On the Job for Michigan
Gary knows that navigating the federal government can be a daunting – and frustrating – process. While he’s working to cut red tape, his office has also served to assist Michiganders with issues they are having with federal agencies, whether it is veterans’ accessing VA benefits or small businesses seeking assistance.
In 2019, Gary launched “On the Job for Michigan,” a series highlighting the services his office offers to help constituents resolve issues involving federal agencies and work to address issues that are important to Michiganders. Among the stories he has shared include:
- Thomas Koenig, a Grosse Pointe resident and Vietnam War veteran, ran into issues with the VA related to his disability benefits from his time serving during Vietnam. Thomas has developed long term health issues related to Agent Orange exposure, in addition to PTSD. Gary’s office helped Tom navigate the appeals process through the VA on multiple occasions and Tom was granted VA benefits for his service-connected claims.
- Kent Wesenberg, from Grand Rapids, developed long-term health issues from his exposure to Agent Orange during his service in Thailand during the Vietnam War era. Kent was initially denied benefits through the VA. Kent contacted Gary’s office, which helped him navigate the appeals process and Kent was later granted disability benefits through the VA.
- Al Morrison, a West Bloomfield resident and United States Air Force veteran, reached out to Gary’s office after being denied VA benefits multiple times. Gary’s office re-submitted Al’s photos, newspaper articles and other evidence proving his service in Vietnam to the Board of Veterans Appeals, Al was finally granted his full benefits.
- Jeff Chene, a Warren resident and U.S. Marine Corps veteran, contacted Gary’s office after not receiving his full benefits. Jeff is currently enrolled in the Plumbers Local 98 Apprenticeship program and had submitted his paperwork and hours to the VA but was told they needed more time to process the claim. Gary’s office initiated an inquiry and the VA directly deposited Jeff’s supplemental income within the same week.
- Nels Veliquette grew up on a cherry farm in Traverse City and now helps run his own cherry business with his family. Like many Michigan cherry growers, he was facing devastating consequences as a result of illegal dumping of dried tart cherries from Turkey. Gary’s bipartisan legislation would help enforce trade laws for small and medium-sized businesses that are undercut by unfair trade practices. Gary met with cherry growers in the Grand Traverse area in April 2019 and November 2019 and has continually advocated for this community and critical part of Michigan’s economy. Nels supports Peters’ bipartisan Self-Initiation Trade Enforcement Act, which would create a task force within the Department of Commerce to investigate potential trade abuses for small and medium-sized industries.
- Chris Andrus is the co-owner and co-founder of the Mitten Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids. He discovered that a brewery in Northport was going out of business and saw this as an opportunity to grow his own business. However, he needed to obtain a licensing quickly from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to open in time for the summer season. Chris reached out to Gary’s office, which was able to assist Chris in obtaining the license in time to open his new business.
- Sandy Wynn-Stelt is from Belmont and her husband of 25 years passed away from Stage 4 liver cancer three weeks after his initial diagnosis in 2016. The following year, the State of Michigan informed Sandy that the area surrounding her long-time home was previously a landfill for hazardous sludge waste laden with so-called forever chemicals known as PFAS. Liver cancer is associated with PFAS exposure. Sandy flew to DC to attend the first Senate hearing on PFAS contamination—which Gary helped convene—and later testified at a field summit led by Gary in Grand Rapids. Gary’s office also helped facilitate her participation on behalf of the community of Rockford at an EPA roundtable held in Kalamazoo to discuss the federal government’s response to PFAS.