Napa County’s 11,000 veterans will likely get a new group to look after their concerns and raise issues with the county Board of Supervisors.
County supervisors last week showed interest in creating the Napa County Veterans Commission. They will work on the details in coming months.
Napa County already has the Veterans Advocacy Coalition, with founding groups ranging from Vietnam Veterans of America to the county Health and Human Services Agency. Creation of a county commission reporting to the Board of Supervisors would take veterans advocacy a step further.
Coalition member Frank Lucier talked to supervisors about veterans’ issues.
“My father-in-law who served during the Korean War, he had kind of a unique position,” Lucier said. “He was on a crew that flew the atomic bomb around to Alaska and to Arizona and the south. They’d leave it on the ground for a month and then they’d take it apart and see what happened to it, (how) the different climates had an impact on the bomb.”
Now his father-in-law is 89 years old with doctors at the veterans clinic in Martinez. It takes four hours and five buses for him to reach the federal clinic. Napa County has no veterans clinic of its own.
“These issues cannot be dealt with by the coalition as it exists today,” Lucier told supervisors at their Sept. 26 meeting. “A commission would be able to deal with them much better.”
Supervisor Ryan Gregory asked if veterans could receive medical services at the Veterans Home of California at Yountville.
“It is a state facility,” county Veterans Service Officer Patrick Jolly said. “All facilities at the veterans home are restricted and limited to residents at the veterans home. So while they have some health services there, they aren’t accessible by any county veterans.”
Napa County’s Veterans Service Office aids local veterans. It helped veterans make connections that this last fiscal year brought in more than $2 million in annualized benefits. Last year, it enrolled 82 veterans with the VA Health Care System.
Still, Jolly said only 19 percent of local veterans are receiving their benefits.
“We need to find more ways to connect with veterans,” Jolly said. “That’s one of the big things we can do with a veterans committee.”
Other counties have veterans commissions. The one in Alameda County has 20 members, which Napa County supervisors saw as being too many for a local version. The one in San Mateo County has nine members.
These commissions do such things as look at legislation affecting veterans, provide outreach to veterans, assist in veterans observance days and make recommendations on veterans issues to their Boards of Supervisors.
Napa County Supervisor Brad Wagenknecht made the local county veterans commission proposal to his colleagues.
“Today’s discussion is sort of a threshold discussion, to see if there’s any appetite,” Wagenknecht said.
There was. Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Belia Ramos directed that the issue return to the Board at a future meeting for the creation of a commission.