Rep. Dina Titus, D-NV, recently held a veterans roundtable in Las Vegas to discuss happenings on Capitol Hill.
She is on the House Veterans Committee, and is the ranking member on Memorial Services. She reported that she met with Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald to discuss the budget for the next two years, and initiated a conversation on how the VA might become more relevant to service members in the 21st Century.
Titus announced at her local meeting that Congressional hearings are planned on the appeals process and claims backlog for veterans, as well as the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) when soldiers transition to veteran status. Ideas are sought on how to better prepare those new veterans to transition through education.
Titus said there are upcoming roundtables planned with veterans’ service officers about the budget; increased G.I. benefits; and providing child care for single mothers so moms can continue their schooling.
The Regional Transportation Commission gave a presentation at the Las Vegas meeting about its services for veterans and families for rides to the VA medical facility in North Las Vegas, and to private doctors offices. In 2012 the RTC received funding from the federal government to provide free transportation, but by 2013 RTC said there were not enough resources to continue.
In December, 2014, RTC began charging veterans, but now will be providing reimbursement and giving bus passes. Of course, forms will need to be completed in oder to receive refunds. For information and comments about RTC, call 702-678-8387 and leave a message, or go to rtcsnv.com.
Disabled American Veterans (DAV) began van transportation for local veterans in 1987, and now operates 31 vans in Las Vegas, Pahrump, Mesquite, Laughlin and Henderson. It’s not an entitlement. The DAV requires riders have no wheelchairs, no oxygen tanks, no service dogs (due to allergies) and also enforces other regulations.
Although there are restrictions, the DAV has long been praised for its transportation program. Former DAV National Commander Ray Dempsey has told me that the DAV was the first national veterans organization to provide such services around the country.
A related option in Boulder City, the Alternative Transportation Services program in conjunction with RTC, provides rides to disabled individuals, regardless of age, who live in group homes and primarily participate in work programs. For details, call 702-894 4190.
Several veterans’ events are coming up in Southern Nevada. Purple Heart recipients are planning their national convention August 4-9 at the JW Mariott Las Vegas. For details, go to www.purpleheart.org.
The groundbreaking for a local Fisher House is set for March 27 on the grounds of the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System, 6900 N. Pecos Road, at 10 a.m. The Fisher House program pays for transportation and housing for families to visit their military sons and daughters who are hospitalized. It’s named after founder Zach Fisher.
His nephew Ken Fisher is current CEO.
A formal fundraiser dinner for the Fisher House project sponsored by the Nevada Military Support Alliance will be held on March 28 at the MGM Grand Hotel. The keynote speaker is General Richard B. Myers, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Individual tickets are $250. Call Teresa N. DiLoreto at (702) 701-4167.
The overall housing market continues its recovery and the government has loosened its requirements concerning credit scores and loan eligibility since the recent recession. All along, the VA loan guarantee program for veterans has continued to serve former military members, and has grown in popularity.
In 2014, the first quarter saw VA loans account for 8.1 percent of all mortgages. It’s reported by a major lender that 10 percent of the entire housing market is made up of active duty personnel and veterans. VA lending allows vets to buy homes with no money down and minimum out-of-pocket expenses.
Veterans can apply for eligibility at the VA, or traditionally more easily through their lenders or Realtors.
Army veteran, journalist and author Chuck N. Baker is a Purple Heart recipient of the Vietnam War, and the host of the “Veterans Reporter Show” each Thursda night on KLAV-AM or at www.klav1230.com.