What is Veterans Services?

What is Veterans Services?

Livingston County Department of Veterans Affairs was created by the Board of Commissioners in 1970 under Public Act 192 of 1953.  A Director and a clerk were hired to assist veterans and their dependents file claims with the US Veterans Administration, the State of Michigan and Livingston County.
 
In 1983 a general funded Veterans Counselor was added to the staff.
 
In 2009, the Board of Commissioners levied a millage of 1/20th of a mill to fund the Veterans Relief portion of the office as required by Public Act 214 of 1899.  A full time Veterans Benefits Counselor was hired to administer the fund.
 

2016 Approved Millage

The Livingston County voters approved an operational millage of 0.139 mill to be levied by Livingston County from 2017 through 2022 for the County Veterans' Services.

What the Millage and the Department of Veterans' Services Provides

The Department of Veterans' Services is dedicated to providing services and programs to the 12,300 veterans residing in Livingston County. Services include:

  • Assistance in navigating the claims filing process with the Federal Government for injuries or illness, federal death benefits, and survivor benefits.
  • Case management and ongoing support for VA benefit recipients.
  • Filing and processing of Livingston County burial allowance claims.
  • Financial assistance for indigent veterans and their dependents for anything from food and gas to home repairs.
  • Transportation for mobility impaired patients to get to their medical appointments such as dialysis and out-patient surgery.
  • Substantially increase outreach to Livingston County Veterans including education of what benefits are available and helping veterans access benefits earned by their service.
  • Provide funding for the creation and assistance of mental health services.
  • Connect veterans with Veterans Career Advisor.
  • Provided funding for the addition of a Court Coordinator for the Veterans Treatment Court.
  • Increase the number of Drivers from 1 part time staff to 2 part time staff.
  • Update IT infrastructure.
  • Expand transportation service.

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 Veterans Affairs Committee

The County Board of Commissioners appoints members to the County Veterans Affairs Committee to fixed terms under provisions of State Law.
 
The Veterans Affairs Committee sets policy for Veterans Services.
*They meet the 4th Monday of the month at 5:30 p.m.*
Committee MemberWar/Conflict Represented
Bruce Hundley
Vietnam
Jim WallaceVietnam
Kevin NagleGlobal War on Terror
Bob Bezotte - Vice Chair
Vietnam
Joseph Riker - Chair
Global War on Terror

 Department of Veterans' Services

Livingston County Veterans Services Team


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Mary Durst - Director

Mary is the Director of Veterans Services and a Veteran of the Coast Guard.  During her Coast Guard tenure she was a mechanic on the HH-65 helicopter and Flight Mechanic/Crewmember while flying.  She holds a Masters in Management and a Bachelor’s in Healthcare Administration.  As a Veteran who has gone through the VA system herself, she understands the complexity and sometimes frustration, of dealing with government paperwork.  Her goal is to make sure all Veterans who come into the office feel welcomed, receive quality services promptly and reduce the stress that accompanies dealing with a complex system.  She is thrilled to be leading new and exciting projects with an AMAZING team that will add value to the office and allow us to reach more veterans in the community.

When Mary is not working on Veteran ventures, she is a self-described “homebody”.  She enjoys kayaking and hiking.  She also enjoys interior design and spending time working on projects at home with her husband, an Air Force Veteran, her daughter, two dogs and a very noisy and entertaining parrot.


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Dena Daher - Veterans Benefits Counselor

Dena is one of our Veterans Services Counselors.  She brings with her 18 years’ experience of case management and holds a Master of Social Work and a Master of Science in Health Administration.  Dena grew up in a family of Veterans as her grandfather, uncles, brothers and husband are all veterans.  She has known since she was a child that helping Veterans was what she wanted to do when she grew up.  She truly cares about the well-being of the Veterans in Livingston County and her enthusiasm is evident in her everyday attitude.  You will be hard pressed to visit us on a day when Dena is not smiling.  She is excited for this opportunity and can’t wait to see what great things we can accomplish.

When Dena is not working or volunteering at the VA or the local Veteran home, she loves to spend time with her husband, a Navy Veteran, son and daughter.  She has a fierce love for St. Bernard dogs and plans to soon add one to her family.


 

April Townsend - Veterans Benefits Counselor

April is our latest addition to the office team and some may recognize her.  She is coming to us from OLHSA, which is right down the hall from Veterans Services and an organization we work with closely.  April also has close ties with the Veteran community as her grandfather and father are both veterans.  She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services with a concentration on case management, public administration and psychology.  She has spent the last two years as a case manager working exclusively with homeless Veterans through the Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF).  She will be bringing with her a wealth of knowledge and resources that will directly help the veterans that come into our office.

When April isn’t helping our Veterans she enjoys spending time with friends and family, reading, kayaking and other outdoor activities.


Dennis Bieliskis - Veterans Services Officer

Dennis is an Army Veteran that comes to us as a volunteer from the Vietnam Veterans of America.  While he is only here temporarily, he will always be part of our Veterans Services family.  He is a retired Detroit Police Officer and his dry sense of humor and ongoing feud with the Kurig machine always has us laughing.  He has a wealth of knowledge that he freely shares with us to help continually improve our service to Veterans.  We value him more than he knows and will keep him as long as he is willing to stay.

When he is not being our office mentor he enjoys spending time with his wife, five grandkids and one great-grandchild.  He also enjoys working on his vehicles and is especially proud of his ’63 and ’67 Ford Fairlanes, ’49 Ford Business Coupe and ’47 Willys Jeep.


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Kelly Johnson - Administrative Specialist

Kelly is our Administrative Specialist and an all-around administrative ninja.  She is known in the office for her ability to remain levelheaded and resourceful no matter the situation.  This may be attributed to the fact that she came to us from the University of Michigan Health System and brings 20 years of medical and administrative experience with her; part of which was working in emergency surgery.  Kelly comes from a family of Veterans as her grandfather and father are Army Veterans. 

In Kelly’s off time she is a self-proclaimed, “sports mom” spending a majority of her time acting a chauffeur and cheerleader to her three sons in their various sports.  When she is not acting as a chauffeur and cheerleader she enjoys golfing and watching NCIS with her husband.


Jon Hall - Driver

Jon is one of our two part-time drivers.  He has an impressive resume, but perhaps the most impressive is his patience as illustrated by his eight years as a school bus driver.  He is known in the office for his friendly demeanor, willingness to help and uncanny ability to be able to be in two places at once. He also has a Bachelor’s of Arts in Management and Organizational Development.  We are so glad to have him as part of our team and so are the Veterans as we often receive compliments about him.

When Jon isn't busy juggling transportation schedules he enjoys playing his guitar, eating chocolate chip cookies, watching movies and spending time with his wife.


Thomas Sidelko - Driver

Thomas is an Air Force Veteran and newest addition to the team.  If you utilize our transportation, you may see him riding along with Jon learning the ropes (and hopefully that little trick of being in two places at once).  Thomas is highly qualified as he has spent the last 15 years working as a personal aide and driver to an individual with Cerebral Palsy.  His sweet demeanor and helpfulness will be sure to win you over. We are excited to have him on board and look forward to working with him.