Meeting Minutes for August, 2012

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UVLC Minutes–Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Call to Order at 9:30 a.m.


Pledge of Allegiance

Greetings: Recognition of visitors and guests -

Announcements - Ralph Donais, Chairman - Jerry Kyser, Vice Chairman.

1. Federal Congressional Representatives and Senators

Senator Amy Klobuchar- Tim Cossalter- There are two things worth noting, the Homeless Veterans Act is one. The homeless act allows the VA to team up with local communities to help our veterans. The other issue is sexual assault in the military. The senator is working with several groups to bring better control of the records. In the past the records were destroyed after two years. Under the new legislation the records will be maintained for 50 years. There is a lot of support for the bill, but it is important to realize that the proper wording of the bill is extremely important.

Senator Al Franken- Nate Arch Not Present

7th District Representative - Collin Peterson - Al Loehr I have just returned from the VFW National Convention. I will be going to Washington DC in September to help develop our legislative agenda. By our next meeting I will have definitive programs to present to you. At the convention we heard from the presidential candidates and now it is a matter of personal choice.

1st District Representative - Tim Walz - Shawn Schoesser Not Present -Please keep Shawn and his family in your prayers as his father was in a farm accident and passed away.

2nd District Representative - John Kline - Lynda Boudreau recently the Department of Defense submitted a budget reprogramming requesting to move $780 million from the defense health care fund. The request was to move the monies to higher priority items. Representative Kline joined with others requesting from the Department of Defense to tell what the higher priority items are. The Department of Defense requested to increase the co-pay for tri-care and other services. The request was denied by Congress. Congressman Kline wants DOD to ensure that the funding is available to take care of the health care needs and programs.

3rd District Representative - Eric Paulson - There are two items that Rep. Paulson has been working on the past several weeks. The first bill streamlines the process to recognize the training of our returning veterans have received. That would allow them to qualify for jobs requiring licensure and such. Next the Higher At Home Act would encourage states to also recognize the qualifications of the veterans returning home. On December 11 we will have our Academy information night for our service academies at Oak Grove school in Bloomington. Our staff will be available to help guide students through the process of applying for a service academy positions.

North Carolina just passed a law to help with connecting our veterans schools, OJT so that the returning veterans can gain employment.

4th District Representative - Betty McCollum - Connie Haddeland HR 1627 has passed the house and the senate. The bill is known as honoring American veterans and caring for the cancer survivors at Camp Lejeune. The water at Camp Lejeune was contaminated for several years and many of our veterans stationed there were affected by the contaminated water. The bill also has funding for housing and other services that it veterans may not be qualified to receive from other sources. On July 23 the transitional assistance program. Has been completely revised after 20 years and has a new name. The new program is under The online program allows you to decode your military experience so that civilian employers can better understand the veterans qualifications. Next week Rep. McCollum is holding a roundtable discussion with members of the native American leaders. Part of that discussion will include that train service officers.

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

6th District Representation – Michele Bachmann- Nicole Severson -Not Present- On September 10 Academy information night will be held at the city of Ramsey government center. The time for the information night will be from 7 to 8:30 PM. Also at an Academy information night will be held Wednesday, September 12 from 7 to 8:30 PM at the St. Cloud public library.

8th District Representative - Chip Cravaack - Brian Gordon- In January a bill was passed to allow service members to pass through the screening at airports on official orders, more rapidly. So far only three airports and United States are using the expedited process to allow service members to pass more quickly to the screening process. GSA has 180 days to act on this bill so representative Cravaack is concerned about GSA not adhering to the new bill. 14 individuals have opened a file for our Academy information which is a good number. A job fair is coming up Tuesday, August 7 in Brainerd from 4 PM to 7 PM. Over 20 companies will attend the job fair.

2. State Agencies and MN Veteran Assistance Organizations

MN Dept of Veteran Affairs - Commissioner Larry Shellito-I want to thank all of you for your support on the legislative agendas. Mike will be coming up to give the legislative brief. Mike will walk us through the issue of funding for the veterans home we are effectively making lemonade out of lemons. We have a plan of a roadmap and a plan that make sense. We have an objective, but we don't know what's out there. We don't know exactly what we are dealing with. We know for certain that there will be elections this fall. We do not know what the outcome will be of the elections this fall. We do know that there is tightening of the budgets. There will be a lot of legislators that have no military experience. In 1975 the media told us that the war was over in Viet Nam. With the war in Vietnam being over the budgets for the military and the VA were reduced because the war was over. I am requesting that the commander's task force and the you the UVLC work closely together so that we will have a unified outcome this next session. I believe in the Trinity which means that each of the legislatures must hear the same thing from three different sources. If they visit a veterans home and a topic is mentioned that's one place where they've heard. If the legislators attend a meeting and I mention it to them again that's the second time they have heard it. When the legislators are at a local meeting with their constituents and they here the same topic mentioned again, that is the third time that they have heard the topic. So that means that we need a minimum of three points of contact for each of our topics. Once the legislators have heard it from three different sources the idea sticks. I am saying to this group you have always been important. As the next legislative session begins, you will be even more important.

MN Veterans 2010 Legislative Info - Mike McElhiney at the July meeting we put out a call to action for building South 17 at the Minneapolis veterans home. Since then things have changed and I wish to give you an update of what is going on. We had requested $25,480,000 from the state of Minnesota to match the federal funds that were available which amounted to $17.5 million. Combine totally that was 42+ million dollars that was going to go towards building 17 S. The state did not fund their portion so the $17.5 million from the federal government had to be returned. These projects were started back in 2009 the VA has a 16% inflationary measure that is added to all these projects. That project was not slated to begin until 2014 or early 2015. Due to the inflationary measure it is possible for the 42 million requested to be increased. We will go back to the legislature next year to request what we believe to be the funding needed to complete the project. August 15 at 10 AM we will be opening the new facility at building 19. Invitation letters are being sent out. Due to the limited parking area the opening cannot be for anyone who wishes to attend. Some of you will receive a VIP parking pass prior to August 15.

How do we synchronize all of the bills for the next session? The reality is that we won't. There were 100+ bills in the last session. The reason that there are that many bills is because the use VLC might feel that certain items are important. The CTF may feel that certain items are important. Legislators might feel that certain items are important. Sometimes these bills are items lineup and sometimes they don't. On one October we will submit our initiatives to the governor's office for approval or consideration. By one November anything that the department has needs to go to the advisor to get jacketed for the upcoming session so that in January we are off and running. We will do our best to ensure that everyone here is aware of what we feel is important for our veterans. We will continue to work with our congressional members if there are issues the cabbie worked at the federal level. At last check the total for 17 S. will be 50,000,000+

Deputy Commissioner - Michael Gallucci -We are going to apply and ask and hopefully compete for that 83 million. It will always be about getting the grant and the matching funds from the state. We have no reason not to believe that we can't get to the category 1 for our funding. Where we sit on the list is important. It is important that we get to the top of the priority one list because if they run out of money just because you are priority one doesn’t mean your project will be funded. If they only have enough money to fund the top eight and you are number nine, you simply won't be funded because they ran out of money. It's always going to be about where we go and what pressure we can apply ultimately to the folks in Washington. Five or six years ago the state of Minnesota decided it needed to do something to impact positively better care of the veterans that are in the estate homes. They initiated those programs to do that. And the VA has responded and has recognized across the state and across our country on a lot of the programs that have been implemented here in Minnesota. The trust factor from the VA is demonstrated in the fact that we are only the second state that has an adult day care that the VA supports. That goes to show you where we are in the process along with the fact that we have been recognized in the national magazines and the national organizations for the level of care and some of the programs that we have implemented. So we heard the call, we heeded it and we have met and exceeded the standards and should the legislature think that things are over, there are always progression in healthcare. So in order to maintain and sustain health care they need to be able and willing to support the health system that they dictated as a result of legislation six years ago. That is a message that we want to send. We are proud this is our hundred and 25th anniversary of the veterans home in Minneapolis. In Minneapolis and across the state and our veterans homes every day is veterans day and we are proud to say that. We are proud to serve those veterans. We ask your support because at the end of the day we cannot go out and solicit funding. You can demand that we maintain the healthcare standard that is leading the nation in state home care and we are recognized for. That that is the message that I want you to send to St. Paul and that is the message that I want to send to Washington DC. We are of value that is added to our state and to the this population that we serve. We will continue to be that, but we cannot do that without your support. Operational support and building support understanding where we are and where we need to go not to serve just those veterans that we are taking care of now, but prepare ourselves for the veteran that is coming and understand that need. We enjoyed a great relationship with the VA both in St. Cloud and Minneapolis. There aren't many state home systems that have that.

17 N. construction will start in March or April of next year to avoid the extra cost of construction during the winter. Building 16 will utilize monies to do construction during the winter because everything is inside. 17 N. is a fully funded project and will be completed in 18 months. We will submit for demolition of 17 S. and rebuilding.

MN Military Affairs - COL Sandy Best - Peter Panos- Col. Best is on a labor leaders trip to Camp Ripley. 45 labor leaders and 20 religious leaders are at Camp Ripley to give the leaders a better understanding of what the National Guard does in Minnesota and how they are trained. At Camp Ripley there is a military museum that depicts military history of Minnesota. They are always adding new and more items at the Museum. We are working on the re-integration of the Red Bulls and other smaller units that are returning to Minnesota. The VHA and the DVA and the Department of Veterans Affairs are all involved in the reintegration. Vienna from St. Cloud is gone to do their six-week training and then they will be leaving for Afghanistan. This weekend is the warrant officers leaders conference at Camp Ripley all of the warrant officers in the state of Minnesota will be there. Ripley is very busy with all of the summer units visiting their. A lot of states send their guard units to Ripley to train because of the great facilities that are available to them. The units coming into Ripley spent two or $3 million while they are here which brings much-needed funding to the area.

MN Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV)- Kathy Vitalis is across the way at the stand down today and tomorrow.

Military Action Group (MAG) - Jerry Kyser is at a veteran summer outing funded by the VA. We will expect a report on it at our next meeting when he returns. The next MAG meeting will be 20 October at 10 AM in room 300 of the state office building. Remember we need your input to the new desired legislation for the upcoming session.

CVSO- Todd Kubinski- Todd is the president of the CVSO's Association of Minnesota. We represent all 87 counties of the state of Minnesota and currently we have around 120 service officers. We are the first stop for everything veteran in the state of Minnesota. We are the triage point in filling out paperwork for our veterans. We are getting a little more involved in developing the legislative package. With the commander's task force, the UV LC and the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs they have asked us to come in on a regular basis and be a part of that mix. I think it was noticed this last year. We didn't get as much done as we wanted to knowing full well that it was not a budget year, but they know that we were there. Which you can do for us if you have talked to anybody and we don't care what era they served in, if they have not seen their County veteran service officers please encourage them to do so. Have them visit even if it is just to record their DD 214. When you separate from service you receive the one and only copy of the DD 214. If you rely on the archives to retrieve your DD 214 remember there was a fire that destroyed many of those documents. It is important that you get that document protected. Your County veteran service officer can keep a copy of the DD 214 so you know that where it will be and also your family will know where it will be. A couple of items that we wanted to discuss are the ratings decisions that are coming out, they went to a revised decision system. When it first came out they just gave a bunch of codes with no language. For our purposes that was an adequate. The regional VA the American Legion and the VFW we were able to come up with and we are real close to a happy medium where everyone is happy. The other item is E-benefits. The VA is going to a paperless system the problem with the system as it stands now it cuts the veterans service officer out of the backs. We think it's a great tool if someone wants to view the process, but there's no substitute was sitting down with the County veterans service officer. We don't the system we know what the VA is going to be looking for evidence. Sometimes the way you worded claim makes a difference so it is important that the County veterans service officer has access to those files. The last word I have on those that file their claims before they leave active service is running 18 months to two years on those claims. It was originally intended that they would get their claim within 30 to 60 days from the date submitted. I believe they are pulling them back to the regional office of their home location and that is a good thing for our Minnesota veterans. We started initiating claims all the veterans were on terminal leave and we thought that they would be held until the end of the terminal leave, but they are put in the system right away. My term ends in September and then I will have the best job which is the past president. I appreciate everything that the UVLC has done to bring us into the fold which has allowed us to be involved in this process. We have adapted the national training and service officers. We are the best veteran service officers in the country and we know that because we talk with other veteran service officers at the conferences that we have attended. Every CVSO so will have a minimal amount of training in their first year. Now we have a set standard that is the same across the nation. The V4V has offered us a grant to fund this training program so that the colonies would not have to fund the training for the CVS0. This training will be taking place in October. People will be coming in from other states to have the training and they will be charged for the training. If you have a problem with the CVSO in your County, notify your County Board as he or she is an employee of the county.

3. Federal Agencies

VA Regional Office - Director, Antione Waller or Peter Panos, PAO Mr. Waller is a guest speaker at this stand down so he was unable to attend today. VRAP veterans retraining assistance program is one of the best programs they have ever come out with a four bar senior veterans. This program offers 12 months of training to veterans that are at least 35 years old and not older than 60. They have to be unemployed I have to have had an honorable discharge they cannot be eligible for any other type of educational program. They cannot have a letter of unemployment ability by the VA. We cannot pay them to be trained if they are unemployable. They also cannot be in both and any other federal training program. At the end of August they can have 48,000 people applied for the program. Currently 41,000 have applied they do a daily count on the program so that they have an accurate account of how many people are in the program. After August they can go up to 54,000 applicants. To apply for the program the veteran must use E-benefits. A benefits is a great tool to allow a veteran to track what is going on at the VA for their benefits. Before you send your claim have a County veterans service officer or some other veteran organization review your claim to make sure that it is accurate and worded properly. One should you send the claim it begins the process so if there is something you forgot to put in their it will delay the claim and delay the whole process. It's a great tool to track your claim what you have put it in and it's a great tool to see what you are eligible for. Again we always encourage veterans to have someone review the claim. Under the new process for adding or deleting dependence it should only take about five days to process the change. It used to take about 145 days to process the change. The only other thing is the first and second floor of the Whipple building is being worked on. Everyone on the first and second floor is moving up to the third and fourth floor of the building. Everything from six on down to the third floor is finished. The building is now more user-friendly for the veterans and those that come to the facility.

VISN 23 - Janet Murphy- Director - Dir. Murphy brought with a handout for everyone. There are two physicians in the local area that have been assigned to work with the Lejeune cases. These two physicians will be working the C and P cases for VISN 23. Dr. Murphy introduced Mark Burninger, who is in charge of the Veteran Employment Services ( VESO). The VA wants to hire more veterans and Mark will play an important part in doing just that. We are having some success in hiring veterans but would like to hire more. Mr. Burniger spoke next who is stationed in Colorado. He covers Colorado the Dakotas and Minnesota. His purpose is to recruit veterans and assist veterans in gaining employment with the VA. The TAP program is changing to transition GPS, one of the issues that has been a problem for the TAP program is that it focused on private employment and not government employment. The process for gaining employment with the VA is different than the process of the private sector. We are a healthcare and benefits organization so that is our focus. Another issue is where the veteran who wants to live. We may have openings throughout the system but the veteran would have to move to the those locations in order to be employed. Again our primary purpose is to assist the veteran with the federal employment package. We don't make the rules we just have to live within the guidelines that are given to us for employment. There are 13 veteran employment service officers located throughout the US. We have created the VA for vets program if you Google VA4Vets you should be able to find the site. If you use this site it will help build your resume. Once a veteran has assembled their resume they can call our career counselors Monday through Friday 8 AM to 8 PM Eastern time. The career counselor can call up the resume that the veteran has written and discuss any part of it with the veteran. Counselor will also help with the numerous documents that are required. To be employed by the VA the veteran must produce a DD 214 copy 4. Page 4 of the DD 214 indicates the character of service. The civil-service preference letter indicates that you are 30% or more disabled. The civil-service preference letter will gain you 10 points. In your package always include any additional education you have received. Even if you did not complete college your transcript should be included to show the training that you had received. These items are used to determine how you rate against other applicants. The purpose of our program is to help the veterans understand the difference between civilian employment and federal employment and to help them with the paperwork that is involved. Once you have completed your package you may use it for employment with any federal agency. Our purpose is to help you gain employment with the Department of Veterans Affairs but again the package may be used for employment in any federal agency.

VAHCS Mpls - Barry Sharp Acting Director or Mike Rosecrans- Leg. Liaison-At the next meeting we will have someone from travel attending to answer your questions about travel claims. The chief of primary care is leaving to accept a position at the University of Minnesota. CB OC updates the delivery of the project had some problems with the flooding but all of that has been resolved. Maplewood construction has started at this time we don't have a completion date. The veterans outreach Center in downtown Minneapolis is under construction with an opening in September. September 17 is the grand opening with veterans being seen on 18 September. The parking garage is in the pre-solicitation for bids. Once the bids have been received we will go through a technical review of the project. We are working to reduce the compensation and pension exams. A new associate director will be arriving soon his name is Erik Stalhandske. He is coming from the national Center for patient safety.

VAHCS St Cloud VA Medical Center - Barry Bahl- there are a lot of neat construction issues going on in St. Cloud. The budget is okay we are doing fine. Projections for next year's budget are looking OK. Half of the patients in building 49 were moved to building 48 which used to house our library. We are going to totally gutted and renovate one of the buildings. The VA campus was built in 1923 and at that time it was built for psychiatric patients. Initially the patient’s warehouse in dorms with very large rooms with 40 to 50 patients per room. Building 49 will be renovated to single or double bedroom units with private baths for each unit. We will be adding on to the backside of the buildings as the historical society will not allow any changes to the front of the buildings. This will allow more space for gathering areas and dining area opportunities and such. As soon as we get one half of the building done then we will move patients and do the other half of the building. It will take approximately one and a half years to complete the project. Pharmacy expansion, dental expansion, audio logy expansion and the whole is being dug for the new MRI. Geothermal well lined her being run into the nursing homes. There are about 8000 Wells 200 feet deep in front of the VA buildings. That system will be heating and cooling our nursing home buildings. The new kitchen sites and other projects are going to the same process as the parking garage at the Minneapolis VA. We hope that these projects will be underway soon. We have had a dozen or so visitors, auditors and regulatory groups in the last month. All of the groups did not have anything negative to report. Staffing is okay at this time a lot of turnover and retirements. We are backfilling with two people so if you see something that just doesn't look right or feel right call us and let us know what it is. The wind turbine was erected about 16 months ago and still has ongoing problems. It is under warranty we have not accepted it. It is operating only about 50% of the time. The problem with the wind turbine is it is a medium-size wind turbine. Originally the company that built the wind turbines sold the company to India. India has started manufacturing the medium-size wind turbines but then they started substituting parts. The correct engineering was not used in the manufacturing of the new parts which has caused problems. The people working on the wind turbine think that we are close to solving all the problems. Three fourths of what the St. Cloud health care system does is primary care at this time. About 1/8 is nursing home and 1/8 in psychiatric care.

The DAV partnered with a group in cold Springs to raise funds for the St. Cloud health care system. The program has raised almost $100,000 over the last five years. The DVA is doing a lot with the transportation network. We received a grant to expand our transportation network.

Ft Snelling Cemetery - Artis Parker Director -Brad Butler- Currently the new Memorial wall is under construction with some minor problems. Due to those problems the completion time has been moved back to October or November. The grave desecration is still an ongoing investigation with a reward being offered by the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department. The patrols have been increase to monitor the area better. Last month there were 423 in tournaments. 146 were caskets, with 219 cremations and 58 in the columbarium wall. Nine female veterans were interred last month and the rifle squad did 207 honors. 110 for the Army, 57 for the Navy, 19 for the Air Force, 19 for the Marine Corps, two for the Coast Guard and no merchant Marines.

4. Announcements - The DAV will be presenting two Ford vans to the Minneapolis health care system. A Ford flex seven passenger van and they Ford 12 passenger van. The vans will be used to transport Metro area veterans to the VA. The 12 passenger van will be used to shuttle homeless veterans to the VA for their healthcare needs. The vans will be presented on August 17 Friday. A new state adjutant executive director has been appointed from Mankato. He is Stephen Whitehead a Minnesota National Guard first Sgt. He is an Iraqi war disabled veteran.

5. Meeting in Recess for 10 minutes

6. Old Business - Treasures report-we have another organization the VFW auxiliary have paid their dues and now we have 37 members. Of the 37 members 32 are dues paying members only to of those organizations have not paid. Our balance as of July is $5216.52. We have two bills one is our monthly parking fee over at the state capital and the other is for printing. Treasurers report is moved and seconded with the notion being approved. We need to start putting together our agenda for the upcoming session. One of the priority items of course is the veterans home. At this time we don’t know who is going to be re-elected and who will be elected in the new redistricting districts. We have no idea at this time what direction are legislation will go this fall but we need to be ready. Please start e-mailing the chairman and bring up the issues that you would like brought forward in the next session. If we have the ideas soon enough it gives us time to work on them gather information and have them ready to go for dissemination to the legislatures. The phase package for the veterans homes is going to be forwarded to me from the assistant director and I will forward that information out to everyone when I receive it. The phase package information will give you a good basis to hold discussions with your legislators when the time comes. We all need to be educated on the same page when it comes to presenting our ideas to the legislators. Legislative Initiatives for the 2012 session are very important and again we all need to be on the same page when presenting our issues. The CTF, UVLC, the MAG and others all need to be on the same page. The last session the governor vetoed the omnibus bills without any discussion and left. It is important that we remind him of the good legislation that are in those bills that need attention and if needed a compromise could be reached. As far as the Veto goes I don't recall any discussion on any of the vetoes that the governor used with the omnibus bills being defeated. It becomes a finger-pointing between the legislators and the governor each blames the other for the vetoes. We need to make sure that the legislators understand that we are no longer going to tolerate the finger-pointing but we expect things to get done.

The American Legion magazine has a good article describing what is happening as the war winds down. As it has been described these sunoni of veterans coming to the VA is just beginning. The effects of the war will last for years and many who have served will need the VA's services. We need to make sure that the monies are available to take care of our veterans.

Discussion was held on the beating in July at the St. Cloud health care system facility. There is a lack of attendance at that meeting him. Maybe we can add something to the meeting and St. Cloud that would make it more appealing to our members to attend the meeting. Possibly we could add something to the meeting like a briefing from Camp Ripley or something along that line. It was suggested that we don't go to St. Cloud or come up with more items for the agenda at St. Cloud that would draw more people. If possible maybe we could lease a bus that could be used to travel to St. Cloud and Camp Ripley.

The phone number for Sid Smuckler is 651-454-6451 Tom Shaw is living in the shalom home and his phone number is 651-387-6321.Tom's address is 3620 Phillips Pkwy., St. Paul.

7. New Business - There is no new business at this time.

The question was asked where are the UVLC meetings held. All of our meetings are held here in building nine across from the Minneapolis VA at 9:30 AM on the first Wednesday of each month except for our meeting at the St. Cloud facility. The first Wednesday rule applies unless the meeting date falls on a day such as Pearl Harbor day or Labor Day and such. We are really taken care of well by the folks here at building nine. They make sure we have coffee and cookies and the microphones in the room is always ready for our meeting. This is a great facility for our meetings with parking.
Motion to adjourn made and seconded motion carried.

Next Meeting 9:30 AM - Wed, 5 September, 2012

I am using a new program called Dragon to dictate our minutes. The system is learning my pronunciation for various words so from time to time you may see a word that doesn't make sense. I have reviewed the minutes and tried to make sure that those mistakes were corrected.