In a state Nevada’s size, an agency such as the Nevada Office of Veterans Services can always do more statewide coordination and outreach. We do this through our ROVER program, which travels to rural Nevada to provide veterans with advocacy and case management when they’re filing claims, through the Veterans Services Commission, through our offices statewide, and more. Soon, we will increase our activity at the local level through establishing Veteran Community Councils.
The idea behind the councils came from Gov. Brian Sandoval’s creation of the Interagency Council on Veterans Affairs. This council is a statewide task force of agency directors and representatives, as well as representatives from local and federal governments and nonprofit organizations. We have met all the governor’s objectives for the council, which include prioritizing issues facing today’s veterans and their solutions, increasing coordination of services for veterans throughout the state, and developing policy recommendations that will improve our ability to serve veterans.
The councils will be based on the same model, but at the local level. We have asked for local elected officials throughout the state to establish councils for their areas. Once they have done so, we will help them appoint council members.
The basic responsibilities are broad. We’ve asked that the councils identify local resources for service members, veterans and their families; that each council develop and deliver an educational program that will benefit veterans: that the councils hold an engagement event; and that they develop policy recommendations from the community level so that we can include them in our policy efforts in the next legislative session and beyond.
This list is not intended to be all inclusive, but to spur action and give some direction. Many of the municipalities and county governments that have agreed to participate already have similar efforts under way. Groups are also doing some of these things on their own, such as General Electric’s Military Appreciation Fair coming up in Minden next weekend. I have encouraged local leaders to use these existing structures as much as possible, and not duplicate efforts that are already doing a great job.
More important than the responsibilities is the commitment to collaborate at the local level. We have seen collaboration produce incredible results, and I believe that more can be done with existing resources by simply bringing more people to the table. Once these councils are fully established, we will coordinate their efforts statewide through the Interagency Council on Veterans Affairs, too.
Ten communities have signed on to this initiative, and I am happy to say that several of them come from the Truckee Meadows and Carson Valley areas. The councils will not be formally established until after the launch of the Green Zone Initiative on Aug. 14 in Las Vegas. Once they are established, they will have a great impact on our ability to improve services for veterans in our state.
Caleb S. Cage is the executive director of the Nevada Office of Veterans Services. You can read his blog at http://veterans.nv.gov/blog.