Military Family Relief Fund expands eligibility

Military license plate revenue to promote fund

By: Kara Kenney - WRTV

INDIANAPOLIS — Kelly Sherwood needed help.

Sherwood, a disabled Army veteran living in Indianapolis, exhausted his savings after both his central air conditioning unit and his vehicle’s engine both stopped working.

"It was raining bucks on me at that point,” said Sherwood. “I sucked up my pride and made a phone call.”

Sherwood applied for and received $2,500 through the state’s Military Family Relief Fund, a fund generated from military license plate revenue—meant to help veterans in need with food, housing, transportation, utilities and other needs.

“It really helped out,” said Sherwood. “It came in quite handy.”

The problem—many veterans have no idea the Military Family Relief Fund even exists.

“A lot of people don’t know about it,” said Sherwood.

The Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs (IDVA) is looking to change that.

A new law takes effect July 1 that aims to raise awareness about the fund for the half a million veterans living in Indiana and their families.

Starting July 1, when you purchase a military license plate, up to 10% will go toward marketing and promotion of the fund.

“We want to be able to reach those areas of the population that we are not able to reach right now,” said Dennis Wimer, director of the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs. “Hopefully we can utilize some TV, radio, social media but not every veteran is on social media.”

Senate Enrolled Act 316 says IDVA can’t use the 10% for administrative costs including pay roll.

“We are not going to hire staff with this fund,” said Wimer. “We aren’t going to do other things with this fund that are not related to the Military Family Relief Fund. This is 100% about getting more people into the fund and getting more money out the door.”

Wimer emphasized the state has approximately $10 million in license plate revenue and from a trust fund, just waiting for veterans to benefit from.

The new law, Senate Enrolled Act 316, gets rid of restrictions that previously meant IDVA had to deny 75% of applications for assistance.

For example, starting July 1 veteran applicants no longer have to prove their hardship is a result of their military service.

“We deny 50% of our applicants because they can’t tie their need back to their military service,” said Wimer.

The state is also removing the requirement that you have to have served during wartime.