As more Idaho veterans retire or demobilize from active duty, a new state council is being formed to improve the coordination of services theyll need when they return home.
Gov. Butch Otter highlighted the creation of the Idaho Veterans, Servicemembers and Families Coordination Council in his Jan. 6 State of the State address. It formalizes a support structure for those Idaho citizens who have served or are serving in the armed forces, he said. They deserve all we can do.
Otter credited Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, with helping develop the council. The move caught Hagedorn by surprise.
A group of us have been working on this since last May, said Hagedorn, a U.S. Navy veteran. I wrote a white paper and asked the governor to consider it, but that was in November. I didnt hear that hed accepted it until the day before his State of the State. It was great news.
The intent of the council, he said, is to bring all the agencies that provide services to veterans together under one umbrella, both to eliminate duplicated efforts and to make sure they stay focused on actual needs.
A lot of organizations are doing great things for veterans, but sometimes its difficult for one to know what the other is doing. This will help improve communications and let us get our arms around the services that are out there, said Division of Veterans Services Administrator David Brasuell, chairman of the new council.
Brasuell said hes seen estimates that more than a million U.S. veterans will retire or demobilize over the next five years. Many of them dont fully understand the benefits theyre entitled to, so that means agencies need to do a lot of outreach and education.
The council will have representatives from several state agencies, including the Department of Labor and Department of Health and Welfare, as well as the Idaho Association of Counties and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. It will also have veterans, veteran family member representatives and two legislators.
Besides improving coordination, Hagedorn said he thinks the council could help address a pressing need for skilled workers.
Lawmakers recognize Idahos education system needs to be modified to focus more sharply on the needs of employers, he said. But it will take time to get there and in the meanwhile, thousands of skilled veterans will be returning home.
Rather than lose companies because they cant hire the people they need, hed like the council to play a role in matching veterans with employers, to the benefit of both.
This is an opportunity for Idaho to shine, Hagedorn said.