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Pico Rivera Veterans’ Commission Holds First Meeting

PICO RIVERA’S Veterans Commission inaugural meeting took place this week; the commission is made up of veterans who will meet quarterly. Commission members seen here are, from (l-r), Pico Rivera Mayor pro tem Andrew C. Lara, Commissioner Bobbie Tanner, Commission Chair Gilbert Perez, Commissioner Daniel García, and Pico Rivera Councilman John R. Garcia.

May 10, 2023

By Brian Hews

In November 2021, after much prodding from the Pico Rivera City Council, the Los Angeles County Library and the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) finally began the process of establishing a Veterans Resource Center inside the Pico Rivera Library.

Veterans Resource Centers (VRC) provide critical services to Veterans and supply information about state and federal education, employment, housing, health, disability and other benefits.

Pico Rivera is home to a sizeable Veteran population, and the city was already working with local Veteran service groups to disseminate information about Veterans’ benefits, education assistance, employment resources, vocational training, rehabilitation and homeless services.

A small $5,800 grant was available, but as L.A. County Library Director Skye Patrick matter-of-factly wrote, “Grants are no longer available and state funding has ended. L.A. County Library currently has no funding support for the [Veterans Resource] Centers.”

So Pico Rivera City Manager Steve Carmona, with input from the City Council, put together a pro-forma operating budget for a city-funded VRC.

The report indicated the creation of a VRC would cost nearly $16,000 to start-up, with annual expenses just over $11,000.

The City Council approved the VRC and instructed Carmona to move forward. City staff then considered space requirements and recommended the use of the Senior Center for a VRC.

Months later, the Pico Rivera City Council approved an ordinance to establish the creation of a Veterans’ Commission within the city to serve as an advisory body to the City Council on matters important to veterans, families of veterans, and businesses in the city that are veteran-run or veteran-focused.

Just this week, the inaugural meeting of the Veterans’ Commission took place. The commission received an encouraging report from Veteran Service Officer (VSO) Kenneth Gonzales Jr., who has assisted nearly 190 veterans since the VRC opened approximately five months ago.

One of the many highlights included Gonzales Jr.’s work challenging and overturning veteran denial of service awards related to medical conditions/illnesses. The successful challenges have brought substantial payouts in back-pay owed to local veterans.

 Pico Rivera Mayor pro tem Andrew Lara, a member of the commission, commented, “(VSO) Gonzales Jr. has done a great job running the VRC. If you or someone you know is a veteran in need of assistance, he is available on Mondays from 8 am to 3 pm. I’m thrilled to see the progress that the Veteran’s Commission is already making and I look forward to the future recommendations that will continue to support our local veterans.”

To schedule an appointment to speak with VSO Gonzales Jr. at the Veterans Resource Center, please visit the Senior Center or call (562) 948-4844. The Senior Center is located at  9200 Mines Ave, Pico Rivera, CA 90660.