We are awaiting one of the biggest military drawdowns in decades, and service members who exit the military now will be making the transition out of their military service during one of the worst economies in our nation’s history. At the same time, though, these service members are making the transition at a time of unprecedented public support. Both of these conditions represent Nevada’s challenge and its opportunity for the years ahead.
The Nevada Office of Veterans Services has been attempting to address this situation through our Green Zone Initiative, which has developed a strategy for addressing the needs of our returning service members by marshalling all of the support available to them.
Focusing on the areas of higher education, employment, and wellness, the three areas that most service members making the transition have the most need in, this initiative has delved deeply into the challenges and provided several solutions. We believe the solution matches the challenges and the opportunities that we have found in the landscape facing service members, veterans, families and their survivors in Nevada today.
Building on this study and the recommendations from the Green Zone Initiative, Gov. Brian Sandoval has developed a plan to help us take this effort to the next level and ensure that we are successful in this very important effort. In addition to the request for funding for a veterans home in Northern Nevada and the two additional veteran service officers he announced during the State of the State address, Gov. Sandoval has requested funding in his budget for a new office that would build on our initial efforts. The funding is for a new office called the Office of Veterans Policy and Coordination, which would consist of three people and would develop veteran-specific policy and increase coordination statewide.
The new agency would work from the perspective of Sandoval’s office, not that of the Nevada Office of Veterans Services. That would allow the director of the new office to coordinate all services, benefits and opportunities available to veterans in our state, whether they are from the state, local, federal, or community levels. At the local level, this new office would replicate the statewide Interagency Council on Veterans Affairs through Veteran Community Councils consisting of elected officials, veteran advocates and service providers.
Finally, the office would develop new efforts in employment, education and wellness. From these focus-area efforts and the local and statewide councils, the Office of Veterans Policy and Coordination would be organized to develop policy and increase coordination of services all to the benefit of Nevada’s veterans.
Halfway through the legislative session, we are not sure whether this office of three people will come into being. Even though there is a small price tag and we have had early and extraordinary support, creation of this office still faces opposition. No matter what happens in the Legislature, though, we are committed to serve our existing veterans and welcome our future veterans home with a level of community support that is equal to their level of service.
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.