Governor Mike Pence: Indiana looking into military relief fund

Published: .
Updated: .

Governor Mike Pence is responding to a 13 Investigates report that has generated an outcry.

The state is sitting on $7 million meant to help Indiana's military families who are financially strapped. Now the governor weighs in.

Three tours oversees to Iraq and Afghanistan, yet Master Sgt. Ken Caincross wasn't aware millions of dollars were sitting in an Indiana military family relief fund for veterans in a pinch.

"I wasn't. No ma'am," said Master Sgt. Caincross. His wife stumbled onto it when fire destroyed their home.

Andrew Grist was called to active guard duty at Grissom Air Force Base in 2008. He was put out of the Air Force two years later because of nerve damage to his spine. At home, there were five children to care for.

"Have you ever heard of it?" 13 Investigates asked Andrew Grist. "No," he said, not until 13 Investigates told him about it.

Veterans all across Indiana are saying the same thing.

They didn't know millions of dollars from the sale of these specialty military license plates was available for veterans in need of food, housing, utilities - even medical and transportation expenses for their families.

355 military families have received assistance totaling just over a million dollars over six years. 94 families were denied funds.

"We need to do a better job of outreach and letting people know," Eaglin told 13 Investigates.

For some it's too late.

"We're outside the window already," admitted Eaglin.

Indiana lawmakers failed to remove a strict three-year eligibility cap this year.

It means veterans falling on hard times now, but didn't apply for funds within three years of returning from deployment or active duty, will be denied.

"Is this a failure?" asked 13 Investigates.

"I don't know if it's a failure," said Eaglin who thought the word "failure" was too strong.

Governor responds

13 Investigates went to the Indiana Statehouse to ask Indiana Governor Mike Pence.

"What about that $7 million that's just sitting there? Were you aware of that?" asked 13 Investigates.

"Let me say we're looking into it and making appropriate inquiries into that," said the governor, who added that his administration is addressing monumental issues facing Hoosier veterans.

Indiana is nearly dead last 46th out of 50 states when it comes to getting full, timely federal benefits for those who served. The state is one of just three not accredited with the Federal Veterans Administration.

Just as disturbing, the Indiana unemployment rate for veterans is twice that of the national average.

"That's unacceptable. We've got to do a better job making sure our veterans have access to all of the resources that are available," Pence added.

Veterans who want to apply for a portion of that $7 million should contact the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs:

302 W. Washington Street, Room E120
Indianapolis, IN 46204

Meantime, late Thursday Rep. Andre Carson said $3.9 million is on the way to help Hoosier veterans get housing, mental health care and other services.

Those grants are available through:

The United Way of Central Indiana

InteCare, Inc.

Volunteers of America

More about the grants: 

United Way of Central Indiana was awarded $1,347,519 which will be used to serve approximately 400 participant households throughout Marion, Boone, Hancock, Hendricks, Hamilton, Morgan, Johnson and Shelby Counties. InteCare, Inc. received $1,401,324 which will serve approximately 450 participant households. And Volunteers of America of Indiana was awarded $1,154,000 to serve approximately 286 participant households throughout Central and Southwest Indiana.

"We have an undeniable responsibility to care for the brave men and women who committed to the service and protection of this nation. When they return home, they should be met with our gratitude, respect, and opportunities for success," said Congressman Carson. "These phenomenal Indianapolis organizations are on the front lines of that effort, and I'm pleased that the VA has made an investment in their work."

This is the third year that SSVF grants have helped veterans and their families find or remain in their homes. Overall, $300 million was awarded to 319 community agencies, serving more than 120,000 homeless and  at-risk veterans and their families.