Meeting Minutes for June 2016

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Meeting Minutes - June 1, 2016

UVLC Minutes - Wednesday June 1, 2016

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

1. Federal Agencies
VA Regional Office - Ron Woolery
            *Focused on working on claims.
            *All 56 offices are in the National Work Queue. So far the system has been working efficiently.
            *The St. Paul office processes the majority of MN claims. We have the capacity to do so.
            *The Veterans Experience Office has stood up in Eagan. The Veterans Relationship manager will be Rick Dumancas.  
Q. Is there a relationship between the Veterans Experience Office and the patient advocates?
A. Yes. The Veterans Experience Office is new and developing as it goes. However, its focus is to fill gaps and needs that are not currently being met in MN. Their job is to be out in the community, talking to veterans and listening to their concerns, and what these veterans are actually experiencing.

VISN 23 - Janet Murphy, Director VISN 23 - Andre Kok
            *The Veterans Experience Office is a regional function of the VA central office that is physically located in the same space that VISN is.  The Veterans Experience Office is not a function of the VISN.
            *Director Janet Murphy will be returning to the Eagan office during the week of June 8th after having served as the Deputy Under-Secretary for Health and Operations Management. The new acting Deputy Under-Secretary for Health and Operations Management will be Steve Young.
            *Dr. Shulkin, the US Under-Secretary for Health, came on May 15th and 16th for a short visit. He spoke at the American Telemedicine Association and spoke about how the VA is partnering with industry in order to reach veterans, especially those in rural areas, who might benefit from telemedicine.
            *The St. Cloud and Minneapolis VA healthcare systems have both received 25 Environmental Excellence awards recently. These awards recognize hospitals that have high standards regarding environmental practice.
            *Upcoming events are as follows:  
                        June 15th - Veterans Town Hall in Galesburg, IL
                        June 20th - Veterans Town Hall at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center, MN
                        June 21st - Veterans Town Hall in Sioux Falls at the DAV chapter
                        June 29th - Veterans Town Hall at the Central Iowa Health Care System

MPLS VA HCS - Director Mike Rosecrans
            *We graduated 19 students from the Minnesota Nursing Program  (VA NAP) on May 13th in partnership with the University of Minnesota. This is the second year of the model program. Of those 19 students, 12 have applied to come work at the Minneapolis VA.
            *The Minneapolis VA is among the top 25 medical facilities being recognized for Environmental Excellence. Achievements include decreased overall energy intensity by 28% since 2003, achieved 19% renewable electricity use, increased use of alternative fuels by 67.9%, reduced potable water use by 280% since 2007, and collected more than 6,300 pounds of electronics during Earth Day in 2015.
            *Sgt. Zachary News was the recipient of the Waco Office of Security and Law Enforcement Lead Officer of the Year for a Large Facility Award. He was recognized at the 2016 National VA Chief of Police symposium in May.
            *A donor's ceremony was held on May 18th. Thanks to Soldier Strong and the Fraternal Order of the Eagles, we have received a second Echo Skeleton bionic vest that helps patients learn to walk again. The donors raised $180,000 to purchase the system.
            *There will be a Veterans Town Hall at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center, MN on June 20th.
Q. What is the status of Building 10?
A. I do not know but I will find out.

VAHCS St Cloud VA Medical Center - Report by Patricia Aljets
            *The new Acting Director will be Cheryl L. Thieschafer. She has been the Associate Director since 2012.
            *There is a great deal of construction being done on the facility. Everything should be wrapped up by August.
            *Our canteen service is being remodeled. On June 13th, the front entrance to the canteen will be closed off for renovations.
            *June 24th is our Former Prisoner of War program. Invitations will be going out shortly.

Ft. Snelling Cemetery - Director - John Knapp
            *June 11th at 9:00 AM will be the cleanup for the cemetery after the Memorial Day events.
            *June 1st at 3:30 PM the Flags for Ft. Snelling nonprofit will be helping to clean up the flags from the cemetery.
            *2,000 flowers were donated by a local florist for Memorial Day.
            *The Ft. Snelling National Cemetery was recently named by the Department of the Interior as being on the registry of national historic place.
            *There were 499 internments in the month of May and are scheduled to do about 600 in June. We are at a 64% cremation rate. To date, we have done 3,237 ceremonies. Total internment at this moment is 21,937.
            *Starting on June 6th, there will be several sections undergoing renovations as part of the Millennium Projects.

Vets Employment and Training Services [VETS] - David Seay
            *Nothing new to report.

2. Federal Congressional Representatives and Senators

Senator Amy Klobuchar- Tim Cossalter
*Not present.

Senator Al Franken- Alex Schueller
            *The Atomic Veterans Parity Act of 2016 was stricken from the Veterans and Mil-Con Appropriations Bill. We are currently working to add that as an amendment.
            *Franken has signed onto Senator Klobuchar's Burn Pit amendment.
            *The fix for the 12-3-04 Bravo with Senator Klobuchar was introduced, and we are working to make sure it will be added to the NDAA.

 1st District Representative - Tim Walz -Shawn Schloesser
            *Congressman Walz spent the day prior to Memorial Day at the SE Veterans Cemetery in Preston, MN. About 1,500 people were in attendance.
            *Walz spent Memorial Day in southern Minnesota, visiting with constituents in Madelia, MN. He also dedicated a veterans memorial on Heron Lake.
            *On May 31, Walz was in Tomah, Wisconsin for a field hearing with the senate, homeland security, and government affairs. The hearing concerned the quality and culture of care at the VA.
            *Walz has been in the news lately for the Blue Water Navy Veteran piece, ensuring that the VA changes how they clarify for the presumptions, including territorial waters.
            *During the week of May 30th, Walz attending a POW/MIA plenum meeting. This was the most productive meeting they have had in the last 12 years. The Russians sent in a delegation to meet with the US group. More outreach and information on the meeting will be forthcoming.

2nd District Representative - John Kline - Chaz Johnson
            *We are still waiting to hear about the NDAA. The tri-care and troop flexibility language is still in the bill.
            *As of May 31st, 9 of the 23 Service Academy nominees have received appointments.

3rd District Representative - Erik Paulsen - Margaret Cavanaugh
            *We received one last-minute appointment of our Service Academy nominees to the Air Force Academy, but we did lose one at the Naval Academy who could not get a medical waiver. This leaves us with 4 to the Air Force Academy, 4 to the Naval Academy, 4 to West Point, and 1 to the Merchant Marines.
            *Our office made two nominations to Veterans Voices, one for Col. Don Patton (retired) and one for Col. Tom Howgo (retired).

4th District Representative - Betty McCollum - Connie Haddeland
            *We had our quarterly breakfast with the National Guard on June 1st.
            *We have 14 Service Academy nominees who received appointments. The breakdown is 8 for the Air Force Academy, including 3 women, 2 to the Naval Academy, and 4 to West Point.
            *The Women Air Force Service Pilot Arlington in Inurement Restoration Act was passed.

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

6th District Representation - Tom Emmer - Andrew Matthews
            *Emmer spoke at the Sartell Veterans Park for Memorial Day.

7th District Representative - Collin Peterson - Meg Louwagie
            *Concerning Service Academy nominations, we lost one to the Naval Academy who was unable to get a medical waiver. However, we do have 2 attending the Air Force, 1 going to West Point, and 2 to the Naval Academy. 
8th District Representative - Rick Nolan- Rick Olseen
            *The body of Private John Sersha, who served in WWII, was exhumed and returned to the US. He was killed 72 years ago in the Netherlands. The congressman attended Private Sersha's funeral in Virginia.

3. State Agencies and MN Veteran Assistance Organizations
MN Dept. of Admin Assistance Commissioner - Alice Roberts-Davis
            *Not present.

MN Department of Veterans Affairs 2015 Legislative Info - Ben Johnson
            *The Supplemental Budget Bill, which includes veterans' provisions-a notable one being the Exception From Military Compensation and Pay-, was passed. HF 2505 was also included.
            *The governor is still considering the Supplemental Budget Bill. Included in the bill were changes to Veterans Preference - a reduction from 60 down to 30 days that a veteran has to make a claim under Veterans Preference -, as well as the elimination of the 3-person panel in the places where there is not a civil service board available. These two changes were made to streamline the entire process and make it easier and more cost-efficient for veterans and employers. There has also been a change in the probationary period for state employees. Previously, an employee was not able to invoke Veterans Preference during the probationary period. However, state employees did not have probationary periods. The change has been made so the process is equal across the board. The most important thing included in the bill is language defining who pays for the cost. This is in place to avoid costing veterans money in attorney fees if they wish to invoke Veterans Preference. We feel this is giving veterans a better chance to be employed by the government or state employees. There were some allocations made to study unmet mental health issues in Greater Minnesota, as well as to explore the feasibility of partnering with non-profits to provide interim housing for disabled veterans. MN Veteran businesses are to be included in the Minnesota Emerging Entrepreneurs Board. There is language that allows greater ease in giving state procurement contracts of $25,000 or less to veteran or minority-owned small businesses. The Homestead Market Value Exclusion has been included, with a provision to take away the time limit. All of this is contingent on the governor signing the bill.
            *The Medal of Honor committee is coming to MN in October. There is an opportunity for the inclusion of a Medal of Honor memorial on the capital grounds. There is currently an RPF out for a design.

MN Military Affairs - LTC Joe Sharkey - Annette Kuyper - Scott Ingalsbe
            *The 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team will be doing a training rotation to the National Training Center in California. This event encompasses 5,000 soldiers from 15 different states, all enabling and supporting the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team.
            *The division headquarters will be going to Estonia for an exercise called Save Or Strike. It is one of several major exercises happening this summer in Eastern Europe.
            *The Norwegian Exchange will be the 43rd iteration of our bilateral exchange with Norway. 100 Norwegian home guard and youth come to Camp Ripley and train for two weeks. 100 of our guardsmen go to train with the Norwegians and do a home stay, in addition to training.
            *Our state partner through the National Guard is Croatia and we will be doing an event with them later this summer. There will be a forthcoming announcement.
            *On or around Saturday July 9th, there will be deployment ceremonies for the Second Battalion 135th Infantry who are leaving for Egypt.
            *We have proclaimed our 50th Yellow Ribbon Company, Minnesota Power in Duluth. We have recently approved the action plan for UPS in Minneapolis, and they will be our 51st Yellow Ribbon Company.
            *The Department of Defense has established a new program in the National Guard Bureau called Building Healthy Military Communities. They are asking other states to follow Minnesota's lead. They have allocated resources to 6 states so far. It will be funded for 3 years.
            *We will be hiring two Americorp Vista members to start with us in August.
            *The Department of Military Affairs will be taking on 4 summer interns through Right Track of St. Paul and Step Up Achieve through Minneapolis.

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

Vets Employment & Training Service [VETS] - David Seay
*Present but no report

Military Action Group (MAG) - Jerry Kyser
            *The last meeting we had with the Equity Program of the Sports Facilities Authority got into the details of the new stadium. Unfortunately we did not get into the front end of the deal, so the veteran community was not involved with the design. Minorities had a goal of 9%, and ended up with 12%. Women had a goal of 11% and ended up with 16%. Veterans were at 0% because we were not included in the process. We asked for 10%.
            *The next MAG meeting will be on June 28th, where we will hopefully have concrete answers to all these problems.
            *Vets Fest will be held on July 2nd. It is a musical program with bluegrass and jazz for disabled veterans throughout the area. It will be held at Oakdale Park.  

Women Veterans Initiative - Jill Troutner

            *Veteran Voices nominations deadline is midnight on June 3rd.
            *11 veterans and 1 civilian were selected to do the MOTH training through the Veteran Voices program.
            *The Echoes of War deadline is June 1st.
            *August 2nd and 3rd is the Stand Down for MACV in St. Cloud.
            *The Women's Salute Event will be held at 8 a.m.–4 p.m., Saturday, June 18 at Metropolitan State, Saint Paul Campus. WVI will be presenting the award to the Women Veteran of the Year. A press release will be forthcoming.
            *WVI did a visit to the VA Pain Clinic and received more information about what goes on there. More information will be available on the WVI website.
            *Only 15% of the population is physically eligible to serve in the military. The drop out rate at service academies and in military training is primarily due to lack of physical fitness. A major issue.

Paralyzed American Vets - Todd Kemery
            *We are hoping the governor will enact a Special Session so we can continue to advocate for our interests.
            *Our legislative director, Stephen Fell, is stepping away from that role for a while. Any questions or concerns should be directed towards Todd Kemery or the Paralyzed American Veterans website.
4. Announcements
5. Meeting in Recess for five minutes


UVLC Treasurer’s Report as of 1 June, 2016

Balance as of 1 May, 2016                                         $3,985.99
Deposits for May, 2016                                             $200
Expenses for May
            Transcription                                                  $135
                                                                                    $4,050.99
Balance as of                                      

Dues Collected                                                            $1,500
Budget                                                                         $2,400            

Submitted by Donald Rask, Treasurer UVLC
Next Meeting will be August 3rd, 2016 at the St. Cloud VA.  We will provide a map.