Caleb S. Cage: Taking a look back at veterans issues in 2012
The Nevada Office of Veterans Services has worked hard to develop our team, methods, and operations to ensure that we are doing all we can do improve the delivery of services to service members, veterans, and their families. We reach these goals through our partners at the local and federal levels, as well as with statewide veteran service organizations. With respect to our accomplishments, 2012 has been an incredible year. One of our priorities over the last year has been ensuring that our office has the appropriate staff structure to meet the needs of Nevada’s veterans most efficiently, and there have been several improvements that were key to our success this year. First, we were able to hire a fulltime Women Veterans Coordinator, a function that had previously performed by our deputy executive director. We were also approved to obtain two new veteran service officers to assist veterans and family members in filing their claims, a crucial aspect of our service to our veterans. We reorganized and optimized the resourcing for our rural outreach program and hired a full team of service officers in Elko as well. Our Northern and Southern Nevada Veteran Memorial Cemeteries have seen incredible results from the hard work of their staffs this year. Our Fernley memorial cemetery made it through a difficult federal review that tested their progress against the national shrine status standard, receiving a glowing review. Our Boulder City memorial cemetery implemented a $3.4 million grant and received another grant for over $5 million in November, all while remaining the second busiest in the nation. Both cemeteries continue to be held up as national standards for state-operated cemeteries.The Nevada State Veterans Home, also in Boulder City, celebrated its 10th anniversary in August of this year, but there were other achievements as well. Last year the home’s fiscal team was recognized as a finalist for the Cashman Good Government Award for becoming completely self-funded and no longer requiring money from the general fund. This year the admissions team has taken the goal a step further by ensuring that every room was a home for a veteran or eligible dependent for the first time in the home’s 10 years. Achieving this goal and carrying it forward will allow the team to optimize the home’s resources as well as provide the greatest benefit to Nevada’s veterans who need their care.Beyond our three primary programs, we have also been working to better reach out to Nevada’s veterans, and ensure that they have access to all of the opportunities, services, and benefits that they are eligible for through several key initiatives and efforts. Primarily, this has come through the efforts of the Green Zone Initiative, an effort spearheaded by our agency to align the benefits and resources available in Nevada, and ensure that they are properly delivered. We started earlier this year through a series of convenings with members of the broader veteran community where we brainstormed and developed best practices. We were also approved to fund and build a social networking, which is forthcoming next year. Much of what we plan to do with this initiative is already under way thanks to Gov. Sandoval’s creation of the Interagency Council on Veterans Affairs, which he created through executive order earlier this year.We also continue to work with our federal counterparts and our partners in veteran service organizations as well. Regarding federal benefits, this year saw the introduction of a new mobile outreach vehicle for the Reno VetCenter, a continuation of crucial funding for the Veterans Upward Bound program, a forthcoming federal Veterans Burial Ground in Elko, and the newest VA Hospital in the country built in Las Vegas this year. We’ve continued to work with our community partners by donating vans to the Disabled American Veterans transportation program, supporting the Nevada American Indian Veterans Summit, the Always Lost program, the David J. Drakulich Art Foundation, hosting our first Veterans Writing Conference in Las Vegas, and honoring those who continue to serve the veteran community through the ongoing Veteran of the Month program. There are plenty of others within the veteran community who helped in achieving our goals this year. There is also plenty of work left to do in the future. We are proud of what we have done this year, and we look forward to accomplishing our future goals with the help of all of our partners on behalf of all of our veterans and their families. • 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.