Meeting Minutes for July 6, 2011

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Call to Order - 9:40 a.m.

Invocation

Pledge of Allegiance

Greetings:  Recognition of visitors and guests

1.  Federal Congressional Representatives and Senators

Senator Amy Klobuch - Not present

Senator Al Franken - Nate Arch - Not present

7th District Representative Collin Peterson - Al Loehr  - Mr. Loehr apologized for his recent absence due to a health issue and thanked those who sent cards.  He also expressed frustration at the state budget standoff.

1st District Representative Tim Walz - Shawn Schloesser - A handout was provided listing bills and legislative activities Rep. Walz has been involved in.  Mr. Schloesser's contact info is on the bottom.  Rep. Walz wants to ensure funding for CBOCs continues.  He was also excited to introduce the Veteran Employment Transition Act of 2011 (HR 865) which provide incentives for businesses to hire recently-separated veterans. 

2nd District Representative John Kline - Chaz Johnson - The defense appropriatiom markup will be happening this week, looking at the elimination of waste in the DOD.  Also, Rep. Kline and staff have been working with some vets who have had issues with the Dept of the Army.

3rd District Representative Eric Paulson - John Paul Yates - Not present

4th District Representative Betty McCollum - Connie Haddeland - Rep. McCollum will be at Ft. McCoy this week for the deployment of the Red Bulls to Kuwait. She also assisted in obtaining a Bronze Star for a veteran who earned that on February 4, 1945.  The Military Construction and VA appropriations bill passed the House.  There have not been a lot of changes to it in the Senate.  That bill features addressing the backlog in claims, as well as the veterans cemetaries.  The Bill appropriates $129.7 Billion for veterans programs in FY 2012, 6 percent more than the current level.  $60.2 Billion is for discretionary spending, primarily veterans health programs, and $69.5 Billion is for mandatory programs, primarily comp and pension.  Connie will not be at the UVLC meeting next month.

5th District Representative Keith Ellison - Mike Siebenaler - Not present

6th District Representative Michele Bachmann - Nicole Severson - Rep. Bachmann, as well as the other Reps, is heading back to D.C. today.  The DOD appropriation bill is coming up this week, as was already mentioned.  If you know of any veterans who would be willing to share their story for the Veterans History Project, please contact Rep. Bachmann's offices.

8th District Representative Chip Cravaack - Callie Wahl - Not present

2.  State Agencies and MN Veteran Assistance Organizations

MN Dept of Veterans Affairs - Commissioner Larry Shellito - Not present

MN Veterans 2011 Legislative Info - Mike McElhiney - All the program services, veterans homes, cemetaries, etc, are up and running during this state government shutdown, with the exception of Tribal veterans service officers, the state approving authority, and a few outreach reps at the claims and outreach office at the Whipple Building.  There have been some layoffs at the veterans homes but it has not affected the quality of care.  It was encouraged you contact your legislators to inform them you are still depending on their tax initiatives and the programs and requests this year.  HF 232 is the only veterans bill that has passed, extension of Gold Star license plates to family members.

MN Military Affairs - Lt. Col Sandy Best - Not present

MN Assistance Counsil for Veterans (MACV) - Kathy Vitalis - With the state shutdown and proper planning on Ms. Vitalis's part, MACV is okay through July.  They are currently 20 to 25 percent state funded.  Cash flow is an issue because she can't get the federal money that flows through the state for funding.  Sen. Klobuchar recently got a bill passed in the Senate relating to HUD-VASH.  Six to ten providers may not be able to participate in the August Metro Stand Down such as drivers license, etc., again due to the state government shutdown.   Col. Sutherland who is on the Joint Chiefs of staff visited Duluth researching best practices to reach out to returning military and his findings will be put into a national directory.  9-23-11 is MACV's annual fundraising dinner.  On 8-26-11 there will be a roundtable at the national American Legion convention to discuss veteran homelessness. 

Military Action Group (MAG) - Jerry Kyser - Not present

MN Air National Guard Historical Foundation - Dick Sundby - Mr. Sundby is here to remind all of the 90th anniversary of the first federally-recognized Air Guard unit in the country.  The 133rd Air Wing will be having an open house on Saturday, July 16.  On July 14 there will be a commemorative dinner at the Crown Plaza Hotel at the Mall of America. 

3.  Federal Agencies

VA Regional Office - Peter Panos, PAO - There are only 1400 pending Agent Orange Nemer claims at the Ft. Snelling RO.  5500 have already been processed.  85 percent of the Whipple Building is now vacated for the remodel.  The RO will be the only agency in the building at the end of the month.  Mr. Panos would like to work on a marketing plan to get the word out to in-country Vietnam vets and their families about presumptive diseases and the fact that if a claim was denied in the 1980s, a veteran may want to consider refiling a claim for, say, diabetes. 

VISN 23 - Barry Bahl (for Janet Murphy) -  Ms. Murphy could not be here today so she asked Mr. Bahl to bring a few remarks from her office.  A handout featuring Managing Stress was provided.  ICARE is the new VA core values: Integrity Commitment Advocacy Respect Excellence.   There is a new director of the Fargo VAMC, Pat Kelly. 

St. Cloud VA Medical Center - Barry Bahl, Director - Mr. Bahl gave a brief history of the St. Cloud VA, which started in 1923.  In the 1990s they changed their mission.  Currently, 1/8 is long-term care, 1/8 is mental health, and 3/4 is outpatient primary care and special care services.  There has been tremendous growth at the St. Cloud VA.  Their budget is good.  There is a current burst in construction that Mr. Bahl has not been in the prior 19 years of his employment in St. Cloud.  He described all of the various construction projects, some of which are day surgery, intermediate psychiatry, physical therapy, a new kitchen, audiology, dental, pharmacy, windmill, and geothermal wells.  St. Cloud has been selected as a site for the Burr program for homeless veterans.  This would provide 40 to 60 apartment-type units.  A public hearing will be held on 7-27-11 at 6:30 p.m. 

Minneapolis VA Medical Center - Steve Kleinglass, Director - Dr. Kent Crossley has been selected as the permanent Chief of Staff.  He is an infectious-disease physician and a full professor of medicine at the U of M.  They are also very close to announcing the new chief of the Human Resources Department and in the middle of a search for a director of the Womens Health Center.  Mr. Kleinglass mentioned a few ongoing construction projects, including the elevators, fire alarm system, and the upcoming parking garage. 

Ft. Snelling Cemetery - Jim Schweizer - Not present

Vets Employment & Training Service (VETS) - Not present

Vet Center - Carl Sporer - Mr. Sporer goes by "Chuck."  Their case load continues to grow, including Vietnam veterans who have just become aware of benefits, just become aware of PTSD, etc.  They will be putting on two additional staff soon.  Their mission states they are the agency that "Welcomes Veterans Home."  10,000 military personnel will be coming home next year, which will increase their case load a lot.  They are a community outreach agency.  If a veteran is in need, they jump in the car and go to see that veteran. 

Minnesota Military Museum - Jeff Thielen - He is the new executive director as of 5-1-11.  Mr. Thielen mentioned that museums are more than "stuff."  They also are "story."  It's not the stuff that's important, it's the story.  The largest Civil War exhibit in the state will be going up this weekend.  The museum started in 1976.  They are a nonprofit organization.  Camp Ripley provides the building, pays for the heat.  Fundraising and a little bit of state money pay for operations. 

Bob Connor introduced Norm Heidl (sp), who is the adjutant of the St. Cloud Chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. 

Meeting adjourned at 10:50 a.m. 

Next meeting will be at 9:30 on Wednesday, August 3,

Old Business: 

Treasurer's report:  Balance on July 1, 2011, $5,462.04; Expenses for parking and money given to Ralph Donais for travel, $129.75.  Only one organization has not paid their dues. 

Ralph said there is nothing to report legislatively due to the state government shutdown.  He mentioned attention needs to be paid, once the government is running again, to the omnibus bills and if they go back to committee, to put pressure on legislators to keep veterans bills in there. 

No New Business

Motion to adjourn, seconded, and passed.

Meeting adjourned at 11:02 a.m.