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July 29, 2014

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Veterans:

Sandoval seeking to move Veterans Affairs regional office to Las Vegas

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Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks to the Las Vegas Sun editorial board Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012.

Gov. Brian Sandoval is asking that Nevada's regional office of Veterans Affairs be moved from Reno to Las Vegas.

The governor sent a letter today to Allison Hickey, the undersecretary for benefits of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, saying the Reno office is among the lowest performing in the nation in terms of clearing the backlog of claims.

"While there are certainly numerous factors contributing to this shortfall, I believe that a major challenge is the great distance from the majority of veterans it aims to serve," he said.

He said Las Vegas has the largest population and the highest number of servicemen and women in the state.

There are 152,847 veterans in Clark County, compared with 34,718 in Washoe County. The VA has outpatient clinics and veterans centers in Las Vegas, but there is no regional office here.

In April, members of the Nevada congressional delegation complained about the backlog of claims, saying some veterans were waiting 17 months for benefits. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in June that the backlog has been reduced from more than 800 to 49 persons.

The Reno VA website says 2,578 veterans receive nonservice-connected pensions through its agency; 2,215 dependents receive benefits processed by the Reno office, and 741 disabled veterans are involved in rehabilitation programs.

In his letter, Sandoval noted that the VA has opened a medical center in North Las Vegas and relocating the regional office there would increase services to veterans.

"It would also create a veterans service center campus to provide services to veterans," he said. Transferring the regional office would reduce "the amount of time it takes to mail claim files and increase the level of direct support to Nevada's largest veteran population."

This, in turn, would alleviate some of the stress and pressure of the claims backlog in the state, he said.

There is also a veterans hospital in Reno.

Sandoval also noted that Nellis Air Force Base is less than 6 miles away from the North Las Vegas VA Medical Center and Creech Air Force Base is about 43 miles away.

"As many of these service members and their families transition out of military service, they will require services by the veterans' regional administration," he said.

If the VA moves its regional office to Clark County, the agency should establish satellite offices in Northern Nevada, he said.

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