The Nevada Office of Veterans Services has organized the Nevada Veterans Legislative Summit for the past four years to educate veterans advocates on effective methods of communicating with lawmakers, and to give advocates a chance to meet legislators face to face.
Kate Marshall, state treasurer, told summit attendees Saturday the upcoming legislative session is going to be a rough one.
“I don’t think I have to tell you just how bad the financial woes are,” Marshall said.
“Shared sacrifice,” she said, is a way to reduce the budgetary burdens all branches of government are faced with.
“Don’t try to divide it between federal, state and local,” Marshall said. “We should seek to lower that burden for everyone. It’s a sacrifice we share.”
Veterans advocates have a critical job to do this session, she said.
“Make sure the veterans voices are heard,” Marshall said, adding that it is important to remind legislators of the sacrifices veterans have made for this state and nation.
NOVS Executive Director Caleb Cage urged advocates to introduce themselves to elected officials during the summit. Sens. Sheila Leslie and Don Gustavson, Assemblymen Richard “Skip” Daly and Elliot Anderson, along with representatives from Sens. Harry Reid and John Ensign’s offices were in attendance Saturday.
Legislative issues discussed Saturday included:
• Protecting voting privileges of armed forces: Ballot initiatives to modify voting methods
• Accurately understanding the demographics of Nevada’s veterans
• Standardizing the term “veteran” within the NRS with respect to character of discharge and period of service
• Establishing and increasing training for Nevada’s volunteer service officers
• Employment issues for veterans
• Supporting goals of NOVS in the 2011 legislative session
• Reducing out-of-state tuition for veterans
• Mandating that funeral homes report unclaimed veterans remains to the state
• Allowing the Veterans Services Commission to advise the governor on the appointment of the NOVS executive director and deputy executive director
• Creating a disabled veterans/armed forces license plate
• Funding for a full-time women veterans coordinator position (7 percent of Nevada’s veterans are female)
• Creating ID cards for homeless veterans for a small fee
• Automatically restoring voting rights to honorably discharged veterans who have completed their sentences
• Prohibiting custody transfers while service members are deployed
• Establishing a transition program for Nevada National Guardsmen returning from deployments
Cage said veterans are facing challenges in 2011, and the budget deficit in the state is the biggest. He said although budget funds are low, NOVS plans to keep its doors open and improve the level of service provided to veterans.
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.
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.”