Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today issued an Executive Order establishing the California Interagency Council on Veterans to improve how veterans' services are coordinated across local, state and federal government.
"The California Interagency Council on Veterans gives everyone a seat at the table and ensures we're working collaboratively to address the needs of the 30,000 servicemen and women who return to California each year," Brown said. "We owe our veterans the best and when they come home, we must serve them the same way they so bravely served us."
Governor Brown's Executive Order directs the Secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs to establish the Council, which will be tasked with identifying and prioritizing the needs of California's veterans and coordinating the activities at all levels of government in addressing those needs.
"With so many combat veterans returning to California every year it is imperative that state agencies and departments coordinate our efforts to ensure these young men and women are connected to the services and benefits they need to successfully transition home," said California Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Peter J. Gravett.
This order is based on AB 557, authored by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez with Assemblymembers Paul Cook, Richard Pan, and Henry T. Perea.
"I'm very pleased the Governor has created the Interagency Council on Veterans Affairs because one of our most important duties is to keep faith with the men and women who have served the United States in uniform," said Speaker Pérez. "I introduced legislation to create the Council early this session because we need to do more with less, and by creating this Council, we will bring new focus and new efficiency to provide needed services to California's veterans. I'm very pleased the Governor has taken the proactive step of creating this Council by Executive Order so that it can begin its vital work immediately."
Under the order, Speaker Pérez and Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg are each expected to appoint a member to the Council from their respective houses. These appointees will join Secretaries and department heads of the Labor and Workforce Development Agency, California Volunteers, Business Transportation and Housing Agency, Health and Human Services Agency, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Military Department, Employment Development Department, Department of Consumer Affairs, Department of Rehabilitation and Department of Housing and Community Development.
Additionally, the Governor's order requests that the Chief Justice of California, President of the University of California, Chancellor of California State University and Chancellor of California Community Colleges each appoint a member to the Council. The Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs will also coordinate with Federal partners and external stakeholders to ensure both groups are active participants on the Council.
California's veterans face many challenges as they transition back to civilian life, including:
* The unemployment rate for Gulf War II veterans is 42 percent higher than it is for non-veterans.
* Approximately 25 percent of Gulf War II veterans have a disability that is connected to their military service, compared with approximately 13 percent of all veterans.
* Recent tests of returning troops show that 20 percent of infantry and 10 percent of other troops suffer from at least mild brain injury.
* Over 35 percent of veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, who have sought healthcare through the Veterans Administration, have been diagnosed with mental disorders.
* California has the largest number of homeless veterans in the nation and 62 percent of all homeless veterans have been diagnosed with both substance abuse issues and serious mental health problems.