The Role of the West Virginia Veterans Council
In a previous column about veteran service organizations and the pending generational shift within them, I mentioned the West Virginia Veterans Council and its recent change in leadership. I did not, however, fully explain the role of the Council and its relationship to the West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance (WVDVA). Since many in our state’s veteran community likely have never attended a Veterans Council meeting and may not fully understand the group’s mission, I’d like to provide some background information that I hope will increase awareness of the Council among our readers.
The West Virginia Veterans Council is comprised of nine members who are appointed by the Governor for terms of six years. The members typically meet once every quarter and at the first meeting of each fiscal year they vote in a new Chairperson. All members have served in the United States Armed Forces during a time of war, as defined by federal law, and have been honorably discharged or separated under honorable conditions. Furthermore, to the extent possible, Council members represent veterans of all eras. Currently, at least one member of the Council has served in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the first Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Council’s purpose is multi-faceted, and therefore cannot be easily defined, but essentially the group serves as advisors to myself, the Governor and members of the West Virginia Legislature on issues related to veterans and their families. While the Council is not considered part of the WVDVA, as members are not paid state employees who report to me, my office does maintain the Council’s records and works closely with them on issues both within and outside of the Department.
In a sense, then, West Virginia Veterans Council members bridge the gap between the WVDVA, state lawmakers and the veterans and military families living in West Virginia’s communities. Members reside in various areas of the state and hold memberships in many different veteran service organizations and, therefore, represent a diverse population of veterans. We rely on them to keep us informed about the concerns of military families in West Virginia, just as they rely on lawmakers to react to those issues accordingly and on the WVDVA to implement and oversee various programs formed as a result of those actions.
The Veterans Council ultimately seeks to be a united voice for veterans throughout the state and to ensure we are providing veterans the services they need and deserve. For these reasons, I encourage you to communicate your experiences, ideas or concerns with a member of the Council by attending one of their quarterly meetings, reaching out to a member personally, or by contacting the WVDVA at 1-866-WV4VETS.