Earlier this year, I wrote about the first meeting of the Governor’s Interagency Council on Veterans Affairs held in October. At that introductory meeting, we discussed the purpose of the council, the work that has already been completed through the Green Zone Initiative, and the future of our efforts to improve the delivery of services to Nevada’s veterans. We held our second meeting earlier this week, our first with a fully appointed council, and took even greater steps forward towards our goals. The council was enacted by executive order to serve as a statewide working group of representatives from state agencies, federal and local governments, and the non-profit community to develop a plan to improve services to Nevada’s service members, veterans and their families. The council is chaired by the executive director of the Nevada Office of Veterans Services, and includes appointees from nine other state agencies, mostly agency directors. It also includes Director Ed Russell, from the federal VA’s Regional Office for Nevada, Commissioner Charlie Myers from Elko County, and Mr. Boone Cutler, a northern Nevada veterans advocate.One of the main missions of this council is to provide Gov. Sandoval with a report on our priorities and recommendations for increasing access to resources, opportunities, services and benefits for veterans and their family members. While that report is not due until December of 2013, we had an incredible discussion on the topic during this meeting, particularly with respect to the recommendations made in our forthcoming Green Zone Initiative business case. While the Nevada Office of Veterans Services has been working on this study since last January, it had its first real audience at this recent meeting. Thanks to the many perspectives represented around the state and around the table, we were able to have a spirited discussion that will have an incredible impact on the strategies we are trying to develop.Another mission of this council is to continue to work to improve services to veterans and their families, something that we are particularly well-suited to do given that the majority of our members direct agencies such as Health and Human Services, Business and Industry, and others. The work to improve services to veterans in Nevada will certainly drive our priority development in future meetings, and has already driven much of our legislative efforts ahead of the upcoming legislative session. Having this support of institutional leaders from the state, federal and local levels is going to provide a great opportunity for us to share information and practices, and also to better develop an interagency approach to problem-solving.We received an update briefing on the newly created Veterans Suicide Prevention Task Force. This new body is a statewide working group from a vast array of services and perspectives dedicated to preventing suicide among service members and veterans. The briefing showed that there has been a lot of progress to date, but there is still plenty of work to be done. The council sees this as a statewide priority as well, which will ensure that the Veterans Suicide Prevention Task Force has all of the support it needs in the upcoming legislative session and beyond.The first two meetings of this council proved to be successful in that they introduced us to our topics and our efforts, and also they gave us a valuable opportunity to see how our efforts might best work together. Our next meeting will be in June, after the legislative session, when we will continue to focus on how we can improve services to Nevada’s veterans. By then, we will know what the overall landscape for veterans services looks like and we can start working quickly towards achieving the governor’s vision. Through the Green Zone Initiative, the Governor’s Interagency Council on Veterans Affairs and the Veterans Suicide Prevention Task Force, I believe that we can achieve the goals Gov. Sandoval outlined for us in his executive order earlier this year. We have the right plans, we have the right teams to help implement them and we are moving forward. I am looking forward to next year when we will get a chance to put a lot of this into action.• Caleb S. Cage is the Executive Director of the Nevada Office of Veterans Services, appointed by Governor Brian Sandoval. You can read his blog at http://veterans.nv.gov/blog.
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