Meeting Minutes for January 2016

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Meeting Minutes - January 6, 2016

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

*Lawrence Dean, our second vice-president, is currently in a nursing home. Visit him if you have a chance. Serenity East, maybe room 315, in Mounds Park, St Paul
*Next Honor Flight is April 16, 2016. All WWII veterans.

1. Federal Congressional Representatives and Minnesota Senator Carlson

Senator Amy Klobuchar - Reporting by General (RET) Tim Cossalter
            *Attempting to facilitate the senator’s attendance at the funeral of Major Vorderbruggen on January 19th in Arlington National Cemetery.
            *Currently doing research into the National Transportation Bill concerning any additions of protections for veteran-owned businesses. It is hard to get information since the majority of staff are still on vacation. More information soon.
            *Time was spent at the Minneapolis VA discussing mental health and addiction treatment in response to constituent concerns.

Q. Have you found a replacement for Brian Burton yet?
A. Yes. Lindsay Erbahl (sp?)

Senator Al Franken - Alex Schueller
            *Not present.

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

2nd District Representative - John Kline - Reporting by Chaz Johnson
*Congressman Kline is a co-sponsor of HR 42-98, the Vietnam Helicopter Crew Memorial Act. This bill directs the Secretary of the Army to place a small memorial, based on a design approved by the Secretary of the Army and the Vietnam Pilots Association, at an appropriate site within the Arlington National Cemetery.
*There were 24 applicants to the service academies. 21 of those individuals received nominations. 10 names were put forward to the Air Force Academy, 10 to the Naval Academy, 6 to West Point, and 4 to the Merchant Marines. 

3rd District Representative - Eric Paulsen - Reporting by Margret Cavanaugh
            *Paulsen joined in the delegation letter requesting that the VA Secretary visit the St. Cloud medical center.
            *Paulsen has also requested that the VA and OIG check on what’s happening with the VA misreporting doctor credentials and certifications on the website.
            *31 initial candidates for the service academies. Nominations were given to 26 different candidates, some receiving more than one nominations. 10 names were put to the air force, 10 to the navy, 10 to West Point, and 2 to the Merchant Marines.

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

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 - Reporting by Rick Olseen
            *Working with a legislative liaison with the Heath Net on Veterans Choice and had some success.
            *Trouble with processing ambulance bills for veterans.

Minnesota Senator Jim Carlson - Chair of the Veterans Finance Sub-Committee
            *Session starts on March 8, finishes the third week in May.
            *Hearings have already begun.
            *Considering calling a special session.
            *Likely to have over a billion $ of bonding.
            *As of November, there was a forecast surplus of 1.8 billion. The data will be refined in February. The February forecast looks at commercial year. The forecast is for a 2-year budget, which ends on June 30th of 2017.
            *There is a fiscal stability here that we have not had in 10 years in Minnesota government.

2. State Agencies and MN Veteran Assistance Organizations
MN Department of Veteran Affairs - Reporting by Mike McElhiney
            *There was a substantial asset preservation request for our 50+ buildings around the state. We are looking to get funding for several upcoming projects this year, including the bridge that connects to the veterans home.
            *Operations as usual.
            *Linda McDonald retired on December 1.
            *Women Veterans Event in Marshall, please register online.

MN Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV) - Kathy Vitalis - Reporting by Nathanial Saltz
            *Upcoming legal clinics on January 12th and February 2nd at the Minneapolis VA
            *Stand-down schedule for 2016 is being worked on.
            *Will have more data in February about veterans served in 2015.
MN Military Affairs - Reporting by Annette Kuyper and LCOL Joe Sharkey
            *There was an announcement on December 9th that Minnesota was selected as one of 13 states to receive a cyber protection team. This has been a priority for the last three years. It brings immense capabilities to the MN National Guard and other MN state agencies.
            *Hosted the president of Croatia, the Chief of Defense, and other Croatian contingents as part of the state Partnership for Peace Program. It concluded with an event at the St. Paul Hotel, an Emerging Female Leader Breakfast.
            *Hosted Congressman Tom Emmer and Representative Bob Dettmer on January 4 at the 133d Air Wing while they toured the Star Base Program.
            *At the end of this week, the 33d Combat Aviation Brigade will be doing a ribbon cutting ceremony at the new training and readiness center at Arden Hills. It has been under development for the last 2.5 years. Connie Haddeland will be on site.
            *At the end of January, Major General Nash will be meeting with the Federal Congressional Delegation in DC to advance the annual report and priorities for 2016.  The three top priorities this year are sequestration/budget control act, force structure, and some language in the National Defense Act concerning conversion of technicians.
            *Still in sustainment mode with the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon networks. On January 22nd, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota will be proclaimed the 49th Yellow Ribbon company.
            *Holding key partner meetings in communities where Yellow Ribbon networks need more support. Eagan is holding one at Eagan City Hall on January 20th at 5:30 PM.
            *Approved to obtain three more Americorps Vista members.

Military Action Group (MAG) - Reporting by Jerry Kyser
            *Next meeting is January 25th at the State Office building at 10:00 AM. 
            *Made the process of certification much easier, so the question is, why aren’t more businesses getting certified?
            *Only 2% of businesses on the Vikings Stadium were veteran owned.
            *Moving to remove the tax on veterans’ pensions.
            *Want to extend tax credit on veteran owned businesses

3. Federal Agencies
VA Regional Office - Reporting by Ron Woolery
            *Things are going well.

VISN 23 - Janet Murphy - Director VISN 23 - Reporting by Jason Petti
            *Credential issues for doctors on the VA website. Data representation is slightly flawed.
            *Regional district for VISN 23 will be coming here to the Minnesota Network office, and their SCS will be placed in the Chicago office. Curtis Carey (sp?) will be stationed in Minnesota and Hughes Turner will be stationed in Chicago. This is part of the My VA Program.
            *Recruiting for a new Chief Medical Officer. Also recruiting for a new Pharmacy Benefits Manager and a Human Resources Officer.
            *Budget for 2015 was $2.7 billion. We are estimating $2.8 million for 2016.
            *In fiscal year 2015, we spent about $90.6 million in construction, which is non-reoccurring maintenance, and in Veterans Choice. For fiscal year 2016, we are looking at
$21.8 million for non-reoccurring maintenance, $32.1 million for Veterans Accountability and Choice, and $343,000 for legionella.
            *According to our Healthcare planning method, expect to see an 8% increase in priority group 1-6 in Minneapolis. Those are specific service connected types of disabilities.
            *We will see increases in the age groups 45-84, female populations from age 45 and up in Minneapolis over the next twenty years.
            *St. Cloud will see increases in the age group 65-84. Increase in female population from age 45-64.
            *VISN 23 was the number one network out of all VHA out of the entire country for 2015.

Q. What states are covered by VISN 23?
A. North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska. Also a small part of western Wisconsin.

MPLS VA HCS - Director Patrick J. Kelly - Reporting by Ralph Huessner
            *Largest renovation at the medical center since the opening in 1988 is underway. 26,000 square feet on the third floor rehab area. The first part should be completed in late spring.
            *Construction of the covered ramp to the medical center scheduled to start soon. We are redesigning access to the emergency department.
            *120 housing unit called Veterans East will begin construction soon. The final documents are currently being reviewed. Since it is being built on federal land, we were able to require the builder to allocate 50% of the rooms to veterans. It is subsidized, though not homeless, housing. It has third party finance, not government.
            *Minneapolis became a poly-trauma center in 2005. The VA has five poly-trauma centers. We have become one of the designated rehab centers. It has been acknowledged as a success.
            *It is difficult to compare access numbers since we can only compare between VA offices, and not outside trauma centers. The majority of veterans seeking primary care are seen within three days of calling at the Minneapolis VA. The national average is 6.8 days. Non-emergency mental health calls are seen within 0.96 days. The national average is 4.7 days. Specialty care calls are seen within 6.8 days. The VA national average is 10.5 days.
            *Next town hall will be March, in Shakopee. The June one will be held in Mankato. 
            *Deal with the media consciously and carefully.

St. Cloud VA HCS - Director Barry Bahl - Reporting by Barry Venable
            *Today will see 2,400 patient encounters at the St. Cloud VA. Over 1,000 of those will be direct face-to-face appointments. We provide excellent service in a timely manner.
            *Two chronic issues at the St. Cloud VA. One is recruiting a sufficient number of primary care providers. This is not unique to the VA. We have a total of 31 primary care providers currently at the St. Cloud VA. Recruiting is a continuous effort. Another problem is perceptions about physician workloads and other issues brought up by media reporting.
            *American Legion System Worth Saving Committee visited last month. Talked at length about media reporting.
            *New rehabilitation center was opened on December 17th. Physical therapy and speech therapy will be moved into the new space. The building is currently 2/3 filled.
            *A town hall will be held on January 20th at 5:00 PM at the auditorium on the St. Cloud VA campus.
            *The groundbreaking for the Burr building will be held on January 28th. An affordable housing community for veterans and other at-risk community members. A private developer is financing the project. They will operate that facility for the next 75 years.
            *Our highest demand departments are audiology and optometry.
            *A great deal of activities from veterans groups in our facilities over the holidays.

Q. What is the capacity of the new building?
A. 37 total units, 35 of which will be single occupancy. Two will be 2-bedroom units for families. They are wheelchair accessible.

Ft. Snelling Cemetery - John Knapp
            *No numbers for this month due to computer issues. There were 390 internments during the month of December.
            *Wreaths will remain on the gravesites until January 20th.
            *National Cemetery Administration has undertaken a pre-eligibility program. We now have the forms to do this as well, instead of waiting until the time of need.
            *We need volunteers for the Memorial Day Committee.
            *Looking to recruit new caretakers.

Q. Do you know if they are planning to put the pre-eligibility online?
A. I do not know right now. The NCA is very paper-oriented.

Q. Do you have a staff-person who does the engraving?
A. We have an on-sight contractor who does that.

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

4. Announcements
            *Please pay attention to the new motions put in place concerning gun control and mental health, as these are veteran issues.
            *A reminder that family member burial at state veteran cemeteries costs $750.

5. Meeting in Recess for five minutes

Next meeting February 3, 2016.