Caleb S. Cage: The Interagency Council on Veterans Affairs
In August of this year I wrote about Gov. Sandoval’s Executive Order 2012-15, which created the Interagency Council on Veterans Affairs. The council was enacted to serve as a statewide working group of representatives from state, federal and local governments and the non-profit community to meet during the next year to develop a plan to improve services to Nevada’s service members, veterans and their families. Since he signed the order in July, we have come a long way toward achieving all of his goals.Per the governor’s executive order, the purpose of the council is to do several things. We are to prioritize the needs of Nevada’s veterans; work toward increasing coordination of state government’s veteran assistance efforts with federal, local and non-profit services; and report to Gov. Sandoval on our findings before the council terminates on Dec. 31, 2013. Because many on the board are veterans or family members of veterans and they oversee programs that directly impact the lives of service members, veterans and their families through their normal activities, it is fair to say that we see the goals outlined above as a baseline for what we hope to accomplish.Gov. Sandoval has appointed a dynamic group to the council. The order calls for representatives from 10 of his cabinet-level agencies, nearly all of which are represented by the respective agency directors. In cases where directors aren’t on the council, they are represented by an agency member with the most direct supervision over policy and programs related to service members, veterans and their families. Representing the federal and local governments are Edward Russell, director of the Department of Veterans Affairs Regional Office for Nevada, and Elko County Commissioner Charlie Myers, a leading advocate for veterans services in rural and frontier Nevada. Before our next meeting, we will likely have all of our appointments, including the representative from the non-profit stakeholder community.Although we do not yet have a fully appointed council, we held our first meeting on Oct. 3 in Carson City and Las Vegas in order to comply with the executive order’s meeting requirements. Because this was the first time we had all gotten together as a group, I spent considerable time discussing our efforts with the Green Zone Initiative after initial introductions and discussions of what each council member hoped to achieve. As I have written and discussed in detail in the past, the Green Zone Initiative is a statewide strategic plan created by our office that intends to improve delivery of services to Nevada’s veterans, service members and their families by aligning existing services, recommending policy improvements and outlining funding opportunities for federal granting agencies and private-sector foundations. Although the Interagency Council on Veterans Affairs will ultimately have a broader focus than just the Green Zone Initiative, it serves as a starting point for our overall efforts.The Green Zone Initiative also provides key details that will help council members and our efforts to provide our final report to Gov. Sandoval next year. In our efforts to gather information through meetings around the state, we have talked to members of the statewide veteran community about their priorities and goals in addressing veterans’ needs. That information, especially when matched with the subject-matter expertise offered by each council member, will impact the final reports of the Green Zone Initiative just as much as that initiative will impact the ongoing discussions and efforts of our council. While the first meeting was a successful introduction to our topic and our efforts, we are planning to accomplish more and more at future meetings. Our next meeting will be in December, and we will continue to focus on how we can use existing data on veterans and the services offered to them to improve our efforts to deliver that service. We also will discuss ways in which our agencies can work together to better achieve our goals, especially in the areas of higher education opportunities, employment and wellness. We are moving quickly toward those goals, and I really look forward to the continued efforts of this excellent group of public leaders to achieve Gov. Sandoval’s vision for veterans.• 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.