- Benefits and Services
- Suicide Prevention
By Chuck N. Baker
Even though it was the middle of week, more than 100 veterans, their family members or loved ones packed into the Bob Ruud Community Center. Extra chairs had to be pulled to the middle of the community center as the crowd gathered to join a conversation about issues of interest to Pahrump veterans.
The unincorporated area has a part-time Veteran Service Officer and a VA Health Clinic. Still, many veterans are not aware of all the benefits offered to them by the State of Nevada and the federal Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
One topic that surfaced was the upcoming legislative session in Nevada. Earlier this year in March 2018, the Nevada Department of Veterans Services hosted a Veterans Legislative Symposium in both the northern and southern parts of the State. The United Veterans Legislative Counsel (UVLC) assisted in helping veterans attending the event, identify and then prioritize issues or challenges that could be addressed by Nevada lawmakers. One of the high priority issues that surfaced is providing the communities of Fallon and Pahrump with a full-time Veteran Service Officer.
Department Director Kat Miller urged those attending to participate in hearings and the process involving proposed legislation that have been identified as being important to veterans. Backing up that statement was Assemblyman James Oscarson, who pointed out that even if individuals can’t come to the office of an elected official, phone calls and letters do “make a difference.” He drove home the fact Nevada has a “citizens’ legislature” consisting of men and women who are elected to office on a part-time basis. He explained Nevada lawmakers live and work in the communities they serve and are very approachable. In painting a picture of some of the work conditions in which they operate, he said, “We go up in freezing cold for 120 days … but there is special spirit when [veterans] are there.” He added that when veterans’ bills are brought up for votes, they tend to pass 100 percent, or almost 100 percent.
He urged veterans and their families to, “Let your voices be heard.”
He did caution the crowd there is a right way and a wrong way to approach legislators — courtesy counts. He praised the VA clinic in town and suggested veterans stop by and visit adding, “Have a donut with them.” He took a moment to praise the VA’s Chief of Staff, Dr. Ramu Komanduri, whose office is at the VA Clinic in North Las Vegas. He described Komanduri as “a great man,” and his office “always responds” when asked questions. Oscarson will be leaving office soon, and he closed his comments to the group with a heartfelt message: “It’s been an honor and pleasure to serve you all.”
Fred Wagar, the Deputy Director under Miller, spoke about the Veterans Advocacy Support Team (VAST) and how its members help others who need information about benefits. He also had praise for Brandi Matheny, Pahrump’s part-time Veteran Service Officer. Moving on to discuss the Southern Nevada Veterans Cemetery in Boulder City, he reported as many as 10 interments a day are performed there. He also said that the Veterans Cemetery in Fernley stays very busy as well.
Both Miller and Wagar discussed the Veterans Home in Boulder City, noting it is a Five-Star skilled nursing facility. They also indicated construction of a Veterans Home in the north was on target and scheduled for a December 17, 2018 ribbon cutting. Miller pointed out “every veteran in this room earned their benefits” and could potentially be eligible to be residents at one of the homes, when they reach the right age and meet the qualifications.
VAST Director Pieter M. Droog encouraged veterans to become Nevada Veterans Advocates in order to assist veterans in filing VA claims. He said Metheny, the part-time service officer in Pahrump, filed 46 claims with the VA last month, 13 of which were brand new claims, not appeals. He smiled and asked the audience if Metheny has a “phenomenal coffee pot” in her office! Adding, “Perhaps she has brownies over there?” He also admonished the audience demanding, “Leave her alone!” He said once a claim is submitted, claimants should not call her every few days to ask about the status of the paperwork. He explained, “When she is handling your call, she can’t help others at the same time!” He assured them, “When there is movement on your claim, Brandi will contact you.”
Women Veteran Program Coordinator Janel Gibson is helping female veterans obtain their benefits and understand the health care resources that are available to women veterans as well.
Nye County Assessor Sheree Stringer also attended the event. Eligible veterans can contact her office in Pahrump to apply for deductions on property tax. Her office may be reached in Tonopah at 775-482-8174 or in Pahrump at
775-751-7060 or visit the Nye County Assessor’s Office website at http://www.co.nye.nv.us/267/Assessor