so many skills and life experiences from their time in the military that they can plug back into the civilian world, educational world, bringing it back to the community and being an active part,” Switzer said.

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