Caleb Cage: U.S., state working for Nevada vets

Nevada has recently been the focal point of the veterans' community for some very high-profile activities, visits and events. Reno hosted several very high-level discussions of national veterans policy during the Veterans of Foreign Wars' national convention in July. Vice President Joe Biden recently visited various locations in Nevada to discuss veterans' employment. And the federal Department of Veterans Affairs hospital will be officially opening in Las Vegas during the Disabled American Veterans' convention early this month.

Even with all of this national attention on Nevada and federal veterans services, though, we have been working hard to improve services at the state level as well, specifically through the Green Zone Initiative and the Governor's Interagency Council on Veterans Affairs.

The Green Zone Initiative is a statewide strategic plan created by the Nevada Office of Veterans Services. It is intended 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. The planning is focused primarily on services in three areas: higher education; workforce development and entrepreneurship; and wellness.

The goal of the Green Zone Initiative is to coordinate and align the services to veterans in these focus areas in such a way that we will be better able to assist returning and still-serving veterans in their reintegration to civilian life. Many such services are offered by state, federal and nonprofit organizations, and we hope to provide a plan that will connect them to the veterans, military members and family members who need them. In order to successfully build this plan in the future, we are also working to build an online social networking site that will serve as a coordination platform for veterans and the nonprofit, local, state, and federal organizations that serve them.

To identify gaps in existing services and resources and to develop the recommendations for this initiative, we have been meeting with subject matter experts and stakeholders in our focus areas around the state. In May, we held a summit on veterans in higher education meeting in Reno, veteran workforce and entrepreneurship summits in Reno, Las Vegas, and Carson City in June and July, and a summit on veteran wellness in Elko in July. As one might expect, these meetings have been wonderful opportunities to build rapport with various elements of the broader veteran community, to share information, and to develop a better picture of how we can best help Nevada's veterans through this initiative.

Beyond the strategic planning effort and the social networking platform, Gov. Sandoval has given us an additional tool to coordinate and deliver this effort through his Interagency Council on Veterans Affairs. The council was enacted on July 3 with Executive Order 2012-15, making Nevada one of the first states in the nation to create such a working group for veterans affairs.

The order directs select representatives from his executive agencies, the federal government, local government and nonprofits to meet over the next year to develop a plan to improve services to Nevada's veterans. Specifically, the body is to identify and rank the needs of Nevada's veterans, and to work toward increasing the coordination of the state government's efforts to meet the needs of veterans with federal, local and nonprofit services. The council is to deliver a report to the governor on its findings before the order terminates on Dec. 31, 2013. The governor's support in this matter is tremendous, and his foresight will go a long way toward helping us achieve the goals of the Green Zone Initiative.

The recent discussions and announcements with respect to veterans' services at the national level, especially as they pertain to Nevada, are important and exciting in their own right. We believe that the Green Zone Initiative, the social networking platform, and Gov. Sandoval's new Interagency Council on Veterans Affairs are equally important and exciting, too.

We look forward to connecting the national and local efforts in the coming days, months and years in order to better serve Nevada's veterans and their families.

• Caleb S. Cage is executive director of the Nevada Office of Veterans Services, appointed by Gov. Brian Sandoval. You can read his blog at veterans.nv



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