About 8,000 service members are expected to return to Michigan in coming months from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and state officials say Michigan needs to do more to make sure they receive all the federal benefits they are owed.
Michigan has the worst record in the country in getting veterans their health, education and pension benefits. It ranks 53rd - behind every U.S. state, Washington D-C, Guam, and Puerto Rico.
"There are a lot of programs that are available that our Michigan veterans earned but are not using," says Jason Allen, with the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. He says there are currently 560,000 Michigan veterans of Vietnam, Korea and other conflicts who have not filed for benefits they are owed - as more service members also return from overseas every month.
"George Washington said we are judged as a nation by how we honor our veterans and Michigan needs to work with our veteran services organizations and our health care partners to recognize there are these diseases, these disabilities that they qualify for health care benefits for," Allen says.
The unemployment rate among Michigan veterans is also high - 26 percent compared to a statewide rate of 9.8 percent.
Governor Rick Snyder says improving services to veterans will be a priority in 2012.