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Vets meet with Nevada director

The Mirror of Pahrump, Nevada

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Makes clear she is not with VA

Standing for more than 20 minutes in the heat of the afternoon on Saturday, September 26 had several Pahrump Valley veterans expressing their frustration as they waited to attend a meeting hosted by the Nevada Department of Veterans Services. The meeting was scheduled for 2 p.m. that Saturday with the NyE Communities Coalition selected as the venue. However, due to a mixup in communication coalition staff was not on hand to unlock the doors. No to be deterred by a wait, the veterans continued to stand by until meeting officials decided to move the gathering to Veterans Service Officer for Nye County Brandi Matheny's office.

Matheny was simply playing backup however and once everyone had settled in, she turned the meeting over to Nevada Department of Veterans Services Director Kat Miller. Starting the conversation with a clarification, Miller explained to the dozen attendees that she is not with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Her department has the duty of running veterans cemeteries and nursing homes throughout the state as well as the Veterans Service Officer Program under which Matheny is employed. Miller stated that she oversees two deputy directors. One is specific to benefits dealing with cemeteries, the Veterans Service Officer Program, veteran incarceration, education and employment. The second deals with wellness including nursing homes, suicide prevention, homelessness and all other veteran healthcare issues.

Regardless of Miller not being with the VA, she explained that the state and federal departments are close partners. Her position also places her in Governor Brian Sandoval's Cabinet, where she advises him on veterans issues. One of her department's main objectives is to answer questions regarding VA practices while helping to facilitate communication between the VA and those seeking service. Another is identifying just what Nevada veterans need and desire so that those ideas can be pushed to the forefront when legislation is being considered.

"Our responsibility is to answer every issue, problem or concern of veterans and their family members in Nevada, that is under Nevada Revised Statute 417," Miller said. "That doesn't mean that I have all the answers and all the resources but it's my job and my staff's job to do our very best to help connect you to that resource, that opportunity or to find out why something is not working."

Miller explained that part of the issue the VA is facing today is that there has been an explosion of benefits and awareness of what is available in the last decade, causing the backlog that veterans across the country have been experiencing. In addition to this, many of the programs and benefits through the VA are population targeted, meaning not all former service members qualify for the same programs. "This causes confusion, it causes resentment," Miller said. "But what I wanted to do today is spend a few minutes telling you about some of the things that we are working on and then, I want to hear from you what we can do better." Miller remarked that with 300,000 veterans in Nevada, the hardest part of her job is understanding the need.

Miller gave a rundown on the history of the state veterans department, noting that she wanted to make the basic purpose of the department clear before moving forward. "Usually I come into a room and people will say, T want to know how come it's taking so long on my claim,' and I have to explain that I am not with the VA," Miller said. "Although, nothing is off the table because our governor gets very involved and so does our congressional delegation and there are some things in my office that we can do to help you get through the benefits process."

Each of those attending had problems with the VA they wished to address, most of which unfortunately involved long wait times on their claims that Miller could not deal with in such a short meeting. Miller did take the contact information of all those desiring further assistance though and promised to followup with them. In the same moment, Matheny was put on notice that several of the veterans wished to make an appointment with her, to discuss more specifically their concerns and questions. Matheny stated that she was booked until mid-December but would happily work everyone into her schedule. Miller remarked that she was currently pushing for authorization for Matheny to work more hours in Nye County.

Matheny can be contacted at (775) 751-6372 and her office is located at 1981 E. Calvada Blvd. Miller can be contacted at (775) 688-1653 or millerk@veterans.nv.gov. Her offices are located at 6880 S. McCarran Blvd, building A, suite 2 in Reno. For more information visit www.veterans.nv.gov. Contact author Robin Hebrock by emailing mirror.rhebrock@gmail.com



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Original Publication Date: October 8, 2015



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