Meeting Minutes for December 2016

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Meeting Minutes - December 7, 2016

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

*The next upcoming Honor Flight will take place on May 6th, 2017. We are currently looking for more WWII veterans to participate.


1. Federal Agencies

VA Regional Office - Kim Graves - Ron Woolery Reporting
*For the seventh year in a row, the national VBA completed over 1.3 million claims over the course of the fiscal year. Of those claims, the St. Paul Regional Office, service center, and pension center was responsible for 75,000. The average days to complete a rating claim at the end of the year is down to 112 days. This is down from 348 days back in 2013.
*The St. Paul Regional Office will be adding 100 new employees to the roster, 80 of which will be going to the Restricted Access Claim Center. This will take our total amount of employees to 850+. As of today, 54% of our employees are veterans.

Q. How will the new administration affect the work you are doing?
A. We don't expect to see any big changes for at least a year.

VISN 23 - Janet Murphy - Jason Petti
*We have a new Human Resources officer, Jeremy Pierce. He will be attending meetings in the future.
*A new chief of the Classification Unit has been hired, along with a new Chief Informatics Officer and Chief Education Officer. Hopefully both will attend meetings in the future.
*We are still recruiting for a Chief Medical Officer and Medical Director for St. Cloud.
*We received our full budget, $3B, about 4% higher than last year for all eight hospitals. We are not certain how things are going to look under the new president.
*USA Today magazine will be releasing some SAIL data on December 8th. SAIL data is a group of internal performance metrics that the facilities use to measure themselves on. The data is only used for our facilities to try and improve our performance and does not look at private sector data. It is important to look at this data in context. Currently the Minneapolis facility and St. Cloud facilities have five stars, which is the highest score, but that does not mean there is not more room for improvement.

Q. It is a long and complicated process hiring new staff for hospital positions and in the meantime we need this jobs filled. Why are we not promoting people within the organization?
A. Every facility is different, so I can't speak to how they do their recruitment. I will get you more information. Minneapolis is a tough location to recruit for because of the weather. Not many people want to move here.

VA HCS Mpls - Director Patrick J. Kelly - Ralph Heussner reporting
*It was announced that the Minnesota Medical Marijuana program was going to expand to include the treatment of PTSD. The state is making this move due to the lack of other effective treatments and studies. The Federal VA's position is that there are effective treatments for PTSD and many documented studies showing that marijuana does not help the treatment of PTSD. A federal physician cannot prescribe or facilitate access to medical marijuana.
*Same Day Service was launched at the medical center in the last week of November. We are continuing to spread the word. This does not currently apply to specialty care, though it may in the future.
*A new program was launched in the last week of November to provide cochlear implant surgery on-site.
*We are receiving new hospital beds to help prevent patients from hurting themselves in case of a fall.
*The next Town Hall meeting will be in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin on December 12th.

Q. When will the emergency room driveway construction be completed?
A. Not until spring. There are designated short-term parking spots in front of the ER, however.

VAHCS St. Cloud VA Medical Center - Director Cheryl Thieschafer - Barry Venerable
*The developer will be hosting the grand opening ceremony for the Linden Grove veteran apartments on November 14th at 3:00 PM. This is a 37-unit facility. The veterans currently receive priority placement at the community and the eventual goal is for the occupants to be 100% veteran.
*An update concerning the wind turbine. Recall that in 2014, the contract was terminated for default. The contractor then appealed that termination to the civilian US Board of Contract Appeals. As of last May, the VA has reached a settlement. A contract has been issued to study alternatives to decide what to do with the turbine. The study will last a year and has three purposes. First: to do a detailed wind study at the site. The contractor is also changed with examining alternatives for what to do with the turbine. All alternatives are on the table.

Ft. Snelling Cemetery - Bob Razer
*At the conclusion of this fiscal year, Ft. Snelling interred 5,268 persons in the cemetery. This is up roughly 3% from last year. Our cremation rate is just under 70%. Of those cremations, only about 10% are going into the wall. Most are still going into small plots.
*Last year, the Memorial Rifle Squad performed 2,474 services.
*December 17th is Wreaths Across America. There will be a ceremony at 11:00 AM.

Vets Employment and Training Services [VETS] - David Seay
*Not present.

2. Federal Congressional Representatives and Senators

Senator Amy Klobuchar or representative
*Not present.

Senator Al Franken- Alex Schueller
*Not present.

1st District Representative - Tim Walz - Shawn Schloesser
*The Veterans Omnibus Bill passed on December 6th. Walz's bill to honor retirees who served in the National Guard or Reserve has passed the House. The goal is for the president to sign the Veterans Omnibus Bill before the end of the year.
*Warren Beatty has announced he wishes to build the VA a building. Nebraska will soon have a new VA facility.

2nd District Representative - John Kline - Chaz Johnson
*This will be the last meeting attended by Chaz Johnson. Our office will be officially closing on December 16th. It is not clear if Congressman-Elect Lewis will retain any of Congressman Kline's staff. We are hoping for a smooth transition.
*We sent 28 nominees to the Service Academies.

3rd District Representative -Erik Paulsen - Margaret Cavanaugh
*31 candidates were interviewed for Service Academy nominations, almost half of who selected the Navy as a first choice. A reception will be held in January for the nominees. A tentative date has been set for the 17th.

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

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

6th District Representation - Tom Emmer -- Zack Freimark reporting
*The wind turbine remains an issue.
*Emmer supported the NDAA that passed and is hoping it will make it through the Senate this week. 
*We have been working with veteran students connected to the ITT Tech College who stand to lose credits and GI Benefits.

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

8th District Representative - Rick Nolan- Jeff Anderson
*At the end of the year, we will have closed 300 VA-related cases.
*Academy interviews were conducted for 15 applicants last week.
*Northland Honor Flight (Duluth) will be happening on April 29th.

3. State Agencies and MN Veteran Assistance Organizations

MN Dept. of Veteran Affairs - Ben Johnson reporting
*The committee structure has been released for the 2017-18 MN Legislature. State Government and Finance is still Representative Sarah Anderson and Veterans Division of State Government and Finance is Representative Bob Dettmer. House Ways and Means is Representative Jim Knoblach.
*There has been a restructuring of the Senate. The Veterans and Military Affairs Finance Policy committee is Senator Bruce Anderson.  Finance will be Senator Julie Rosen and State-Gov. Finance will be Senator Kiffmeyer.
*January 3rd is the first day of the biannual session.
*March 21st is the tentative date for Veterans Day On The Hill. We have reserved the rotunda in the MN state capitol. More information will be forthcoming.
*There have been discussions about a Special Session on December 20th to knock out rebates to handle healthcare premiums, the tax bill passed by the legislature but not signed by the governor, and a bonding bill. More information will be forthcoming.
*Design is nearly complete on the bridge to the Minneapolis home. We are waiting on the funding request.

MN Military Affairs - Major Scott Ingalsbee and Annette Kuyper reporting
*The 148th Fighter Wing in Duluth has been approved for a new weapons loading facility, but are waiting to hear about funding.
*Division Headquarters, which will be built in Arden Hills, is on track for fiscal year 2018.
*On January 8th, the 34th Infantry Division Commanding General will change from General Loidolt.
*We are hoping to see a fix for the 12-3-OB mobilization authority, under which Guard and Reserve units are sent overseas.
*80% of Yellow Ribbon Companies are sustaining and meeting all objectives.
* Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, Annette Kuyper:
*We have 219 cities, 26 counties, and 53 companies as members
*The Joining Community Forces event will be held in six locations across the state. The first will be March 2nd at Camp Ripley. The local one will be April 25th at Metro State University from 8:00 to 2:00 PM. More information will be forthcoming.

MN Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV) - Bradley Legrid
*Not present

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

Military Action Group (MAG) - Jerry Kyser
*The next meeting will be December 19th at 10:00 at state office building.
*We are going to speak with Project Got Your Back, an organization that looks at and evaluate organizations that claim they are helping veterans. They want to put together a vetting system for all the organizations.
*We want to work on Employer Tax Credits for hiring disabled and qualified veterans. The numbers need to be adjusted.
*We received the tax exemption extending the Veterans Homestead Act for 100%.
*We want to work on providing Burial Funding for Dependents of Veterans buried at state cemeteries.
*About the Super Bowl: Alex Tittle announced that veterans can be vendors.
*Bob Smith comment: We’ve sent an op ed to the Rochester Post Bulletin about Mayo not accepting Tricare. Don’t know if they will publish it. It’s time for the Mayo Community to step up to the plate, as they have received huge funds for their Destination Medical from the state.

Women Veterans Initiative - Jill Troutner
*Not present.

4. Announcements

5. Meeting in Recess for ten minutes

Next meeting will be January 4th.

UVLC Treasurer’s Report as of 1 November 2016

Balance as of 1 November, 2016 $3,8900.99

Deposits for November, 2016 $340.00 (1)

Expenses for November
Transcription $120
Office Supplies $26.77
Stop Payment Charges $20.00 (416.77) (2)


Balance as of December 1, 2016 $3,814.22

(1) Reclaiming amount of two checks that were put on "stop payment".
(2) Issuing on check which includes two stopped checks minus stop payment fees (220.00), plus November transcription expense (120.00) and under payment for one month (30.00).

Submitted by Donald Rask, Treasurer UVLC

Jerry Kyser has been re-elected as First Vice.
Mike Rivard has been re-elected as Secretary.