2017-02-23 / News

County Planning Commission and the Public To Consider Veterans Issues March 1

By Kevin R. Hess

Nearly $8 million came into Mackinac County to serve the area’s almost 1,000 veterans in 2016. The money was used toward medical care, disability income, food assistance, utility assistance, and more. At their Wednesday, March 1, meeting, the Mackinac County Planning Commission plans to discuss the county’s veterans and the services available. The meeting will take place at 2 p.m. in the conference room of the Mackinac County Airport, at 180 North Airport Road in St. Ignace.

A presentation by the U.P. Regional office for the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs prompted planning commission Chairman Dean Reid to suggest to the commission that they discuss veterans services in Mackinac County. Veterans affairs are not something that planning commissions typically address, but a combination of few agenda items for the next meeting, and the importance of taking care of the county’s veterans, prompted Mr. Reid to take the issue to the planning commission.

“We need to make sure that our veterans know what kind of assistance is out there, and educate local residents to the ongoing needs of our veterans,” said Mr. Reid.

Rick Litzner is the representative for the Mackinac County Veterans Services office. He served in the Army from 1963 to 1966 and spent 15 months in Vietnam. Mr. Litzner is available to assist veterans and their dependents with the filing of claims for compensation, pension, educational benefits, insurance, home loan applications, and jobs. He says that different veterans are eligible for different benefits.

“Veterans who served during wartime will be eligible for more benefits than those who never left the states or saw combat,” he said.

There are also unique situations in which veterans may be eligible for benefits. One such example is for those who served in Vietnam. Prostate cancer is considered a presumptive disease for veterans. This means that research has shown many cases of Vietnam veterans who have been diagnosed with it. Even if the diagnosis comes several years after service, prostate cancer has been connected to Agent Orange and veterans would automatically qualify for assistance.

“There are about 15 diagnoses that would qualify a veteran for assistance,” said Mr. Litzner. “Many people just don’t know what is available.”

He encourages anyone with questions about eligibility to contact the office.

“Not everyone will qualify for assistance, but if anyone has questions, all they need to do is call. We will be glad to help,” said Mr. Litzner.

His office is in the Mackinac County Courthouse Annex building, room 105, and is available on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to noon, and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Philip Presnell is also available to veterans. Mr. Presnell works directly with, and is appointed and paid by, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) to counsel and prepare VA claims for all veterans, dependents, and surviving spouses. He shares Mr. Litzner’s office, and is available on Thursdays between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on a first come, first served basis. It is recommended to call ahead and reserve a time for appointment.

Mr. Litzner and Mr. Presnell can be reached at (906) 643-9411, or veterans can call the VFW Service Office at (313) 964-6510.

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