Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., 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 said congressional hearings are planned on the appeals process and claims backlog for veterans, as well as the transition assistance program when soldiers transition to veterans 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 benefits and providing child care for single mothers so they 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 as well as 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 order to receive refunds. For information and comments about RTC, call 702-678-8387 and leave a message, or go to www.rtcsnv.com.
Disabled American Veterans 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 (because of 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 Aug. 4-9 at the JW Mariott Las Vegas Resort and Spa. For details, go to www.purpleheart.org.
The groundbreaking for a local Fisher House is set for 10 a.m. March 27 on the grounds of the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System, 6900 N. Pecos Road, North Las Vegas. The Fisher House program pays for transportation and housing for families to visit their military sons and daughters who are hospitalized. It’s named for philanthropists Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher, who founded the program in 1990 after dedicating more than $20 million to build comfort homes for the families of hospitalized military personnel. 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 March 28 at the MGM Grand. The keynote speaker is Gen. Richard B. Myers, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Individual tickets are $250. Call Teresa N. DiLoreto at 702-701-4167 for more information.
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 veterans 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.
Journalist and author Chuck N. Baker is an Army veteran of the Vietnam War and a recipient of the Purple Heart. He can be heard each Thursday from 8-9 p.m. on “The Veterans Reporter Radio Show” on KLAV 1230 AM.