Traveling out to Elko, where the Nevada Office of Veterans Services has two excellent employees, a thriving partnership with the county, and great relationships with the local veteran service organizations, is always something that I am glad to do.

We were able to visit again last month for the Veterans Services Commission's quarterly meeting, and it was great as always. Every time we leave, I just wish we had more opportunities like it to visit with our staff, to meet with the community, and to make sure we are in tune with the direction our Commission intends.

The Commission itself was created in statute, and has a total of nine members. Five of the members are appointed by Governor Sandoval, two are appointed by the Senate Majority Leader and Speaker of the Assembly, respectively, and two members represent our cemetery committees as well. Their primary function is to advise the Governor, our agency, and the legislature on issues relating to veterans, but they do a lot more than that. They also help us communicate with various veteran service organizations around the state, help us focus our resources as effectively as possible, and they provide several layers of accountability as well.

State law allows for meetings to be held in Las Vegas, Reno, or anywhere else in the state so long as the public can join the meeting by telephone. We commonly host meetings in the state's primary population centers, but we also like to host meetings in other areas throughout the state too. Once a year the Commission meets at our cemeteries in Fernley and Boulder City, for instance, in order to visit the grounds and provide recommendations for improvements. And because we have an office in Elko, we will commonly visit northeastern Nevada as well.

These meetings are truly valuable to us as we endeavor to improve benefits and services to veterans in our state. At this most recent meeting, we updated the committee on the status of our three primary programs, our cemeteries, our nursing home, and our service officer program, to ensure that they were up to date on the challenges and opportunities we faced in each over the last quarter. We updated them on the great progress being made within the Women Veteran Program, including the women's wellness summit to be hosted in Elko later this year, as well as our ROVER program, which we have been building to serve rural Nevada over the last two years, too.

Their feedback and support for each of these programs was extremely helpful, and will be truly helpful as we continue to improve them. Not only do the Commissioners provide guidance, but they also let us know how our efforts can include or be improved by the organizations that they represent, particularly the Disabled American Veterans, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the American Legion. We always walk away with increased opportunities to serve veterans throughout the state.

The Commissioners are also particularly active and interested in our ongoing legislative efforts, as were the members of the public who joined us from the local veteran community. As I wrote about last month, the 77th Legislative Session was pretty successful, and they were generally pleased with the progress that had been made. Even with this success, though, we all agreed that it was not too early to start preparing for another successful legislative session in 2015.

One of the best parts of holding our meetings in locations where we have established offices is the opportunity it provides us to meet with our local staff personally. We stopped by the office and spoke with Martha Dixon and Deborah Gentry to discuss how things were going and how we could improve them going forward. It was a great discussion that reinforced all of the great stories we are told of their hard work from the Commissioners and members of the community who know them.

With the legislative session behind us, we have a clear picture for the way ahead for the next two years. With the Commission meeting behind us, our office has clear guidance for the next quarter and beyond. There is a lot of work left to do regarding both, of course, but based on the feedback we have received, we know that we have an excellent and supportive statewide community backing us.

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Caleb S. Cage is the executive director of the Nevada Office of Veterans Services, appointed by Governor Brian Sandoval. You can read his blog at http://veterans.nv.gov/blog.

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