Posts Tagged ‘veterans’

Southern Nevada Veterans Medical Center Dedicated As Candidates Vie For Support From Important Constituency

By Sean Whaley | 4:57 pm August 6th, 2012

Nevada political leaders, veterans and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki gathered in North Las Vegas today to dedicate the new Southern Nevada VA Medical Center.

The state-of-the-art complex includes a full-service VA hospital, outpatient clinic and long-term care facility and will serve the needs of Nevada veterans and their families.

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., and U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., locked in a tough Senate race, both attended the ceremonies, as did Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Berkley helped secure authorization for the $600 million in funding needed to complete the trio of new facilities. She also wrote and helped pass the legislation that provided the land for the new medical center at no cost to the VA.

Rep. Shelley Berkley - D-Nev.

“Our veterans earned their benefits through their military service to our nation and this new VA medical center will provide these brave men and women the high-quality care they deserve – including vital mental health services,” Berkley said in a statement. “After working for years to turn this dream into a reality for our Nevada veterans, I’m so proud of what’s been accomplished in the construction of this new complex and what it means for our community and the vets who will receive medical care and other services at our new state-of-the-art VA medical center.”

Heller said in remarks at the dedication: “I’ve personally toured this hospital as it has been built and I’m proud to tell you that Nevada is now home to the finest VA hospital in the nation.”

“This hospital will improve the quality of healthcare for thousands of veterans from the region,” he said. “This facility includes a surgical center, nursing home and extended care unit, and space to care for veterans who suffer with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and with other mental health issues. These state-of-the-art facilities are designed to meet the needs of virtually every health and wellness issue our veterans could face.”

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.

Heller said the facility will let Nevada veterans get care at home rather than have to travel out of state.

Shinseki said the hospital keeps a promise made by the VA with the 164,000 veterans who live in Clark, Lincoln and Nye counties, all 234,000 veterans who live in Nevada as well as those from surrounding states who will be able to get care at the facility.

“The Las Vegas VAMC underscores VA’s commitment to provide the best care anywhere to America’s veterans, particularly in the critical area of mental health,” said Dr. Robert Petzel, VA’s Under Secretary for Health. “The opening of this world-class facility is another milestone, and ensures VA provides the care and services our veterans have earned through their service.”

The facility will have 90 inpatient beds, a 120-bed community living center (skilled nursing home care facility), and an ambulatory care center. The 90 inpatient beds include a state-of-the-art 22-bed mental health unit, 48 medical/surgical beds, and 20 intensive care unit beds.

Candidates at both the national and state levels are reaching out to veterans as the November general election approaches.

Both President Obama and presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney spoke to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno last month. Vice President Joe Biden also spoke at the Disabled American Veterans’ national convention in Las Vegas over the weekend.

Heller said he has a long record of support for veterans, and his campaign recently announced his Veterans for Heller Coalition, made up of more than 140 veterans, including Carson City Mayor Bob Crowell, a Democrat; Major General Drennan “Tony” Clark, a former adjutant general for Nevada and a former Republican for Reid in his 2010 Senate race; Kirk Lippold, commander of the USS Cole when it was attacked in Yemen in 2000; and Major General L.D. Johnston, a former commander at Nellis Air Force Base.

“I’m humbled by the support of so many of our nation’s heroes,” Heller said. “We can never repay these individuals for their service, but it is Congress’ responsibility to make sure those who have served in the Armed Forces receive the benefits they earned and deserve.”

Heller recently introduced the Veterans Small Business Protection Act, which ensures that surviving spouses and children are eligible for small business benefits.

Heller also introduced the Women’s Homeless Veterans Act, requiring the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to set aside 15 percent of funds provided to VA’s Grant and Per Diem Program for homeless veterans with special needs. It also directs assistance to homeless female veterans as well as children.

Berkley said she has worked for veterans throughout her career.

The Berkley campaign also criticized Heller in June when the Women’s Homeless Veterans Act had a hearing, saying that Heller “tried to fool Nevada’s veterans into believing he is a champion for their issues even though last year he voted to gut $75 million from a homeless veterans program, which would have eliminated housing vouchers for some 11,000 veterans across the country.”

“Given Senator Heller’s track record of  putting Wall Street first and gutting assistance for homeless veterans, Nevadans are not going to be fooled by this election year attempt to mask his wrong priorities,” said Xochitl Hinojosa, Shelley Berkley for U.S. Senate Communications Director. “Nevada’s veterans are counting on someone like Shelley Berkley who wakes up every morning itching to stand up and fight to protect the benefits they earned after risking their lives for this nation.”

President Obama Touts His Accomplishments For Veterans, Military In Reno Visit

By Sean Whaley | 4:27 pm July 23rd, 2012

RENO – President Obama told members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars today that he has fulfilled the promises he made four years ago to make America safer, strengthen jobs programs for returning military personnel and fight homelessness, suicide and posttraumatic stress disorder among the nation’s veterans.

Obama, appearing at the 113th convention of the group, acknowledged in a 30-minute speech that more needs to be done to help returning military personnel find jobs. He took the opportunity to announce a major overhaul of the transition assistance program.

President Obama speaks to the VFW in Reno today.

“We’re going to set up a kind of reverse boot camp for our departing service members,” he said. “Starting this year, they will get more personalized assistance as they plan their careers. We’ll provide the training they need to find that job, or pursue that education or start that business. And just as they have maintained their military readiness, we’ll have new standards of career readiness.”

He also urged Congress to find a solution to the nation’s deficit spending to protect the military budget from automatic cuts set to take effect next year without an agreement.

“Because people in Congress ought to be able to come together and agree on a plan, a balanced approach that reduces the deficit and keeps our military strong,” Obama said. “It should be done.

“If the choice is between tax cuts that the wealthiest Americans don’t need and funding (for) our troops that they definitely need to keep our country strong, I will stand with our troops every single time,” he said. “So let’s stop playing politics with our military.”

Obama said he promised four years ago, to “take the fight to our enemies and renew our leadership in the world.”

“As president, that’s what I’ve done,” he said.

Not only did his administration kill Osama bin Laden, but it has also taken out more top al-Qaeda leaders than at any time since 9-11, Obama said.

Obama also highlighted his decision to withdraw troops from Iraq in what he said was a responsible manner, and the administration plan now under way to withdraw all U.S. military from Afghanistan, completing a transition to Afghan military control by 2014.

Obama received a number of cheers and applause from the crowd of men and women, some young and others veterans of World War II, Vietnam and Korea, among other conflicts.

He took a few minutes at the beginning of his remarks to talk about those with military connections who were victims of the Aurora, Colorado, shooting rampage Friday, including Jonathan Blunk, a 2004 graduate of Hug High and a Navy veteran.

His appearance, the second visit to Reno this year, will be followed tomorrow by remarks from Mitt Romney, his presumed GOP rival in the November general election.

Romney has attacked Obama’s record on the military. On his website, he says: “President Obama came into office with a military in serious need of modernization. However, instead of rebuilding our strength, President Obama has put us on course toward a ‘hollow’ force. President Obama has repeatedly sought to slash funds for our fighting men and women, and over the next ten years nearly $1 trillion will be cut from the core defense budget. This budget cutting enterprise is proceeding while American troops are in combat in Afghanistan, returning from their mission in Iraq, and fighting the remnants of al-Qaeda worldwide.”

In a response to Obama’s remarks, Romney campaign spokesman Mason Harrison said: “In no region of the world is our country’s influence any stronger than it was four years ago. President Obama has failed to restore our economy, is weakening our military with devastating defense cuts, and has diminished our moral authority. Governor Romney will restore the pillars of American strength to secure our interests and defend our values.”

Obama’s Nevada visit focused on his record of accomplishments in the military and Veterans arenas, but still brought him to a battleground state viewed as critical by political observers for victory by the candidates in November.

He won Nevada in 2008, but with the highest unemployment rate and one of the highest home foreclosure rates in the nation, the state is considered to be a toss up. Washoe County in particular is viewed as critical to which candidate will win the state’s six electoral votes.


Audio clips:

President Obama urges Congress to come up with a deficit reduction plan to avoid mandatory cuts to the military budget next year:

072312Obama1 :14 should be done.”

Obama says he will fight for military funding rather than lower taxes for the wealthiest Americans:

072312Obama2 :14 every single time.”

Obama announces a “reverse boot camp” to help returning military personnel find work:

072312Obama3 :24 of career readiness.”


Gov. Sandoval Joins In Wreath Laying Ceremony Honoring Veterans, Active Duty Military Personnel

By Sean Whaley | 1:41 pm December 5th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval was joined by the 8th grade class from St. Teresa of Avila School today in a 5th annual wreath laying ceremony on the steps of the Capitol honoring the nation’s veterans and active duty military personnel.

Carson City Mayor Bob Crowell, Gov. Brian Sandoval and St. Teresa School Student Body President Grace Bayliss present the wreath honoring the military. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

Also participating in the ceremony was Anita Parker, representing the Battle Born Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, and Carson City Mayor Bob Crowell.

The wreath laying is sponsored by the DAR as part of the “Wreaths Across America” project. Similar ceremonies were held in the nation’s capital and in state capitals across the country.

“Five years ago, the Battle Born chapter and members of our community first gathered here on the steps of Nevada’s Capitol during the busy holiday season to remember the fallen, honor those who served, and teach our children the value of freedom as part of the Reach Across America project,” Parker said. “We come today together even as others gather in other state capitols, and our nation’s capitol, to remember that we are one nation with one flag.”

One of the students, Noah Jennings, read a poem titled “Twas the Night Before Christmas for a Soldier.”

Sandoval said: “As we stand here together on a chilly December morning, the comforts of our homes and offices not far away, it is fitting that we remember the sacrifices of those who have served and sacrificed in the United States Armed Forces.”

Sandoval noted that on Wednesday he and others will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

“Today we remember that our troops come from families just like ours,” he said. “We remember those who have fallen, those who have returned, and those who continue to serve during this holiday season, separated from those who love them. We offer them our thanks.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks as members of the 8th grade class from St. Teresa of Avila School look on. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

After his comments, Sandoval, Crowell and Grace Bayliss, student body president at the school, presented the wreath.


Audio clips:

Anita Parker, representing the Battle Born Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, says the wreath ceremony is to remember those who served and continue to serve:

120511Parker :28 with one flag.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval says it is fitting to remember the sacrifices of the nation’s Armed Forces during the holidays:

120511Sandoval1 :18 States Armed Forces.”

Sandoval says the troops come from families just like ours:

120511Sandoval2 :23 them our thanks.”

Gov. Sandoval Signs Bill Addressing Proper Burial Of Unclaimed Veterans’ Remains

By Sean Whaley | 2:32 pm March 24th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval today signed a bill requiring funeral directors to report to the Office of Veterans’ Services if they obtain possession of unclaimed human remains they know or reasonably believe to be that of a veteran.

Sandoval signed Assembly Bill 124 in a ceremony before a full house of veterans at the Kit Carson VFW Post 3726 in the capital.

Gov. Brian Sandoval talks with veteran Robert Primeaux following a bill signing ceremony today. Photo by Cathleen Allison/

Sandoval was joined by Director of the Office of Veterans’ Services Caleb Cage for the signing ceremony, which came on Veterans and Military Day at the Nevada Legislature.

AB124 was sought by the interim Legislative Committee on Senior Citizens, Veterans, and Adults with Special Needs. Once a funeral director notifies the veterans agency of the possession of a veteran’s remains, the agency will ensure the deceased veteran receives a proper burial.

In testifying on the bill earlier this session, Cage said there are cremated veterans’ remains in storage at funeral homes because there is no family to claim them. Several other states, including Illinois, Missouri, and Colorado, have passed similar legislation.

Gov. Gibbons Appoints Harvey As New Chief Of Nevada Veterans Services

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 11:46 am June 18th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Gov. Jim Gibbons today announced the appointment of Charles Harvey as executive director of the Nevada Office of Veterans Services. Harvey currently serves as Nevada’s American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) director.

“Charles Harvey has served both Nevada and our country admirably – from his service in the U.S. Air Force to his dedication ensuring accountability and transparency in the efficient distribution of stimulus dollars in Nevada,” Gibbons said.

Harvey began his state service in September 2009. He had served in the Air Force from 1985 through 1990 as a manager of aircrew logistics and data analysis and was nominated for airman of the year. Prior to joining state government, Harvey spent 13 years in Clark County government, working his way up to assistant director in the Clark County Recorder’s office.

Charles Harvey

Harvey will replace current Executive Director Tim Tetz, who has accepted a position as national legislative director for the American Legion in Washington, DC.

“Tim Tetz will be serving not only Nevada veterans, but all veterans honorably by focusing his advocacy efforts at the federal level,” Gibbons said. “Nevada’s loss will surely serve our country’s veterans well.”

Tetz was appointed by then Gov. Kenny Guinn in 2006 and reappointed by Gibbons in 2007. Tetz is a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard and has been actively involved in Nevada’s veterans community for many years, including serving as Department of Nevada Commander of the American Legion in 2003.

The transition between directors will occur during late July. Harvey will not leave the ARRA office until the July ARRA quarterly reporting period has been completed.

The Nevada Office of Veterans Services was established to provide assistance and services to Nevada’s 339,000 veterans, their family members, and residents of Nevada serving in the Armed Forces of the United States. The agency administers two state Veterans Memorial Cemeteries, the Nevada State Veterans Home and a statewide Veterans Service Officer program.

Sue Lowden’s New TV Ad Targets Veterans

By Elizabeth Crum | 1:30 pm April 5th, 2010

Sue Lowden’s new TV ad touts her long-standing respect and admiration for veterans and reaches back to her travels with the USO and Bob Hope Christmas troupe to Vietnam and other military locations.

Veterans are a fairly large voting block in Nevada, tending to be more conservative/Republican and with historically higher turn-out numbers than non-Vets.  Good group to earn points with during the primary.

Here’s the ad:  Pete

Starts tomorrow on a television set near you.

Long Overdue: USO Facility Coming to McCarran Airport

By Elizabeth Crum | 6:43 pm March 17th, 2010

The USO facility at McCarran will open this fall, says the LVRJ.  Glad to see it.

Not sure why we need an advisory committee to figure out what to throw in the room, though.  It’s a converted airline executive suite so already has bathrooms, utility hookups, lounge areas, a snack bar with a counter and a refrigerated deli case.  Throw a fresh coat of paint on the walls and call it done, says me (and Peter Christoff, a veterans’ advocate quoted in the RJ story).

Political note:  Bit of a missed opportunity for Congressman Dean Heller, if you ask me.  At a private Newsmakers Event sponsored by NNB (us) back on December 4, blogger and Veterans in Politics president Steve Sanson asked Heller if he would please get involved the effort to convince USO to support and fund a facility.  Heller said he would “look into it” and supported the idea, but he was basically non-committal.  And then Harry Reid put out this press release in late January saying he and USO President Sloan Gibson were teaming up to get it done.

To be fair, though, back in November it was Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak who brought together many of the veterans’ advocates and politicians to get things done.  Back then, Sanson was sharply criticizing Harry Reid, saying he had showed little interest in the USO facility until his poll numbers were down going into an election year.

Sanson is happy with these results, though, and says hundreds of people have expressed interest in volunteering at the military lounge.

Heller Fields Questions from Nevada Media at Newsmakers Briefing

By Elizabeth Crum | 1:40 pm December 7th, 2009

LAS VEGAS — Congressman Dean Heller on Friday answered wide-ranging questions from local editors, radio personalities, and bloggers in a private “Newsmakers” briefing hosted and moderated by the Nevada News Bureau at the offices of Rogich Communications in Las Vegas, NV.

In his opening remarks, Heller explained his three-point litmus test for health care legislation and amendments: “More, Higher, Less: More competition, higher quality, less cost.”

In answer to questions on his participation in crafting the House health care bill, Heller said two of his proposed amendments have been rejected. One amendment would have allowed student loan forgiveness for doctors and nurses who go to work in under-served areas. The other proposal would have allowed doctors to write off the cost of treating indigent patients in their offices, which Heller said would cost about one-fifth the price of receiving care in hospital emergency rooms.

Heller said he is strongly opposed to health care provisions that either impose fines or require jail time for those who choose to remain uninsured. “This is the first time in American history that we are looking at legislation where a citizen, just for being born, is required to take a certain action or be criminalized,” Heller said.

Asked about the recent vote to extend estate tax legislation, Heller said he opposed extending the tax and supported a full repeal of the act. He said that Nevada Congresswoman Shelley Berkley had proposed a compromise that would have capped the top tax rate at 35% and joked, “In some circles, I guess that makes her a conservative.”

When asked about John Ensign’s statement on KXNT-AM 840 last week in which Ensign told radio host Alan Stock that some GOP candidates running in 2010 wanted his help on their campaigns, Heller made it clear that he would be running for re-election without the Ensign’s assistance.

“I’ll run on my own merits,” Heller said.

On the war in Afghanistan, Heller said he supports President Barack Obama’s dispatching of more troops. “I hope he’s [Obama] right. I want this president to be right,” Heller said.

Heller then expressed concern about troop levels. “If commanders say they need 50,000, 80,000 troops,” Heller said, “then we should send that many, or scrap the war effort entirely.”

Asked about the definition of torture and whether or not he favors the torture of combatants and/or POWs in order to gain valuable intelligence, Heller said he is against torture and that he accepts and supports the US military’s current definition of torture.

When asked if he thought War on Terror detainees are POWs (rather than “unlawful combatants,” who are not entitled to protections under the Geneva Convention), Heller at first said yes. But when pressed for clarification, Heller said, “I don’t want to break that fine line” and again deferred to military experts.

Heller also said the military prosecution of several Navy SEALs charged with allegedly assaulting accused terrorist Ahmed Hashim Abed should be placed on hold until more is known. Heller said President Obama should intervene and “put the brakes” on the prosecution while he looks into the matter. Heller added, “If there’s cause, then we ought to move forward.”

When asked about veterans affairs and the lack of care and support for the 250,000 troops that traveled in and out of Nevada in 2008, Heller expressed his concern and said he would fully support a USO hospitality facility at McCarran international airport. Nevada is the only state in which the USO does not have such a facility at the major airport hub. As a result, troops are sleeping on the floors as they wait for connecting flights.

Asked about the length of time and cost of building the new veterans hospital in Las Vegas compared to the same for the construction of local private hospitals, Heller said that government is always less efficient than the private sector when it comes to the construction of facilities.

On Nevada politics, Heller said the Republican Party needs to focus on registering voters and a strong get-out-the-vote effort. “That’s all I want the party to do,” he said. “If that’s all the party would do, we’d be great.”

When asked about the re-election bid of Senator Harry Reid, Heller said Reid is vulnerable on the issues. Heller cited health care, cap-and-trade legislation, bailouts for banks and the stimulus as examples. Heller also referred to a recent poll showing Reid’s favorability ratings virtually unchanged despite weeks of TV campaign ads.

Heller predicted that the 2010 elections would not see a Republican wave of support so much as an anti-Democrat, anti-incumbent wave.

Near the end of the briefing, Heller expressed general concern about social welfare entitlements and bailouts and said he is a co-sponsor of a bill that would require a constitutional test for each new piece of legislation. He said Legislative lawyers would be responsible for the analysis.

Asked if existing programs such as Social Security or Medicare pass constitutional muster, Heller said it was open to debate. “I think it raises the question. I don’t know what the answer is,” Heller said. “We need to have that discussion.”

Heller, a former member of the Nevada Assembly, served as Nevada’s secretary of state from 1994 to 2006, when he was elected to the first of two terms in Congress. Heller is up for re-election in 2010.

Read CityLife editor Steve Sebelius’ write-up on the Heller briefing here.