Briefing on Veterans Issues
COMMITTEE ON JOINT STATE VETERANS & MILITARY AFFAIRS COMMITTEE
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07:39 AM -- Briefing on Veterans Issues
The committee was called to order. A quorum was present. The briefing was a follow-up to the joint committee's military affairs briefing on January 30th. Mr. Bill Conroy, Director of the Division of Veterans Affairs, and Mr. George Thomas, Chair of the Board of Veterans Affairs, briefed the joint committee on issues facing veterans and veterans service providers in Colorado. Committee members received a hand-out providing an overview of the briefing (Attachment A), and a hand-out detailing veterans demographic trends, information on veterans care in eastern Colorado, and the geographic distribution of federal Veterans Administration moneys in Colorado (Attachment B). Mr. Conroy first discussed the division's highlights for fiscal year 2007-08, including the number of veterans claims before the division, level of veterans exemption from property tax, and veterans health care trends. Discussion ensued regarding rates of traumatic brain injury, and treatments for this affliction. Mr. Conroy then discussed demographic trends among the veterans population. Mr. Conroy responded to the number of women veterans in Colorado that apply for benefits and services. Mr. Conroy then discussed the eastern Colorado veterans health care system, and the number of patients served.
Mr. Conroy responded to questions regarding the types of veterans health care facilities located in eastern Colorado, and the services provided. Discussion ensued regarding the level of mental health services provided to veterans in out-state areas, and the number of veterans who receive mental health services through the justice system. The discussion included the sources of mental disorders associated with military service. Mr. Thomas provided input on coordination between the justice system and agencies that provide services to veterans. Discussion followed regarding the rate of police contact with veterans compared to the rate for the general population, and the rate of homelessness and police contact among the various military service eras.
Discussion continued regarding mental health and emergency services needs among veterans. Mr. Conroy briefed the committee on federal veterans services expenditures in Colorado for fiscal years 2006 and 2007. Mr. Conroy responded to a question regarding veterans services expenditures in Delta County. Discussion ensued regarding community outreach to veterans and soldiers returning from active duty. Mr. Thomas then briefed the committee on issues that faced the Board of Veterans Affairs during calendar year 2008, including funding through the Veterans Trust Fund. Mr. Thomas then discussed the services provided using Veterans Trust Fund moneys.
Mr. Thomas continued briefing the committee on services provided through the Veterans Trust Fund. Mr. Thomas responded to questions regarding the potential for federal stimulus moneys to be dedicated to veterans services in Colorado. Mr. Thomas discussed the funding situation for the Trinidad Nursing Home, and provided a status update on plans for a federal Department of Veterans Affairs regional veterans hospital in Denver. Mr. Thomas explained the need for a regional veterans hospital. Mr. Thomas then discussed a pending state Medicaid funding cut, and its potential impact on state veterans nursing homes. Discussion ensued regarding this issue, and the potential for the board to receive funding from other sources to help cover the cut, including federal stimulus money.
Discussion ensued regarding the lack of a nexus between service-related injuries and funding to compensate for the injuries, including injuries that continue to affect veterans far into the future. Mr. Thomas provided input on veterans disability ratings, and help that veterans service officers can provide to injured veterans. Discussion followed regarding the mind-set that prevents service members and veterans from seeking health insurance or treatment for injuries, and services that are available for returning service members.
Members of the audience introduced themselves. The committee adjourned.