Gov. Pete Ricketts is giving a sneak peek into the proposals he will make during his State of the State address before the Unicameral later this week, on Monday speaking before veterans at a Capitol news conference.
“In my State of the State (address) on Thursday, January 12th, we will be talking about a number of initiatives that we’ve got to be able to serve the people of Nebraska better,” Ricketts stated to a room full of veterans in the Governor’s Hearing Room at the Capitol. “And this is the first one that we’re announcing about how we can create an organization that’s more effective, more efficient, and more customer focused by doing something that you all have been advocating for for a long time, which is combining the Division of Veterans Homes and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.”
The proposal would move the Division of Veterans Homes from the Department of Health and Human Services into the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Sen. John Murante of Gretna – chair of the Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee – sponsors the bill, which if approved by the Unicameral, would become effective July 1st.
Veterans’ Affairs Director John Hilgert says the move should focus the state on meeting the needs of its veterans.
“The primary benefit to the veteran is more focus on the veteran’s needs,” according to Hilgert. “Instead of having to shop around to go to different entries into state government you should be able to have a more seamless approach to whatever your needs are and where you’re at and what benefits you need and what you need to access.”
Hilgert says the change would also allow the state to apply for more federal funding, creating a new mixture of financing that could save the state $1.4 million annually.
Nebraska has 143,000 veterans. The state operates four veterans’ homes, from Bellevue in the eastern part of the state to Scottsbluff in western Nebraska.
AUDIO: Gov. Pete Ricketts holds news conference on veterans initiative. [14 min.]