Senator Dush E-Newsletter

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If you know a veteran, please forward this issue to them (you can sign up for my mission reports here). There are some important updates, resources and information they can use.

In this Update:

  • PA Senate Passes Bill Waiving Fee for Veterans License Plate Replacement
  • Avoiding Scams this Tax Season
  • VA Expands Health Care Eligibility to Millions of Veterans
  • Hero Care Network
  • Important Information for G.I. Bill Beneficiaries
  • Vet Centers

PA Senate Passes Bill Waiving Fee for Veterans License Plate Replacement

Veterans who proudly display their service through military license plates would receive free replacements when the plates wear out, under legislation passed by the Senate.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) waives replacement plate fees for standard and personalized vehicle plates that are no longer legible from a reasonable distance, but charges veterans to replace military registration plates. 

Senate Bill 915 would require PennDOT to automatically reissue military registration plates to eliminate this hurdle for our veterans. If a military registration plate becomes illegible before the automatic reissuance, the replacement fee would be waived.

The measure is now before the House of Representatives for consideration.

Avoiding Scams this Tax Season

The deadline to pay our taxes is nearly upon us, and while it’s a time for many to diligently manage their finances, it’s also a period when scams and fraudsters are on the prowl, targeting unsuspecting individuals, including veterans and their families.

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), taxpayers lose millions of dollars each year due to tax-related scams and schemes. Tax frauds and scams come in various forms; you can read about them here on the IRS website. Veterans and their families are particularly vulnerable targets, with scammers often exploiting their personal information and circumstances. It’s essential to recognize common tactics used by fraudsters, such as sending fake emails or making threatening phone calls, especially during tax season.

It’s important to know and understand your veterans benefits so you can differentiate scammers from legitimate communication from the IRS. You also need to use identity protection tools provided by the IRS. And always be vigilant for scams, knowing that the IRS will never email, text or call taxpayers and ask for their identity protection information. The IRS also offers advice here about choosing tax professionals to help you with tax preparation.

Taxpayers can report suspected tax-related illegal activities, including IRS-related phishing attempts and fraud, to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484. You can also find more information about how to report potential scams on the IRS “Reporting Tax Scams” webpage.

Additional resources are available for veterans from the IRS’s ”Information for Veterans” page, the IRS’s “Military Information” page, the IRS Free File tool, and MilTax (free tax software and support).

VA Expands Health Care Eligibility to Millions of Veterans

All veterans who served in the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan or any other combat zone after 9/11, years earlier than called for by the federal PACT Act, will now be eligible to enroll directly in VA health care without first applying for VA benefits.

Additionally, veterans who never deployed but were exposed to toxins or hazards while training or on active duty in the United States will also be eligible to enroll.

This expansion of VA health care eliminates the phased-in approach called for by the PACT Act, meaning that millions of veterans are becoming eligible for VA health care up to eight years earlier than written into law.

The VA encourages all eligible veterans to visit the Pact Act website or call 1-800-MYVA411 to learn more and apply for VA health care.

Veterans can apply for VA health care by visiting their nearest VA medical center or clinic; online at; by calling the VA’s toll-free hotline at 877-222-8387, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET; by mailing their completed Application for Heath Care Benefits (VA Form 10-10EZ) to Health Eligibility Center, 2957 Clairmont Rd., Suite 200 Atlanta, GA 30329.

Hero Care Network

Through the Hero Care Network, the Red Cross connects service members, veterans and their families to free and confidential assistance any day, anytime.

This includes emergency communication messages, financial assistance, critical community services and more.

As part of the Hero Care Network, the Red Cross works with military aid societies to connect eligible military, retired military, veterans and their families with financial assistance in times of hardship.

The Red Cross also partners with veteran organizations to assist veteran benefits and financial assistance in communities around the U.S. To access these services through the Hero Care Network, visit, download the Hero Care app by texting GETHEROCARE to 90999, or call a Hero Care specialist at 877-272-7337.

Important Information for G.I. Bill Beneficiaries

Some students receive benefit payments to two banking accounts, but the VA needs all students to consolidate their payments into one direct deposit account to help protect from fraud and to ensure the VA pays veterans on time, every time, without error.

If you’re a G.I. Bill beneficiary who also receives other benefits, you need to ensure you have a single bank account selected for direct deposit by April 20.

If you received a notification via text message or email, please take action by April 20. If you do not receive a notification, you are not impacted.

According to the VA, the easiest way to make this change is to log on to the “Change Your VA Direct Deposit Information” webpage. When you get to the pay information, there will be a box for the bank account information of your education benefits, and a box for the bank account information for the other benefit you receive. You should update the bank account information to use the same account for all benefits.

You can get more information about this matter here.

I’ve been asked this question by several of my fellow vets and feel it’s important to provide an answer to those who haven’t reached out yet.

VA Vet Centers provide free and confidential readjustment counseling for War-Zone Veterans and their families, World War II to the current Global War on Terror.

Vet Centers are small, non-medical, counseling centers conveniently located in our region. They’re staffed by highly trained counselors and team members dedicated to seeing you through the challenges that come with managing life during and after the military.

Our region is served by the DuBois Vet Center, which is one of 12 Vet Centers in Pennsylvania and over 300 across the country. Whether you come in for one-on-one counseling or to participate in a group session, at Vet Centers you can form social connections, try new things, and build a support system with people who understand you and want to help you succeed. The Dubois Vet Center’ website  is designed to provide veterans, family members, and community partners the ability to see what services the center offers, as well as the center’s Community Access Points with a picture of the entrance so first time visitors have a frame of reference to help guide them in.

From my time in the State House through my current position, I’ve had a strong relationship with the Dubois Vet Center.  They have helped me help many of my fellow vets.

Two Recreational Therapy Groups Available at the Dubois Vet Center

As part of a national competition, the DuBois Vet Center was approved for initial funding for two recreational therapy groups.

One of the groups is an introduction to fly tying for fly fishing, with one of the center’s counselors being an avid fly tyer and fisherman. The other group is a no sew blanket group, which the center hopes will generate interest from women veterans, but the group is open to anyone who would like to join.

The groups will be held at the Vet Center with approximately 4 cohorts to run quarterly with 6 vets in each cohort. The center says it hopes to grow these groups and potentially be able to have them at the center’s Community Access Points (CAPs) in McKean, Centre and Blair counties, with the possibility of adding more recreational therapy groups in the future.

The center noted the initial funding will help them launch the groups, but they will be actively trying to obtain additional funding they can expand on them.

Who is eligible to receive services at Vet Centers?

Vet Center services are available to Veterans at no cost, regardless of discharge character, and without the need to be enrolled in VA health care or having a service-connected disability. If you are a Veteran or service member, including members of the National Guard and Reserve, you can access Vet Center services if you:

  • Served on active military duty in any combat theater or area of hostility.
  • Experienced military sexual trauma (regardless of gender or service era.)
  • Provided mortuary services or direct emergent medical care to treat the casualties of war while serving on active military duty.
  • Performed as a member of an unmanned aerial vehicle crew that provided direct support to operations in a combat theater or area of hostility.
  • Accessed care at a Vet Center prior to Jan. 2, 2013 as a Vietnam-Era Veteran.
  • Served on active military duty in response to a national emergency or major disaster declared by the president, or under orders of the governor or chief executive of a state in response to a disaster or civil disorder in that state.
  • Are a current or former member of the Coast Guard who participated in a drug interdiction operation, regardless of the location.

Contacting your local Vet Center

Even if you are unsure if you meet the criteria to receive services from a Vet Center, please contact a center. From personal experience I can tell you that, if the center can’t help you, they’ll find someone who will.

Center services are also available to family members when their participation would support the growth and goals of the Veteran or active-duty service member. If you consider them family, so does your local center. Bereavement services are also available to family members of Veterans who were receiving Vet Center services at the time of the Veteran’s death, and to the families of service members who died while serving on active duty.

The DuBois Vet Center, located at 100 Meadow Lane, Suite 8, DuBois, PA 15801, can be contacted at 814-372-2095 or toll free 24/7 at 1-877-WAR-VETS (927-8387).

The DuBois Vet Center recently announced counseling and referral services are now being provided at the State College American Legion Post 245, in addition to the many services they offer at their locations in DuBois, Altoona, Bradford, Penn State-DuBois, Smethport and their mobile Vet Center.

The other Vet Center locations in Pennsylvania are:

  • Bucks County Vet Center, 2 Canals End Road, Suite 201B, Bristol, PA 19007, 215-823-4590
  • Erie Vet Center, 240 West 11th Street, Suite 105, Erie, PA 16501, 814-453-7955
  • Harrisburg Vet Center, 1500 N. Second Street, Harrisburg, PA 17102, 717-782-3954
  • Lancaster Vet Center, 1817 Olde Homestead Lane, Suite 207, Lancaster, PA 17601, 717-283-0735
  • Norristown Vet Center, 320 East Johnson Highway, Suite 201, Norristown, PA 19401, 215-823-5245
  • City Center Philadelphia Vet Center, 801 Arch Street, Suite 502, Philadelphia, PA 19107, 215-627-0238
  • Northeast Philadelphia Vet Center, 101 East Olney Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19120, 215-924-4670
  • Pittsburgh Vet Center, 2500 Baldwick Road, Suite 15, Pittsburgh, PA 15205, 412-920-1765
  • Scranton Vet Center, 1002 Pittston Avenue, Scranton, PA 18505, 570-344-2676
  • White Oak Vet Center, 2001 Lincoln Way, Suite 280, White Oak, PA 15131, 412-678-7704
  • Williamsport Vet Center, 49 East Fourth Street, Suite 104, Williamsport, PA 17701, 570-327-5281

For more information, please visit


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