Meeting Minutes for January 2013

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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Call to order - 09:30

Invocation -

Pledge of Allegiance -

  • Guests:
    • Sheldon Sandman DAV
    • Neil VP of MAC MN Association (Rochester)
  • General
    • Focus item in Congress is homeless veterans.
    • Putting emphasis around holidays to keep this issue in forefront of our minds
      • Any input, please forward to someone in our office
    • Slow since the election
    • Recurring issues in military is status of reserve funding and status of 934th

Question: Merchant Marines Christmas party: they are getting fewer. They became service members in 1988. What can we do to encourage the House and Senate to do something for these men and women. There is not much time left for them.
Answer: The challenge is getting broad support across all the states. We are not getting that. There is some but not enough to move it forward. You need to network with other states and agencies to work on their congress

  • Have not heard from Al lately, he is having health issues.
  • Chaz for Congressman Kline:
    • Been over the cliff and now we are coming back
    • NDAA passed
      • Now concern is how do we answer sequestration to make sure the military and vets are not getting the brunt of it
      • This is the focus in the coming days and months

Question: What is the date for sequestration if nothing is done?
Answer: Last day of February or the first of March. Challenge is with debt ceiling as well. Congressman is fighting to make sure veterans are not taking a hit. Congressman knows the effect a ten percent cut can have.

  • John for Congressman Paulson:
    • Last month mentioned congressman was co-sponsoring a bill that would have helped solve a problem with funeral homes receiving remains and not locating a next of kin. Similar legislation came out of Senate over the weekend and passed House on Sunday
      • This allows the secretary of the VA to make sure a proper casket and burial are provided.

Comment: In MN there was a Vietnam vet who passed and there is an association of funeral homes in MN that dealt with him and we were able to put him in the ground with a rifle solute but there was no one to collect his flag, so I use his flag. There is a process in MN connected with Fort Snelling.

  • Connie for Congresswoman McCullum:
    • Burn pit registry language forcing the DVA to document and verify
    • Academy nominations finished
      • Congresswoman will be sworn in on Thursday
      • Working to become more familiar with new parts of district in Washington County and veteran services there
  • Mike for MN Department of Veterans Affairs:
    • Reminder that committees have been established in House and Senate at state level
      • Lengthy report is available online now
    • Committees are interesting when we look at where our bills will go through:
      • Senate - Capital Investment Committee, Finance Committee, Departments of Veterans Divisions and State and Local government
      • There are three policy committees but not seeing any veterans on the Capital Investment committee
      • House: Ways and Means Capital Investments, State government Finance Investments and those are pretty well stacked with veterans
    • The Governor met with the Commissioner to discuss our initiatives but hasn’t made any solid confirmation about what he is going to support or not at this point
      • We are asking for increased funding for IT improvement. During the merge we had small bills to merge infrastructure so we are asking funding at higher rate
      • Southeast Veterans Cemetery due to come online summer of 2015 need funds for operation
      • Honor Guard funding went back and forth for several years. We do not have stable funding so we ask that they solidify the funds there
      • Last year asked to expand GI bill to all era of veterans. A provision of that bill was passed for apprentices and OJT opportunities but not expanded to all areas
      • CVSO grants: Bring back an expired grant and combine it with an existing one
      • Military Affairs supported Gold Star Program made tough decisions. MDVA is now taking on that program
      • Revenue generating initiatives in realm of license plates and lottery tickets.
      • Asked for a block to check on state returns for donations on taxes
    • Session starts January 8th
      • Governor will submit budget to legislature on January 22nd
    • Veterans Day on the Hill is scheduled for March 12th (Tuesday).

Question: Is the license plates separate from other legislative license plates? Is it thirty bucks; fifteen to you and fifteen to veterans?
Answer: yes

  • Don Executive Director Department of Military Affairs:
    • Best unable to attend today
    • Calendar events:
      • Promoting later this week on January 4th in Rosemount. Bill Leader with Target Corporation is being promoted to General.
      • Saturday January 5th Combat Aviation Brigade is changing command from Col. Mike Huddleston to Col. Greg Thingvold. Army Aviation in St. Paul at 1pm
      • Participating January 11th in Duluth for the Airport Terminal Grand Opening. Have a substantial role on the 148th Fighter Wing side in operations at Duluth International Airport. We provide fire protection services there through Master Cooperative.
      • January 21st Martin Luther King breakfast at Minneapolis Convention Center
      • Presidential inauguration January 21st we will have delegation there
      • Staff trip out to DC to brief on ACUBP (Army Compatible Use Buffer Program) we use at Camp Ripley
      • Late in January Senior Commanders Conference in Little Rock that the 34th Division and the TAG will participate in
      • Upcoming for CVSO’s Annette Kyper reports, will be seven Yellow Ribbon Summits around the state. Starting in February
        • Opportunity for yellow ribbon networks to come together to discuss partnership opportunities for statewide initiatives and network together
        • All members and Yellow Ribbon cities are welcome to attend. Also extending invitations to all CVSO’s.
        • Contact Annette with questions
    • One large legislative initiative this year. Update on MN Code of Military Justice. Each state has its own counterpart to the uniform code of military justice that is the disciplinary tool that Commanders use on active duty. American Bar Association came out with a model code because there is not much consistency among states or territories. Going to legislature to bring MN in line with other areas.
    • Also if a bonding bill happens we will request asset preservation
    • Funeral honors:
      • A lot of concern about funding shortfall. We figured out how to work around the reduction. Under all circumstances we will do anything we need to do to honor veterans who pass. We will find a way to do it no matter what.

Question: When are the dates for Yellow Ribbon Summits?
Answer: No dates yet but there will be 7 of them in February. I think Annette will send invitations out on Friday

  • Kathy MN Assistance Counsel for Veterans:
    • Had a donation from the DAV
    • Winter coat drive was well received and has been distributed. Started handing them out the day we got them
    • Two legal clinics coming up. First in Duluth on January 10th and one in the Minneapolis VA on January 8th. Trying to do these every couple of months at least a couple per quarter. Many attorneys working pro bono.
    • Women’s Sill house now open and we are still interviewing for that house in St. Paul. I anticipate someone will be in there in the next couple of weeks. Interviewing two or three now
    • Open House at Building 47 in December.
    • Nathanial Salt had his first child over the New Year.
    • Legislation: Going in with our own MACV bill again. Terry Marrow was our representative in the house but Terry retired. Asking some senators to get it going in the Duluth area. If anyone has a suggestion please let me know.
    • As of four or five years ago when we were at a million dollars, and now we are at 500,000 I keep going back every year requesting 250,000 to get one time funding and in the last few years I was successful in getting 100,000 added to the base. To stay even with 2012 I need 100,000.
  • Jerry for MAG
    • Next meeting on Friday January 4th at 10am at 300 in state office building
      • Put together ideas about the new legislature and what will happen there
      • Preliminary ideas of what we want to initiate
      • The next meeting will be Tuesday January 15th at 10am to follow up on legislature
    • A person from MN DOT Human Resources talking about a hiring initiative in the metro area. She wanted to hire for 90 positions in local metro. They want to hire veterans.
    • Al Duff is involved in the MN DOT process of finding more veteran owned businesses in MN. Three really big projects they want vets for
    • Al Duff with Duff Consulting Service Disabled Veteran owned small business:
      • Contractor for MN DOT Veteran Outreach Project
      • When we started project last March there were 29 veteran owned businesses in MN that could work for MN DOT and as of today we are around 65.
      • Have met with over 2000 potential vet owned businesses and held workshops across state in the last month.
      • We will be having our last workshop on January 31 at the St. Paul Highway Credit Union
        • Secretary of State Richie and Rep Bob Detmire will speak at the event.
      • This afternoon KSTP will interview project team and veteran contractors for tonight’s news
      • With veteran legislation of vet preference now counties can have a vet preference policy. Chisago County has implemented that.
      • Anticipate 90 to 100 vet owned firms verified through CVE by end of contract two to three months from now
      • The CVE process is a burden. We partner with PTAC to help firms with verification process. In MN about 50% of firms that submit get approved. There are a lot of little details looked at. Any firm that works with PTAC the approval rate is closer to 90%. On December 9th there were 23 firms taken off CVE overnight including my company two days after a conference call where I got three different answers on my company status. To CVE the standard is high.
      • The company must be owned by 51% ownership who is veterans. If it is a husband and wife and one is a vet the other is not, you have to make sure the vet owns 51%.
    • The gentleman who owns Becker Furniture World put together a wellness program that is free for veterans. At a Timberwolves game there was a fundraiser where he brought an Iraqi vet in a wheelchair and through that process of helping her become rehabilitated she was able to walk. The VA does a great job but there are a lot of people that want to help. I will get more info on that program and have it at the next meeting.
    • The VA cannot make referrals to these programs but it is up to an individual if they use alternatives or not
    • Phase out of taxation on retirement benefits was discussed at MAG meeting. Also, Honor and Remember the Flag, The Revolution for Hmong veterans, Presumptive Rehabilitation for Veterans with Felonies, Beyond the Yellow Ribbon legislation which was to protect volunteers from being sued for volunteer accident. Tax break for businesses hiring veterans, changing veterans preference legislation to include cities and municipalities. A couple years ago we passed an extension of widows or widowers of 70 to 100% disabled veterans. It was only passed to last a couple years, but we should extend that until someone passes or remarries.
    • Voting control bill - the fellows from Fair Vote came to talk about it at the meeting.
    • New directory of legislatures offices is available
    • Veteran’s community meeting on Mondays and Wednesdays from 12:30 - 2. Mary Murphy is chair for that committee
    • It is important to know who is in charge of these committees.
    • Ralph and Jerry going to try and meet with new leadership of House and Senate to make introductions. 33% of this year’s legislation are new
  • Ron - Change Management Agent at Regional Office for Mr. Waller:
    • Transformation that VA is undergoing. Recently veteran’s service center implemented the new organizational model to streamline the claims processing. On the downside, St Paul is not going to see as much of a bump as some of the other regional offices have. This is because we were already better than they were!
    • One of the big goals for VA this year is fully developed claims. We are working with the service orgs, the state and the county veterans service offices to submit claims that have all evidence before the claim is submitted. The national goal is 20% the guarantee is if you submit it full it will be done in 90 days. Our service center was already doing claims in 85 days. Kay Anderson, the service center said that if a fully developed claim is submitted they can work it in 65 days.
    • Regional office remodeling is moving ahead. They are continuing to work on the first floor and half of the second floor
    • I have been working closely with the County Veterans Service Offices to bring them some new programs they can use to access veteran’s records. That is going well. They have had 60 sign up at this point.
    • There is a new program the veterans service org’s have access to it. This is called the stakeholder enterprise portal. With this program it will allow them to submit vet documents directly into the VA system. By mid-February it will be offered to the CVSO’s.
    • If anyone is interested about further details on transformation, you can call the director’s office and I will come out and do a one-on-one

Question: We are working very close with the hospital right now. I want to make sure that you touch base with Eric. We take care of a number of folks with Dementia and other things. We are trying to expand on mental health. We want to go to DC in February to pitch legislature and we can use your support for leverage. With the large number of newer vets having mental health problems, it is important to have electronic record sharing.
Answer: Eric and I have had some discussion on it but I will get with him.

  • Director Murphy
    • I put handouts on the back table
    • Burn pit registries follow up, and I will get back to you on that.
    • Our budget is doing very well. The VA, thanks to the entire legislature here at a federal level is not subject to sequestration.
    • In our network we did well in this year’s budget so we are focusing on hiring gaps primarily around specialty providers. We have some delays in caring for Orthopedics, Audiology, Ophthalmology, and sometimes Optometry. There is no reason a vet should have to wait for glasses with all the Optometrists around. Audiology is tough there is a huge demand.
    • Asking folks to look for specialty areas because we are over-reliant on our affiliations to provide those services.
    • MN, SD, and ND, Sandford Health System is buying a lot of hospitals and expanding their operations. They are able to recruit at higher salaries so we are in competition for providers with them. We need to find incentives to get those providers in the VA.
    • Shout out to Minneapolis for Million Veteran Program. We are trying to collect the DNA of 1 million vets and have it in a data bank to look for health care patterns particular with veterans. Minneapolis was late to join the program, but as of January is the second highest in the country for enrollment in the program. They have registered over 4,200 veterans.
    • St Cloud VISN received a 10 year accreditation for Chaplaincy training programs.
    • Fiscal 13:   
      • Developing a VISN wide pain management program. In Minneapolis developing a state of the art pain center. We will do work-ups for very complex pain patients. We do not expect to cure but we have to help manage and control pain. We want to use both therapy and drugs because we are often criticized for giving too many pain meds
      • Regulatory barriers to work through. In the VA you can prescribe massage therapy as long as the condition is improving. Once their condition has improved they can no longer get massage therapy. We feel that maintaining massage therapy allows them to maintain improvement. We are working on trying to regulate these things.
      • St Cloud is expanding ventilator unit by 5 beds
      • Seen an abundance of ALS and other diseased where people are unable to breathe on their own
      • We are having trouble finding an Orthopedic Surgeon, but there is a general shortage of Orthopedic Surgeons and we are not the only facility unable to find one.
      • Weather is a factor in finding someone who wants to come to Minnesota to work
      • There is a nomination in Washington for a director in Minneapolis
      • We also have trouble recruiting contracting
      • We have looked into a possibility of sending people to medical or nursing school and contracting them to come back to work for VA
  • Patricia - St. Cloud VA:
    • Over 350 patients received multiple gifts this year and there were a dozen parties so thank you to those who contributed.
    • Construction:
      • Kitchen project delayed again. Really had a difficult time with bids coming in too high so we are going back to square one.
      • Intermediate Psychiatry Building construction starting in the spring. It will be located just east of building 8.
      • Progress on installation on MRI
      • Dental almost done
      • Pharmacy and Audiology almost complete
      • Geothermal and Building 49 is converting from a nursing home to a modernized and increased space
      • Installation of wireless throughout the facility is just wrapping up.
      • Implementing veteran’s transportation program. In St Cloud we are using that program to enhance volunteer transportation network. This program is running smoothly. Putting on about 10,000 miles a month. A benefit is not only transporting vets who need a wheel chair lift but also the fact that we can save on beneficiary travel costs as well. With the two vehicles we are saving at least $10,000 a month on beneficiary travel.
    • Business office file room is totally paperless.
    • On December 19th they sent out last of hard copy files to federal records storage center in Chicago. In the event we need a hard copy it will take 3-4 business days to get that in hand.
      • If there are any problems with that let us know in the business office
      • They keep records there for up to 75 years.

Question: Are you still planning to use the van to go to the CVOC in Brainerd?
Answer: Yes as soon as we get our volunteer drivers squared away. I am hoping to have that done by the end of January. The van will be used to go to CVOC itself and the county will continue to transport to St Cloud and Minneapolis

  • Brad Butler from Fort Snelling:
    • 368 interments last month but the rest of the info from the computer system we get on third working day of the month so I will be sure Ralph gets that email to send out
    • Couple of projects in the work: The memorial wall is still delayed until spring. No date yet for deconstruction of shelter 4.
    • The rifles for the rifle squad have been solved.
  • Bob Conner:
    • Purple Heart chapter 268 meets at Richfield VFW
    • Originally chartered in 1948
    • I brought the charter in for members to look at and 3 are still alive today. Please recognize Dick Cheryl who is still active. Service Officer for POWs

Business Meeting:

  • Handout treasurers report:
    • Printing expense at $2.86 for MAG brochure
    • Have a new transcriptionist so we can get all those up to date. I will meet with her tomorrow
    • The $242 under lodging is for the Veterans Service Officers meeting. We send myself or Jerry up there every year to keep good with them
    • $6 for banking expenses
      • If they mail you out a statement it costs $6. I was billed three months for extra fees for not making any deposits
    • The parking expense comes from the State Capitol

Question: When are dues needed for the year?
Answer: They are due now, in January for the year. You can mail them to Don or bring them to the February meeting.

  • Move to approve the expense report by Dean.
    • Seconded by Bob
    • Passed
  • Motion made and seconded to thank our treasurer for his great work this year.
  • Election of First Vice (two year post):
    • Nominations: Dean Ashman
      • Seconded
    • Nomination for Jerry
      • Seconded
    • Dean withdrawal due to Jerry’s nomination
    • Jerry elected First Vice
  • Need a Secretary to review the minutes and keep database for membership:
    • Nominations: Dean Ashman
      • Seconded
    • Dean elected Secretary
  • MAG meeting need motion if we are going to fund the brochure MAG puts together every year. Last year it was $286
    • Move to support MAG brochure for up to $350
      • Seconded
    • Approved
  • Don Monroe just retired from the Assistant Director of Regional VA. His last day is tomorrow. I want to acknowledge him. I am going to give him a Certificate of Appreciation. My wife will make one from the UVLC and I will sign my name and Ralph to it. No motion needed, I am just going to do it.
  • Kathy offers back up to transcription by her assistant if needed

Question: How much is the charge for transcription?
Answer: I still have to talk to her.

  • The next meeting is February 6th

Comment from Jerry: Ralph has done a great job this year and I appreciate the nomination for First Vice. This year is going to be pivotal for us getting set up for this new organization. It has not happened for many years that the House, Senate, and Governor are all in one party. We do need to meet with new leaders because all new leaders of committees have changed to let them know who we are and what we represent. I need to call the Commander of the VFW to see if we can get someone here to represent them. Al is here but he is not representing his legislative guy. Does anyone know how Al’s health is? I can call him again today.

  • Someone told me a while ago that when there is a rookie it only takes a couple letter to get through but those who have been around for a while it takes more. Check the list and all the rookies are marked. Let them know that the veteran’s community is here. Whether you are in their district or not, let them know our presence and we want their support.
    • Emails are over-used. Some get 1500 a month and then some. A personal letter or note is opened and appreciated.
  • If you go to the MN website for Senate and House; type in the committees you want to get information from and when there is a committee meeting they will notify you of them. Even last minute meetings are sent to you.

Question: How do you get copies of the book you are talking about?
Answer: You can get on in the State’s Office. The Senate does not do one. As soon as you walk in the door there are a bunch of these on a rack. You do not even have to go into the office.

  • It was the commander of the American Legion who started this. We would love to get them in here.

Dean: The UVLC initially was set up for the legislative liaison for each of the organizations to be informed of what is going on. Over time it shifted and now the UVLC is representing the opinions of Commanders. I have spoken with the American Legion and it is a sensitive issue for them. We do not represent the Commanders of the organizations even though some of them are here, we are communicating with the legislative liaisons of each of those organizations.
Response: Dean, we do represent the membership and we do come up with the list of things that we support.
Ralph: We bring together 33 organizations to discuss legislative issues. I do not say that “I” represent the organizations; I introduce myself as the Chairman of the council that brings them together.

  • Each organization has their individual agenda. But each representative that comes here should be communicating these issues to their Commander so we are all on the same page.
  • This organization compared to what is happening through the rest of the country; we bring together so many levels. In MN we try to do what is best for veterans.
  • In all my years there has never been a really big conflict. We come together to do what is best for veterans. The only requirement to join UVLC is that you are willing to work on veterans issues.