Veterans rank most important issues for 2023

Veterans rank most important issues for 2023
Jerome Washington from the Veterans Benefits Administration relies on input to rank the top issues facing veterans. He is also a member of the Disabled American Veterans and Veterans of Foreign Legion Post 3396 in Sparks. Steve Ranson / NNG

Adopt-A-Vet dental program considered the most important item

By Steve Ranson / Nevada News Group

CARSON CITY — A veterans council organization has rated its most important issues for the Nevada State Legislature to consider for the next legislative session in Carson City that begins in early 2023.

Every spring the United Veterans Legislative Council, along with the Nevada Department of Veterans Services, recently brainstormed the most important issues facing the state’s  veterans, their families and government agencies. The two entities will meet again in January for another summit before the speaker’s gavel signals the beginning of the new session for both the Assembly and Senate on Feb. 1. The most recent symposiums were conducted at both Reno and Las Vegas with veterans listing their top priorities.

Kat Miller, who recently retired as director of the NDVS, said the goal of this year’s Veterans Legislative Symposium is to present a wide range of issues to the Legislature. By the time January summit convenes at both Las Vegas and Reno, Miller said the council will have a much better idea which priorities has been forwarded as a bill draft request or BDR.

During the four-hour session, veterans presented and then discussed scores of issues that will benefit them. Other groups such as the Interagency Council on Veterans Affairs, the Nevada Veterans Services Commission and the Women’s Veterans Advisory Committee provided their input before the symposium. 

During the session, 71 state issues were identified and prioritized at both symposiums; some, however, were discussed at both venues. From the discussion, NDVS generated five themes: improve medical and health care programs; require service providers to implement the “Ask the Question” program to improve veterans’ health care outcomes and to inform them of earned benefits; honor and recognize veteran’s service by reducing certain fees; improve occupational licensure for veterans and military spouses; and improve programming for veterans in transitioning from justice system.

Tony Yarbrough, left, the previous chairman of the United Veterans Legislative Council, and Andy LePeilbet, the current chairman, talk to a constituent at their spring Veterans Legislative Symposium. Steve Ranson / NNG

Andy LePeilbet, chairman of the ULVC, said former chairman Tony Yarbrough has been the team’s brain trust.

“We’re proud to have him part of the team,” LePeilbet said.

According to LePeilbet, the ULVC is apolitical and represents all Nevada veterans, which numbers upward to 279,000. Including families, LePeilbet said that number increase to half a million residents. Yarbrough said the ULVC provides a single voice when arguing for the passage of bills.

After input from veterans on the most important issues, they then rated their choices in order of importance. Immediately, financial support for the Adopt-a-Vet Dental lunged into the lead. Another issue of interest dealt with a 50% disabled and priority for hunting tags.

Once the issues were identified, veterans then ranked them in order from most to least important and the lists were merged together.

Duane Young, policy director from Gov. Steve Sisolak’s office, said no groups will be left behind despite Nevada being one of the hardest states hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

The top 11 items considered as most critical are as follows:

  • Continue funding for Adopt-A-Vet dental program.
  • Employ a Veterans Suicide Prevention Manager.
  • Adopt the New Hampshire “Ask the Question” program requiring service providers ask patients if they served in the military.
  • Study the use of effectiveness and potential licensing of HBOT treatment.
  • Eliminate annual license fees for officers and registered agents of Veterans Service Organizations.
  • Create additional sick leave category for veterans who are new state employees and haven’t accrued sufficient sick leave.
  • Reduce or eliminate business license fees for veteran-owned businesses.
  • Remove occupational licensing barriers for military, veterans and their spouses.
  • Continue Military Sexual Training programs.
  • Create a hunting tag priority category of 50% or greater for disabled veterans.

Although they didn’t reach the top 11, other issues of interest included he state offering free legal representation for veterans who experience discriminatory acts at both the state and federal workplaces, create a military/veterans’ museum and fund a position for it, permanently recognize a Women’s Military History Month and expand benefit and information outreach to veterans living in rural Nevada.

Fourteen federal issues were listed but not in the order of importance. 

Among the issues listed asked the Department of Veterans Affairs to increase the number of VA-approved community care providers; protect VA disability compensation for those veterans who could lose them when accepting certain federal employment; eliminate barriers to hiring immigrant healthcare workers; authorize use of medical marijuana in the VA medical system; increase the number if healthcare providers; and honor women military members by naming buildings, for example, after them.

Young said it was important to focus on the quality of life issues. Yarborough said the ULVC was energized by the presence of those who attended the brainstorming summits.