The Department of Veterans Affairs, more traditionally known as the VA, has several offices in and around Las Vegas. Although physical access has been somewhat limited due to the current pandemic, the agency still manages to offer many services including assisting with applying for government benefits.
But there is another element in the local system that is not directly connected to the main VA medical center or its satellites. Known as vet centers, they offer distinct services provided by veterans’ outreach program specialists.
“While we don’t do any direct service officer actions, such as claims, we do help veterans stay connected to agencies or veterans’ service organizations that assist with that, and with many other needs that improve their lives after military service,” according to Phellep A. Snow.
Snow is a veterans’ outreach program specialist at the agency’s Henderson office. He explained that there are two reasons for offices such as his.
“We like to make sure that we can eliminate barriers to service. So being in a location that is established within the community helps a lot of veterans that may not be able to travel across town to the VA medical center, or to some of the primary care clinics.”
In addition to that, he said when the vet centers were created there was a realization that not every veteran was comfortable with the required structure of clinic operations.
“So we are able to operate and have an environment like many other (traditional) businesses. The ease of arriving to our facility and interacting with staff, and also the feeling that veterans are not placing themselves in compromising positions. That was part of the thought process when it came to setting up the vet centers.”
To that end, the two vet centers in Southern Nevada (Henderson and Las Vegas) are in generic office buildings that house banking and other financial facilities, physical therapists, real estate services and other businesses not directly related to veterans.
“We have, for lack of a better word, the camouflage of other businesses around us. So once again if someone is coming to us for mental health services, they do not have to feel that there is a cloud or stigma over the place that they are going to,” Snow said.
The Henderson location is at 400 N. Stephanie St., a quick jaunt down the freeway from Boulder City.
“If anybody wants to come by and get a tour of the facility, we welcome it. We’ll help create an awareness of who we are and what we do.”
One of the services offered includes working with community partners. Snow explained that many veterans come to town with their families, arriving with no employment prospects. They have no idea what options are available for them, including benefits offered by the Nevada Department of Veterans Services. Snow provides that information and assists them with the enrollment process.
“It really comes down to having a place where veterans can go to get information and not have to feel they are spending hours on the internet or searching other information sources, or trying to battle through overwhelming information or a sense of confusion. We help to eliminate that.”
Snow is a veteran of the Marine Corps. He initially trained as a radio operator, but later transitioned to working as a career planner, counseling Marines who optioned to stay in the Corps. “It helped a lot with what I’m doing now,” he said.
The Henderson Vet Center can be reached at 702-791-9100.
Chuck N. Baker is an award-winning journalist and a Vietnam War Purple Heart veteran. He can be heard at 8:30 a.m. each Sunday on KKVV-AM hosting “That’s America to Me” and occasionally on KUNV-FM hosting “America’s Veterans, Today and Tomorrow.”