Meeting Minutes for November 2011

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Call to Order 9:35 a.m.

Invocation and Pledge of Allegiance

Greetings: Recognition of visitors and guests: Bob Olson, TSGLI (Traumatic Service members Group Life Insurance), who explained that program. If a service member is traumatically injured they may be entitled to a payment of between $25,000 and $100,000.

A song from the opera Silent Night was performed by Liam Bonner. The writer of the opera, Mark Campbell, introduced Mr. Bonner. This opera is about an event in World War I when the French, Germans and Scottish laid down their weapons and celebrated Christmas Eve. 50 percent off the five performances, starting November 12, was offered via a handout with a online code to enter.

Minneapolis VA HCS, Director Steve Kleinglass: Mr. Kleinglass announced his December 31 retirement and gave a brief synopsis of his employment history with the VA. It was also mentioned that Mike Rosecrans was involved in a serious motorcycle accident. He is back to work part time. An explanation of the planned parking garage was given, along with photos and renderings. It should have about 400 spaces available exclusively to patients during core hours, about 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. $10 million is available for this project. It will be a mess while this structure is being built and a task force is trying to come up with ideas such as valet parking, off-site parking and shuttling, etc., to ease the burdensome congestion that is anticipated. Two years from now it should be complete. A rendering was also shown and a description given of the Minneapolis VA Health Care System featuring the main complex and a ring of CBOCs. The Ramsey CBOC will be dedicated after Veterans Day ceremonies on 11-11-11 at 1:30 with patients beginning to be seen on 11-15-11. The VA's fiscal year ended 9-30-11. $600 million was spent, 93,000 patients were seen, 6,000 outpatient prescriptions a day were filled, 9,000 surgeries performed, 3,200 people are employed, and on average about 3,000 C&P exams are conducted monthly. The Minneapolis VA has taken the stand that they would rather participate in the State of Minnesota's Veterans Day ceremonies rather than hold their own possible conflicting function.

Don Rask asked a question about the three questions, including "Are you feeling stressed," that are asked of veterans as they are triaged at the VAMC and if any of those responses is "Yes," it triggers a response by Homeland Security and a veteran's concealed carry permit may be revoked. Mr. Kleinglass will investigate this matter and get back to Mr. Rask with a response.

1. State Agencies and MN Veteran Assistance Organizations
MN Dept of Veterans Affairs: Pam Barrows, Interim Deputy Commissioner: Ms. Barrows will be in this position for up to six months as they are looking for Gil Acevedo's replacement. She gave a brief bio. The veterans homes have all had good surveys. Fergus Falls recently had their VA certification survey for their new 21-bed addition so they are now official. This year is a bonding session so they will probably need the UVLC's support.

MN Veterans 2011 Legislative Info, Mike McElhiney: The Governor's office has not signed off on anything yet. A significant veterans package is probable. Things are taking longer than anticipated due to the stadium and some other issues. A Veterans Day event will be held at the Inver Grove Heights Armory with a free breakfast from 8:30 to 9:30 and a 10 a.m. program. Several congressional members will be speaking, as well as the Governor and General Nash. Pearl Harbor Day will be honored. Look for details on that soon. "Homes for Heroes" was mentioned, the documentary about the veterans homes which will be aired on TPT, Twin Cities Public television. Check the MDVA newsletter for air times.

MN Military Affairs, Major Kent Porter: There are about 3,000 National Guardsmen and about 1,000 active duty from Minnesota that are in six different countries. The king and queen of Norway were here last month. The Gold Star Mothers had their retreat. This Saturday, Red Wing will have its grand reopening. They will also receive their Beyond the Yellow Ribbon recognition as a city. That's at 2 p.m. at the armory. November 9, the Met Council will get their Yellow Ribbon recognition. The Inver Grove Heights Veterans Day event was noted.

MN Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV), Kathy Vitalis: December 2 is their Building 47 annual holiday open house from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. November 8 is their last Stand Down of the year. It will be held in Mankato. In January, the 2012 Stand Downs will be published. They are almost fully staffed with the recent hiring of some new outreach staff. Their main offices are still Duluth, Mankato and the Twin Cities, with outreach staff in Little Falls and Detroit Lakes. Nick Kakos presented Ms. Vitalis/MACV a check for $1,000 from St. Mary's Greek Orthodox Church.

Military Action Group (MAG), Jerry Kyser: State Senators and Representatives are meeting tomorrow, November 3, at 9 a.m. at the State Office Building, 300 North, and will be brainstorming ideas about veterans issues. MAG was contacted to be part of this meeting. All are welcome. The Commanders Task Force also met with the Senators and Reps. Veteran jobs is an issue MAG would like to see addressed. There was an Honor Flight on October 8 and a reunion on October 23. Rochester and Southwest Minnesota will no longer do Honor Flights so Mr. Kyser has extended his area out to about 50 miles. There are still about 2,500 WWII vets that need to go to D.C. These vets must be able to get on and off a bus unassisted, no wheelchairs.

2. Federal Agencies
VA Regional Office, Donald Munro, Assistant Director: On cases pending over 125 days, the St. Paul RO is running about 20.16 percent. Nationwide, that number is 61.77 percent. The goal is to have 0 claims pending over 125 days by 2015. Average days awaiting development: 14.47 in St. Paul with the national average at 65 days. There are currently only 14 Agent Orange cases left of the 3,000 St. Paul was sent. Of the Agent Orange cases pending for deceased veterans that St. Paul was sent, 121 of 577 are complete and they will be done by the end of the year. As of January 1, St. Paul will start working all employee "restricted access" claims files from across the country. The St. Paul RO employees' claims will be worked in Milwaukee. The Rules Based Processing Initiative pilot will be delayed until December.

VISN 23: Carl Hensley, VISN Pharmacist: Mr. Hensley highlighted a few things from the handout that was available, including the VA to host a Virtual Career fair on November 10. Lab results are now available on My HealtheVet. November 6 is the Veterans Day parade in St. Cloud. November 9, flu shot clinic at the Fargo VA. November 11, Women of War Project grand opening ceremony at the Black Hills VA. November 11, Service or Remembrance at the Sioux Falls VA.

St. Cloud VA HCS, Trish Aljets: All are welcome at the November 6 Veterans Day parade. It ends with a social at the high school across the street from the VA. On November 11 is a Veterans Day program in the auditorium at 1:30 p.m. Tom Newman, Department Service Officer for the American Legion, is this year's speaker. St. Cloud has received funding to establish a Veterans Transportation Service. The goal is to enhance the Volunteer Transportation Network currently in existence by providing greater access to, say, veterans who are unable to ride in the vans. On November 14 a ribbon cutting will be held for the new Vocational Resources Laboratory. Contact Derek Haug, 320-255-6375, if you know of companies that would be willing to work with Voc Rehab to provide work opportunities for veterans in this program. A Workforce Placement Center, a resource to aid veterans in their job search, is also part of this laboratory. Contact Marie at 320-255-6313 for more information.

Ft. Snelling Cemetery, Brad Butler: The grounds are being prepared for winterization. The new irrigation system should be online this spring for some of the older sections. During October there were 475 total interments. Total interments to date: 197,045. Total female veterans interred: 1,573. The Rifle Squad performed honors for 216 in October, with 59,308 services performed since their inception. The Director position was just posted on USA Jobs. The position posting closes on November 16. Sometime early next year a director should be selected. Wreaths are allowed at the cemetery from November 1 to January 20.

Vet Center, Chuck Sporer: There are three Veterans Centers in Minnesota: One in New Brighton at 35W and County Road D, one in Brooklyn Park on Brooklyn Boulevard and Kentucky, and one in Duluth. Locally, 222 veterans were served last year. There has been an almost 30 percent increase in the last five months, so there is rapid growth. On September 9 there was a Health and Service Fair. 25 providers were there. Brooklyn Park is having their Health Fair December 2. The Veterans in the Arts Program was discussed, as was the Guitars for Vets Program.

Tom Haugo talked about the goal of the Armed Forces Service Center to generate $11,000 in donations by Veterans Day. Go to www.givemn.org to donate.

3. Federal Congressional Representatives and Senators

Senator Amy Klobuchar, Greg Swanholm: Not present

Senator Al Franken, Nate Arch: Daniel Fanning (sp) out of the Duluth office is running for office so Mr. Arch will be taking over all military/veterans issues for the state so he will have more of a legislative role. The Office of Rural Health was mentioned. 40 percent of veterans enrolled in the VA health care system live in rural areas. The money that goes to ORH is not being properly utilized so Senator Franken will be introducing a bill to direct that office to come up with a five-year strategic plan. The Diabetes Prevention Program was mentioned again this month. In the overall population, 3 percent of Americans enlist in the military, while in the Native American community that figure is 25 percent and they only get 50 percent of their benefits. Morris University has free tuition for enrolled members of a Tribe. That, combined with Chapter 33 education benefits, provides for room and board as well as tuition. Moving forward, their office will be focused on a more robust GI bill, as well as veterans hiring.

7th District Representative Collin Peterson, Al Loehr: Not present

1st District Representative Tim Walz, Shawn Schloesser: Not present
Ralph Donais mentioned that Rep Walz was awarded the Highest Leadership Award by the Military Coalition in D.C. on October 5 for the fine work he does for veterans and military personnel. Also, the COLA for VA benefits is being held up in House committees. Later, Chaz Johnson reported he received an e-mail that that should be passed today.

2nd District Representative John Kline, Chaz Johnson: There was a rumor going around about veteran retiree benefits being on the chopping block. Congressman Kline took the opportunity at a House Armed Services Committee hearing to press Defense Secretary Panetta and Joint Chiefs General Dempsey about this rumor and get their support that there is no change to retiree benefits. That rumor has been quashed. 37 young people have expressed an interest in the Service Academy and completed a packet. Interview day will be December 3.

3rd District Representative Eric Paulson, John Paul Yates: Not present

4th District Representative Betty McCollum, Connie Haddeland: Applications close on November 7 for their Service Academy with interviews conducted December 3. Most files are open at West Point. The Air Force Academy informed them the size of the number of cadets admitted will be reduced starting next year. There will be Department of Defense directed cutbacks at some of the other service academies as well. Rep McCollum is the only woman on the Mil Con VA subcommittee. On November 7, she will be hosting a veterans discussion and town hall at the Maplewood Community Center beginning at 6:30 p.m. A handout was provided concerning Rep McCollum's legislation. Of note, HR 2447, the Congressional Gold Medal to the Montford Point Marines, passed the House of Representatives.

5th District Representative Keith Ellison, Mike Siebenaler: Not present

6th District Representative Michele Bachmann, Rachel Horn: An additional sponsor has been added to HR 1285. This bill would prevent increases in Tricare fees. Mark Ellison (sp) of their Woodbury office receiving some training in D.C. at the National Center for the Veteran Institute for Procurement. Their legislative director will be in town next week and Mark will talk about his experience during listening sessions. Academy interviews will be November 12.

8th District Representative Chip Cravaack, Brian Gordon: Rep Cravaack met at the WWII Memorial in D.C. with veterans from Cook and Ely who were on a October 4 Honor Flight out of Duluth. The Northland Chapter is hosting their first reunion this Saturday of an Honor Flight. The office hosted their first Academy info night on October 20 in Hinckley. 20 to 30 students attended. On November 12, about 16 people will be interviewed.

Announcements:
Ralph Donais talked about the Military Child Education Coalition. Their goal is to make sure military personnel's children are looked after while their parents are deployed. If you would like to get involved with this organization, contact Ralph.

Meeting adjourned at 11:05 a.m., followed by a 10-minute recess.

Business Meeting:

Old Business:

Treasurer's report: Balance as of October 1 was $5,057.54. Expenses were $29.75 for parking and $115 for transcription expense, for a total of $144.75. Balance as of today is $4,912.79. In December, Don Rask will send out dues letters for next year. Some people already said they will be bringing in checks. If you have any questions about dues, how much you owe, etc., you can contact Don at 651-647-0398. Jerry Kyser mentioned the 501(c)(3) status has been taken care of.

There was no General Business.

2011 Legislative Report: A few ideas Ralph came up with for legislative things to do: 1. Extend Widow/Widower property tax exemption for 100 percent disabled. 2. Certification for State-licensed jobs, such as EMTs, nurses. Their military experience should be sufficient to enable them to be licensed so they can step straight into jobs, rather than spending the money and time for training to be licensed by the State. 3. Tax exemption for military retirees. 4. Veterans Preference with Mn/Dot. 5. "Veteran" check block on new forms for registering businesses so there is a mechanism to track how many veteran-owned businesses actually get contracts. 6. Find out if there's anything the UVLC and do to help the Yellow Ribbon Program.

Jerry Kyser reminded everyone of the meeting tomorrow at 9 a.m. at the Capitol. He was going to a Commanders Task Force meeting right after today's meeting.

New Business:

Nomination of officers (Chairman and Second Vice).
Jerry Kyser nominated Lawrence Dean for Second Vice. Richard Anderson, Amvets, seconded the nomination.
Jerry Kyser nominated Ralph Donais for Chairman. Lawrence Dean seconded the nomination.

The vote will happen at December's meeting. Due to the fact that falls on December 7, Pearl Harbor Day, the meeting will be switched to either December 6 or 8, depending on the availability of the meeting room. Everyone will be notified when the meeting date is finalized.

Ralph brought up the fact since there is considerable money in the UVLC's account, a brochure stating the UVLC's legislative agenda might be nice to have printed to hand out to people in their offices. E-mail Ralph ideas for this brochure. At the December meeting, the group should be able to list three key items they want to get through legislatively.

Bob Smith spoke to the idea of a brochure to, through repetition, demonstrate the UVLC's presence.
A motion was made by Lawrence Dean, seconded by Jerry Nalipinski, that $111.11 be donated to the Armed Forces Service Center. Motion passed.

Ralph Donais encouraged everyone to grab one of his new business cards that describes the UVLC as a consortium so that these cards can be handed out at, say, the State Capitol to let folks know what the UVLC is all about.

Lawrence Dean commented that the likes the idea of the rotating agenda but thought the MN Opera performance was inappropriate in this setting.

A comment was made that the Minnesota History Center is giving free admission to veterans and military on Veterans Day weekend. This is in conjunction with the 1968 exhibit currently showing at the center.

Motion to adjourn made by Lawrence Dean, seconded by Jerry Nalipinski. Motion carried.

Meeting adjourned at 11:35 a.m.

Again, the next UVLC meeting scheduled for Wednesday, December 7 has been moved to December 5th.