Meeting Minutes for February 2016

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Meeting Minutes - February 3, 2016

  • 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
            *Robin Golfstead, deputy commissioner of veteran’s health care, has turned in her resignation, effective February 12th. Andrew Burnside, administrator of the Hastings Veterans Home, will be the acting deputy commissioner while a nationwide search for a new deputy commissioner is undertaken. Brad Lindsey is still deputy commissioner for veterans programs and services. Mike McElhiney has been promoted to chief of staff for the MN Department of Veteran Affairs, a new position. Ben Johnson will be the acting legislative director for the duration of the legislative session.
            *Veterans Day on the Hill is scheduled for March 16th. The agenda will be released by February 14th.
            *Construction on Building 22 is ongoing and we hope to have residents moving in by March 22nd, 2016. We are waiting on furniture. There will be a ribbon cutting ceremony on March 7th. Invitations will be sent out soon.
            *There were early bill introductions last week.
            *The governor has asked for a $1.4 billion bonding bill this year, which is still under discussion.
            *Our primary objectives this year are getting funding for the bridge, which the governor included in his bonding proposal, and some asset preservation dollars for our fifty buildings around the state.
            *The projected surplus would be one-time money.
            *We expect to see a desire for additional veterans homes around the state this year. The VA states that Minnesota, due to its population density of veterans, is allocated 1,058 beds. We have a deficit of 144 beds to reach that once phase 3 is completed. Unfortunately, that means that Minnesota has a “limited need”; that means that this will be a low priority. The biggest challenge is where we fall on that list, and how long the money would be tied up for.

Q. There are people in the 8th district who want to convert an old school or building into a veterans home. Is there any reality in that happening?
A. The VA does not prefer to refabricate old facilities. It is much easier to refabricate existing state homes. To refabricate a building that the state wants to give us is the worst-case scenario. This has happened in the past, but the VA has changed their desired direction on this issue.

MN Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV) - Kathy Vitalis - Nathanial Sultz
            *Upcoming legal clinics: March 8th in Minneapolis, March 22nd in St. Cloud, and April 24th in Rochester.
            *Veterans served in 2015 à women: 11% and rising. OIF/OEF veterans: 30%. Veterans with a disability: 73%.
            *Approximately 1.950 veterans received services in 2015. 945 (48%) were homeless.
            *40 legal clinics statewide in 2015, serving 1,774 veterans.
            *MACV hosted 10 StandDowns in 2015, serving over 2,500 veterans.
            *Upcoming StandDown dates à Brainerd, first week in April. Rochester, 4/24. Fergus Falls, 4/28. Metro, 8/2 - 8/3. Virginia, 8/25. Duluth, 8/26. Bemidji, 9/28. Grand Rapids, 9/29. Marshall, October 12. Mankato, November 8.
MN Military Affairs - LTC Joe Sharkey - Annette Kyper - Don Kerr
            *Not present.

Military Action Group (MAG) - Jerry Kyser
            *At last weeks MAG meeting we had a full house.
            *Legislative items are sure to include:
                        Employment tax credits
                        Expanded homestead tax exemption for spouses of fully disabled vets
                        Military retirement pension exemption
*Viking stadium and the Equity Program:    
Stadium is 86% complete, $790 million spent. Operational in July.
Workforce of 1200 people. 37% minorities, 9% women, 4% vets.
Our outreach programs for hiring and for veteran vendors were not successful
Veteran vendors did $14 million or 2% of the total. There are no more const contracts.
FMC is operating the stadium and there will be supplies and maintenance contracts.
            *State of MN is MN largest employer and it has a set aside for small business entities. Our problem is that we don’t have enough veterans certified by the state as veteran businesses.
            *Commanders Task Force will be putting together its legislative agenda.
            * Congressional Medal of Honor public events will be this October 4-8th. United Health, Target, and Best Buy are major sponsors.

MN Paralyzed Veterans of America - Stephen Thell
            *Partnered with Get Up, Stand Up to pass a state bill for traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury. We were able to get a million dollars biannually, and are now hearing proposals from other groups. We are in the midst of distributing funding. We are in the process of seeking further funding.
            *Research is being done by various groups, including the University of Minnesota
            *The second round of submissions for funding and research will be coming soon.

Q. How many members do you have?
A. I believe the current count is 342.

Women Veterans Initiative - Jill Troutner
            *Not present.

2. Federal Agencies
VA Regional Office - Ron Woolery
            *Introducing Kyle Lee, a member of one of the VA leadership programs.
            *Kay Anderson is still the acting director at the St. Paul Regional office.
            *Business as usual.
            *We are moving into the National Work Queue, and are one of eight stations selected to test the process. Hopefully this will balance out the workload and put more accountability on the individual stations.

VISN 23 - Janet Murphy - Director VISN 23 - Jason Petti
            *Still recruiting for Human Resources officer and Chief Medical Officer.
            *Continued work with Secretary’s initiative, Leaders Developing Leaders, to help focus on ideals and critical missions.
            *This year we are trying to focus on Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey results for the VA nationwide, which we scored below the standard on previously. We want to improve the public perception of the VA. We want to put veterans first and have our employees up their game.

MPLS VA HCS - Director Patrick J. Kelly - Mike Rosecrans - Leg. Liaison
            *Co-manage care teams are now in place, so there is a continuity of care for veterans. The one thing they cannot do is help with billing issues.
            *February 12th is the annual Salute to Hospitalized Veterans. A prime rib dinner will be provided by the Military Order of the Purple Heart. Invitations have been sent out.
            *Construction is underway on a hybrid surgery/operating room. The orthopedic super-clinic will be completed later this year. The new pain center on 3-r should be completed in late spring.
            *There will be another access Stand-Down on Saturday, February 27th, 2016. Our access numbers are good. Primary care is 3.9 days versus the 8.8 national average. Mental health has been 1.8 days versus the 5.5 day national average. Specialty care is 8.5 versus the 11.4 national average.
            *There are still some troubles with the Choice program. The Mayo clinics in southern Minnesota do not participate in the program and now in western Wisconsin, the Marshfield clinic system has refused to participate as well. This has lead to some accessibility issues with getting veterans the care they need in that part of the country.
            *Eligibility for special transportation, which includes ambulance services, is that you have to be 30% service connected or more, or you have received emergent care for a service-connected disability that required you to take that transportation. It all relates to medical emergency.

St. Cloud VA HCS - Director Barry Bahl - Not attending but Email Report by David F. Hintgen, Director of Health Administration Service
            *Linden Grove Veteran Apartments Groundbreaking1-28-16
-Goal: Assist Veterans to achieve greater social and economic independence through stable housing and comprehensive support services
-Drug and alcohol free
-On-site referral support for services including job search assistance, literacy, computer skills training, close proximity to health care services
-Community effort, adjacent to St. Cloud VA Medical Center
-Housing for 35 single individuals and up to 2 families, Veterans have priority placement

National Salute will be celebrated the week of Feb 8-14.
- Feb 10 and 11. Local Creative Arts competition. First place winners will go on to the national competition.
- Feb 12. Open house for invited dignitaries. Creative arts performances and demonstration, visit Veterans, distribute valentines, and gather for lunch provided by the VAVS committee.
- Feb 13. Military memorabilia display. Volunteers needed to escort CLC Veterans from 1:00-3:30. Call 320-255-6365 for more info.
- Feb 14. Military order of the Cooties provide activity and treats for Veterans across the campus.

Providers in the on-boarding process: 15 (PSM:10, SSC:2, Unspecified: 3)

Ft. Snelling Cemetery - John Knapp - Bob Razor
            *Dealing with the recent snowstorm.
            *The December numbers are as follows: 396 total internments - 73 for WWII, 57 Korean War, 63 Vietnam, 4 Persian Gulf, 16 peacetime, 1 active duty, and 182 dependents. Memorial Rifle Squad prepared 84 services for the army, 48 for navy, 20 for air force, 21 for marine corps, and 1 for the coast guard. There were seven female veterans interred.
            *January: 291 total internments. 118 WWII, 91 Korean War, 110 Vietnam, 4 Persian Gulf, 27 peacetime, and 144 dependents. Memorial Rifle Squad prepared 67 services for the army, 35 for the navy, 15 for the air force, and 7 for the marines. One female veteran was interred.
            *Wreath cleanup will be February 6th, from 8 AM to noon.
            *Ft. Snelling cemetery teamed up with MACV to donate jackets and bibs for homeless veterans.

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

3. Federal Congressional Representatives
Senator Amy Klobuchar - General (RET) Tim Cossalter

Senator Al Franken - Alex Schueller
            *Not present.

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

2nd District Representative - John Kline - Chaz Johnson
*Kline is co-sponsoring HR 43-76, the WASP inurnment Restoration Act, which directs the secretary of the army to ensure that cremated remains of persons who served in the WASPs are eligible for inurnment at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. 
*Kline led a delegation from the House of Armed Services Committee to Afghanistan and Iraq two weeks ago.

3rd District Representative - Eric Paulsen - Margret Cavanaugh
            *Reception for the congressman’s nominees to the service academies was held last week. 10 to the DoD academies and 2 to the merchant marines.
4th District Representative - Betty McCollum - Connie Haddeland
            *Defense Committee in the House is beginning to organize. Armed Services Committee is also beginning to organize and take on the National Defense Authorization Act a little earlier.
            *So far, nine people from the 4th district have received offers to the service academies. Five have already accepted.

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

6th District Representative - Tom Emmer - Zack Freimark
            * Not present.
7th District Representative - Collin Peterson - Meg Louwagie
            * Not present.

8th District Representative - Rick Nolan - Rick Olseen
            *Blue Cross from Virginia, Minnesota, requested a flag from Congressman Nolan. There will be a ceremony to recognize the efforts of Yellow Ribbon Companies.
            *On February 1st in Princeton, the American Legion National Commander, Dale Barnett, was present for the dinner. Veterans Choice was discussed. Barnett is a supporter.
            *HR 14-75, concerning the Korean War Memorial.
            *HR 43-51, the Veterans Care Financial Protection Act, which will target scamming.

4. Announcements

5. Meeting in Recess for five minutes

Next meeting March 2, 2016.