12-29-2016 Letters and Commentary

Harness the power of our blog posts

 At Social Security, we are always looking for ways to improve how we communicate with you. It has been a year-and-a-half since we joined the blogosphere, and we could not be happier with the content we have been able to provide! This blog is exactly what we envisioned: an honest conversation with you about our programs, the topics that matter to you, and how our agency can better serve you.

If you have not seen it yet, here is an opportunity to visit some of our best posts of the past year and a half. It is never too late to join the conversation by commenting on these blog posts.

Social Security and Veterans Affairs Partnership Speeds Disability Decisions for Veterans at blog.socialsecurity.gov/social-security-and-veterans-affairs-partnership-speeds-disability-decisions-for-veterans

How I Navigated the Social Security Disability Process at blog.socialsecurity.gov/how-i-navigated-the-social-security-disability-process/

Reporting Changes is Your Responsibility at blog.socialsecurity.gov/reporting-changes-is-your-responsibility/

Scammers Fake Social Security email at blog.socialsecurity.gov/scammers-fake-social-security-email/

Going Online with Social Security isn’t Hard Work at blog.socialsecurity.gov/going-online-with-social-security-isnt-hard-work/

These are only a fraction of the topics we have covered in this busy year. Visit our blog to learn about these and many other topics that may interest you. Stay informed, join the over a quarter million subscribers of Social Security Matters.

Vonda VanTil is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan.  You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at vonda.vantil@ssa.gov.

HAPPY NEW YEAR FOLKS… I wish you all a very Happy New Year with all your joys doubled and your troubles gone.

It is hard to believe the year 2016 is nearly history. Many of us will say good riddance, I suspect. We were burned out on politics, sickened by terrorist murder and mayhem and revolted by crimes against humanity.

On the plus side, more Americans than ever got involved in the election of the president. Even if “your” candidate did not get elected, you have to admit it was a unique and exciting race. Donald Trump is arguably the first “outsider” to be elected since Abraham Lincoln was elected as the compromise candidate.

Also on the plus side the economy is booming, housing sales and builds are on the increase. The stock market is booming. Unemployment is at its lowest rate in nine years and those with good jobs are making more money than ever.

The rest of us have President Trump promising to make America Great Again by running it like a private company with no government regulations and as the “company” makes money, we will get a piece of the pie.

CHRISTMAS PAST… Those claiming the Republicans caused global warming, got a boost this past week when the arctic weather of the previous week gave way to April-like weather in the Midwest over the Christmas holiday. Indeed, here in the Tri-Cities warm, torrential rain washed away nearly two feet of snow accumulated since thanksgiving.

By the time the temperatures returned to normal in mid week, there was no old snow to be found but for the dirty gray piles in the corners of parking lots.

It could be there is no global warming, just global confusion as we see thunder snowstorms and cold snap tornadoes in mid winter followed by sunshiny days and warm-ups.

MERRY CHRISTMAS… even so, Christmas was better than ever, at least from my vantage point. Folks in the Tri-Cities were as generous as ever sharing their largesse with the less fortunate. The churches were filled with the faithful (and some worried) and the school vacation time had a great mix of snow for sledding, and warm for outdoor hoops and mud football.

Our Bayer’s Den was a little less hectic than in recent years past. The California Bayers and St. Louis Marchenkos were unable to come home but we rejoiced with them in spirit and exchanged much in gifts and love.

Our Loshbough family filled our house and theirs with Christmas spirit and fun. Of course, the center of attention was newborn William Harold Loshbough V. Our first great-grandson might not have known it was Christmas, but at barely a month old, he poured on the charm and smiles.

Anne and I spent Christmas Eve with the giant Loshbough clan, there had to be more than a dozen youngsters under the age of 12 to newborn William. I think he has a half dozen “cousins” with barely a year’s seniority. I saw two other babes in arms and heard rumors of impending additions in the coming nine months. I do not think the Tri-Cities have to worry about any population decrease in the near future if that family’s health is any indication.

Christmas morning found us back at Amy and Billy’s for our own gift sharing and breakfast. Then after a couple hour break, the whole bunch was back at our house for Christmas dinner.

All in all the Christmas celebration went by pretty fast, a certain indication that all was as it should be.

I hope your Christmas celebration was just as nice.

LOOKING AHEAD… Next week’s issue of the Tri-City Record, January 5, 2017 will continue the tradition of recalling the “News and Newsmakers of 2016 Revisited” in thumbnail sketches of the top news stories and photos that graced these pages. The year will be recalled over the next few weeks.

Following that will be sports writer Kristy Noack recalling the best news and photos of her 2016 Press Box column.  Then our compilation of the “Dearly Departed” of the past year will recall local citizens that died and had obituaries and death notices printed in the Tri-City Record.


 New years often give good opportunity to reevaluate our directions and to decide on goals for the future. There is a saying, “If you aim for nothing, you are sure to hit it.” That statement usually holds true. If we claim that we do not make New Year “Resolutions,” it does not excuse us from life’s requirement to set well-defined goals.

We might set physical goals related to our health, like to attain a certain weight loss or to be able to run a 5K this year. There might be relationship goals to set as well, like to get along better with my siblings or with my parents, or maybe with neighbors.

Whatever our goals, we are more likely to make positive progress as we make the goals more specific.

The book of Proverbs in the Bible is a very practical collection of life insights that can help us set goals. Proverbs 27 is no exception. The perspective expressed by the first verse clearly helps us recognize the limitations of our own wisdom and insight: “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” (NASB) Since we have no idea what the New Year may bring, we are wise to connect with God, who does.

Later in the same chapter we are encouraged to “know well the estate of our flocks” so that we can properly provide for our future and for those that depend on us. (verses 23-27)

Verse 12 is also instructive: “A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, the simple pass on and are punished.” (NKJV) Makes sense… that could apply to multiple areas of our lives.

So what needs to change? How can we better prepare for the unknown future? With God’s help we can wisely do it.

LMC helping families learn ways to pay for college with Financial Aid Fridays

 Prospective college students can get free help applying for financial aid and scholarships during weekly Financial Aid Fridays offered at Lake Michigan College’s Benton Harbor, Niles and South Haven campuses from 2 – 4 p.m. starting Friday, January 6 through March 24, 2017.

Students will learn about scholarship opportunities and receive assistance completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is used by the U.S. Department of Education to determine the amount of grants, loans and other forms of financial aid a student can receive.

“Applying for financial aid can be a daunting task for students and families, but LMC is here to help applicants accurately complete the process on the first try, and maximize their chances of getting as much help as possible paying for college,” said LMC Vice President of Student Services, Doug Schaffer.

Attendees should know their social security or Alien Registration number, their driver’s license number if applicable and their FSA ID if they previously created an account at fafsa.gov. Applicants should bring their personal 2015 federal tax returns or IRS W-2 information if no 2015 return was filed. Applicants who are married or might be considered dependents should also bring their spouses’ or parents’ information.

LMC students received $9,207,288 in federal aid during the 2015-2016 academic year. In addition to federal aid, the Lake Michigan College Foundation offered more than $600,000 in scholarships for the 2016-2017 academic year through private and publicly-funded donations.