Meeting Minutes for February 3, 2011

Minutes Header

UVLC Minutes – Wednesday, February 3, 2011

· Call to order ~ 0930 Hrs

· Invocation ~ 1st Vice Chair Jerry Kyser 
· Pledge of Allegiance ~ COL Eric Ahlness
· Greetings ~   Recognition of visitors and guests ~
· Congresswoman Betty McCollum ~ President Obama introduced a new initiative to strengthen our commitment in supporting military families.  Congresswoman McCollum discussed the impact this will have in addressing the concerns and challenges facing military families. The Office of Tribal Government has been established because there is a real need to enhance communication with tribal governments about services available to American Indian and Alaskan Native Veterans. Our initiative to Enhance Partnerships with Tribal Governments will realize an immediate and significant impact for these veterans.

1.   State Agencies and MN Veteran Assistance Organizations:

· MN Department of Veteran Affairs  ~ Commissioner Larry Shellito ~ One of Commissioner Shellito’s goals is to transition the Yellow Ribbon Campaign from a National Guard centric organization to a program that encompasses all branches of the military enabling the program to be a true inclusive veterans group. The Yellow Ribbon Campaign is a low cost no cost organization that is essential to the VA in elevating the value of returning service people. Yellow Ribbon is instrumental in supporting veterans making the transition to civil life; providing them with the necessary assistance that is available within their community. Commissioner Shellito is a conduit to the state and he can only do as well a job as you enable him!! Keep him informed as his goal is to serve all veterans.

· MN Veterans 2010 Legislative ~ Mike McElhiney ~ Right now his office is in the listening and gathering of information phase. Every Friday his office puts forth a legislative update for both the state and federal levels which can be read at www.mdva.state.us.

· MN Military Affairs ~ COL Eric Ahlness ~ LT COL Sandy Best will be the new representative for government relations as COL Ahlness announced he will be deploying to Afghanistan October 2011 as part of a stand up agricultural business development team. The goal of this team is to increase agricultural production as 50% of Afghanistan’s GNP is based on the agricultural business sector. COL Ahlness will be helping that population advance in creating legal agricultural business ventures.

Annette informed the group about the development of a new program “Yellow Ribbon Outreach Coordinators”. The coordinators are partnering with armory communities that have been developed within the Yellow Ribbon Campaign to set up Yellow Ribbon Networks in all 63 armory communities.  YROC’s goal is to ensure that all communities have the resources necessary to support military families so in additional to armory communities the coordinators are partnering with all communities in the state to provide them the information necessary to become Yellow Ribbon providers as well.

· MN Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV) ~ Nathaniel Saltz ~ Program Manager ~ The Stand Down in Minneapolis will be August 2nd & 3rd.  MACV is submitting an application to obtain a VA SSVF grant. Kathy will be emailing a template of a letter of support to all UVLC members to submit on behalf of MACV if they desire. 

· Military Action Group (MAG) ~ Dan Severson ~ Chairman ~ Discussed a program that is being formed to promote second career military. The goal of the program is to convince legislative members that if MN has quality programs for veterans; high value assets that have a great deal of expertise to contribute with their exception leadership qualities it will enable MN to move to the next level in promoting second career military.

2.   Federal Agencies:

· VA Regional Office ~ Peter Panos, PAO ~ Agent Orange claims are the focus currently with the latest update stating their office has granted 31,315 claims with an average pay out of $18,600 per claim.  Mr. Panos discussed e-benefits with the group providing them instructions on how to enrollment. Go online to ebenefits.va.gov to register which will grant you access to your entire VA history.  This is particularly great system to track claims.

· VISN 23 ~ Janet Murphy, Director:  Their Suicide Prevention Hotline is now offering a Homeless Veteran’s chat line. The chat capabilities provide a veteran the ability to conduct a one on one online conversation with a responder. Ms. Murphy discussed secure messaging which is making VA Health Care more accessible. Secure messaging, which is similar to email but it is totally safe and secure, is a method to communicate electronically in a secure environment with a medical team. Recently opened is a Caregivers Support Line which can be reached at 1-855-260-3274.  Bemidji’s CBOC has implemented a transportation program to shuttle veterans from Bemidji to the Fargo VAMC for appointments.

· Mpls VA Medical Center ~ Steve Kleinglass, Director ~ TheMinneapolis VA Healthcare System now has a Facebook site. Mr. Kleinglass shared that there are environment protection agency regulations on the collecting and handling of unused pharmaceuticals. Mr. Kleinglass will continue to explore the options to see if we can make a collection site for the VA a reality.

Guest Speaker ~ Dr. Coop Meyers is a national expert on how to manage compensation and pension claims taking us from 500 to 4,000 exams a month. Dr. Meyers discussed evaluating compensation and pension claims at regional offices by the data presented eliminating the need for routine examinations.

His presentation focused on veterans being exposed to ionizing radiation as well as depleted uranium and what the long term effects might be.  The Institute of Medical’s report states there is inadequate or insufficient evident to decide if an association exists with lung cancer, cancer of the lymph glands or bone and non malignant diseases based on exposure to ionizing radiation or depleted uranium.  The VA has programs to help including Ionizing Radiation Registry Health Examinations, Special Eligibility Medical Care, Disability Compensation, Outreach & Education, Research and Depleted Uranium Screening.

· St. Cloud VA Medical Center ~ Rose Blesner ~ Ms. Blesnerintroduced Barry Venable, Public Affairs Officer ~ a name changed recently occurred and they are now the St. Cloud VA Health Care System.  The Joint Commission notified them that they are fully accredited for three years in all four areas inspected. The National Fidelity Program Review reported their CWT / Supportive Employment program is a “Center of Excellence”. The St Cloud VA Health Care System is a mentor / trainer site for VISN and other sites across the country.

· New Brighton Vets Center ~ Chuck Sporer ~ Discussed the nature of the veterans center which is to offer counseling services for active duty military, veterans and their families. Vet Centers are in your community to help you and your family with readjustment counseling and outreach services. Vet Centers understand and appreciate Veterans' war experiences while assisting them and their family members in achieving a successful post-war adjustment in their community.

What is readjustment counseling?
Readjustment counseling is a wide range of psycho social services offered to eligible Veterans and their families in the effort to make a successful transition from military to civilian life.  They include:

  • Individual and group counseling for Veterans and their families
  • Family counseling for military related issues
  • Bereavement counseling for families who experience an active duty death
  • Military sexual trauma counseling and referral
  • Outreach and education including PDHRA, community events, etc.
  • Substance abuse assessment and referral
  • Employment assessment & referral
  • VBA benefits explanation and referral
  • Screening & referral for medical issues including TBI, depression, etc.

Does the VA have readjustment counseling for family members?
Family members of combat veterans have been eligible for Vet Center readjustment counseling services for military related issues since 1979.
Staffed by small multi-disciplinary teams of dedicated providers, many of which are combat Veterans themselves, we strive to help you make a successful transition.
§  The majority of our staff are Veterans, with more than 50% having served in combat
§  Over 1/3 of our staff are combat Veterans who served in Iraq and/or Afghanistan.
Fort Snelling Cemetery ~ Jim Gemmel, Director & Jim Schweizer, Assistant:

January 2011
Total Interments: 356
Casket ~ 190
Cremations ~ 131
Columbarium ~ 35
           
Fort Snelling Cemetery is the third largest, fourth busiest cemetery of the 131 national cemeteries in our administration.

Veterans Training Service [VETS] ~ Jodi Bean:  VETS recently joined the Federal Executive Board to advocate the hiring of veterans within federal agencies and provide information on veteran’s preferences hiring and direct hiring authorities.

3.   Federal Congressional Senators and Representatives

· Senator Amy Klobuchar ~ Martin Ludden ~ Any cuts to the healthcare budget will not affect TriCare as they were legislated to be separate.  Martin discussed the provisions of the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Recent legislation mandates apprentice programs be compensated under the GI bill which provides for the coverage of on the job training.

· Senator Al Franken ~ Nate Arch ~ Nate made available to the members a “comment form” that can be sent to Senator Franken to bring forth any suggestions or concerns that you would like Senator Franken to address. Nate assured the group that the Senator will review each “comment form” that is addressed to their office. The form can be faxed, emailed or mailed as Nate’s contact information is included on the form.

· 1st District Representative ~ Tim Walz ~ Shawn Schloesser:  Unable to attend.

· 2nd District Representative ~ John Kline ~ Chaz Johnson:   Minnesota Congressman John Kline will return February 9th from a week-long bipartisan congressional delegation trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he observed and assessed the progress being made in the ongoing efforts against Islamist extremists, and visited with Minnesota troops. Congressman Kline was joined by Congressman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Congressman Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas).  
Congressman Kline met with the Marine Reserve to offer assistance and guidance to overcome the challenges they face at their current site. 
To communicate or learn more about the Congressman’s activities go to kline.house.gov which is district specific.
· 3rd District Representative ~ Erik Paulsen ~ John-Paul Yates ~  Congressman Paulsen was scheduled to travel to Afghanistan in December, 2010 but the trip was canceled due to voting schedules. The Congressman is hopeful that he can complete that mission in the upcoming year as it is one of his top priorities. Thirty-six students received academy nominations: ten to West Point, ten to the Air Force Academy, sixteen to the Naval Academy and one individual received nominations to all three academies.
 
· 4th District Representative ~ Betty McCollum ~ Connie Haddeland ~ Connie left earlier with Congresswoman McCollum as they had a busy schedule to attend to.

· 5th District Representative ~ Keith Ellison ~ Mike Siebenaler ~ Academy selections were nominated to all four academies including three to the Merchant Marines. The Congressman is working on multiple fronts to promote a stimulus package that was passed in the beginning of 2009 which provides the funding necessary to enable clinics and hospitals around the country to make the transition to electronic records. The VA Medical Center is a leader in the transition to electronic records however the vast majority of healthcare providers have not made this transition. This would be an effective means by which to make records available electronically. There was a pilot program that was initiated in 2009 that didn’t move forward so their office is trying to promote this effort. The lack of participating facilities makes it difficult to share records between the VA and community healthcare facilities. They are working with private businesses, the Department of Health and Human Services, the VA and veterans advocates on how this should be promoted to ensure that the informational flow is smooth and efficient.

· 6th District Representative ~ Michelle Bachmann ~ Robert Boland, Legislative Director ~  Contrary to the information that has been circulating in the media no legislative language, bill or spending plans are being proposed by Congresswoman Bachmann to make any cuts to veterans healthcare and disability benefits as the Congresswoman strongly feels that we need to take care of our veterans.

There was an article posted on the Congresswoman’s website specifically written to encourage her constituents to think about ways to balance the budget. This article identified spending that the Congresswoman felt should be eliminated or reduced.  Again, this article was posted specifically to get her constituents talking.

· 7th District Representative ~ Collin Peterson ~ Al Loehr ~ Discussed the independent budget proposal which is sponsored by five of the major congressional chartered veterans organizations.   Congressman Peterson will be in Washington in March spending time with each of the MN congressional delegations effective in moving forward the needs of veterans and the specifics contained in the VA budget.

· 8th District Representative -~Chip Cravaack  ~  Callie Wahl ~ Discussed Congressman Cravaack’s committee appointments which include Homeland Security, Counter Terrorism and Intelligence, the Transportation Security Subcommittee as well as the Transportation Vice Chair of the Aviation Subcommittee.

· Announcements ~ Please make available to Ralph or Dean your email address so that UVLC has the last technology available to communicate breaking news with the membership. The updating of the membership roster is being completed with Dean assuming responsibility for the maintenance of the list.

·  Meeting in Recess for 10 minutes 

6.     Old Business ~ February 15, 2011 has been designated as VA Day on the Hill

7.     New Business ~Jerry Kyser introduced a small business owned by Mark Elleson, Elite Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business Network (SDVOB) that hires only veterans as a potential member. The majority voted to invite Mark Elleson to UVLC.

UVLC Treasurers’ Report for 1 February, 2011
Balance as of 1 January, 2011   $3,801.63
Deposits for January 2011 $275.00
Expenses for January 2011
Parking Expense   29.75
Postage 7.92
Total   37.67

Balance as of 1 February 2011 $4,038.96

Jerry Kyser discussed the goals of MAG and the agenda for this legislative session as it pertains to veterans.
Dean Ascheman requested that the speaking order on the agenda vary from month to month so the same individuals aren’t always speaking first or last.

8.  Adjournment
Next Meeting 9:30 Hrs. - Wed, March 2, 2011

VISN 23 Building 9 Auditorium, Mpls Medical Center Campus,  Mpls,