Meeting Minutes for June 1, 2011

Minutes Header

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Call to Order - 9:30 a.m.

Invocation

Pledge of Allegiance

Greetings: Recognition of visitors and guests:
Announcements: Appreciation was expressed to all those who attended Memorial Day events.

1. Federal Agencies

VA Regional Office - Peter Panos, PAO - Property tax exemption letters went out recently and should be received no later than next week. Merchant Marines who served in WWII are entitled to VA benefits. Every VA employee who handles claims is working a mandatory 20 hours of overtime each month to attack backlog. Go to www.usajobs.gov if you are interested in federal employment. There is not a lot of hiring right now, but it is anticipated there will be a strong need for new employees in the future.

VISN 23 - Janet Murphy - The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act 2010 has been successfully launched. Legislation is being explored to expand these benefits to caregivers beyond post-9/11 veterans and their caregivers. My HealtheVet now includes the ability to view future and past appointments, as well as e-mail reminders of upcoming appointments. The VA has launched a Women Veterans Call Center in an attempt to familiarize more women vets with the VA and its services. 2010 VISN data is now available. Ms. Murphy will forward this to Ralph Donais who will circulate this information. The new Omaha homeless drop-in center was described. The preliminary 2012 VISN budget has a .1 of 1 percent increase which means essentially working with the same budget as 2011.

Minneapolis VAMC - Steve Kleinglass, Director - Every VAMC must have a Caregiver Support Coordinator, a dedicated employee, to assist folks in applying for post 9/11 caregiver benefits. Public Service Announcements are running for the Fisher House. Next Thursday, June 9 at 10 a.m. is the dedication. Among the construction going on at the VAMC is the Sport Court in conjunction with the spinal cord injury building. The parking garage is at about the 45 percent design level. It was encouraged to "friend" the Minneapolis VAMC's Facebook page.

St. Cloud VAMC - Cheryl Thieschafer - The July UVLC meeting will be held at the St. Cloud VAMC in Building 96 at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, July 6, 2011. The canteen received the National Customer Service Award for the second consecutive year. The new surgical center and audiology van were mentioned. The design phases of various construction projects were mentioned.

Ft. Snelling Cemetery - Jim Schweizer - Jim Gemmell is now the assistant superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery. For May there were 486 interments. 195,148 total interments. There is a liberal policy for placement of floral arrangements 10 days prior and 10 days after Memorial Day, at which time normal mowing and trimming operations are resumed.

Vets Employment & Training Service (VETS) - Not present

Vet Center - Carl Sporer - Not present

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie - St. Cloud was recognized for their wonderful Memorial Day event, as was the Minneapolis Veterans Home where Chaplain Morris told interesting family history. Gratitude was expressed to those who made the Civil War Centennial Day at the State Capitol a success. Thanks to Unisys they've been able to reprint their flag etiquette brochures.

2. Federal Congressional Representatives and Senators

Senator Amy Klobuchar - Tim Cossalter - There is legislation moving through Congress which Senator Klobuchar has signed on to which would afford veteran status to anyone who takes an oath of allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, particularly those "gray area" members such as Guardsmen and Reservists.

Senator Al Franken - Nate Arch - Senator Franken's Memorial Day and deployment ceremony activities were mentioned. Next month, Senator Franken will be focusing on VA access issues and ways to get active duty and Guardsmen into the VA system.

7th District Representative Collin Peterson - Al Loehr - Not present. Ralph Donais mentioned Mr. Loehr sends his regrets he's unable to be here due to an appointment at the VA.

1st District Representative Tim Walz - Shawn Schoesser - Not present

2nd District Representative John Kline - Chaz Johnson - The National Defense Authorization Act provides $553 Billion for the DOD. One of the key pieces of legislation included was the federal Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Program. Additionally, students who are home schooled or take online classes (i.e., not traditional brick-and-mortar schools) will now be eligible to join the military. Red Wing, Northfield and Goodhue County are getting their Yellow Ribbon Programs going.

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

4th District Representative Betty McCollum - Connie Haddeland - The Military Construction appropriation bill is on the House floor. Preliminarily, the president has requested 73.8 and the committee mark is 72.5. The House passed 4 bills on May 23: One relates to post 9/11 to keep student veterans in the school of their choice. HR 1627 establishes a new process for the placement of monuments at Arlington and eliminates any reservations of burial in violation of the current law. Retroactive stop-loss special pay has been extended once again.

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

6th District Representative Michele Bachmann - Nicole Severson - Handouts were provided showing bills Rep. Bachmann voted on in May (HR 1407, HR 1627, HR 1383 and HR 1657.) She has sponsored HR 1285, Military Health Care Affordability Act (TRICARE). www.thomas.loc.gov through the Library of Congress is a great resource for bill tracking. It is encouraged to bring any bills you would like Rep. Bachmann to get on board with to her attention. They attended many Memorial Day and deployment ceremonies this past month. Ms. Bachmann conducted interviews with veterans about their feelings surrounding Memorial Day and you can view these videotaped interviews on her website, www.youtube.com or Facebook.

8th District Representative Chip Cravaack - Callie Wahl - Not present. Jerry Kyser mentioned House Bill 240, the bill allowing disabled-veteran-owned businesses to get involved with state construction contracts.

3. State Agencies and MN Veteran Assistance Organizations

MN Veterans 2010 Legislative Info - Mike McElhiney - A majority of the 70-some veterans-related bills made their way into an omnibus bill. All of the omnibus bills, minus the agriculture bill, have been vetoed by the governor thus far. The legislators have been released, although negotiations are ongoing. One bill, House File 232, was signed yesterday by the governor. This bill relates to the Gold Star extension of eligibility for license plates. Go to www.mn.gov/governor/policy/leg to track bills the governor has signed, vetoed, and the actions taken so far.

MN Military Affairs - Lt. Col Sandy Best - Appreciation was expressed for the overwhelming support received at the recently-held deployment ceremonies. The last two ceremonies will be held Friday, June 3, one in Bloomington (at Rosemount?) and one at Camp Ripley.

MN Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV) - Kathy Vitalis - Musician Matthew Griswald put on a benefit for MACV at the Fine Line in Minneapolis. 1,000 of the goal of 2,000 hygiene kits have been prepared for the August Stand Down and appreciation was expressed for the ongoing donations. Building 47 got a makeover through the efforts of a nonprofit, Rebuilding Together, in coordination with the VA, and Honeywell as the corporate partner and their 80 volunteers. A Law Clinic will be held June 14 at the VAMC, flag atrium balcony, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. This is open to any veteran. The focus on this one is child support, family, employment and Social Security law. The Rochester Stand Down has moved to October 4. Metro Stand down is August 2 and 3. MACV's annual dinner will be September 23 at the Officers Club.

Connie Haddeland interjected comments regarding an e-mail she just received. The Dept of Labor just announced their job-training grants under the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program: 122 grants totaling over $28 million. MACV second-year funding, $120,000 and third-year $300,000.

Military Action Group (MAG) - Jerry Kyser - Hope for the passage of House Bill 240 (veteran-owned businesses) was reiterated. The Air National Guard will be celebrating their 90th anniversary on July 16 with a big air show at the 133rd Air Lift Command. The Hennepin County Task Force recently published their endorsement of the MN Air and Space Museum's inclusion in the revitalization plans for that 26-acre area.

Ralph Donais encouraged that, for next session, everyone track one bill as it would help Mike McElhiney keep track of what this year were over 70 veteran-related bills.

VICTRI - Jimmie Coulthard - Colonel Geri Longfellow, part of the Community Action Council for Victri Village, was introduced. Their goal of $27,000 in donations was met by May 30, so they reached their "tipping point." Donations are not deducted from a contributor's credit card unless that goal, or tipping point, is met. On the 25th a departure ceremony was held for the 194th Armored Company. It was a wonderful day for the veterans, their families, and the community.

Colonel Geri Longfellow - Colonel Longfellow discussed a conference she recently attended in Las Vegas put on by the University of Nevada in conjunction with WestCare Foundation and other partners. The theme was Combat Trauma, Addictions and Women Warriors. Colonel Longfellow is the point of contact for the women's outreach program mentioned by Ms. Murphy above. "Sister Sister" and "Coffee Talk" are part of this outreach and these were briefly discussed as well.

Beyond the Yellow Ribbon - John Stepan - While fellow State Transition Assistance Advisor Al Jorgensen is deployed for the next year, Patty Bitney Stark (sp) has been hired in his place. Patty will work the southern events in the state and John will work the northern events. A reminder was given for the June 11 Airborne Daze at the Drop Zone event in Baldwin, WI.

4. Announcements
There are four Retiree Appreciation Days coming up in the state this summer and fall. Go to www.trea.org, go to "Voice Magazine," and in the Contents section are listed the contact phone number for any RADs in the U.S. that they've been notified of. Bob Connor introduced the newly-elected MN State Commander for the Purple Heart, Bill Lilledahl.
Meeting Adjourned at 11:10 a.m.

Next meeting will be at the St. Cloud VAMC, Building 96, on July 6, 2011 at 9:30 a.m.

Business Meeting

Old Business:

Treasurer's report: Balance on May 1, 2011, $5,146.54; Deposits for May 2011, $450; Expenses for May 2011, $29.75 for parking; Balance as of June 1, $5,566.79. Assuming there are no errors, it looks like everyone has paid their dues for the year.

New Business:

Kathy Vitalis mentioned the unidentified gentleman in the back, who has since left, has a media group that does promotional things.

Motion made by Jerry Kyser to pay Ralph Donais $100 for travel expenses. Seconded by Lawrence Dean. Motion carried.

Ralph Donais mentioned everything is awaiting the governor's signature to the omnibus bills. You are encouraged to contact your representatives to follow up.

Bob Connor asked everyone to introduced themselves to Bill Lilledahl, newly-elected MN State Commander of the Purple Heart, which was then accomplished.

Ralph Donais encouraged forming car pools up to the next meeting in St. Cloud. It will be held in Building 96, the Summer Recreational Services Building. Take I-94 to 15. Follow the signs that indicate the Veterans Affairs Medical Center. When you come down the main drag at the VAMC, you'll come to a second four-way stop (in front of the medical center). Turn left there and the building will be on the left-hand side as you go down that road. It's an open, grassy area on the left side until you reach that building. There are no other buildings on the left.

Jerry Kyser mentioned Sid Smuckler (sp) turned 94 yesterday. He recently got out of the hospital and would love phone calls. You can reach him at 651-454-6541. Also, Tom Shaw's health is deteriorating.

Motion to adjourn made by Jerry Nalipinski. Seconded by Ted Hoeben. Motion passed.

Meeting adjourned at 11:30 a.m.

Next meeting will be at the St. Cloud VAMC, Building 96, on July 6, 2011 at 9:30 a.m.