After the past decade of war, veterans have realized two distinct but related truths about the landscape today’s service members are returning to. First, that today’s service members need specialized services compared with the services developed for veterans of previous wars. And second, that there is an enormous amount of interest and goodwill to ensure veterans receive what they need.
Perhaps more important than these two realizations is the understanding that connecting the energetic support of the civilian community with those who need it most is a crucial part of reintegration.
Gov. Brian Sandoval recognized the importance of connecting services to veterans early in his tenure and has driven the Nevada Office of Veterans services to “think big” toward achieving such a worthy goal. We followed through on his vision through the development of the Green Zone Initiative, which we will launch in full next month. In 2012, the governor signed an executive order establishing the Interagency Council on Veterans Affairs.
The Interagency Council is intended to do several things. First, we met four times this year. At these meetings, we identified and prioritized the needs of Nevada’s veterans and increased the coordination of state government’s efforts to meet the needs of veterans. Through these meetings, the Interagency Council was to develop a report to deliver to the governor by Dec. 31, when the executive order was set to expire.
The governor appointed 13 people to his council. Ten are members of his Cabinet, generally directors of agencies such as the Department of Health and Human Services, the Nevada Indian Commission, the Military Department and others. Ed Russell, the director of the federal Department of Veterans Affairs Regional Office for Nevada, and Charlie Myers from the Elko County Commission were appointed to represent federal and local governments, respectively. And Boone Cutler was appointed to represent the nonprofit community. The executive director of the Nevada Office of Veterans Services chairs the body, and it has been my honor to do so.
We’ve made much progress since our first meeting. We held our most recent meeting June 26.
The council approved several reports to meet the full scope of the governor’s order. First, the council worked with the Green Zone Initiative to develop a formal priority list. The group first developed an environmental scan to determine the gaps and overlaps in existing services. It then helped develop prioritized recommendations for improving Nevada’s services to veterans, which were couched within a broader rationale for why Nevada should do more to coordinate services to Nevada’s veterans. The final portion of the report came in the form of a Veterans Services Funding Analysis, which identifies public-funding streams that support veterans issues in Nevada.
With the passage of Assembly Bill 58 during the most recent legislative session, the Interagency Council is now created in statute as well, which means that this great work will get to continue after the expiration of the executive order. To ensure there is a seamless transition, we have already outlined what the way ahead is going to look like. There is plenty of work left to do, and we are all committed to seeing it through.
Caleb Cage is the executive director of the Nevada Office of Veterans Services. You can read his blog at http://veterans.nv.gov/blog.