Meeting Minutes for July 2014

Minutes Header

Meeting Minutes - July 2, 2014

Call to order - 09:30, Invocation - Pledge of Allegiance -
Greetings: Recognition of visitors and guests -
Announcements - Ralph Donais, Chairman - Jerry Kyser, Vice Chairman.   
1Federal Congressional Representatives and Senators
6th District Representation - Michele Bachmann- Nicole Pelzer

  • Congresswoman voted for Veteran’s Access to Care through Choice Accountability and Transparency Act
    • Bill will cost nearly 2 billion dollars
    • 500 million will be used for more Doctors and nurses for VA
    • Will require public colleges and universities to grant Veterans in-state tuition
    • Will improve medical care for victims of military sexual assault
  • Congresswoman concerned over reports about 64,000 Veterans  stating they never heard back after calling to enroll in the system
  • Nomination of new VA Secretary Bob McDonald
    • Knows structural reform is necessary at head of agency
  • Congresswoman has been meeting with Veterans in the district and D.C.
  • Wrapping up Academy nominations for the last time
    • Congresswoman is only serving until January

Comment: Bill passed the House

7th District Representative - Collin Peterson - Mary Bertram

  • New to this office but have been with Congressman for 19 years
  • Congressman has been visiting throughout the district
  • Signed on to HR4863: National Guard and Reserve Equal Acts as Legal Service Act
  • Negotiation underway on Bill seeking to boost healthcare options for Veterans ( will run about 44 Billion over next 5 years)
  • Signed letter to President Obama urging him to seek Congressional approval and advice if he decides to send soldier over to Iraq
  • Passed 2 bills reauthorizing programs aimed at improving access to trauma care as well as reducing incidents of TBI
  • Also passed Defense Appropriation Bill-included 1.8% raise for military

8th District Representative - Rick Nolan-  Rick Olseen Unable to attend
2. State Agencies and MN Veteran Assistance Organizations
          MN Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV)- Kathy Vitalis

  • Women’s Golf Fundraising event in June was a good success
  • Annual dinner fundraising event is at Landmark Event Center Masonic Home
    • On September 19th in Bloomington
  • Upcoming Legal Clinics and Stand downs:
    • July 8th in Minneapolis
    • July 9th in Fargo
    • August 5th & 6th Metro Stand down in Minneapolis
    • August 21st in Virginia Stand down
    • August 22nd Stand down in Duluth
    • August 29th legal clinic in Minneapolis
    • September 23rd legal clinic in St. Cloud
    • September 24th Stand down in Bemidji
    • September 25th Stand down in Grand Rapids
  • Comment: Jimmy just received a prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award for working with homeless Veterans

3. Federal Agencies
VISN 23 - Janet Murphy- Director VISN 23 - Barry Bahl

  • Lot of turnover in Washington
  • President nominated Robert McDonald to be new VA Secretary
    • Hoping to get approval within 6 weeks
  • Dr. Carol McClancy appointed interim Undersecretary for Health
  • Dr. Jonathan Perlend is returning
  • Looking to replace infamous scheduling package
    • Getting bids from private sector groups- not easily done overnight
  • Press is blowing things out of proportion
    • Ex. People want to have all appointments on same day
    • A lot of attention is being paid to scheduling to increase efficiency
    • Biggest problem is not being able to hire enough providers
    • VA looking to add additional 2,000 residencies this year
    • In St. Cloud, there are 13 new providers going through credentialing process
    • Comments about how many performance measures VA health care providers go through
    • Hard to get qualified Directors because the pay is not equal to the responsibilities
  • Cedar Rapids VISN clinic had flooding, so temporarily moved location
  • Several National reviews for scheduling were done and went well
  • Budgets are fine- plenty of money to get through the year
  • Have been allowing Veterans to get care in the community for years
  • Nobody is being denied care; urgent needs are being met
  • Virtual Tour of campus with slides
    • Finished audiology department; tripled previous space
    • Expanded optometry equipment and space
    • Doubled Dental space
    • Finished Pharmacy project
    • MRI is up and running for a year
    • Walking path is in very last phases
    • Building 49, the Nursing Home, had 2 floors gutted and being put back together
    • Will spread out beds to maintain numbers
    • Long term goal is 4 buildings with 30 beds each
    • ALS patient increase, looking to house an entire floor of them
    • Will soon be building an infusion center
    • 5 geothermal field already done ( 90 miles of pipes underground)
    • Finishing Psych building
    • 116 total buildings 
    • New Kitchen just started
    • Comment: Very few nursing homes live up to VA standards
  • Windmill is broken, waiting to hear from Washington
  • Comments about suicide prevention

Vet Center - Carl Sporer

  • Last meeting due to retirement
    • Has enjoyed time working with Veterans
  • Continue to reach out to Veterans from the Center
  • New legislation that has expanded our role ( increases people they serve)
  • Not just younger Veterans coming into Center
  • Our Records still do not mix with the VA ( ensures measure of privacy)
  • Have some Vietnam Vets. No WWII Vets use services, but some visit

Military Action Group (MAG) -  Jerry Kyser

  • MAG is a think tank for Veterans issues
  • Next meeting is on August 19th
  • Reviewed legislative things that happened( on printout)
  • Talked about Vikings Stadium
    • Going through Federal Government to certify that a business is Veteran owned is timely
    • Helped circumvent that by doing a preliminary certification through VA to speed up process
    • Recap of bill passed that allows State to certify Veteran owned business, but did not provide money to do so
    • Women and minority numbers met for Stadium workers, but not Veterans
    • Challenging situation - Mortenson would like to meet the 10%
    • Less than 100 retired Veterans move back to Minnesota because their pensions are still taxed here- still working on it
    • Also discussed trying to take away gun permits for any Veterans that talk about PTSD
      • Going to be an ongoing issue. Need to be aware of it, and figure out how to handle it before rights get taken away
  • Issue about Hmong people to be buried in Federal cemeteries.
    • Bill is at House and Senate again
    • Mixed emotions about outcome: up to you to talk to your representatives about your feelings
    • Need to think about policy of foreigners being buried here

4.          Announcements -
5.      Meeting in Recess for 10 minutes

Business Meeting   

  • Decide next MAG meeting: August 19th
    • Need to come up with ideas for 2015 to present
  • Ask to send out newsletter to all contacts so that it circulates throughout state        
  • Not a great turnout in St. Cloud – need to take a hard look at why?  
    • Poor turnout is partly due to being a campaign year
    • Can look at leasing motor coach to travel up here  
  • Mike has volunteered to be our Secretary - represents Farmer Veteran Land Project and on board of Military Officer’s Association, MN chapter     
  • Idea to get in writing from all member organizations who their delegates are
    • New commanders have all been selected- plan to talk to new commanders of organizations  in fall
  • Meeting adjourned

Next meeting 6 August, 2014