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:

  • Veterans: Now is a Good Time to Review and Update Benefits
  • Farmer Veteran Grant Recipients Announced
  • Financial Assistance for Eligible Children of Veterans
  • Veterans In Suicidal Crisis Can Seek Free Emergency Health Care
  • U.S. Small Business Administration to Host Virtual Information Hour with Veterans
  • Registration is Now Open for PA VFW Annual Women Veterans Retreat March 24-26
  • My Recommended Read for Veterans in the Month of February
  • Vet Centers

Veterans: Now is a Good Time to Review and Update Benefits

The Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) says that the start of the year is a good time for veterans to meet with an accredited veteran service officer to ensure they are receiving or maximizing the benefits they have earned through their service and sacrifice while in unform.

Safeguarding military paperwork, especially the DD-214, which is used to verify military service, is an important first step for securing benefits. Filing these documents for free at the county courthouse is an easy way to secure them until needed, which can often be decades into the future. Anyone needing assistance locating their military documentation can call the DMVA at 800-547-2838 or e-mail

A complete list of accredited county directors of veterans affairs and their contact information can be found here. Contact information for accredited veteran service officers can be found here.

Farmer Veteran Grant Recipients Announced

During Military Appreciation Day at the 107th Pennsylvania Farm Show, the first recipients of the PA Farm Bill’s Farmer Veteran Grant program were announced.

This Farmer Veteran Grant program is available through the Agriculture Business Development Center which was created by the PA Farm Bill. Through the PA Farm Bill, the Department of Agriculture awarded $200,000 to two veterans’ service organizations – Community Partnership Inc. (Butler, Butler County) and Pennsylvania Veteran Farming Network (Greensburg, Westmoreland County) – which are offering the farmer veteran grants.

Grants of up to $10,000 have been awarded for various agricultural business needs including the purchase of cattle handling equipment, hay storage, value-added processing equipment for chicken, livestock watering equipment and construction of a farm store, among other projects.

The 11 recipients of the grants are:

  • Dustin Butler, U.S. Army veteran, Butler Hill Beef, Knoxville (Tioga County), $9,000
  • James Cornwell, U.S. Navy veteran, Nine Pines Farm, York (York County), $10,000
  • Donald Flagle, U.S. Army veteran, Ewe View Farm, Needmore (Fulton County), $9,275
  • William Hopkins, U.S. Army veteran, Hopkins Farm, Falls (Wyoming County), $10,000
  • Harold Keiner, U.S. Army veteran, Keiner’s Apiary, Wapwallopen (Luzerne County), $4,000
  • Charles Lafferty, PA National Guard, Skyline Pastures, Mohrsville (Berks County), $5,000
  • Shane Lee, DBPL Farm, U.S. Air Force veteran, Westfield (Tioga County), $6,800
  • Joseph O’Hara, U.S. Navy veteran, HF Orchard LLC, Bloomsburg (Columbia County), $9,650
  • Frederick Tiffany, U.S. Army veteran, Bullard Creek Cattle, Athens (Bradford County), $10,000
  • Marcy Tudor, U.S. Air Force veteran, Weatherbury Farms, Avella (Washington County), $9,800
  • Giana VanNice, US Navy veteran, Blue Dog Farms, New Freedom (York County), $10,000

Financial Assistance for Eligible Children of Veterans

As the school year approaches, the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs reminds veterans with children that financial assistance is available to those attending post-high school education or training at an approved institution in the commonwealth through its Educational Gratuity Program.

The program supports children of honorably discharged veterans who have 100% service-connected disabilities and served during a period of war or armed conflict, or children of veterans who die or died in service during a period of war or armed conflict. To be eligible, a child of a veteran must be between the ages of 16 and 23, living within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania five years prior to application and must attend a school within the commonwealth. All applicants must have a financial need.

Payments will not exceed $500 per term or semester per qualified child to each approved educational institution over a total of eight terms or semesters. For more information about the program’s criteria, eligibility and needed documentation, go to Educational Gratuity Program.

Veterans In Suicidal Crisis Can Seek Free Emergency Health Care

As of Jan. 17, veterans in acute suicidal crisis can go to any VA or non-VA health care facility for emergency health care at no cost, including inpatient or crisis residential care for up to 30 days and outpatient care for up to 90 days. Veterans do not need to be enrolled in the VA system to use this benefit.

This expansion of care is intended to help prevent veteran suicide by guaranteeing no cost, world-class care to veterans in times of crisis.

It’s also important to note that it is expected to increase access to acute suicide care for up to 9 million veterans who are not currently enrolled in the VA.

Eligible individuals, regardless of VA enrollment status, are:

  • Veterans who were discharged or released from active duty after more than 24 months of active service under conditions other than dishonorable.
  • Former members of the armed forces, including reserve service members, who served more than 100 days under a combat exclusion or in support of a contingency operation either directly or by operating an unmanned aerial vehicle from another location who were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.
  • Former members of the armed forces who were the victim of a physical assault of a sexual nature, a battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment while serving in the armed forces.

U.S. Small Business Administration to Host Virtual Information Hour with Veterans

Did you know that veterans own roughly 9% of all small businesses in the United States and employ more than 5 million Americans?

Veteran entrepreneurs play an essential role in the U.S. economy and a new offering from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Pittsburgh District Office will allow participants will learn how the SBA can assist the veteran community in their path toward entrepreneurship.

The SBA Pittsburgh District Office will hold “SBA Hour with Veterans” virtual seminars to discuss resources and programs the SBA provides for active duty, reservists and national guard, and veterans of all eras.

Registrants will receive an e-mail from Pittsburgh District SBA with login instructions prior to the brief. You can select a date and sign up for a briefing here.

Registration is Now Open for PA VFW Annual Women Veterans Retreat March 24-26

Each Spring, the Pennsylvania Department of VFW hosts a Women Veterans Retreat at little or no cost to participants thanks to donations from VFW Posts and Districts.

This year’s retreat will be held March 24-26 (March is Women Veterans Month) at the Pittsburgh Mariott North, 100 Cranberry Woods Dr, Cranberry Twp, PA 16066.

The retreat is an opportunity for women veterans of all services and eras to gather in camaraderie to honor the dedication and sacrifices of all women who served and are serving today. The weekend focuses on services and opportunities available to women veterans.

Preregistration for the event is required and registration is now open. You can get more information about the event here.

My Recommended Read for Veterans in the Month of February: Never Call Me a Hero

Most of America’s true heroes are humble and unassuming, not seeking lime-lite but having risked or paid it all for the people of this great nation.  N. Jack “Dusty” Kleiss is one of those true American heroes, and his story is told in “Never Call Me a Hero – A Legendary American Dive-Bomber Pilot Remembers the Battle of Midway.”

Six months after Pearl Harbor, with America still reeling from that attack and looking for a victory in the Pacific against Japan, Jack and his fellow aviators from Scouting Squadron Six were about to face the bulk of the Japanese fleet as it was approaching to attack the American atoll called Midway. Carrier-launched aircraft and the whole idea of dive bombing a target were relatively new concepts in warfare.  Jack and others who were flying the SBD “Dauntless” dive bomber ushered in the concept of “precision guided weapons” in American aviation warfare with their outstanding success.

Diving 20,000 feet into exploding anti-aircraft cannon shells and machine gun tracers while maintaining the composure to put bombs onto a swerving ship is something none of us (because Jack was the last of these “Dauntless” men to pass away just prior to his completing this book) will ever have to know. 

It’s a remarkable story, from a humble warrior, of what these brave men faced and the way they turned the tide of the war in the Pacific.

What are Vet Centers?

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

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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