6 October 2023 MDVA News and Announcements

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Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs

News and Announcements  -  October 6, 2023


Message from Secretary Anthony Woods



Dear Friends - 

Veterans Day is approaching!

Here at the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs, we are excited to honor the service and sacrifice of our veterans across the state on November 11th.

We hope you will join us in attending events happening around the state or observe in your own way.

This year, we are encouraging Marylanders to honor the service of Maryland veterans by listening to their stories of service and volunteering in their communities. 

Please let us know how your community will be observing Veterans Day through this form. 

Thank you for your service, 


MDVA Website

Operation Green Light

Flier for More Information

Blue Star Families event

MDVA Secretary Anthony Woods and Maryland's First Lady, Dawn Flythe Moore attended the Blue Star Families Stronger Together Event. In this photo, Secretary Woods and Ms. Moore are presenting Governor Moore's Proclamation to Yolanda Rayford, Blue Star Families Baltimore/Chesapeake Chapter Director and Kathy Roth-Doquet, Blue Star Families CEO.  More than 200 Blue Star Family members attended the event.

Photo courtesy of the Executive Office of the Governor

VSS meeting photo

In 2017, the Maryland Veterans Services Specialist Program was established to improve coordination of services for the military connected community in Maryland.  Maryland State Government Departments and Agencies have a Veterans Services Specialist (VSS) or liaison who can provide general information to state employees who have served in the military.  They also respond to general questions citizens may have about veteran-related resources.  If a liaison is unable to resolve questions, they have a partner at the MDVA to assist them.  The MDVA Communications, Outreach, and Advocacy Program is ready to support VSS liaisons to answer questions and make necessary referrals to meet the needs of our military connected community. More information.

Last week members of the Veterans Service Specialist Program met for a training session, led by Dana Burl, Director of the MDVA Communications, Outreach and Advocacy Program.  State and County Veterans Commissioners also joined the meeting and all were challenged to ask the question: Did you or a family member serve in the military?

VA Women's healthcare

Roslyn Jones, MDVA Women Veterans/Inclusion Program Manager (seated, on the left) participated in the VA Women Veterans Retreat, celebrating 100 years of VA Healthcare for Women Veterans.

State Partner News

Maryland National Guard Freestate ChalleNGe Academy

The Maryland National Guard Freestate ChalleNGe Academy is located on Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County (Edgewood), Maryland. The academy is a non-profit organization and a tuition-free program that serves at-risk youth, ages 15 1/2 -18, from across the entire state of Maryland.  Annually, it offers 300 adolescents an opportunity to change their future for the better by providing the skills, education and self-discipline needed to become responsible, productive citizens. Our target population is those who have stopped attending school, those that are not meeting with academic success and those who create distractions or who are easily distracted in the traditional high school environment.    

The initial program consists of a 22-week residential phase.  During this phase, the Cadets learn self-discipline, leadership and responsibility. Our Cadets live and work in a controlled military environment, encouraging teamwork and personal growth. They also focus on their academic studies in order to be prepared to take the GED test and earn their Maryland High School Diploma. Our 12-month post-residential phase focuses on helping enroll graduates in continued education, technical school programs, the military or entry-level employment.

The Academy’s mentors play a vital role in the success of the Cadets.  Mentors provide an opportunity to build a one-on-one bond with the Cadets while modeling positivity, success and the principle of “You can do it”.  Mentors have a constant interaction with the Cadets while they are in the residential phase and provide linkage between the Academy and the Cadets after graduation, during the Post-Residential phase of the program.  

Our website is: www.freestatemil.maryland.gov

Spotlight on Education:

Howard County Community College is seeking an Assistant Registrar to work with Veterans programming and registration.  Read More Here

University of Maryland Eastern Shore: SAVE THE DATE, On Thursday, November 9th UMES is holding a Veterans Resource Day.  Flier under construction. Watch for update in next newsletter.

The Governor's Office of Small, Minority & Women Business Affairs

Stay connected to the many opportunities for training, networking, and business development that are taking place across Maryland and on virtual platforms. Here is a highlight of some of the events coming up this month.

Check out the full listing of small business events online at goMDsmallbiz.maryland.gov.

10/06/2023 - Maryland Health Connections for Small Businesses
10/08/2023 - Moving from Self-Employed to Business Owner
10/10/2023 - How to Launch a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign for Your Small Business
10/11/2023 - Meet the Primes
10/13/2023 - Latinos in Tech
10/17/2023 - Get Down to Business with Whiting Turner
10/24/2023 - T.I.P.S. Webinar Series: Sales Strategies
10/26/2023 - T.I.P.S. Webinar Series: MBE Rights & Responsibilities

Did you know the Maryland Department of Disabilities has an Assisted Technology Loan Program which helps Maryland residents with disabilities and their families? 

Read more here about the low-interest loans to buy equipment to help Maryland residents live, work and learn more independently.

What to Do in a Roadside Emergency

Roadside emergency

Although there are multiple suggested actions that can increase motorists' safety during an incident, there is not one single set of procedures that can guarantee the safety of drivers and passengers. Remember, every situation is different, and motorists and passengers should prepare, assess, use good judgment and stay vigilant to ensure they make the best decisions based on their specific roadside emergency.

Read More on Roadside Emergencies 

Vaccination image

Are You Up to Date on Your Vaccines?

As we head into the fall and winter months, cases of COVID-19, flu, and other respiratory viruses such as RSV and pneumonia are expected to rise. Getting vaccinated is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your loved ones, especially older adults and people with weakened immune systems.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends adults 65 years and older stay up to date on flu and pneumonia vaccines, and everyone ages 6 months and older receive an updated bivalent COVID-19 vaccine. In addition, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a government agency that advises the CDC, recommends adults over the age of 60 get the RSV vaccine, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration earlier this year. 

Though the official COVID-19 Public Health Emergency has ended, most Americans, including Medicare beneficiaries, will still receive free COVID vaccines under their insurance plans. Flu, pneumonia, and RSV vaccines are also available at no cost through Medicare, Health Insurance Marketplace plans, and most private insurers.

For more vaccine information go to vaccines.gov, or contact your healthcare provider, pharmacist, or local health department. For questions on Medicare coverage, contact SHIP or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). 

Federal Partner News

VA Expanded Burial Benefits

VA Logo1

VA announced that Veterans, and their families, caregivers, and survivors now have access to expanded burial benefits to help with end-of-life expenses related to a Veteran’s gravesite, burial, funeral and transportation of remains to their final resting place. Burial benefits are available to individuals who pay for a Veteran’s burial and funeral costs that are not reimbursed by any other organization. The updated burial benefits are:

  • Expanded reimbursement of transportation expenses, to include costs for transporting remains, to state or Tribal Veterans’ cemeteries in addition to previously eligible national cemeteries.
  • Instituted a more generous single payment rate for non-service-connected burial benefits.
  • Extended the VA plot or interment allowance to Tribal organizations.

“Last fiscal year, VA delivered more than 84,000 burial benefits to families of Veterans,” said VA Under Secretary for Benefits Joshua Jacobs. “Expanding burial benefits means we are able to ensure Veterans are honored in their final resting place, and assist their family, caregivers, and survivors during the difficult time of their loved one’s passing.”

VA provides burial benefits for all legal burial types, including cremation, burial at sea, and donation of remains to a medical school. Eligible individuals include a surviving spouse or legal partner, surviving child, parent or executor of the Veteran’s estate. Additionally, VA may pay burial benefits to a funeral home or third party who handled burial arrangements for a Veteran whose remains are unclaimed.

Veterans are encouraged to plan with end-of-life benefits provided by VA. These benefits include VA life insurance, care preferences, survivor benefits, and burial benefits that can be applied for in advance of a Veteran’s passing. Visit www.va.gov/plan-ahead to learn more.

There is no time limit to file for a service-connected burial, plot or interment allowance, or the transportation benefit. However, claims for non-service-connected burial benefits must be filed within two years of the Veteran’s burial or cremation. A non-service-connected burial benefit is one where the cause of death was not related to military service.

Learn more about burial benefits and additional information regarding flags, headstones, and markers.

988 logo

Federal News

VA Maryland Health Care System - Baltimore Annex Services

October 16 - 20: Veterans' organizations support VA's Buddy Check Week

VA's first-ever Buddy Check Week - get involved!

Every Life Lost to Suicide is One Too Many, Health.mil article

U.S. Military Departments Implement Brandon Act, Health.mil article

Stay up to date on your cancer screenings

Breast cancer care for deployed Veterans and the SERVICE Act

Acupuncture: Ancient methods used by modern day providers

The Flu and Vaccines: What Everyone Needs to Know

Community care: Who is eligible and how you can access it

October 18th: Wellness Wednesday Financial Education

Live Whole Health #188: Having a ball with yoga

Live Whole Health #189: Give it a break!

Women Veterans NOT using your earned VA Benefits & Services, VA would love to hear from you. Please take our survey, it takes 5 minutes and is anonymous. https://survey.voice.va.gov/?cwv-women-veterans

Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation holding historic public input campaign

Gaming & Livestreaming, The BLUF

Exploring resort and hotel deals through the Armed Forces Vacation Club for Veterans

The 2023 issue of the annual Agent Orange Newsletter is now available online at https://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/publications/agent-orange/agent-orange-2023/index.asp. This newsletter provides information for Vietnam Veterans and their families.

Welcome 2 VA updated flier

Vet Center Awareness Survey

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Readjustment Counseling Service (RCS),is conducting a survey to gauge awareness and understanding of the agency’s services provided at Vet Centers. Responses to this survey will be anonymous and used to assess levels of awareness of Vet Centers and understand what barriers—if any—there are in seeking services.  

Your insight shared through this survey will help us improve communication of these services and increase utilization of counseling, community engagement, and referral services for those who need it most. It is critical that Veterans, service members, and their families know where they can turn to for support before they are in crisis, and your knowledge will support these efforts. 

The Vet Center Awareness Survey is now live and available.  We are sending this out to our community partners and Veterans, service members, and families who are not current clients.  We appreciate your assistance with this effort to identify gaps to expand our services!

If the above link did not work, you can clink or cut and paste into your browser: https://survey.voice.va.gov/?acDk8c-RCS-Awareness

Community Partner News

For Your Information

The Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs does not endorse the organizations sponsoring these events, and we do not endorse the views they express or the products/services they offer.  The views and opinions expressed in any referenced document do not necessarily state or reflect those of MDVA.  The information provided is intended for your general knowledge only, and serves solely as a MDVA community outreach effort.

Community Calendar

October 7, 2023

Women Veterans Meet & Greet, Camp Springs

October 9, 2023

Voices of Vets 5th Annual Fundraiser, Columbia, More Than Pictures Video

October 10, 2023

Maryland Women's Small Business Celebration 2023

October 14, 2023

Lifeline Horse Rescue and LETS Program 2023 Fall Open House, Gaithersburg

VET Motorsports DC Region Autocross 2023 Championship Event #5, Waldorf, Video

October 18, 2023

Veteran Voices - VA Benefits Discussion, Registration Required

October 19, 2023

Maryland's Commitment to Veterans Presents: Monthly Workshop Series, Building a Bridge to Veterans: Mitigating Crisis through Developing Trust, Virtual

October 21, 2023

Veterans Resource Fair, Bel Air Armory

October 26, 2023

Cohen Clinic at Easterseals presents Fall Anniversary Celebration, Silver Spring

October 27, 2023

Ft. Meade Retiree Appreciation Day

Arundel Lodge Veterans Discussion Group, Edgewater

October 28, 2023

Veteran Owned Small Business Expo, Columbia

October 29, 2023

Veteran Baby Shower Celebration, Bowie

Community News

Mission Beelieve provides a beekeeping education for Veterans and First Responders. Our goal is to repurpose their negative energy into something more purposeful through beekeeping. This program gives a sense of purpose through management of their colonies and educational workshops. We offer ways to reconnect with the community through local outreach and teach the public about the importance of pollinators and restoring lost habitats.

We created the non-profit with hands-on workshops and seminars in mind, to help veterans/first responders begin to feel some peace, learn a new trade and connect with nature and community while embracing the therapeutic and vocational aspects of beekeeping.

Upcoming No-cost Beginner Beekeeping Course for Active Duty, Veterans and First Responders which will be held on Thursdays beginning 10/12/23 and finish 11/16/23 at 7pm-9:30pm via zoom and those interested can register at www.missionbeelieve.com. Flyer

More Photos from the Blue Star Families event:

1. Secretary Woods and First, Lady Dawn Flythe Moore greet service providers at the event.

2. Dana Burl, MDVA Director Of Communications, Outreach and Advocacy speaks with the First Lady.

Photos courtesy of the Executive Office of the Governor

Secretary  Woods and First Lady Dawn Moore

Dana Burl photo

News from Community Building Art Works

Drawing Imaginative Creatures -  October 11th (Virtual)

Bring your drawing materials and sketchbooks to have fun and learn about creating characters out of simple shapes. We'll begin with warm-up exercises to ramp up your creativity, and will look at examples of how simple shape-based characters can be full of personality and are often used in picture books, comics, and ads.  Register today at HERE

Military Spouses, Caregivers & Veterans Writing Workshop - October 5th & 19th(Virtual)

Join author Laura Van Prooyen on the first and third Thursdays at 3:30pm EST to learn how to use writing as a tool to communicate, self-discover, and reflect in our series in partnership with Blue Star Families. Next workshops are on October 5th and October 19th. Register here.

More Than One Story - Next Virtual Orientation October 10th!

Our monthly program for Women and Non-Binary Military has begun, but if you are still interested in participating, it's not too late. Interested individuals must attend an upcoming orientation to participate. Visit www.cbaw.org/mtos for more details.

Visit www.cbaw.org to learn more about Community Building Art Works. For more information, email info@cbaw.org.

Message for New Subscribers:

Is this your first edition of the MDVA newsletter?  If so, welcome!  You are receiving this newsletter because you signed up to receive it from our website or you gave permission to an MDVA program, the MD Motor Vehicle Administration or MD Department of Labor to receive information on VA benefits and resources.  We at MDVA respect your privacy and DO NOT share your email address.  We hope you enjoy receiving our bi-weekly newsletter and find it both educational and engaging.  If you have questions about our Department, our Programs, or your VA benefits, please visit veterans.maryland.gov or call 410-260-3838.