Meeting Minutes for March 2, 2011

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UVLC Minutes of  Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Call to order - 9:30 a.m.

Invocation

Pledge of Allegiance

Greetings: Recognition of visitors and guests: BG Frank Cipolla and Dr. Katherine Bissonett

Announcements: Major General Raymond Bonnabeau, Jr., M.D passed away. Visitation is tomorrow and the funeral Friday at the St. Paul Cathedral. Request was made to e-mail Ralph Donais your correct contact information if it is wrong on the sheets in the back.

1. Federal Congressional Representatives and Senators

Senator Amy Klobuchar - Martin Ludden - Helping our Homeless Veterans Act was introduced 2-24-11 by Senator Klobuchar. This bill would authorize VA to partner with eligible state and local governments, tribes, etc., to ensure homeless vets have access to HUD-VASH housing vouchers and case management.

Senator Al Franken - Nate Arch - Nate encouraged the group to communicate with Senator Franken's office about case trends.

7th District Representative Collin Peterson - Al Loehr - Mr. Loehr is preparing to go to D.C.

1st District Representative Tim Walz - Shawn Schoesser - Rep Walz continues on the Veterans Affairs Committee. A town hall meeting was held last week in Austin. The theme was "Revitalizing our Commitment to Veterans." It's important to not balance the debt on the backs of veterans. Education, the economy and health care were the main issues focused on. VAMC Director Kleinglass was at the meeting and his theme was "It's time to come back to the VA." You may be pleasantly surprised. Representative Walz has called on various banking institutions to share with him what they are doing to ensure they don't make the same mistake JP Morgan Chase has with military-family foreclosures.

2nd District Representative John Kline - Chaz Johnson - Chaz is in DC this week.

3rd District Representative Eric Paulson - John Paul Yates - Representative Paulson met yesterday with Hank Sadler and others from the DAV with the main topic being the VA backlog. The widow and survivor housing assistance bill is being reintroduced this year.

4th District Representative Betty McCollum - Connie Haddeland - Six people so far this year have received fully-qualified Academy appointments and several more are anticipated. Representative McCollum is now on the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Committees. A handout was given indicating legislation she has cosponsored and the letters she has signed onto, including the one that relates to JP Morgan Chase. On a personal note, Ms. Haddeland mentioned MAC-V is in need of toiletries and encouraged everyone to bring something next month.

5th District Representative Keith Ellison - Mike Siebenaler - No new info at this time.

6th District Representative Michele Bachmann - Nicole Severson - A handout indicated several bills Representative Bachmann is cosponsoring. Ms. Bachmann is drafting legislation that will be dropping tomorrow that will prohibit the increase of Tricare premiums. Ms. Bachmann's office has been participating in veterans expos throughout her district. 3-8-11 the Yellow Ribbon community is holding an event to let vets know of resources at the MN School of Business, St. Cloud. 3-19-11 a "welcome home" event will be held at the St. Cloud Civic Center for the 367th Engineering Battalion. Ms. Bachmann's contact person's new no. is: 320-253-5931.

8th District Representative Chip Cravaack - Callie Wahl - Representative Cravaack is participating in a veterans forum on Monday at 6 p.m. at the American Legion in Cambridge.
State Agencies and MN Veterans Assistance Organizations

MN Department of Veterans Affairs - Commissioner Larry Shellito - The Commissioner said the feedback he's gotten from Veterans on the Hill Day is that it was a very powerful day. Vets were well prepared and "looked sharp." He would like to create a" Skunkworks" group comprised of UVLC, MAG,CVSO legislative leaders and CTF Adjutants  that would synchronize the efforts in a "unified battle plan." House File 419 would merge Military Affairs with Veterans Affairs, although the Commissioner thinks it will "die a slow death."

MN Veterans 2011 Legislative Info - Mike McElhiney - There are 32 House File bills and 23 of them have Senate companion bills. You are encouraged to log onto www.mdva.state.us. On that site is a link that tracks the bills. There is nothing out there that's concerning right now. House File 419 does not have a Senate companion bill.

MN Department of Veterans Affairs - Anna Long, Communications Director - Beth Koshen (sp) has been hired as Sarah Graves' replacement as Information Officer. Send Ms. Long an e-mail at Anna.long@state.mn.us if you would like to receive their newsletter electronically. Also, send her any Memorial Day events that you know of via that address. They have a weekly radio program on KTLK (100.3) on Sundays at 7 a.m. It's Minnesota Military Radio Hour in partnership with the National Guard.

MN Military Affairs - Col Eric Ahlness - The MN National Guard 2010 Annual Report was handed out. Also handed out was an update on current deployment. There are currently under 300 global deployments, which is a "lull" in their deployment. The 1st Brigade will soon be deployed, among others.   Annette Kuyper, Director of Military Outreach - Goal is to set up Yellow Ribbon communities in all 63 armory communities. If your veterans organization has not been contacted in an armory community, let her know. Employment is seen as an issue, not only for job need, but the skills to get a job. Also, service members don't know about the postsecondary educational opportunities available to them. They also feel their children are not supported in K-12.  Sandy Best -- Col Ahlness will be leaving government  relations job as he is being deployed and Lt Col Best will be his replacement. She gave her bio.

MN Assistance Council for Veterans (MAC-V) - Kathy Vitalis - There is a Democratic and a Republican "clone" bill in the house. It's assumed the Republican bill will get the hearing. It's bipartisan in the Senate, one-time funding. Ms. Vitalis is hoping the base of what she has does not decrease but she must go in and ask for funding. She currently does not have bill numbers. The Klobuchar HUD-VASH voucher bill was mentioned, as was a recently-held VA summit regarding those vouchers. Duluth Veterans Place will have a grand opening 4-1-11 11:30 to 1:30. The MN Justice Foundation will hold clinics 3-21 in Duluth, 3-22 in the metro, and 3-23 in Mankato. Free and open to all vets. Ms. Vitalis hopes to hear by July 1 about the grant and thanked everyone for their support. Metro Stand Down is August 2 - 3 at the Boy Scout camp by the Federal Building, Ft. Snelling.

Military Action Group (MAG) - Jerry Kyser - Mr. Kyser met with Senate Legislative Director Kevin Matzek from Sen. Koch's office to make sure veterans service officer bill for the colleges is a single-entity bill instead of included in the omnibus bill. That bill needs to get done in April; otherwise, there will be a sunset. Your help is needed to contact representatives in this regard. MN/Dot has been fighting the Veterans Preference Bill from 2 years ago. They are not cooperating due to pressure from Disadvantaged Business Enterprises. The current language says "may," and MAG would like it to say "shall."

3. Federal Agencies

VA Regional Office - Don Monroe - Ft. Snelling VARO continues to be one of top ROs in the country production and quality, etc. Over 66,000 vets in MN receive compensation, over 89,000 receive pension, and 104,000 dependents receive DIC benefits. $270 million in benefits paid in MN. Nationally, Agent Orange Nemur (sp) claims, as of 2-28-11, 39,197 claims have been granted. The average retroactive payment has been $19,126. National rating inventory goal on regular claims is 30 percent over 125 days with eventually 0 over 125 days. At Ft. Snelling VARO, only 17.36 percent of claims are over 125 days. One of the best in the country. They are so efficient, they've been asked to help out at other ROs. The VARO will be the sole agency remaining in the Federal Building during construction.

VISN 23 - Judy Johnson-Mekota, Deputy Network Director - Ms. Johnson-Mekota highlighted several things from her handout. Some new features have been added to 10-10 EZ online application, including a chat function where vets can receive real time assistance in completing applications. The questions have also been simplified. The VAs within VISN 23 were all renamed "Health Care Systems;' i.e., Minneapolis VA Health Care System. Minneapolis, Fargo, St. Cloud, Sioux Falls and Iowa City were renamed.

Minneapolis VA Health Care System - Steven Kleinglass, Director - Minneapolis VA Health Care System is now on Facebook and it is encouraged to "friend" them. The Minneapolis VA will not be able to accomplish taking pharmaceutical waste, but a handout was given on how you can do this. Also, look on your county website as most counties have annual pharmacy drop-off sites. The second Fisher House is anticipated to be occupied in 2 to 3 weeks once furniture is moved in, smoke alarms installed, etc. Formal dedication is June 8. Concept drawings/photos were shown for the parking garage. It will net about 300 new parking spots. There is an emphasis with the architects on the parking garage being "user friendly." This project will be funded in the 2012 cycle.

St. Cloud VA Health Care System - Barry Venable - Workload continues to grow, though not at the former pace. It's 6 percent over last year. 2-10-11 a homeless summit was held. It was well attended by over 20 community organizations. The VA is working with these organizations to synchronize plans to eliminate veteran homelessness by 2015. Veterans justice outreach specialists have been working with the 8th Judicial District to establish a Veterans Court. On 2-24 one of the specialists participated in a training seminar in Willmar with law enforcement to train them in encountering and dealing with veterans who have experienced combat trauma. Similar trainings are scheduled. On 3-24 a hospice conference will be held to bring forth hospice and palliative care services provided by VHA and help vets access those services. On 4-1 a former POW recognition event will be held in the auditorium. Everyone is welcome to attend. The surgery center is very close to being complete, as is the audiology van.

Ft. Snelling Cemetery - Brad Butler - February 2011 Total interments: 308. Total for FY11 starting 10-1-10, 1801. Total interments to date: 193,908. Female vet interments during February: 4. Rifle Squad performed 145 services during February, 845 FY to date. Since their inception: 57,561 interments. They have never missed a day. In case of a government shutdown in two weeks, they have made contingencies and will be open with a minimal crew so they will not cease operations. No one will be at next month's meeting from the cemetery.

Vets Employment & Training Service (VETS) - Jodie Bean - On the Press Release handout from JP Morgan Chase it is indicated they issued an apology and pledged to hire 100,000 veterans over the next 10 years. Veterans Career Fair will be 5-3-11 at the Earle Brown Center in Brooklyn Center. Director Nagel (sp) will be undergoing major surgery today and if anyone wants to send him a card, you can e-mail Ms. Bean for his contact info. Ms. Bean is leaving the agency and this will be her last UVLC meeting.

West Care Minnesota - Jim Coulthard - It was reiterated how much Dr. Bonnebeau did for veterans. The structure of WestCare was explained. WestCare Foundation is in ten states plus Guam and the Virgin Islands. They have 90 programs around the U.S. They have merged with VICTRI and created WestCare Minnesota. VICTRI will now be a program. There will be "VICTRI Villages" in places like Sauk Center.

Announcements - Dean Ascheman mentioned the Veterans 4 Veterans trust fund has presented $15,000 to put together a DVD that will be distributed to all the CVSOs and vets organizations. This will also be shown on public television. This will be a documentary to make the public aware of the veterans homes across the state of MN.

Ralph reminded the audience that veterans are never too old to go to the VA. His 84-year-old father-in-law finally went to the VA after Ralph telling him for over 40 years to go to the VA and he said he got good care.

Adjournment followed by 10-minute recess

Business Meeting

Old business :

Treasurer's report: Balance as of March 1, 2011: $4,038.96; Deposits: $50; Expenses $39.80; Balance in Treasury: $4,049.16. Six organizations paid this morning, which means $600 to come in.

No corrections to Treasurer's report.

Motion made by Jerry Nalipinski to pay $37 and change for rosters that were printed, second by Al Loehr. Motion passed.

Dean Ascheman has a second donated color printer from IBM and was wondering if UVLC needs it.

Ralph recapped pending legislation and mentioned that a few more hats are needed at the legislative meetings.

Old Business:

It was suggested to have a box at the monthly UVLC meetings where people could put toiletries for the MAC-V. Ralph said from now on there will be a box at the meetings.

The problem with parking in the lot outside was brought up. Ms. Johnson-Mekota from VISN 23 had noted the problem prior to this being brought up and had said she would tell the staff that work in this building to park elsewhere during these monthly UVLC meetings to open up the parking spots for meeting attendees.

It was noted the Armed Forces Service Center could use individual-sized toiletries.

It was reiterated that Veterans Day on the Hill was a great event and that the rotunda was filled well.

Motion to adjourn made by Fay Hassie, second by Jerry Nalipinski. Motion passed.

Meeting adjourned at 11:40 a.m.

Next meeting will be 6 April 2011 at 0930, Bldg 9.  Federal Agencies will be on the agenda first.