Meeting Minutes for December 2015

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Meeting Minutes - December 2, 2015

  • Call to order - 9:30, Invocation - Pledge of Allegiance
  • Greetings: Recognition of visitors and guests
  • Announcements - Ralph Donais, Chairman - Jerry Kyser, Vice Chairman.

1. State Agencies and MN Veteran Assistance Organizations
MN Department of Veteran Affairs - Mike McElhiney
            *December 7th is Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day at the Cedar Street Armory at 10:00 AM.
            *Looking to occupy the new 17th North building sometime mid January. Construction continues.
            *Senate will move from Downtown back to new senate office building during either the 8th or the 11th of January.

Q. Are we getting traction on the Military Retirement thing? Is that possible this year? Or is it just talk?
A. There is support, it is in the tax bill.

MN Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV) - Kathy Vitalis
            *Legal clinic on December 8th from 10:00 to 3:00 PM at the St. Cloud VA. There is another on December 10th at the Anoka County Government Center from 9:00 to 3:00 PM.
            *We are in the process of planning out Stand Downs and legal clinics for next year.
            *MACV Open House at building 4 from 12-4 PM.
           
MN Military Affairs - LTC Joe Sharkey - Annette Kuyper - Don Kerr
            *Proclaimed the city of Northfield as a Yellow Ribbon Community, and the South East Technical College of Redwing in Wynona as a Yellow Ribbon Company. This brings the total up to 219 cities, 26 counties, and 49 companies.
            *Assigned two Americops Vista members to ensure that all services that could be used in the Yellow Ribbon process are being accessed. The Americorps Vista grant will be extended next year to move into greater Minnesota.
            *Following the shootings in Chattanooga, there has been concern about what we are doing to protect our service members serving in recruiting stations and armories. We have taken the necessary steps to train and equip selected individuals at each of our armories so they can be armed to defend themselves and other people at the armories for moderate threats. This capability did not exist before.
            *We are pleased that the National Defense Reauthorization act has passed, though have identified an area of concern. There is a provision there that mandates that we convert 20% of our dual-status military technician workforce to title 5 general-scale civil service. We think there are some readiness issues with this. We will be working with the congressional delegation on this.

Q. How can we help to increase attention to the Yellow Ribbon Program, especially for the veteran owned businesses?
A.  Educating them about where we found success, the laws we get passed, and so on. Encourage them to attend the Yellow Ribbon Company seminars.
           
Military Action Group (MAG) - Jerry Kyser
            *Next MAG meeting is January 25th at 10:00 AM.
            *Meeting with MinDot on the 10th about some of the changes that were made to how they decide who will be involved with women, minorities, and veterans in the process of getting MinDot contracts.
            *Veteran owned businesses make up 1% at the Viking Stadium.
            *The next big project would be the new Mayo clinic in Rochester.
            *March 16th will be Veterans Day on the hill.

ASFC Center and Volunteer Information - John Kingery
            *Expanded the number of individuals who are eligible to use the services at the center to include retirees, Medal of Honor recipients, and Purple Heart recipients. This brings an increased need for volunteers. The plan is to move the center to the other side of security in a few years, which would increase the number of people who use the center. This would also increase costs, however.
            *The Loose Change Act introduced by Congressman Miller
People leave behind loose change when going through TSA. This bill would distribute it to the USOs. We would need an amendment to include the armed forces service center. We believe it is dead this session, but would like support on that moving forward.

Q. Where does the money go now?
A. To TSA.

3. Federal Agencies
VA Regional Office - Ron Woolery
            *December 9th from 4 - 6 is the Town Hall Meeting
            *Acting Director is Kay Anderson
            *We are getting the same people and the same questions at the Town Hall meetings. Some of them want to talk, but some really do want change.

Q. What’s going on with the VA in Tennessee?
A. We have a Midwestern work ethic. In Minneapolis, 54% of VA employees are veterans themselves.

VISN 23 - Janet Murphy - Director VISN 23 - Jason Petti
            *Not present.

MPLS VA HCS - Director Patrick J. Kelly - Mike Rosecrans - Leg. Liaison
            *Not present.

St. Cloud VA HCS - Director Barry Bahl - Sharon Meschke
            *December 17th Open House
            *Hiring five new primary care providers
            *There is a 5 month delay between hiring on new people and getting them working.
            *We are answering negative press with facts.

Ft. Snelling Cemetery - John Knapp
            *414 internments during the month of November, approximately 87 internments ahead of last year.
            *Wreaths Across America on December 12 at 11:00 AM.

Vets Employment and Training Services [VETS] - David Seay
            *As of November, the unemployment rate has dropped to 3.9%. The veteran unemployment rate has remained lower than non-veteran unemployment for 23 consecutive weeks. The veteran unemployment rate is at its lowest since April 2008.

Q. Unemployment can mean lots of things with statistics. How many of those people are students going back to school, who aren’t working but are getting money?
A. I don’t know off the top of my head.

2. Federal Congressional Representatives
Senator Amy Klobuchar - General (RET) Tim Cossalter
            *A transportation bill currently under review could have a provision that would treat veterans with special consideration, like women and minorities. It has not passed yet.

Q. It’s House Bill 16-94, the Fairness to Veterans Infrastructure Act of 2015. This would impact the Met Council, the light rail. Can you talk to the people on the committee?
A. No. We are trying to get information, but cannot talk to the committee yet.

Senator Al Franken - Alex Schueller
            *Not present.

1st District Representative - Tim Walz - Shawn Schoesser
            *MarkKrogmann, Director of Constituent Services, is present. He is moving into the role of Veteran Constituent Services.
            *Though the final report from the National Academy of Science was not ready for the September 30, 2015 deadline, we are asking for your support on H.R. 3423 Agent Orange Extension Act. It is awaiting action in the subcommittee.
            *Walz introduced H.R. 1384, the Guard-Reserve Retirees, which would grant full “veteran” status to members of the Guard and Reserve components who served at least 20 years, but have not been called up for federal active duty. This recognition does not entitle members to additional benefits, but simply legitimizes the honor and recognition that they have earned.
            *The VA has published its consolidation report on November 1, taking its seven programs of care in the community and consolidating them into one program called Veterans Choice. We are in the process of reviewing that report.
            *Walz is looking to form a working group on Veterans Choice. There have been two meetings in Minnesota and one on the national level. That working group consisted of the VA Minneapolis, VISN 23, HeathNet, National County Veterans Service Association, and the Minnesota Association of County Veteran Service Officers. Some issues with the problem have already been improved.
            *We are looking at 25 nominations to the Service Academies.

2nd District Representative - John Kline - Chaz Johnson
*Congressman Kline was awarded the Major Frank Tajeda Congressional Leadership Award from the Marine Corps Reserve Association in December.
            *President signed the National Defense Reauthorization Bill, which has provisions with the VA Billing Accountability Act, as well as the TriCare Prime Legislation.
            *25 people applying for the Service Academies.

3rd District Representative - Eric Paulsen - Margret Cavanaugh
            *The provision to pay for the transportation of military dogs was included in the National Defense Reauthorization Act. Service men and women with military dogs overseas will be able to bring them home.
            *Service Academy interviews were completed. There were 31 applicants.

4th District Representative - Betty McCollum - Connie Haddeland
            *H.R. 16-94, which involves veterans being included in the US Department of Transportation’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program, is being discussed. An alternative is H.R. 3997, which would create a separate veteran business owned enterprise within US Department of Transportation, guaranteeing at least 10% of federal highway contracts go to veteran owned small businesses. McCollum believes this would be the best solution, so as to not create competition between the various groups.
            *27 Academy Nominations.

5th District Representative - Keith Ellison - Mike Siebenaler
            *Congressman is a co-sponsor of the Honoring Our Veterans’ Families Act, introduced by Congresswoman Mia Love from Utah.
            *Ellison also co-sponsored the WWII Honoring Our Merchant Marines Act.
            *Ellison signed onto a letter with other members of congress to the appropriations chairs to provide full funding for the Star Base program, which is a STEM program for children at the 133d Airlift Wing.
            *Ellison went and spoke to the VA Medical Center on Veteran’s Day.
            *10 Service Academy Nominations.

Q. What is the probability of the WWII Honoring Our Merchant Marines Act going forward?
A. I don’t know the exact number of co-sponsorship. It’s difficult to get anything through right now, especially bills that cost money, so I can’t speak to its probability.

6th District Representative - Tom Emmer - Zack Freimark
            *NDAA passed.
            *Emmer will be touring Star Base in January.
            *Emmer spoke at St. Michael Albertville and then to St. Thomas Academy on Veterans Day.
           
7th District Representative - Collin Peterson - Meg Louwagie
            *Peterson and staff are currently reviewing changes to the Veterans Choice program.
            *Peterson was pleased to see that the VA updated its Agent Orange Ship List, adding six new ships and expanded some new dates.
            *Fargo VA is having a town hall meeting on December 3, 2015 in Bemidji.
            *Six Service Academy applications.

8th District Representative - Rick Nolan - Rick Olseen
            *We are working to fix the problems with Veterans Choice. We hear your concerns and are working on them as best we can.
            *Service Academy nominations are down this year.

4. Announcements

5. Meeting in Recess for five minutes

Next meeting December 2, 2015.


Treasurer’s Report as if 1 December, 2015
                                                                                                $4,046.29

Balance as of 1 November 2015: None

Deposits for November 2015:

Transcription Expense: $120.00

UVLC Brick US Bank Stadium: $169.63                           -$289.63

Balance as of 1 December, 2015:                                         $3,756.66

Submitted by Donald Rask, Treasurer UVLC