The True Meaning of Memorial Day By Teri Schmitchen, CHPCA, CVA, Chair WHV Program

Through my involvement in the We Honor Veterans program, I’ve been honored to meet some of the bravest men and women who have served our country. They have educated me and let me glimpse into this strange and unique culture of theirs, this language and “brotherhood” that I struggle to comprehend. But the one lesson I will always carry with me is the true meaning of Memorial Day.

In my younger years, I only thought of Memorial Day as an entrance into summer – an excuse to gather with family and friends and “celebrate” the holiday together. It really wasn’t until a few summers ago when I was with my Dad, an Army Sergeant in the Korean War that it really sunk in. Our family traveled to Tennessee to attend a Home Coming. But the true impact of the trip was the afternoon before Home Coming. We all gathered at the local cemetery where boxes of small flags were handed out to the many volunteers gathered there. Our task was to walk through the graveyard and place a flag at each veteran’s gravesite. Some tombstones dated back to the 1700s. As we each walked the row of graves, searching for the star which indicated they served our country, we would kneel and place a flag. The afternoon grew hot and our legs grew tired and our hearts grew even heavier. After all of the flags had been placed we all stood in a circle starring out at the hundreds of tiny flags blowing in the breeze. It was a beautifully, haunting site. My Dad took my hand and said – “this is what Memorial Day is about.”

I thought I was in the minority of those who were so disconnected about the meaning of Memorial Day. But I soon learned from the many veterans that I volunteered with, that I had been in the majority. Willy, a Navy Veteran, summed it up best. “Memorial Day is for those who died in the line of duty, those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Veterans Day is for thanking veterans, alive and gone, for the service to their country. Two distinct purposes, each with a very different feeling.”

I found this article on that provide great guidance about ways that we can incorporate the act of honoring . . .

How to Honor Memorial Day Memorial Day is about remembering and honoring every single man and woman who has died for our freedoms -- men and women who were mommies and daddies, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, patriots, incredible Americans and really, really great friends.

You want to honor and celebrate patriotism and the military this Memorial Day? Then you have to honor the complicated feelings surrounding it. Express your knowledge that this day is about remembrance. Attend a memorial service at a national cemetery. Run or walk a mile to benefit the non-profit Krista Anderson started in memory of her husband, and then pledge your mile for wear blue: run to remember. Talk to your kids about sacrifice, about service and about what this three-day weekend really means. Observe the National Moment of Remembrance at 3:00 p.m. Monday with a minute of silence. And then, like Krista, the widow of a fallen soldier said, live.

How Michigan Veterans Can Get A Free Medical Alert System Bryan Stapp

Michigan Veterans may be eligible to receive a free medical alert system through a variety of programs. A medical alert system is a valuable tool to help keep veterans living independently at home and providing peace of mind for family members.

How Does a Medical Alert System Work?

A medical alert system (also known as a Personal Emergency Response System or PERS) consists of:
  • Wearable button to call for help
  • 2-way voice communication
  • Emergency response center for dispatching and caregiver notification.
Medical Alert Systems can be either for in-home use, or can go anywhere with mobile GPS tracking technology. When you press your medical alert button, the system immediately contacts our US-based monitoring center. Within moments you'll speak with a trained EMT/EMD-Certified operator ready to help...24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We know WHO and WHERE you are, and who to contact to get you help fast. And, because no one likes to be alone in an emergency, we can stay on the line with you until help arrives. Once connected, our EMT/EMD-Certified agents will answer the call, with your Personal Profile already on their computer screen. They know who you are, and where you are located. The operator will speak to you over the 2-way voice console and ask if you need help. You'll tell us what you need and we'll take it from there, contacting a neighbor or family member, or alert Life Safety EMS emergency services if required.We then contact the people on your emergency list including neighbors, family members, loved ones, care givers, or anyone you designate. In an emergency, we send SMS Text messages to your contacts with cell phones, in addition to calling them. This provides the fastest way to notify your family and caregivers of the situation. And they can reply to the text messages, letting our monitoring center know they are on the way, request to cancel the dispatch, or provide any updates. Medical alert systems are affordable. The cost for a medical alert system ranges between $19.95 - $49.95 a month, depending on features needed and type of phone line in the home. If unable to pay, there are some options to get a free medical alert system listed below.

Veterans Administration Free Medical Alert System

The VA offers a free phone dialer that serves as a medical alert system for veterans. The hardware is almost identical to our HOME & YARD medical alert system with one important difference - the system provided by the VA is NOT monitored. The free medical alert system from the VA merely is programmed to call 911. The free VA medical alert system only calls 911, so it may not be suitable for veterans who are unable to speak. There is also no way for 911 to contact a family member to notify them of what’s happening. Private pay option. While the VA does not directly reimburse for the cost of a medical alert or Personal Emergency Response System (PERS), your out-of-pocket expense can count as an "un-reimbursed medical expense" for the purposes of qualifying for Aid and Attendance benefits. This can potentially help you to qualify for the maximum Aid and Attendance benefit payment. In 2020, qualifying veterans and their spouses could be eligible for up to $2,262.00 per month to help cover the costs of elder care assistance.

Michigan Auto No-Fault Insurance Personal Emergency Alert System

Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) are covered under Michigan's Auto No-Fault Insurance with authorization or script from your primary care physician (PCP). We'll need a copy of the script, along with all insurance information including the name of the case manager, policy number and claim number. Ask your Case Manager send to Medical Care Alert along with this Auto No-Fault Intake Form for easy processing. The cost of a Personal Emergency Response Medical Alert System is considered as an eligible medical expense to prevent re-admissions, is at risk of falling, or if the patient has traumatic brain injury (TBI). Your insurance carrier will ask for a prescription or primary care provider (PCP) doctor's note stating the need for the "Personal Emergency Response System (PERS)" or "Medical Alert System".

Medicaid Medical Alert Systems

Medicaid does not cover the cost of a Personal Emergency Response System (PERS) directly. It must be covered by a Medicaid Waiver (MI Choice) for those who are eligible. MI Choice Medicaid Waivers are administered through your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA) or other agency such as The Information Center. Tell your case manager you want a PERS system from "Medical Care Alert by American Response Technologies". MI Health Link will pay for a PERS System, and is also administered by your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA) in Michigan regions 1, 4, 7 and 9. Tell your case manager you want a PERS system from "Medical Care Alert by American Response Technologies". Participating insurance companies listed as Independent Care Organizations include:

  • Aetna Better Health of Michigan
  • Michigan Complete Health
  • Meridian Complete
  • Upper Peninsula Health Plan MI Health Link
  • AmeriHealth Caritas VIP Care Plus
  • HAP Midwest Health Link
  • Molina Healthcare

PACE Programs If you are 55 years of age or older and eligible for nursing home level of care as determined by the State of Michigan, you may qualify for a free medical alert system through a PACE agency. Most participants who have both Medicare and Medicaid pay nothing more for PACE services. PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) can cover many costs, including a Personal Emergency Response System. Medical Care Alert participates with Thome PACE and Huron Valley PACE.

  • Thome PACE (Jackson, Lenawee and Hillsdale counties) 517-768-9791
  • Huron Valley PACE (Washtenaw, parts of Wayne & Oakland counties) 734-572-5777

Article provided by VRNSM Founding Member Medical Care Alert, Michigan’s largest family-owned and operated medical alert provider with thousands of clients in all 50 states. Learn more at or call 855-661-3378

Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 Tammie L. Harrison

Public Law 116-23

Veterans Benefits:

A threshold must be met per regulations of Federal Veterans Laws Rules and Regulations; For veterans and or their dependents to receive what is generally known as “veterans’ benefits” certain qualifying factors must be met. Veterans need to have a discharge other than dishonorable to begin the claims process. This is why it is important for those seeking benefits to obtain assistance with a VA qualified representative. As a Certified Claims Agent with the Office of General Counsel in Washington DC, I am honored to share this story of one my veteran’s journey with his claim for benefits.

Mr. CH is a veteran of the Vietnam War, honorably serving from 1967 to 1971, in the United States Navy. We filed a claim for him in December of 2013 for his heart condition and his diabetes relating to his exposure of agent orange during his service aboard the USS Wallace Lind. We submitted evidence to support his claim including a statement from the veteran that he was on special missions aboard whaleboats, that they showered and drank the contaminated water. We submitted deck logs showing he was in shallow water during the conflict. All to be denied because it wasn’t shown in his records that he stepped foot on the ground! Unlike Brown Water Navy Vietnam Veterans; that never set foot on Vietnamese soil, serving on ships that operated outside Vietnam, VA had conceded they were exposed due to their inland missions, Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans were not afforded this luxury as of yet.

We continued to follow all legal avenues to appeal the continued denials of the veteran’s request for service connection. It only stood to reason the veteran’s issues were related to his time in service. After all they mirrored the presumed conditions related to herbicide exposure, yet VA would not relate these same conditions for our Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans. We took his claim all the way to the Board of Veterans Appeals, only to have them uphold the other decisions. This denial was issued Sept of 2018, 5 years after the initial claim!

In the meantime, a bill was making the rounds on behalf of those who honorably served known as the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of February,2019, Public Law 116-23. In May of 2019 the House passed this law! In June 2019 the Senate also passed it and on June 25, 2019 President Donald J. Trump signed the bill into law! So, in February 2019 we again requested service connection for Mr. CH. I am happy to report a new decision was received in January 2020, 7 years later, granting his request for service connection! Mr. CH was awarded a large back reward and a monthly award going forward! These benefits change lives! I am so honored to be a small part of our veterans receiving their rightful benefits!

Tammie L. Harrison

VA Accredited Claims Agent

Dignity Memorial Paul Rice

Dignity Memorial is a multinational network of funeral homes with locations in nearly all 50 states, as well as every province of Canada. In our effort to provide the highest quality of care possible for the communities we proudly serve, we have established a number of valued national partnerships; amongst which are the VFW and the American Legion. A primary objective of our collaboration with these groups was to uncover what Dignity Memorial providers could do, in the process of serving veteran families, to make the difficult experience of losing a loved one simpler and easier.

Arguably, the development and institution of new policies and practices to achieve this goal was the most important result of our coordination with the VFW and American Legion. It was not, however, the only result... for as we worked with these organizations, we came to learn that approximately 80% of veterans are misinformed about their burial benefits. This startling figure was the principle motivation behind the launch our of Veteran’s Benefit Briefings.

These briefings are first and foremost a celebration of our nation’s heroes, wherein veteran families are invited to join us for a complimentary dinner in their honor. While gathered together, we take the time to inform those in attendance precisely what the VA does and does not provide, how to file for it, and what Dignity Memorial does to supplement those areas where the VA’s provisions are lacking.

At the conclusion of these meetings, we equip veterans with complimentary planning tools and resources, and offer them free consultations with our licensed advisors. These trained professionals take the time to meet with families to answer questions, fill out and file forms, and oversee the development and proper documentation of a plan of action in the event of a loss… for no one - veteran or otherwise - should ever have to walk through the doors of a funeral home unprepared and uninformed on one of life’s toughest days.

It’s our hope that you’ll take the time to pass this invitation along to a hero within your sphere of influence. It would be our honor and privilege, as a token of appreciation for the freedoms these men and women have protected, to help provide protection for those individuals our veteran’s hold most dear.

Sincerely, Paul Rice Director of Advanced Planning Dignity Memorial 248-688-6367

What is The Right to Try Act? Rebecca Braun

It’s never a situation we plan to be in, but have you ever wondered what your options would be if you were diagnosed with a terminal illness? Unfortunately, many people are faced with this reality and up until last year, were often told there were no options. However, the Right to Try Act may have changed this for some individuals. In this blog post I will discuss the new law, how it could affect terminally ill patients, and how to ensure that your wishes are honored through an updated patient advocate designation (medical power of attorney).

History of the Act

On May 30, 2018, President Trump signed into law US Congress Senate Bill 204, known as the Right to Try Act. This law is designed to give terminally ill patients who have exhausted all other treatment options the choice of whether they would want to try an experimental drug which has not been approved by the FDA.

Prior to this law coming into effect only certain states allowed this type of use of non-FDA approved treatments. Often, terminally ill patients are not candidates for treatment trials, so they were being denied access to potentially beneficial drugs. The Right to Try Act (Section 561B of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act) created a Federal law requiring all States to allow access to potential breakthrough medications for terminally ill patients who meet certain qualifications. The Act was designed to expand the scope of individual liberties, giving patients the right to choose whether they are willing to take the risk of an unapproved treatment, if it may mean a better outcome for their condition.

Who Qualifies and What is a Qualifying Treatment Under the Act?

The Right to Try Act permits or allows eligible patients to have access to eligible investigational treatments. An eligible patient is a patient who has:

  • Been diagnosed with a life-threatening disease or condition. Life-threatening disease or condition is defined under Federal law as: “Diseases or conditions where the likelihood of death is high unless the course of the disease is interrupted” (21 CFR 312.81);
  • Exhausted approved treatment options;
  • Is unable to participate in a clinical trial involving the eligible investigational drug. This must be certified by a physician who is in good standing with their licensing organization or board and who will not receive compensation directly from the manufacturer of the drug; and
  • Has provided, or their legally authorized representative (Patient Advocate or Guardian) has provided, written informed consent regarding the eligible investigational drug to the treating physician, An eligible investigational drug is a drug:
  • Is the subject of an active investigational new drug application; and
  • For which a Phase 1 clinical trial has been completed;
  • That has not been approved or licensed by the FDA for any use;
  • Which an application has been filed with the FDA or is under investigation in a clinical trial that is intended to form the primary basis of a claim of effectiveness in support of FDA approval or licensure;
  • Is the subject of an active investigational new drug application; and
  • Whose active development or production is ongoing, and that has not been discontinued by the manufacturer or placed on clinical hold by the FDA.

Ensuring Your Wishes are Honored

Whether you think you would want to try an experimental treatment or not, its important that your wishes are communicated. If you were to become incapacitated and no longer able to make treatment decisions for yourself, your patient advocate would do this on your behalf. Since the enactment of the Right to Try Act, we have included a section in our patient advocate document addressing this important issue. It allows you to state in writing whether you would want your patient advocate to consider experimental treatment options. Without providing this direction, your patient advocate may not know what you would want in such a situation. We believe that making your wishes known and ensuring you have properly drafted power of attorney documents is the most important piece of any estate plan. If you do not have these documents or would like older documents reviewed, please contact our office for a free telephone consultation. I will personally review your documents and give you an honest assessment of whether the documents will meet your needs.

The Silent Health Crisis Abigail Sigal

It’s no secret women live longer than men. Men are more likely to participate in unhealthy behavior and are less likely to take preventative measures. More than half of men’s untimely deaths are preventable.1 According to Dr. David Gremillion from Men’s Health Network, “There is a silent health crisis in’s the fact that, on average, American men live sicker and die younger than American women.” This “silent health crisis” has prompted the United States to celebrate June as Men’s Health Month. The purpose is to create more awareness around men’s health problems and encourage early detection and treatment. It is celebrated across the country with screenings, health fairs, media appearances and other health education and outreach.

Get regular checkups and screenings

Regular checkups and age-appropriate screenings can help improve men’s health. They may even help prevent premature death. Below is a list of common checkups and screenings and how often you should get them.3

Checkup or Screening - How often to go
Physical exam - Every year after 50
Blood pressure - Every year after 50
TB skin test - Every 5 years
Blood tests and urinalysis - Every year after 50
EKG - Every year after 50
Rectal exam - Every year
PSA blood test - Every year after 50
Hemoccult - Every year after 40
Colorectal health - Every 3 to 4 years after 50
Chest x-ray - Discuss regularly with your physician after 40
Self-exams (testicles) - Monthly
Bone health - Discuss with a physician after age 60br
Testosterone screening - Discuss with a physician after age 40
*Adapted from

Use your SilverSneakers benefit to stay healthy Getting regular checkups and screenings may help prevent diseases or catch them early if they do occur. Being physically active is another way to prevent many of these issues. In fact, as you age, healthy eating and exercise can:4
• help prevent disease and injury
• increase mental sharpness
• assist in faster recovery
• give energy levels a boost
• improve immune system function
• help manage chronic health problems

SilverSneakers®, provided by more than 70 insurance companies including BlueCross Blue Shield of Michigan, Blue Care Network Advantage, Humana and Aetna to name a few offers classes5 at participating locations6 across the nation, and community parks and recreation centers right in your neighborhood. Or, you can exercise with SilverSneakers On-DemandTM in your own living room. Either way, you’re moving and that’s good! In fact, 88 percent of participants say SilverSneakers improved their quality of life.7

Go to to get your ID number or find convenient locations. Download the SilverSneakers GOTM app for adjustable workout programs tailored to individual fitness levels, schedule reminders for favorite activities, find convenient locations and more.

Footnotes and Legal
Always talk with your doctor before starting an exercise program.
5. Membership includes SilverSneakers instructor-led group fitness classes. Some locations offer members additional classes. Classes vary by location.
6. Participating locations (“PL”) are not owned or operated by Tivity Health, Inc. or its affiliates. Use of PL facilities and amenities is limited to terms and conditions of PL basic membership. Facilities and amenities vary by PL.
7. 2017 SilverSneakers Annual Participant Survey
SilverSneakers is a registered trademark of Tivity Health, Inc. SilverSneakers On-Demand and SilverSneakers GO are trademarks of Tivity Health, Inc. © 2019 Tivity Health, Inc. All rights reserved. SSFP8091JUNENWSLTR0319

How to Make Stairs Safe For Seniors From CAPS Remodling

According to the National Council on Aging, one in four Americans over the age of 65 fall each year.

For seniors, falls can be devastating. Falls can result in traumatic brain injuries and broken bones. These injuries can require surgery and lengthy hospitalization. Stairs can be particularly risky for many older adults. A report from Reuters those who are over the age of 85 had the highest injury rates related to the stairs. As we age, chronic pain, inflexibility, or vision issues can lead to trouble with the stairs. But these issues shouldn’t force seniors out of the homes that they love.

Here are some ways that you can make the stairs safe for seniors, so that you or your loved one can live independently and safely.

Get a stairlift

The safest way for seniors to get up and down the stairs is by using a stairlift. Electric stairlifts carry you up and down the stairs. And they’re very simple to use. There are stairlift models that fit both straight and curved stairways. While they’re usually used inside the home, there are outdoor stairlifts as well. Stairlifts can be installed in a day. They won’t damage your walls, and can be stowed so that others can walk up the stairs as normal

Add railings

Stairways in the home should have railings on both sides. The CDC recommends railings as an important safety fix for seniors living at home. Railings should be easy for the users to grip and available from the bottom step to the top, with no gaps. As you add railings, assure they are securely mounted and not wiggling. Also, be sure to add railings to all stairways in the home, including the steps leading into the house.

Eliminate carpet runners

The surface of the stairs can make steps more difficult for older adults who are unsteady, or who use a cane. To have the safest surface, eliminate any carpet runner from the stair. These runners, while a lovely décor addition, also add increased risk of tripping.

Add non-slip strips

While carpet runners are a tripping hazard, hardwood stairs make slipping a possibility. To make hardwood stairs safer for seniors, add non-slip strips to the stairs. These will help prevent slips and falls.

Add a resting spot

If a staircase allows for it, on a landing or curve, consider adding a bench to offer a safe place to take a rest. Some larger homes allow for such an addition. A small bench can give a senior a much-needed break on the way up or down the stairs.

Check the lights

Vision difficulties can make stairs dangerous. A stairway that isn’t well lit is especially problematic. You can add safety measures by making sure the stairs, both inside and outside the house, are well lit. Shadows can make stepping difficult for seniors who have trouble with depth perception. Add overhead lighting as necessary to prevent shadows and make the stairs safer.

Keep the path clear

Stairs should offer a clear path and be free from clutter. Many people, not just seniors, use the first few stairs as a place to hold items that need to go upstairs eventually. But these extra piles of laundry or pieces of clutter can be a trip hazard. Instead, keep a basket near the stairs to put those items into and have someone else take them up at another time.

Use contrasting colors

For seniors with vision difficulties, it can be hard to tell where one step ends and the other begins. To help, consider painting the stairs in contrasting colors. Alternate dark and light stain to make the stairs plainly visible. Consider working with a designer to choose colors that will look appealing. This DIY project can be completed in a weekend.

Adjust the rise

In some cases, a complete remodel of the stairs can be the best option. If possible, choose stairs that have a lower rise so that you or your loved one doesn’t have to step as high to get to the next stair. This will help seniors with leg conditions that make taking high steps painful.

Reduce stair time

Consider adapting the home’s design to reduce the number of times an older adult needs to go up the stairs. For example, a downstairs bedroom and bathroom can cut down on the need to go upstairs. The fewer trips up the stairs, the lower risk for falling on them.

Exercises to improve strength and flexibility

Consider working with an outpatient physical therapist to work on balance and strength. Both of these are crucial to preventing falls. If you’re concerned about your senior loved one living at home with stairs, talk to their primary care physician. A doctor may provide a therapy referral. Exercises can do wonders for building lower body strength and endurance, as well as balance.