Spectrum Health program connects veterans with benefits

spectrum health veterans benefits program 050916_212938

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Veterans are entitled to a lot of  federal and state benefits, but figuring out how to get and use them can be hard. A new program at Spectrum Health is helping veterans pay their hospital bills and much more with benefits that already exist.

The program started in November, but nearly six months later, many people still don’t know about it and thousands of dollars in benefits are going unclaimed. Only 30 percent of the documented veterans at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital have received some kind of benefit since the program started.

“I’m not sure which ones I would take advantage of,” veteran Ron Yaw said.

Yaw served in the U.S. Army in the 1960s. He ended up in the hospital last week. His hospital roommate Frank McKian, also served a few years before him. Neither of them took advantage of veteran benefits until they got to Butterworth.

“I think it’s wonderful, wonderful,” McKian said of the program.

“I was quite surprised,” Yaw said. “Because I was just sitting here and a nurse came up and handed me a brochure and said, ‘We like to recognize the veterans.'”

Danielle Montag is the veteran behind the program. She got the idea as an intern at Spectrum when she realized that a gap existed between VA health care and hospitals.

“We have to educate our veterans so they don’t get foot with a bill that they can’t afford because they didn’t know the proper procedures,” Montag said.

She and a group of volunteers make sure that every patient that registers at the hospital as a vet is visited and provided with information about services. The program goes beyond medical costs also helping with anything from counseling to employment.

So far, they’ve helped more than 2,000 vets. But Montag believes more are slipping through the cracks by not registering as veterans when they’re admitted to the hospital.

“These men and women that have sacrificed their time to fight the fight or take care of the county in time of crisis so that we can go on day to day and do what we do,” Montag said.

If you want to take part in the Spectrum program, let them know you are a vet when you check in.

People who would like to volunteer with the program can email Montag directly at Danielle.Montag@spectrumhealth.org.

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