Veterans Day 2013 Message from Peter J. Gravett, Major General (Ret), CalVet Secretary

Although initially started as a way to remember the end of “The War to End All Wars” Armistice Day, promptly also became a way for our country to thank the veterans of World War I. But then, when it became clear that wars were not going to end and men and women were still being asked to defend this country, it was changed to Veterans Day as a way to recognize all veterans that serve in the U.S. Military.

But instead of looking back, let us look forward to the work on which the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) has set its sights on. For the past several years, CalVet has focused on the important task of constructing the five beautiful, new Veterans Homes of California – in Lancaster, Ventura, West Los Angeles, Fresno and Redding. We can now rejoice together in their completion! But now, let me share with you how we are refocusing our efforts.

With this momentous goal behind us, CalVet is now able to Renew, Reenergize and Refocus its energies and efforts on serving veterans and their families with whatever their needs may be.

While CalVet’s Veterans Services Division will continue providing vital information on veterans education, employment, healthcare, crisis intervention, claims representation and Disabled Veterans Business Enterprise, we will also more aggressively pursue the advocacy role of our department. We are very excited about our collaboration with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (USDVA) to place twelve CalVet veterans claims representatives in each of the USDVA regional offices in Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Diego to help process claims that have been pending for more than 125 days. Although we have just recently begun the process, the first teams have already processed more than 600 benefit claims for veterans that have been waiting for more than two years.

We will also continue providing resources and advocacy for women veterans as well. The recent Women Veterans Leadership Conference in San Diego was a great success with more than 300 women veterans participating in that event. In partnership with the Commission on the Status of Women and the California Research Bureau, we have been conducting our third statewide survey of women veterans, one of the largest such surveys in the country. If you want to participate please visit the on-line site at and give us your feedback.

Our CalVet Home Loans Division is here for veterans to meet their home financing needs by offering competitive market interest rates with low or no down-payment options. This means that many qualifying veterans can increase their purchasing power while at the same time keep their payments affordable. But the Division is doing more than just making home loans. It is also developing projects and entering into collaborations to help veterans and their families find a home.

Among the projects we are very proud of is our collaboration with the Habitat for Humanity of San Fernando/Santa Clarita Valleys. Through this collaboration, approximately 100 lower-income veterans and their families will be able to become homeowners.

Beyond home ownership, the program, with the passage of AB 639, is developing a partnership program with Housing and Community Development and the California Housing Finance Agency to fund the construction and rehabilitation of transitional and supportive housing facilities for homeless veterans.

Now that all eight veterans homes are open and running, our Veterans Homes Division has the capacity to care, collectively, for nearly 2,900 veterans, throughout the State, in various levels of long-term care in a homelike environment. In these state-of-art homes, veterans can live in a caring environment that protects their dignity and contributes to their feelings of self-reliance and self-worth. I am very pleased that the Veterans Home in West Los Angeles is also playing a part in the effort to help homeless veterans with its new transitional housing program for veterans. In a joint effort with the USDVA we have converted 84 beds for formerly homeless veterans who need immediate housing as they transition from USDVA treatment programs back into the community.

There is much that we have done in the recent years and much that still needs to be done, but working together with our community partners and our colleagues in local, state and federal agencies we will continue to revitalize this agency and the state as we Renew, Reenergize and Refocus.

Thank you and have a great Veteran’s Day.