New Approach, Connecting Veterans to Earned Benefits

Veterans and their families often find it difficult and time-consuming to navigate the benefit systems available to them from various agencies and government offices. Now, Heart of West Michigan United Way’s 2-1-1 social services hotline is making it easier for veterans to learn what services they qualify for, where to go, and how to access the benefits and programs they have earned.

By simply dialing 2-1-1 from any landline in Kent County (616-459-2255 or 1-800-887-1107 from outside of the county or any mobile phone), 24-hour 2-1-1 operators will connect any veteran of any branch of service or any member of their family to hundreds of benefits through a new statewide resource center, including:

  • Case Management
  • Basic Needs (food, housing, transportation assistance, etc.)
  • Military Family Services/Support Centers
  • Military Family Support Group
  • Social Services for Military Personnel
  • Veterans Assistance
  • Burial Benefits
  • Compensation and Pension Benefits
  • Support Groups
  • Reintegration Counseling
  • Medical Care

“Often times, we will have a caller that is inquiring about utility assistance or food pantries and upon talking to the caller, we may discover he or she is a veteran and not receiving benefits earned.” says Sherri Vainavicz, 2-1-1 Program Manager.  “Now, we can connect the veteran with the MVAA.” 

This more efficient support-network is made possible through United Way’s 2-1-1 partnership with the Michigan Veterans Resource Service Center (MVRSC), a collaboration between the Michigan Department of Military & Veterans Affairs and the Michigan 211 system, launched by Gov. Rick Snyder in September.

“It’s especially gratifying when we can find better ways to ensure that our veterans have the access to the services and benefits they have earned,” Snyder says. “The new Michigan Veteran Resource Service Center is a great example of collaboration that provides a cutting-edge way to serve Michigan’s veterans.”

The launch of this program marks the first time any state has fully integrated with the 2-1-1 system to deliver information and referrals to veteran specific programs, in addition to connections to wraparound services available to all citizens.

“They can look into receiving benefits which may help their financial situation long-term,” says Vainavicz. “The partnership with 2-1-1 and MVRSC has allowed us to better serve our veterans.”

Heart of West Michigan United Way supports, promotes and advocates for Kent County by working to achieve shared community goals in education, income and health. As a philanthropic leader and partner with strong West Michigan connections, United Way collaborates with businesses, other nonprofits and individuals to leverage gifts of time and money to benefit our community.