Meeting Minutes for September, 2012

Minutes Header

UVLC Minutes–Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Call to Order at 9:30 a.m.


Pledge of Allegiance

Announcements - Ralph Donais, Chairman - Jerry Kyser, Vice Chairman.
The Minneapolis veterans home is looking for volunteers to help paint. If you know of someone who is interested or a group that is interested please contact the Minneapolis veterans home. The volunteers are needed for painting only. If interested call Shirley at 612-548-5815.

The honor flight will be October 6. We would ask that people arrive at the Hubert Humphrey terminal now called terminal to greet are World War II heroes when they come back from Washington DC.

The MIA/POW recognition day will be held on 23 September at the University of Minnesota football field at 4 PM. The program was moved up due to a gophers football game. The program will last for one hour with speakers from the Minnesota Department of veteran affairs Commissioner Shelito and Bill Collins and EX/POW.

The Minnesota Northwestern Chiropractic College is offering free services to veterans. Proof will be required to show that you are a veteran. The services are free so pass the word on to your organizations about this great service. The college is located in Bloomington. And the phone number is 952-888-4777. You need to call to make an appointment.

1. State Agencies and MN Veteran Assistance Organizations

MN Dept of Veteran Affairs-Commissioner Larry Shellito - Barbara ORiley- At this time the only thing going on this preparation for the 2013 legislative session. Anna Long- Groundbreaking on several of the projects are ongoing at this time. The veterans home website now has the virtual tours. So go to the website and check out the new virtual tours for the Minneapolis home. Last year the television program home for heroes. The program was a television production by Twin Cities Public television. The program was also sponsored by V4V and has recently been nominated for an Emmy. The results of the nomination will be forthcoming by the end of September.

On October 9, a program for women veterans at the league of Catholic women's in Minneapolis. The event is called sisterhood of war. One of the topics to be discussed his women who have served coming home from Vietnam. An activity is sponsored each quarter. The 12th through 14 October there is a retreat scheduled in North Washington County.
We are working on ensuring that our returning veterans contact DE ED to the workforce centers. To ensure the veterans employment upon returning.

The CTF will meet at the Minneapolis veterans homes at 9 AM on 18 September, for the annual briefing of the new commanders.

MN Veterans 2010 Legislative Info - Mike McElhiney Not attending

MN Military Affairs - Lt COL Sandy Best-Congressional staff members attended a breakfast meeting at the 133 airlift wing. Discussion was held on one of the six National Guard priorities in Minnesota. On the 30th and 31st of August the lieutenant governor of Minnesota along with Don Kerr and Col. Hubert at Camp Ripley toured the base. They also toured 148th fighter wing in Duluth, also attending was the mayor of Duluth. Discussion was held on the emergency response process.

9th through 12 September is the national guard Association of the United States convention held in Reno Nevada. It is the 134th Gen. conference. The 22nd through 24 October is the AUSA conference. Later this month general told and myself will be making a trip to Washington DC to talk with our Minnesota delegation.

Annette Kuiper – Director of Military Outreach - The beyond the Yellow Ribbon Program has been in the northwestern part the of state with Morehead, Detroit Lakes, Fergus Falls and Thief River Falls have all been declared yellow ribbon communities. Morehead State University was also declared a yellow ribbon company. There are numerous guidelines that must be followed in order to achieve the title of a yellow ribbon company. General Mills is one of the latest companies that have completed the process. There will be a job fair at Coleman field September 12 from 2 to 7. The yellow ribbon network needs to know what are the needs of the veterans and those returning from the guard. It is important for the network to know and understand the needs so that the network can remain strong for years to come. Beyond the yellow is the website. All of the communities are listed on the website. Checklists are sent out to all the communities to ensure that the programs are working and are strong. At all of the guard units throughout the state someone from the local unit will be assigned to the yellow ribbon group in their community.

MNDOT Mike Johnson team leader-MNDOT has a bidding preference for veteran owned businesses. MNDOT is developing outreach programs to identify the veteran owned businesses that will be eligible to bid on contracts within the state. Our purpose is to reach out to the veterans communities for assistance in identifying those businesses. Alan Duff and Mark Cooper have been hired to do outreach programs for MNDOT.

MN Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV)- Kathy Vitalis-Nathaniel - The stand downs were very successful in that over 900 veterans were seen. Duluth saw over 270 veterans while International Falls had over 100 veterans. Upcoming stand downs are Bemidji’s September 26, Grand Rapids September 27, Rochester is October 9 and Mankato is September 14. MAVC has received a grant to aid in achieving employment for the homeless veterans. Also the SSVF grant was renewed, the support helps pay for spots rent transportation and other items needed to help get homeless veterans back on their feet.

Mid October a women's transitional housing facility will open. It's in St. Paul and it will house two female veterans or a female veteran with children.

Upcoming legal clinics September 11 will be in the VA atrium. Tickets are still available for the upcoming benefit. On September 21, 6 PM is the silent auction followed by dinner and music at 7:30 PM.

Military Action Group (MAG) - Jerry Kyser- Sen. Daily and Rep. Detmer were both instrumental in the passage of several veterans bills at the capital last session. Minnesota and Washington state are the only two states that allow private business owners to higher veterans only. They can advertise for veterans preference and cannot be sued for doing so. We need to get the word out to the art organizations about this bill. The next meeting of the MAG will be 18 September at 10 AM room 300 of the SOB building.

2. Federal Agencies VA Regional Office - Director, Antione Waller- We are currently working on processing claims to take no more than 125 days. 16 of the offices across United States have completed transformation. They continued to see levels of efficiencies continue to grow. St. Paul will also go through the transformation process also. The process will take place sometime during the calendar year of 2013. Ron Hillary is the change management agent for the regional office. He works as the liaison between the regional office and the community that we serve.

The veterans assistance retaining program called the VARP. The program is for veterans age 35 to 60. The program allows for training and course achievement to enhance the skills of the veterans seeking employment. The program is limited to 54,000 veterans and as of today there is a little over 40,000 in the program. The program's registration date will go through March of 2014.

E benefits is a great tool for veterans to check the status of their claims. E-mails may also be received as it relates to your eligibility benefits. There’s a new tool out there that helps you convert your military skills to use the civilian job market. It also has a resume builder built into the program. My healthy that is another site that has been developed to help our veterans.

A loan guarantee lenders conference is coming up in St. Paul. The conference will be December 17 and 18th at the Kraft Plaza.

The Whipple building is coming along nicely. Of the six floors four of the floors have been remodeled with the remaining bottom two. If you have a chance come over and take a look at the building and visit the floors that have been completed. It will be another year until the bottom two floors are completed.

Question has even if it's come up with a way to assign a County veterans service officer to their claim? A County veterans service officer cannot be assigned to the claim at this time, but there is access to determine who their County veterans service officer is.

Question when other County veterans service officers going to be able to access our veterans claims on E benefits? At this time efforts are being made to put that into the system.

VISN 23 - Janet Murphy- Director VISN 23 Our network had 94 positions to higher we currently have hired 63 and 25 positions are being interviewed. We had 32 positions assigned to Minnesota and all but two have been filled at this time. The VA has promised Congress to hire 1900 and we are well on the way to completing that task.

We are experiencing a great degree of difficulty in filling the vacancy at the Minneapolis health care system director position. There have been five announcements posted for the job and we are working to see what other strategies we can use to recruit people for the position. Flu season is here and flu shots are now available and there is plenty of vaccine available.

For fiscal year 13 our budget has a 7% increase. We are now in the budget processes to see how best to spend the increased budget. We have some problems with access to specialty care so we have some delays for orthopedics, audio logy, podiatry, dermatology and others. The community is having as much trouble as we are in finding an adequate number of doctors. The wait times for getting an appointment can be very long due to some of these shortages.
Our women's veterans group has to give them some help for women with breast cancer. So we are looking at a breast cancer navigation system so women veterans with breast cancer who have to go outside of our system for treatment will have someone to work directly with them.

We need to look at more pharmacists and social workers.. We are adding ventilator beds to St. Cloud to take care of the growing number of patients with MS. We would like to keep those veterans in our system. Currently St. Cloud has 10 beds and we wish to increase it by five more beds. We are also going to develop a pain management center. We are going to put a significant amount of resources plus support at our facilities to take care of those veterans when they return. Younger veterans often say that they are receiving too much medicine. We are going to look into that and tried to understand where they're coming from.

Due to the lean years when may not have had enough infrastructure meeting taking care of the buildings and grounds as we would like to have. So now we are going to put some resources towards those needs. We also have a very long list of non-re-occurring maintenance list that we could now get to.

Question have you selected a state for the pain management center? At this time we have not selected a state. We have to have a place where we have access to pain specialists. Pain is very complicated. So there are many approaches to pain, very high level technical intervention. There are many types of therapy and we need to find a place where we have access to the many types of therapy. It will probably Iowa city Minneapolis or Omaha.

Mpls VA HCS - Erik Stalhandske- A community resource and referral center grand opening September 17. This is a service on site for homeless vets. It is a wrap around service for this type of care which includes mental health and primary care. Twin Ports CBOC is being remodeled with completion in March 2013. Additional services will be added there. Maplewood CBOC due to open January 2013. Chippewa Valley CBOC Renovation and expansion will begin next year. Several of the high volume clinics are being renovated. Construction of a new parking ramp will begin with bid coming in by September 17. We will have to decide to begin construction in the fall or spring as cost will vary accordingly. The project will take about 18 months.

St Cloud VA HCS - Director Barry Ball- Project challenge will be coming up next week. It is a group of people that come together to work on the challenges of homeless veterans. They will be meeting at the Holiday Inn on September 11. Barry Venerable is handling our outreach programs. He will help coordinate speakers or subject matter for meetings and gatherings. Our outreach program relies on all of you. We are not the ones who are out at the local communities you are. So please pass the word on to your organization's if there is a veteran that has a need have them contact the VA. We received a lot of calls from people who say I bumped into someone last night that was having problems. We have a lot of programs so we can help everybody.

The budget at St. Cloud is fine. Staffing over the last few years has been a little short and places but all of our critical positions are full. We are still looking for a Dir. Of primary care so if you know of someone have them contact us. There is a lot of construction going on that is probably the biggest item. From one end of the campus to the other that looks like gophers have been added. There have been over 8000 wells put in the ground for the geothermal system. Most of the wells are done but it will take a while to get the grass growing again. Pharmacy is about 75% done, dental project is about 50% done and all of the elevators across campus are being upgraded. The MRI is being put in the ground, audio logy six additional booths are being placed, and they are about 85% done. Building 49 the nursing home is doing a total renovation. One half of the patients have been moved to another building. So one side of the building is being gutted and rebuilt with an addition onto the back of the building. The pharmacy has received its supply of flu shots so the flu shot clinics will be opening soon.

A couple of big projects are out for bid. One is a new kitchen, the current one was built in 1923. The area where the kitchen is now will be remodeled for primary care. The homeless a building will be a 35 bed building on our campus. Building 28 is also being upgraded. The upgrade will increase our capacity by about 23 beds. There is a walking path being put in the front half of our campus. The path will allow the younger patients to get rid of some of their extra energy. It will also give our older patients a better place to walk and exercise. There will be exercise stations located on the path. We will be looking for veterans groups to possibly sponsor meditation areas on the path.

The wind turbine is still not functional. People came out from the department of energy and did a report and the report is in Washington DC. It was asked if we want that wind turbine taken down but we really don't want it taken down we want to be able to use it. The problem is that there are so many sensors in the wind turbine that they continually shut down the wind turbine. The company building it is having problems overcoming the engineering design of many of the components. When running properly it should provide 15 to 20% of our energy.

Ft Snelling Cemetery - no one present

3. Federal Congressional Representatives and Senators

Senator Amy Klobuchar - Tim Cossalter- The president signed the helping the homeless vet act. The senator helped sponsor that Bill. The senator is looking hard at suicide prevention. We are looking for things that we can do legislatively to help prevent suicides.

We were looking into assisted living. There are no homes for heroes in Minnesota. An attempt is being made to connect the veterans and the various assisted living homes with veterans and other homes. The average age of the veterans and the assisted home was around 90. They're looking for ways to keep these folks connected.

Senator Al Franken- Nate Arch-no one present

7th District Representative - Collin Peterson - Al Loehr-no one present

1st District Representative - Tim Walz - Shawn Schoesser -Congress should also was honored by the blinded veterans Association with a legislative award. Representative walls has developed a veteran employment caucus. One of the criteria to be in the caucus is that you have to have served in the military. The house cockpits is joining with the Senate caucus to help with veterans unemployment.

Traumatic brain injury language was included in another bill so we consider this language a success. The purpose is to help those veterans with the traumatic brain injury to have the best possible life. The TSA is required like any other business to allow those deployed to come back to their jobs when they return like any other business. Veteran skills to jobs act that was recently signed this piece works at the federal level helping those veterans who received military education and training for those employment our activities that would normally carry a certificate. The veteran skills to jobs act only applies at the federal level. We are encouraging the states to follow our lead and develop the same in their states. We have also enjoyed forces to get access for the County veteran service officers to veterans files. They already have the VA credentials and it should be only a matter of access.

2nd District Representative - John Kline - Lynda Boudreau -We will be hosting a service academy information night on Saturday, September 15. We are monitoring the reimbursement plan for the PDMRA . A letter was sent asking DOD how the October payment was going to be disbursed? These are payments to current and former guard members who were deployed.

3rd District Representative - Eric Paulson - John Paul Yates-no one present

4th District Representative - Betty McCollum - Connie Haddeland- Tuesday, September 11 there will be an Academy information night at Oak Grove middle school in Bloomington. On August 31 the president issued an executive order to improve access to mental health services for veteran service members and their families. The order directs the VA to increase the crisis line capacity by 50% before the end of the year, that any veteran identifying him or herself as being in crisis connect with a mental health professional within 24 hours or less. The VA will work with the Department of Defense to develop a program and implement a national suicide prevention program.

Department of Labor has new regulations for families on medical leave act. The new regulation will expand leave for families caring for veterans who have suffered a serious injury or illness.

As a housing piece that has been mentioned before but for the VSO and beyond the yellow ribbon people recent historic settlement with the federal government on the mortgage services. There is a review that is required on every service members mortgage that was foreclosed since 2006. Those wrongfully foreclosed will receive compensation and other assistance. A reminder that the VA has foreclosure assistance but they also have an interest rate reduction refinancing loan. You can reduce the current interest on your VA loan. All of the information is included in the executive order if you wish to read more about it.

5th District Representative - Keith Ellison - Mike Siebenaler - 17 September Rep. Ellison will be at the ribbon cutting ceremony at the downtown that trans resource Center.

We have sponsored job fairs which were big open ones but now we are thinking about doing some targeted job fairs. The general job fairs were looking at entry level jobs. Most who attended were unemployed skilled workers who were not interested in entry level positions. I may be calling on some of you for ideas to pair up better job fairs.

We are looking for applicants for the academies.. We have had a low number response so far this year and if you don’t love anyone in the fifth Congressional District have them contact us.

6th District Representation - Michele Bachmann - Nicole Severson -Academy night at the Ramsey government center September 10 from 7 to 9. In St. Cloud on September 12 at the public library from 7 to 9.

8th District Representative - Chip Cravaack - Parry Nouis - We will also be doing some Academy nights that are being coordinated out of the North branch office. Several of the items on Sean's and out need to be looked at by Congressman Cravaack. Access of veterans records by the County veteran service officers is one that we need to work on.

A job fair was hosted in Brainerd with great results. Major employers showed up with several hundred people showing up. Another job fair will be scheduled in the Cambridge area.

Congressman sponsored a bill to get a new post office in Pine city. The post office name was dedicated to a Marine master sergeant who was killed several years ago. The dedication occurred two years after he was killed in Afghanistan. His name was Master Sgt. Daniel Fedor. The post office was dedicated on August 27.

The congressman was in Virginia Minnesota for the dedication of the all veterans memorial. The size of the Memorial is incredible. The cost of the Memorial was around $1 million. If you have the opportunity make it a point to stop by and see the Memorial.

Camp Ripley is in the congressman's district and if you haven't had an update on Camp Ripley''s facilities you should do so. Ripley is no longer just a state resource but it has become a national resource. The training and activity going on at Camp Ripley is just amazing. I encourage you to stop by and see what's going on at Camp Ripley.

An issue about travel pay was brought up. A public law that was put into place will take some congressional action to fix.
CVSO Todd Kabinski- A couple of ongoing issues are first of all, the VA primary care doctors are prohibited from writing or providing an opinion of the veterans health status. Both documents are needed in the resubmission of claims. Another issue is the veterans evaluation service, the service tracks C and P exams. We would like to see some quality control such as a secret shopper. Some of the exams seem to be inadequate even though the paperwork going back to the VA states that they are. The way the doctors are working with the veterans isn't working well.

I would like to acknowledge the V4V program that presented a grant this year which allowed us to bring in our national training team to Minnesota to train our level I service officers for certification and accreditation. Thanks to V4V we were able to achieve the ongoing training which would have come out of the county budgets. Anytime we can partner with organizations to help fund our efforts we will do it. Our County veterans service officers are the best in the country. The reason they are the best is because we do our training.

When we consult our veterans coming back we told them don't submit or fill out the benefits discharge claim. The reason for that was the claims are sent to another RO. We want to submit those claims here because the claims sent to the other RO took 18 months to adjudicate. Here in Minnesota we get claims done in under six months.

I would like to thank the UVLC for including us with what's going on with the legislative process, with the informational process. I know our presence here hasn't been that much the past couple of years. We want to be a part of the team. We want to help with the solution to problems faced by our veterans. We are here to help our veterans and not to do handouts.

Legislative priorities are full funding of the phase 3 for the Minnesota veterans home, the CVSO enhancement grants have sunset. The grants were used for our reach program to help prevent homelessness and enhance the operation of our offices. The grants have also been used to furnish temporary lodging and in some cases denied medical care for our veterans.

The incoming president of the County veteran service officers will be Wayne Browning who lives in Carlton County. I am not sure due to the distance from Carlton County to hear if Wayne will make your meetings but from time to time I will attend the meetings here. Remember we are here to help with any issues that are veterans face. We have access to the systems that can help the veteran. We know who to call and what the right question is to ask. We have a website which is A directory of all the County veterans service officers for the state of Minnesota is listed there.

4. Announcements - The Bell of honor, that is out of Rochester is going to be at the 30th anniversary of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in November. They're looking for donations to defer the cost of transporting the Bell to Washington DC.

5. Meeting in Recess for 10 minutes

6. Old Business - Treasures report - The balance as of 1 August 2012 was $5330.42. Expenses for August 2012 or parking expense $29.75 and postage $8.10. Balance as of 1 September 2012 is $5292.57.

We need to formulate our 2013 legislative agenda. Member should e-mail their agendas or call Gary or myself to discuss their ideas were legislative issues.

During the next session we need to have a list of volunteers who can attend committee meetings at the capital. Veterans committee meetings are held on two days during the week and then there are follow on committee meetings once a bill has left the veterans committee.

7. New Business - motion made to pay for one nights lodging, meals and mileage to the fall County veterans service officers conference were Jerry Kyser. Motion made and seconded. Motion carried.

Motion made and seconded to adjourn our meeting. Meeting adjourned.

Adjournment/ Next Meeting 9:30 A M - 3 October, 2011