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Gary A. Brown Headshot

As Our Patriots Have Come Home, Detroit Will Lift Them Up

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President Barack Obama fulfilled his commitment to bring the combat troops home from Iraq. Since Detroit has one of the largest contingents of active military, I encourage you to honor and respect them for their service, as we support them in making a smooth transition to civilian life.

Last summer, I began discussions with the Michigan Office of Military and Veterans Affairs on offering support services to those who have fought courageously for our freedoms. As a former Marine, I am well aware of the plight, roadblocks and lack of information plaguing our veterans. Furthermore, visits to Washington, D.C. confirm the fact that Michigan lags far behind other states in accessing veterans' benefits.

A large number of Detroit's veterans are impoverished or homeless. This is absolutely disheartening since they have served this nation on our behalf. We have let them down. Let's not continue on this same path -- especially since the veteran population will significantly grow this year. These are skilled and talented Detroiters who can join with us to create a thriving city.

Detroit ranks as one of the lowest in obtaining veterans' benefits, although we have one of the nation's highest veteran populations. We are 53 are out of 53 U.S. states and territories according to the United States Veterans Administration. In November, with the support of my Detroit City Council colleagues, we created the Military and Veterans Affairs Task Force.

As citizens who respect veterans, we can share information about the many resources and opportunities available to them, including transitional and permanent housing programs, medical assistance, and job placement. We can also volunteer our time and make contributions to worthy organizations that support our veterans. Together we can become a catalyst to improve access to benefits.

The Detroit City Council Military and Veterans Affairs Task Force's three primary goals are:

• First, collaborate with the Veterans Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs for the State of Michigan and Wayne County, and the local veterans' volunteer organizations in an effort to connect active military and veterans with the many available resources and benefits;
• Second, educate the public about the unique experiences and needs of our veterans, active military personnel and their families; and
• Third, link veterans and reservists with Detroit employers who seek the enthusiastic work ethic and practical skills offered by those who have served in the military while maximizing financial incentives for both parties.

On January 9, we held our third Detroit City Council Military and Veterans Affairs Task Force meeting. I am very pleased that representatives from federal, state and local agencies, healthcare organizations, veterans groups, non-profits and the corporate sector joined together in this vital initiative.

The issue of veterans being under-served is not a question of adequate resources -- it is a matter of communication. There are ample financial, housing, health and counseling services available for both active and prior military members and their families.

Our first action was to compile a list of available resources for veterans which have been posted at www.garybrown4detroit.com. I encourage you to share this information with family and friends who have served in the military (there is a link to a printable version, as well). Next, we are working on hosting a resource forum. We will continue to utilize the website, www.garybrown4detroit.com, to inform the public about task force and other meetings, forums and events intended for active military, veterans and their families.

Join with me and the Detroit City Council in changing this unacceptable pattern of leaving our veterans out in the cold. Let's grant them the respect they deserve by sharing our gratitude and inform them of available resources.