The fourth biennial Nevada Veterans Legislative Summit will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday at John Ascuaga’s Nugget. Attendees will receive a briefing on the state budget as well as the current state of affairs for Nevada’s veterans and Nevada Office of Veterans Services.
The main goal, according to Bill DiBenedetto, spokesperson for the Nevada Office of Veterans Services, is to introduce veterans advocates to state legislators and to discuss goals and strategies on being effective advocates during the upcoming legislative session.
“We will talk about how we will operate during the session,” DiBenedetto said. “When dealing with legislators, (advocates should) be respectful when expressing their opinions.”
“This will be a great opportunity for Nevada veterans to meet with state legislators, discuss the upcoming legislative session and foster veterans advocacy throughout the state,” said Caleb Cage, executive director of the Nevada Office of Veterans Services.
At press time, state Sens. Sheila Leslie and Don Gustavson, Assemblymen Richard “Skip” Daly and Elliot Anderson and State Treasurer Kate Marshall had confirmed plans to attend the summit.
According to DiBenedetto, attendees will be given an overview of the number of veterans in each area of the state as well as a breakdown of the benefits they receive.
More than 339,000 veterans live in Nevada, which means one in eight Nevada residents has served in the military. That ratio is 50 percent higher than the national average, according to Jay Hansen, legislative director of the Building Trades Council.
Hansen spoke during the 2008 Nevada Veterans Legislative Summit to advocates about building power by educating legislators on veterans affairs. He told advocates that legislators might look at more than 1,000 bills during a legislative session, so building a relationship with legislators and helping them understand the needs of veterans is important.
Veterans advocates can build relationships with legislators through lobbying, community activities and events or even church, Hansen said.
“Legislators need you,” he said in the presentation. “Be an educator.”
The Nevada Office of Veterans Services has been in operation for more than 65 years and is “dedicated to helping Nevada veterans get the services, benefits and quality of life they deserve,” the organization’s website states. “(Veterans) rely on us to not only understand their lives, but to help them get a better quality of life. We do everything we can to show our American heroes the same amount of respect, empathy, gratitude and service that they have shown us.”