Meeting Minutes for August 2016

Minutes Header

Meeting Minutes - August, 2016

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

Report by Ralph Donais: 2016 legislative session progress for veterans/military:
*Excluded pensions for military retirees. This has been seventeen years in the making. The majority of military retirees are over 65.
*Active duty military members and their families can now bypass the one-year wait period for accessing college education benefits.
*Counties are now permitted to create a private military discharge record, which will make it easier for veterans to access their discharge records.
*A waiver system was created to make it easier for veterans, military members, and their spouses to keep their real-estate licenses.
*We are also working to make the transfer of nursing and other medical accreditation for veterans and military spouses easier from state to state.
*We have made it easier for National Guard members who are deployed to vote.
*We have finally certified veteran-owned businesses in the state of MN, which means that the certification process no longer requires going to the federal government. It previously took 18 months for a business to get certified. It is also now easier for veteran-owned businesses to get government contracts.

State Agencies and MN Veteran Assistance Organizations

MN Dept. of Veteran Affairs - Ben Johnson
*Introducing Doug Hughes, the new Deputy Commissioner for Veterans Healthcare.
*The session wrapped up in May and there have been ongoing discussions going on about a special session to take care of the bonding bill and the tax bill, but nothing has been decided yet.
*Preparations for announcement of statewide agency budgets have begun. We are also beginning to supply policy suggestions for the next session.
*There will be a statewide veterans conference held in St. Cloud on October 7th., sponsored by MNSCU. More information will be forthcoming.
*The Medal of Honor memorial program will be releasing the three finalists concepts for the design on the Minnesotan Medal of Honor Memorial on August 16th. The groundbreaking will be on October 3rd, 4:30 PM at the Veteran Services Building in St. Paul. That coincides with the beginning of the Medal of Honor convention (October 4th through the 8th).

MN Military Affairs - LTC Joe Sharkey - Don Kerr - Annette Kuyper
*Not present.

MN Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV) - Nathaniel Saltz
*Not present.

Vets Employment & Training Service [VETS] - David Seay
*Not present.

Military Action Group (MAG) - Jerry Kyser
*$245 million for minority, women, and veterans contracts for the new stadium. It took 32 months to build. As far as businesses are concerned, veterans only received 2%.
*MAG has been integral in making connections between the legislature and various veterans organizations. Representative Dettmer has been especially helpful and MAG will be presenting him with a Certificate of Appreciation in September in recognition of his efforts. 
*8 years ago we began the Honor Flights, raising the money ourselves. To date we brought 1360 Minnesota WWII vets to Washington, DC. We’re still tracking down the 5,000 WWII vets who haven’t done an honor flight, you can come as his or her escort.

MN Paralyzed Veterans of America - Todd Kemery
*Along with AARP and other caregivers, we are asking for help from our legislators on a national level to support the Raise Family Caregivers Act. The senate bill number is 1719, HR 3099. The act would support family caregivers. The strategy is to help people live at home and delay or prevent more costly care at institutions.

Women Veterans Initiative - Jill Troutner
*The Veteran Voices awardees will be announced in the upcoming week. The ceremony will be on September 11th. It will be held at St. Thomas College.
*WVI has paired with DAV to work on the Home Grown Heroes program. DAV has a two-year contract with the Minnesota Lynx to work on the project. They have been putting women veterans on center court during home games to be recognized for their service. They also got several women veterans and their families in to see a Lynx practice and meet the players.
*Project New Hope provides fully funded camps for MN veterans and their families. There was supposed to be an event on July 21st, but it was canceled because no one signed up for it. They pay for lodging and food, as well as providing childcare. There are two more camps, one on September 30th and another on December 2nd. Please spread the word.

2. Federal Agencies

VA Regional Office - Kim Graves - Ron Woolery
*St. Paul is one of five regional offices that will be reviewing Traumatic Brain Injury or TBI cases.
*National Work Queue has been implemented across the country and appears to be working well.  4% of Minnesota claims are being dealt with out of state. MDVA recently cracked the code and discovered a way to review the ratings regardless of state.
*There have been a number of short-notice or no-notice site visits to our facilities. St. Paul has been recognized as one of the best regional offices and other offices want to copy that success.

Q. You've spoken before about how Minnesota has previously out-performed other states. Now that the queue system is in place, is Minnesota doing more work than other states?
A. Yes. We received a lot of brokered claims because statistically, our employees were getting more work done than other stations in the company. That level of productivity has continued since the queue system was introduced. 

Q. Do you get compensated for doing more?
A. No, we do not.

Q. What are you doing with veterans with TBI who had delayed symptoms?
A. Anytime you have a recognized combat trauma and the symptoms manifest later, you can always come back in.

Q. How are you identifying Fire Pit injuries?
A. Most of the Burn Pit Registries are focused on Gulf War veterans. There is a Burn Pit Registry that we are trying to get veterans to sign up for.

VISN 23 - Janet Murphy - Jason Petti
*See VISN handout: Network Update., August , 2016
*The Choice Program continues to be an issue for the health administration service. However, a milestone of 2 million scheduled appointments has been reached. We have submitted a plan to congress concerning proposed legislative changes to make the program better. One such change, which has been realized, is the ability for the VA to reach out to community service providers personally when third party administrators are unable to. This allows us to make our own provider agreements with the local community. The second proposal was to streamline how much the VA can pay for healthcare services by having the VA be the primary provider. The third proposal would allow the VA to have more reporting capabilities to more accurately identify what healthcare systems work most efficiently. Finally, we have requested funding flexibility to improve veteran access to care.

VAHCS Mpls - Michael Kelly - Ralph Huessner
*Concerning the TBI rechecks, it began in October of 2014 at the Minneapolis VA when Director Kelly asked the CNP clinic team to review its policy related to exams. An error was noticed, specifically that patients were supposed to be checked by a specialist and instead had been referred to a general practitioner. In 2015, proceedings were started to get patients rechecked by a specialist. 20,000 veterans are being called back. Negative attention was drawn to this by KARE 11. 
*Annual Stand Down on August 2nd and 3rd has been a huge success. Veteran homelessness has been reduced by 57% in Minnesota. MACV will report on this.
*All 58 units of the Common Bond project are currently occupied.
*Ground will be broken on August 9th for a new housing project for homeless veterans on the VA campus.
*Since 2006, our staff in the homelessness program has risen from 4 social workers to 40 involved in the outreach program. Most are based in downtown Minneapolis.
*Construction continues on the VA campus.
*Chronic pain is an ongoing issue. We are working to develop better ways to get patients off of opiates. A grant has been received to work on this project, focusing on alternative medicine and alternative therapy, in addition to tapering off of prescribed medication. The study will be 5+ years in length.
*The second floor surgery space will open later in August.
*Access and wait times are looking good.

Q. You mentioned some of the spaces that have been repurposed to house homeless veterans. Are there any other unused buildings that might be converted in the future?
A. There are, but the VA does not own all of them.

VAHCS St Cloud VA Medical Center - Cheryl Thieschafer

*Introducing Mark Aberle and Joe Schmitz.
*See St. Cloud VA power point:  see email attachment.

Q. You mentioned that mental health care is usually done on an emergency basis. What happens if you are at capacity?
A. We have both observation beds and areas for acute mental health issues. We triage patients and if someone is in acute need, we will find a way to get them help. We will not turn acute patients away.

Q. Do you have any data on your rehab time stays?
A. 45 days for residential rehab is the average.

Ft Snelling Cemetery - Director - John Knapp
*Not present.

St. Paul Regions - Alan Ruvelson
*Not present.

Federal Congressional Representatives and Senators

Senator Amy Klobuchar- Tim Cossalter
*Not present.

Senator Al Franken- Alex Schueller
*Not present.

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

2nd District Representative - John Kline - Chaz Johnson
*Not present.

3rd District Representative -Erik Paulsen - Margaret Cavanaugh
*Not present.

4th District Representative - Betty McCollum - Connie Haddeland
*Not present.

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

6th District Representation - Tom Emmer -- Andrew Matthews
*On August 13th, Emmer and staff will be touring all of the National Guard sites in the 6th Congressional District in order to observe what the NDAA has done for the National Guard. He will also be speaking at a dinner.
*Emmer spoke in July at the Ramsey City Freedom Days in honor of Vietnam veterans.
*Emmer was an original co-sponsor of HR 3099, the RISE Family Caregiver Act.
*Introducing Abby Rumie, who will be working on veterans’ casework.

Q. I heard that soldiers who had been deployed to Egypt had their orders rewritten so that they do not qualify for federal benefits. Has this been resolved?
A. It is an issue we are working on.

7th District Representative - Collin Peterson - Meg Louwagie
*Not present.

8th District Representative - Rick Nolan- Rick Olseen
*Dealing with a lot of Veterans Choice cases and its issues.
*There will be a Yellow Ribbon company seminar on September 12th in Eagan.
*Two bills concerning veteran homelessness are making the rounds, The Hero's Act and Housing For Our Heroes.

4. Announcements

5. Meeting in Recess for five minutes

UVLC Treasurer’s Report as of 1 August, 2016

Balance as of 1 June, 2016 $4,050.99

Deposits for June, 2016 $100

Expenses for June

Transcription $120
Check for Ralph Donais $150
Vikings Stadium $20

Balance as of August 1, 2016 $3,880.99

Motion passed to set aside $50 for plaques.

Dues Collected $
Budget $

Submitted by Donald Rask, Treasurer UVLC