Caleb S. Cage: Bill would create the Nevada Office of Veterans Policy and Coordination
In several recent columns I have detailed the Nevada Office of Veterans Services’ legislative efforts to date. Although there are numerous veteran-related bills for this upcoming session, many of which we have had some involvement in, our primary bill is Assembly Bill 58. Although the bill makes changes to the Nevada Office of Veterans Services and other agencies, the concept that I have had the most questions about is the bill’s proposal for the creation of the Office of Veterans Policy and Coordination.The Office of Veterans Policy and Coordination is a new concept that is unique to Nevada. It was inspired by the Green Zone Initiative, which, as many of you know, assumes three things: first, that there is an enormous amount of goodwill for service members, veterans and their families within our state; second, that as a state, we should view our veterans as assets to our communities and do everything we can to help them thrive at home; and finally, that the state of Nevada’s role is to provide leadership, coordination and implementation for all of the good work that is occurring at the grassroots level. The creation of this office will go a long way towards our efforts to deliver on the planning that has been conducted under the Green Zone Initiative to date. First and foremost, the Office of Veterans Policy and Coordination is intended to maximize the opportunity created by the Green Zone Initiative and to carry it into its implementation phase. The creation of this office will ensure that the effort is fully developed and coordinated and that it continues moving forward, in order to ensure that Nevada has the best possible offering of veterans services and opportunities in the country.The responsibilities for the proposed office are still under development, but there is no question that they will be numerous. The director of this office should serve on and possibly chair the Interagency Council on Veterans Affairs, the statewide coordinating committee for veterans policy. Currently the Interagency Council is created under executive order, and Assembly Bill 58 would enact it in statute if passed. In the current plan, the statewide committee would be matched at the community level with local veteran committees, for which the director of this office would serve as a coordinator and liaison. Through the regular meetings of these state and local committees, the office would develop an annual report on policies, initiatives, strategies, and best practices to improve services for Nevada’s veterans. Aside from these regular meetings throughout the state and the resulting annual report, the new office would also have other responsibilities. In the role as it is currently developed, this office would also be responsible for convening annually in northern, southern and rural Nevada to bring together service providers to showcase services and opportunities for service members, veterans and their families, and also to share ideas. This office would also be responsible for the communication of all activities throughout the state so that all opportunities to marshal and deliver resources are coordinated and acted upon.One of the biggest questions I get on the subject is how this office would differ from the Nevada Office of Veterans Services, and it is an important question. The actual difference would be quite significant, though, with the Nevada Office of Veterans Services continuing to run the veteran cemeteries, the nursing home, and the VAST program, while the Office of Veterans Policy and Coordination would be responsible for coordinating between the numerous local, state, federal and non-profit service providers throughout Nevada. Others have wondered if the new office will create more bureaucracy for the Office of Veterans Services, and I believe it will do precisely the opposite by allowing our office to continue serving veterans through our existing programs and improve our services by coordinating in ways that we cannot do as effectively under our current structure.As I have written before, the Green Zone Initiative has developed a strategy to attract veterans to Nevada, to mobilize the providers of the countless services and to provide a logical argument for ways to improve the current offering of services to policymakers, non-profit funders, and other relevant members of the statewide community. We have already come a long way in this effort. I believe that the Office of Veterans Policy and Coordination will help us finish the job. • Caleb S. Cage is the executive director of the Nevada Office of Veterans Services, appointed by Gov. Brian Sandoval. You can read his blog at http://veterans.nv.gov/blog.