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Services for veterans highlighted conference

Reno has recently been grabbing some of what could have been Southern Nevada’s convention gatherings. Award presentations to the state’s newspapers by the Nevada Press Association were held up north this year. (Of course, the association is headquartered up north, but it does alternate between the south annually.)

The yearly training conference of the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs was also held in Reno this month. Interestingly, I chose not to attend the journalism event this year, but I was invited to the state directors conference and it was extremely informative.

In the Silver State, the Department of Veterans Services is headed by Executive Director Kat Miller, a retired Army officer. Her department is often confused with the Veterans Administration. But Nevada offers many benefits to its veterans that are different and/or that often complement standard VA assistance. State veterans’ benefits are too numerous to mention or detail here, but a few of the main topics include veterans’ tax exemption, disabled veterans’ tax exemption, veterans’ license plates, free college tuition, a veterans’ home and a veterans’ cemetery. The latter two are located in Boulder City.

It makes sense for the various state agencies to get together once a year along with related associations and vendors of veterans’ equipment and services to compare notes and discuss what works and does not work in individual cases around the nation. James Albino, director of the Center for Minority Veterans, updated the attendees on minority assistance. John Maxwell, commissioner at the Virginia Department of Veterans Services, discussed best practices in his state concerning suicide prevention. And James Hartsell, executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs, discussed “Winning the COVID-19 War in State Veterans’ Homes.”

The VA was present as well. It often offers integral partnerships with state veterans’ services. I spoke with public affairs specialist Steve Ellmore who works for the VA’s National Cemetery Administration in Washington, D.C. He attended the conference to explain some details about national cemetery benefits offered by the VA.

“If a national cemetery isn’t available, we also work hand in hand with state veterans’ cemeteries to provide that final resting place,” he said.

He pointed out that there are 155 national cemeteries across the nation, “but many have been around since the Civil War era and are filled and cannot accept new interments. But there are still burials available for spouses of those who are buried there.” State cemeteries, such as the one in Boulder City (and a second one in Fernley), are still available for Nevada’s veterans.

Much information on many topics was presented at the conference, but the cemetery details were a bit more pertinent since Nevada is home to two such state properties.

Information about the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery can be obtained by calling 702-486-5920. The telephone for the cemetery in Fernley is 775-575-4441. The National Cemetery Administration in D.C. can be contacted at 202-632-8035.

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.”

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