Meeting Minutes for November 2015

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Meeting Minutes - November 4, 2015

Greetings: Recognition of Visitors and Guests
Announcements - Ralph Donais, Chairman - Jerry Kyser, Vice Chairman
            *County Veterans Service Officer State President Lisa Klenk is present.
            *Randal Detrick of the MN Historical Society is present.
            *Rick Josi of Paralyzed Veterans is present.
            *Veterans Day on Wednesday, November 11
            *There will be a Minnesota Military History Vietnam Event on November 10 at the History Center Auditorium. Fliers are available. Free to veterans.

1. State Agencies and MN Veteran Assistance Organizations
MN Department of Veteran Affairs - Mike McElhiney Reporting
            *All agency divisions are moving forward in a synchronized manner.
            * Veterans Day event on Wednesday, November 11 in Inver Grove Heights. Breakfast starts at 8:30 AM. Ceremony will be from 10:00 to 11:00 AM.
*The 175th Airborne Special Forces Association will perform a service on the capital grounds at 11:00 AM.
*There will be a discussion of the Keys For Heroes program at the Wilder Center on November 11 at the Wilder Center between 6:00-7:30 PM. We are 57 days away from end date for ending veterans’ homelessness. The MDVA, Minneapolis and St. Paul Mayors, and landlords will be meeting to discuss how to increase housing options for homeless veterans, incentivize the process, and how best to collectively meet the goal to end veteran homelessness.  
*December 7th is Pearl Harbor Day on the 5th floor at the Veterans Service Building.
*Legislative Session begins March 8.
*Veterans Day on the Hill is March 16 at the Cedar Street Armory. More information will be forthcoming.
*Construction is nearly completed on Phase 2 of the veterans homes. Building should be occupied sometime in the latter part of January or mid February.
*Recently completed a deal with the city of Hastings to get the MDVA sewers repaired and Hastings can put in a trailhead that runs through the backside of the property.
*Hoping for continued support on House Resolution 24-60, the Adult Daycare Center Legislation.

Q. Is there […] another cemetery up by northeast somewhere?
A. Yes.
Q. Besides the one in White Lake?
A. That I don’t know.

MN Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV) - Kathy Vitalis Reporting
            *November 10 is the Mankato Stand-Down at the Mankato Armory. This will be the last stand-down of 2015.
            *November 17 is a legal clinic at the Minneapolis VA.
            *MACV received VA Supportive Services and Veterans Family Grant four years ago, along with a second grant for Hennepin County that supports the ending homelessness Both were recently audited. Nationally, MACV is the only organization to have zero findings.
            *Holiday Open House at Building 47 on December 4th. Fliers available.
MN Military Affairs - LTC Joe Sharkey reporting
            *Sergeant Aaron Burdash of the 204th Area Support Medical Company located out of Cottage Grove, MN, received the National Guardsmen of the Year Award.
            *Budget compromise gives the DOD and National Guard some short-term relief on sequestration caps over the next two years. We are waiting for the re-write of the NDAA to come out. Initial reports are favorable.
Military Action Group (MAG) - Jerry Kyser
            *All contracts on the Vikings Stadium have been sold except for possible subcontractors. Women and minorities were included, veterans officially were not.
            *Light Rail projects should have equity programs with veterans in it – we will be watching to make sure that happens.
            *Contracting Practices Administration has been an ally.
            *MAG will be meeting in December, no specific date yet.

Q. Veterans Preference was discussed at the last meeting. Is that going to be a subject of discussion going forward?
A. Yes. The law was passed and it is good business. We are working with the county association to do that.

Q. Comment: one of the things about veteran businesses is that veterans are known for their civic engagement. It is a very good deal for communities to have veteran owned businesses because the veterans pitch in.

Q. What percentage of veteran businesses applied for acceptance?
A. I do not know right now, but will find out for you.
Q. It still has to be on a competitive basis?
A. Correct, but if it is written that you have to have 10% women and 15% minorities and a handshake for veterans, then the women and minorities have priority.

3. Federal Agencies
VA Regional Office - Kim Graves Director, Ron Woolery Reporting
            *Serving Those Who Served Event November 7 at the Rosemont Armory, partnering with veterans groups from all over the Twin Cities from 10 AM until 2 PM.
            *In 2013 the St. Paul Pension Center had 110,000 claims pending. At the end of fiscal year 2015, the St. Paul Pension Center has 21,000 pending. The maintenance backlog was 2,2305 in 2013. At the end of fiscal year 2015, that number is down to 5.
            *Service center completed 34,229 claims in 2015.
            *Though not the largest center, the St. Paul Pension Center had the largest per employee productivity of compensation claims in the nation at 11.99 per employee.
            *40 temporary VSRs have been hired to work on drill pay backlog. They did 8,000 drill cases.
            *Appeals pending are down to 82 completed cases with a 35% grant percentage. Appeals are going to be the next area of focus.
            *St. Paul took exclusive responsibility for the c123 cases.
            *As of September 2015, the average days pending for a homeless compensation claim in St. Paul was 48.1, 23 days less than the national average.
            *Vocational rehab successfully placed 191 disabled veterans in job-ready status.
            *144 disabled veterans were successfully rehabilitated last year.
            *Regional loan center guaranteed 55,328 loans for a total loan amount of ten billion+.
            *Completed 4,372 home retention options last year.
            *Special Adaptive Housing Grants were 7.5 million dollars.
            *Support Services Division did 227 Adaptive Auto Grants and 255 Special Adaptive Housing Grants.
Q. One thing I wanted to point out was making sure that the POAs is a part of that process and that they’re part of the release of information. That came out of the last town hall meeting we had, making sure they’re a part of that process.
A. They’ve been in it from the beginning.
Q. We’ve had issues, we want to make sure it won’t happen again.
A. We’ve reached out, there will be three counties that have responded back that they will be there. Dakota, Hennepin, and Ramsey County will all be represented.

Q. Anoka County couldn’t have someone there?
A. Because it’s happening on the south side of the metro, they didn’t think it would pull in. The option was there, that was who responded.

VISN 23 - Janet Murphy - Director VISN 23 - Jason Petti
            *Director Janet Murphy still in D.C as the acting Under-Secretary. Dr. Julius will continue to be the acting Network Director through January 31.
            *Currently recruiting for a chief medical officer, chief human resources officer, and pharmacy benefits manager.
            *No budget update yet.
            *In the process of implementing Maximo, an inventory management package. Minneapolis will go live with their Maximo in February 2016.
            *In the process of implementing Real Time Location Tracking Systems (RTLS) at VISN 23. VISN 23 will be the first network to go national with this. There have been some delays.
            *Stress the importance of volunteers. In 2014, VISN 23 saved $14.4 million in salaries by the use of volunteers. Decrease of 4% of volunteers this year.
            * VISN 23 was ranked number one out of all the other networks in the country for performance. Highlights were standard mortality rates, mental heath continuity of care, and decreased turnover rates. Minneapolis was ranked a 5-star facility for the 18th consecutive quarter. No facilities in the network ranked under 3 stars.
            *1.5% increase of unique users last year. Want to continue with that trend.
            *All employee survey results are back, results mostly positive.

Q. How many hospitals do you have in VISN 23?
A. We have 8 facilities in VISN 23. It’s a fairly large network. 10 and 11 were consolidated. Network 10 was number two in the country for performance.

Q. Tell me about the Hot Springs hospital.
A. There are two facilities in the network, one is in Hot Springs and the other is in Omaha, Nebraska. Hot Springs and Ft. Meade were consolidated into one healthcare system. There is movement now for public hearings. Some upcoming changes have been announced with the Hot Springs facility. That was built in 1903. The campus has essentially been mothballed with the exception of a very small outpatient clinic presence. The majority of the veteran population there is in Rapid City, which is nearby. The plan is to mothball all of Hot Springs, open up a new c bock, a larger footprint with more specialty services available. The majority of the cases there are outpatient care. There is some concern about the local economy, same with Nebraska.

MPLS VA HCS  - Mike Rosecrans - Leg. Liaison
            *Hosting Veterans Day program for hospitalized patients at 2:30 PM on November 11.
            *Nurse Executive Helen Pearlman will be on Military Radio on Veterans Day from 6 AM to 9 AM.
            *Hopefully Minneapolis Star Tribune will carry an op-ed piece by Director Kelly on Veterans Day.
            *Vikings players and cheerleaders are coming on November 17 to visit patients and individual rooms.
            *CNP Compensation Clinic move to the Whipple building was completed on October 12. The former CNP space is being renovated to house a comprehensive pain control center. It will be both an in and outpatient space.
            *Fort Snelling Homeless Project opened in October. All 58 units have been completed.
            *Construction for veterans and homeless veterans is expected to begin in the spring on Veterans East – apartment building of affordable housing.
            *Next town hall will be on December 9 in the Whipple Building from 4 to 6 PM.
            *Access figures for VA healthcare:
Primary care: 2.8 days
Mental health care: 0.96 days
Specialty Care: 6.8 days
            *Co-pay controversy is in the midst of being resolved.

Q. I haven’t seen a lot of information for veterans to get on the uranium registry and come and get their physical. There is no information for them to pursue claims or get on the registry.
A. If you are a new VA patient, you come in through the post-deployment clinic, where you are informed of all the registries. They also do that in the CMP clinics.
Q. But the VA used to give us a newsletter regarding all the registries and information. There hasn’t been one in five years.
A. Let me follow up on that.
Q. Concerning Veterans East, it’s all going to be managed by the same person?
A. It’s a third party manager.
Q. Is it going to be two different entities?
A. It is the same firm. I don’t know if it will be the same manager.

St. Cloud VA HCS - Director Barry Bahl - Sharon Meschke Reporting
            *Veterans Day parade on November 8 on the campus. It starts at 1 PM.
            *There will be a program in the auditorium on Veterans Day.
            *There have been some struggles with access, so we have been trying to recruit as many new providers as possible. 93% of veterans are seen within a 30-day period, but there are still some challenges with specialty clinics.
            *We are reconfiguring the optometry space to open two additional clinics.
            *Rehab center will be opened in December.
            *Kitchen project is underway and will be open next fall.
            *Challenges with the Choice Program. A “Choice Huddle” has been conveyed daily to work through problems on a daily basis.

Ft. Snelling Cemetery - Robert Roeser Reporting
            *466 interments in October. 102 WWII veterans, 64 Korea veterans, 73 Persian Gulf veterans, 4 peacetime veterans, 0 active duty veterans, and 202 dependents.
            *Memorial Rifle Squad did 232 services in October.
            *No official Veterans Day event.
            *Rolling Taps will be coming unofficially at 10:30 AM.

Q. When did preregistration start?
A. October 2nd. It’s a pre-eligibility thing instead of a preregistration. It is no longer required for someone to pass away to determine their eligibility.
Q. Is the spouse automatically eligible?
A. The eligibility is determined at the first passing, either spouse or veteran, and follows to the partner. As long as the veteran and spouse were married at the time of passing, the spouse is eligible.
Q. What is the internment right now?
A. A little over 210,000.
Q. What is the process for preregistration?
A. Feel free to call the cemetery. We will direct you from there.

[See additional information attached near the end of this Report]

2. Federal Congressional Representatives
Senator Amy Klobuchar - General (RET) Tim Cossalter
            *Agent Orange Act expired. Doesn’t affect anyone. A veteran who was impacted with Agent Orange and has been diagnosed, they will still be covered. Any veteran impacted by Agent Orange who was not diagnosed before the act expired will still be covered as well.

Senator Al Franken - Alex Schueller
            *Not present.

1st District Representative - Tim Walz - Shawn Schoesser
            *Not present.

2nd District Representative - John Kline - Chaz Johnson
            *Congressman Kline is a co-sponsor of HR 36-86, the Walls Emmer Bill Veterans Care and Reporting Enforcement Act. It will be heard in the VA committee on November 17th.
            *Congressman Kline received the Charles Dick Medal of Merit on October 30th.
            *NEAA should be brought to the floor next week. This passed the House and Senate, but was vetoed by the president. Hopefully it will pass this time.
            *25 applicants for the Service Academies. Interviews will be conducted on December 5th.

3rd District Representative - Eric Paulsen - Margret Cavanaugh
            *Service Academy interviews will be on November 14th. There are 31 applicants, 17 with Navy for their first choice, 8 Air Force, and 6 for West Point. Unfortunately we can only nominate 10 for each spot. 6 candidates are women, 2 are second-time applicants.
            *Supported the bill to allow Military War Dogs to be retired to the US, part of the NDAA that was vetoed by the president. Paulsen was a co-sponsor with Kline.
            *Co-sponsor of bill that would allow Minnesota veterans who lost their Tricare benefits the opportunity for a one time reenrollment.
            *Co sponsoring the Emmer-Walls Bill to make the VA Inspector General’s reports more transparent and public.
            *Congressman spoke at the dedication of a new housing community at Fort Snelling for homeless veterans and held a roundtable discussion about veterans issues to hear from local community leaders about the situation at the VA. One matter that came up was the issue of morale, impacted by the use of CRs rather than a budget. They were also concerned about the St. Cloud VA Center and what was going on with the Emmer-Walls Bill.

4th District Representative - Betty McCollum - Connie Haddeland
            *The congresswoman supports the Agent Orange legislation, including a two year extension and giving the National Academy of Science more time to finish their report, and for the VA to examine their findings.
            * The congresswoman supports the Veterans Education Flexibility Act, which removes the limiting dates of education benefits and retroactively restores benefits for post-Vietnam era, active duty, and post 9/11 veterans.
            *Expect to see a new NDAA in two weeks.
            *27 Service Academy applicants. Interviews on December 5th.

5th District Representative - Keith Ellison - Mike Siebenaler
            *Not present.

6th District Representative - Tom Emmer - Andrew Matthews
            *Not present.

7th District Representative - Collin Peterson
            *Not present.

8th District Representative - Rick Nolan - Rick Olseen
            *Veterans Choice has been a huge issue.
            *Academy applications are down this year, but promising.
            *HealthNet has sent out an advisor to help. There has been a lot of frustration with veterans.
            *Military Museum at Camp Ripley is looking to take the exhibit on the road and is looking for equipment.

4. Announcements
            *Ron Wrenholt of Remember My Service, an organization specializing in literary publications, is present to speak about the Vietnam War 50th Commemoration Event. The event needs sponsors.

5. Meeting in Recess for five minutes

Next meeting December 2, 2015.

Treasurer’s Report

Balance as of October 1, 2015: $4,116.04
Deposits for January 2015: (not recorded) $50.00
            Error in addition: $0.25          $50.25
Expenses for October, 2015:
            Transcription Expense $120    -$120

Balance as of November 1, 2015: $4,046.29


  • PMC’s total inventory has dropped from 110,045 in FY13, to 47,365 in FY14, to 21,337 in FY15
  • Maintenance backlog was 22,305 in FY13, 2,464 in FY14, and 5 in FY15
  • PMC worked 26,295 backlogged dependency claims from around the nation. They had the second-largest production of these claims in the nation, despite it being outside their normal workload.
  • New PMCM - Andy Lindstrom, and two new APCMCs - Joanna Yanez and Ricky Matthews


  • One of the first 8 stations to deploy National Work Queue. Initial kick-off was October 19th, but this has been pushed back until NWQ can do their push in under 4 hours
  • Temporary VSRs processed over 8,000 drill pay cases
  • Took exclusive jurisdiction of C-123 claims. Currently 197 cases and 52 Appeals pending between the PMC/VSC; 82 cases have been completed, with a 35% grant percentage
  • Maintains the RACC, which processes disability claims for VSC employees. Decreased ADP from XXX to XXX during FY15.
  • The highest production per employees of all Service Centers, at 11.99 (beating Des Moines, at 11.95).


  • Achieved 99% or better in all of their accuracy and production measures. Continues to be one of the leading loan centers in the nation, consistently developing processes and standards which are adopted by the rest of the country.


  • Completed 136 rehabilitation; assisted 43 Veterans in securing federal employment utilizing special hiring authority, 27 of which obtained employment with the Department of Veterans Affairs; participated in 11 job fairs
  • In beginning stages of rolling out tele-counseling, allowing counselors and participants to interact virtually.
  • Currently in leadership transition


  • Processed 11,060 waivers in FY15, a 71% increase over FY14 and 95% increase over FY13.
  • Efficiently executed a budget of more than $67 million dollars, to include more than $62 million in payroll funds, $4.2 million in overtime funds, $712,000 in general operating expenses and $62,700 in travel funds.


US VA Logo


Fort Snelling National Cemetery
7601 34th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN  55450-1199

Media Advisory




John Knapp, Director

November 4, 2015                 
                               Fort Snelling National Cemetery - “Rolling Taps”

What:             The playing of “Taps” by multiple buglers in a rolling fashion to honor all current and past Veterans who served our Nation

Who:               All Local Buglers

When:             November 11, 2015. 11:00 a.m.

Where:           Fort Snelling National Cemetery (Main Flag Pole/Circle)

Contact:         Ken Everson, Cemetery Representative
                        Office: 612-726-1127

Background:  World War I - known at the time as “The Great War” - officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919.  However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh month (November 11th).  In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day. “Armistice Day” was primarily a day set aside to honor Veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation’s history; after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress amended the Act of 1938 by replacing the word “Armistice” with the word “Veterans.” 
This Veterans Day, Fort Snelling National Cemetery will host multiple local buglers in the playing of “Taps” in a rolling fashion in order to honor all current and past Veterans who have served this great Nation.  The public is cordially invited to attend and participate in the event. 
The Department of Veterans Affairs operates 131 national cemeteries, one national Veterans burial ground and 33 soldiers’ lots and monument sites in 40 states and Puerto Rico.  More than 4 million Americans, including Veterans of every war and conflict, are buried in VA’s national cemeteries.  VA also provides funding to establish, expand, improve, and maintain 95 Veterans cemeteries in 45 states and territories including tribal trust lands, Guam, and Saipan.  For Veterans not buried in a VA national cemetery, VA provides headstones, markers or medallions to commemorate their service.  In 2014, VA honored more than 356,000 Veterans and their loved ones with memorial benefits in national, state, tribal and private cemeteries.  
Information on VA burial benefits can be obtained from local national cemetery offices, from the Internet at, or by calling VA regional offices toll-free at 800-827-1000.  To make burial arrangements at any open VA national cemetery at the time of need, call the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at 800-535-1117.