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The Promise: To establish a Veterans Employment Department and elevate veterans issues, including joblessness.

Determination: Working On It

As a congressman, Bob Filner was known for his dogged determination on veterans’ issues.

He promised to bring that determination to the mayor’s office and to create a Veterans Employment Department to help boost local veterans’ job opportunities.

Earlier this year, Filner told KPBS he’d like to help hundreds, if not 1,000 veterans.

This pledge is one of many we’ll be checking as part of our effort to evaluate the mayor’s performance. (You can check the full list of promises we’ll be tracking here.)

Last month, the mayor hired Vietnam War veteran Bill Rider to lead those efforts.

Rider, who founded the nonprofit American Combat Veterans of War, started on March 18.

Filner said he’s tasked Rider with helping to pull together a summit within 60 days to encourage employers to commit to hiring veterans. He also promised to partner with groups that assist with job training for veterans and work with city departments to ensure veterans are welcomed.

One of Filner’s veterans-related pledges is far broader. He wants to use his mayoral bully pulpit to elevate veterans’ issues and help with specific cases when he can.

So far, that’s resulted in several individual projects, Rider said.

The most recent involved Todd Fahn, a Nevada resident who was seriously injured during the Iraq War.

Filner met Fahn at a recent Wounded Warrior Project event in San Diego. Fahn was teaching other veterans to ride hand cycles, which are powered by hands rather than legs, but told the mayor the Veteran Affairs Administration wouldn’t provide the funding for him to purchase a bike of his own.

Rider later contacted the San Diego-based Challenged Athletes Foundation, which provided Fahn with a temporary bike, and helped Fahn navigate the federal bureaucracy. The Las Vegas resident is now set to get his own hand cycle.

Filner acknowledged Rider could “spend his life on those individual things” but said he plans to focus efforts on pushing local industries to hire veterans and to end homelessness among veterans.

“I said I want to be the first city that gets all (homeless veterans) off the street and we have a major project which I hope we can talk about soon,” Filner said.

Filner wouldn’t elaborate.

In some cases, Filner’s campaign promises have been overly broad. Filner’s proposals for assisting veterans were more detailed. He listed a few specific groups he’d like to work with on employment issues but as with his broader homeless pledges, he hasn’t outlined exactly what he hopes to accomplish when it comes to homelessness among veterans and in what timeframe.

Rider said he’s committed to helping Filner keep the promises he made to veterans.

That Filner hired him is evidence of his commitment, Rider said.

Rider was wounded three times in the Vietnam War and returned home with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and heart disease due to exposure to Agent Orange.

When Filner asked Rider to work for him, the veteran replied: “Mayor, do you know I’m 100 percent combat-disabled?”

Filner said that’s exactly why he hired Rider.

“He can relate to (young veterans) like no one else can,” the mayor said Friday.

Rider only recently joined the mayor’s office but Filner’s decision to hire him is tangible evidence that the mayor has taken a step toward fulfilling his campaign promises.

For that reason, Filner earns a “Working On It.”

Lisa Halverstadt is a reporter at Voice of San Diego. Know of something she should check out? You can contact her directly at lisa.halverstadt@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0528.

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Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa is a senior investigative reporter who digs into some of San Diego's biggest challenges including homelessness, city real estate debacles, the region's...

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