Pahrump Veterans Forum touts legislative involvement

It was an evening full of information and education for local veterans during the inaugural Pahrump Veterans Forum, hosted by the Nevada Department of Veterans Services.

State officials headed to the valley on Wednesday, Aug. 29 with the mission of discussing a wide variety of topics with former U.S. military personnel and area veterans came out in force, with a large crowd of approximately 100 attendees gathering at the Bob Ruud Community Center.

While benefits and resources were a major point of focus, there was also much emphasis placed on the upcoming 2019 Nevada Legislative Session, with entreaties from officials for veterans to get involved in the legislative process.

Nevada Department of Veterans Services Director Kat Miller started off by asking whether any attendees were part of the United Veteran Legislative Council in Nevada, with no attendees raising their hands. Again, when asked if any of them had testified before the Legislature before, positive responses were few and far between.

“I’d like to see that change, I’d like to see you all involved in the legislative process,” Miller stated. “Nevada’s Legislature meets every two years and they start on the first Monday in February. For decades, my office has helped coordinate the different veterans communities to come up with issues that they think need to go before the Legislature… Now the issues are gathered during two symposia held each year… but we can always come out to a community and sit down with community members like this to find out what your issues are to add it to the report.”

Through the two symposia held this year, 53 issues were identified by the veteran population and compiled in a report, which then goes to the governor and legislators for their consideration. The 2018 report is available on the department’s website, www.veterans.nv.gov

There will also be a veterans’ summit held in January 2019 to explain the bill draft requests that will be considered during the following session. The summit teaches veterans how to follow a bill, how to testify and much more related to the legislative process.

“When we’ve gone to testify, we’ve had hundreds of veterans show up for certain bills. You have to know that makes an incredible difference. You are going to hear from Assemblyman Oscarson in a moment, talking about that impact. But when you show up for testimony and say, ‘this is important to me,’ it matters,” Miller said before inviting Nevada Assemblyman James Oscarson to the podium.

Oscarson quickly agreed with Miller, remarking, “Your presence, your calls, your letters, your influence on the legislative process is far greater than you can ever imagine… I will tell you, it makes a difference to hear from you. It makes difference when there is a room full of veterans and the spouses and families participating in the process that exists for you.”

As an example of how those in the room that evening could help assist the department with its goals, department deputy director Fred Wagar honed in on one mission for the coming year.

“I think everybody in here knows Brandi Matheny,” Wagar said, drawing attention to the Pahrump Veterans Service officer. The crowd reacted with cheers and applause in acknowledgment. “One of the things that we are asking the Legislature for is, to make the VSO position here in Pahrump full time and we could certainly use your support,” Wagar stated.

On benefits, one area that some veterans may not be familiar with is the resources available to them through the Nye County Assessor’s Office. To explain, Nye County Assessor Sheree Stringer was invited to the forum and she encouraged everyone to drop by to learn all they can about what her office has to offer.

Stringer began by thanking all veterans for their service before launching into a brief overview of what her office can do for them.

“In our office, you are entitled to a veterans’ benefit. You have to be honorably discharged,” Stringer said. “You can be service-connected disabled, or not. You could be blind, you could be a widow or a widower. Come into my office. There are benefits out there for you, take advantage of them. You can use them toward your taxes or use can use them toward your DMV registration or the veterans’ home. So please come in!”

Highlighting the need for veterans to stay abreast of the ever-changing world of services and benefits, Miller added, “Benefits change all the time. Keep in touch with your Veterans Service officer!”

Numerous other topics were touched on during the Pahrump Veterans Forum as well, with the main takeaway for most being the importance of maintaining a connection with their state and federal officials, along with those who are dedicated to helping veterans, such as Veterans Service officers and volunteers in the Nevada Veterans Advocate Program. The evening also included a very special presentation for veterans of the Korean War and Gulf wars, with Miller bestowing books commemorating those wars on those who were serving America while they were waged.

Another event headed to town

As with many veteran-oriented events, there were several attendees with questions regarding the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and its activities but, as the state department is a separate entity, officials explained that they were unable to provide information specific to those inquiries. However, they were quick to announce that veterans wishing to learn more about the VA were in luck, with another forum right around the corner.

On Tuesday, Sept. 25, the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System will host a Pahrump-area Veterans Town Hall meeting. The event is scheduled for 1 to 2 p.m. at the Pahrump Community Library, 701 East St.

“The Veterans Town Hall meeting will offer veterans an opportunity to receive an update on VA services and care in the Pahrump community and within the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System,” an event announcement from the VA detailed. “Subject matter experts for services and programs the VA currently offers will be on hand to assist with individual issues and/or challenges to accessing services.”

Area veterans with questions or specific subjects they would like to discuss at the town hall meeting are welcome to submit these to the VA’s public affairs office at vhalaspao@va.gov prior to the event. Comment and question cards will also be provided during the meeting.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com