Meeting Minutes for March 2016

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Meeting Minutes - May 4, 2016

  • Call to order - 9:30, Invocation - Pledge of Allegiance

    Greetings: Recognition of visitors and guests

    Announcements - Ralph Donais, Chairman - Jerry Kyser, Vice Chairman.

    • State Agencies and MN Veteran Assistance Organizations

    MN Dept. of Veteran Affairs - Ben Johnson
    *House File 8-48 is the Omnibus Tax Bill. In the senate, there have been some changes to Senate File 294, including the tax exemptions for veterans and the homestead market value exclusion. Senate File 294 is the one that should be referenced when speaking with your representative or senator. A conference committee has been announced. Representative Davids has stated that this is one of his top five priorities.
    *The Senate Finance Committee is talking about the Bonding Bill. The MN Department of Veteran Affairs has a few items on that. The total appropriation for veteran affairs is currently higher than what the governor recommended, because it includes an additional $10 million for the construction of new veterans’ homes. We requested $5 million in asset preservation for the veterans’ homes that currently exist and $7.85 million for the repairs and refurbishments of the Truss Bridge at the Minneapolis home. The Bonding Bill in the senate is currently $1.5 billion. The governor’s recommendations included $1.4 billion. The House has not released their information yet, only to say that their target is around $600 million.
    *Commentary from House leadership has indicated that they are willing to not have a bonding bill, despite 2016 being a bonding year, if they cannot get taxes and transportation taken care of.
    *There will be a Preston Dedication Ceremony on May 29th and a flyover at 2:00 PM.
    MN Veterans 2015 Legislative Info -Mike McElhiney
    *Not present.
    MN Military Affairs - LTC Joe Sharkey - Don Kerr - Annette Kuyper
    *May 5th will be the end of the 6th Joining Forces Conference in Proctor, MN.

    *On May 10th, Minnesota Power will be proclaimed as the 50th Yellow Ribbon Company. North Hennepin Technical College will be the 55st Yellow Ribbon Company.

    *Six states, including Minnesota, have been approved by the Department of Defense to have a state Joining Forces coordinator. This person will help the states with synchronization efforts.  So far it is a two-year position with potential of extension.

    *The 1st Brigade Armored Combat Team out of Bloomington, MN, will be moving a large amount of equipment and personnel over to Fort Erwin, California. They will be participating in a 30-day exercise at the national training center. This is a validation exercise for that organization. More information will be forthcoming.

    *Approximately 300 soldiers will be preparing for deployment to Sinai, Egypt in support of Multinational Forces Observers. They will be stationed throughout Egypt and conducing peacekeeping operations there.
    *Airmen are currently deployed to South Korea at Osan Air Field. They are scheduled to return later this summer.
    *The National Guard Association of Minnesota received a Call to Action for any retirees present. There is a House File 848 at the state level, the omnibus tax bill, and there has been a subtraction for military retirement pay.
    *Joe Sharkey will be traveling to Washington, D.C., with General Best and General Claiborne in the next two weeks to get an update from the Congressional Delegation on the National Defense Authorization Act. It already passed the House Armed Services Committee.
    MN Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV)- Ben Wilson
    *Upcoming Stand Down in Rochester, MN on May 24th from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM at Graham Arena.
    *There will be a legal clinic on May 10th on the second floor of the Flag Atrium at the VA Medical Center.
    Q. What is the situation on the living conditions on the upper post for the veterans?
    A. In terms of?
    Q. Relating to the article that was in the paper.
    A. I am unaware of that. I will speak with Nathaniel for more information.
    Q. Now that Kathy Vitalis has left, could you tell us about the board’s process for finding someone new, hopefully from Minnesota? We would also like to know why the board has chosen not to let the rest of us know what is going on.
    A. I am not sure what their process is for being closed off. They have hired a third-party recruiting company to look for the new CEO of MACV. They are actively recruiting right now. I will speak with Nathaniel about the board’s procedures and get back to you on that.
    Vets Employment & Training Service [VETS] - David Seay
    *Not present.
    Military Action Group (MAG) - Jerry Kyser
    *The next MAG meeting will be May 9th at 9:00 AM at 500 North.
    *House File 848 was in the Omnibus Bill, which was passed and supported by the House, is in peril because of the attitude of the DFL and Senator Saxhaug of the Military Affairs Committee. We are asking that all the organizations present speak out in favor of this bill. Saxhaug’s phone number is 651-296-4136. The cost of the Second Career Military Tax Reduction for pensions is about $24 million.
    *There will be a press conference on May 28th with Governor Dayton concerning a disparage study conducted with the Committee for Contacts and Equity Programs, alongside the NAACP. There has been a study on the number of minority, women, and veteran- owned businesses in the state of MN.
    *As of January 1st, 2015, the number of targeted businesses that have become certified has gone up 25%. In this case, targeted businesses means women, minority, and veteran-owned. 98 veteran-owned businesses have been certified with the VA and are working on getting the state certification. The office of Equity and Procurement is trying to ensure that this study will have a greater impact on the next legislative session. 
    Q. If you are looking at legislation that’s being considered, I think you should look at House File 2992. The focus of the MN DFL party has been to focus the help on those with the greatest need among the veteran population – those who are disabled and have lower income. The current program only helps a small subset of this group. House File 848 would focus additional help but on a very small subset on the higher income, retired veterans. Ideally we would provide benefits across the board to everyone but since there are limited resources, our focus has been on trying to expand benefits for those with lower incomes and disabilities. We want to do two things: expand the current disability to $750 credit for all disabled veterans, and increase the cap of eligibility for both the retired and the disabled veterans program, bring it up to $50,000. Another concern that has been raised about 848 is that while either program leaves many veterans with no benefit at all, 25-05 provides benefit to about four times as many as 848 does. It has a broader range and would serve many more veterans. However, one concern we have about it is that it provides additional benefit to non-veterans, as spouses of retirees would get the same benefits. We are concerned that benefits are being provided to a non-veteran, while the vast majority of veterans are receiving no benefits at all. We would appreciate it very much if you would take a closer look at these programs. We believe those with the greatest need should be served first.
    Q. What are the file numbers when we call these people?
    A. House File 848.
    MN Paralyzed Veterans of America - Stephen Thell
    *The MN PVA attended a Commander’s Taskforce in April and were voted onto the Commander’s Taskforce.
    * The MN PVA is getting involved with the new soccer stadium, specifically the Minnesota United Soccer Stadium Accessibility Advisory Committee.
    * The MN PVA is also connected with the revisions being planned for the Target stadium. 

    Women Veterans Initiative - Jill Troutner

    *WVI has wrapped their nominations for the Women Veteran of the Year award. A press release will be forthcoming in about a month. The Salute event will be on June 18th.
    * WVI has arranged for a visit for some of our more active volunteers to visit the 4th flour of the VA on May 24th in order to learn more about the pain clinic.
    *We are working on a summit event that would be cosponsored with the Minnesota Humanities Center. More information will be forthcoming.
    *The Veteran Voices Award nominations are still open.
    *The MOTH event has been wrapped up. The MN Humanities Center received about 25 applications and will choose up to 12.
    *The MN Humanities Center has received a grant to fund the Echoes of War project. It is an education/literature program that will teach participants how to go out into the community and talk about the history of war.
    2. Federal Agencies
    VA Regional Office - Kim Graves
    *Continuing to work on the National Work Queue. Full implementation of the National Work Queue will take place over the next few weeks. St. Paul was one of the first stations to go online.
    *The VA Regional Office hosted a national conference of our Change Management Offices during the week of May 1st for additional training and discussion of their role in the implementation of the My VA Transition, as well as helping to implement the Secretary’s 12 Breakthrough Priorities. Beth McCoy, Undersecretary for the Veterans Benefits Administration, was present.
    *The week of May 4th is Public Service Recognition Week. We would like to acknowledge all the good work our employees do.
    VISN 23 - Andre Cook
    *Mr. Kelly continues to serve as the Acting Network Director and will likely do so into the summer.
    *Janet Murphy is anticipated to return as the Network Director sometime in the summer.
    *A new Pharmacy Benefits Manager has been hired and a selection has been made for the new Human Resources Officer.
    *The VA Voluntary Services is celebrating their 70th Anniversary this year.
    *There is a 2-K Walk and Roll event happening on May 18th. This is a nationwide VA event that will allow veterans, VA employees, and community members to get out, support an active lifestyle, and raise money for homeless veterans.
    *On May 17th, there will be a Veterans Town Hall in Alexandria, MN. There will be another town hall on June 20th in the Minneapolis VA.
    VAHCS Mpls - Director Patrick J. Kelly - Ralph Houston
    *Kurt Thielen, the Associate Director for Operations, is currently the Acting Director for the Health Care Medical System.
    *We helped over 100,000 unique veterans in 2015. At the end of 2015, there are 6,700 female veterans. Female veterans make up 6% of patients and that number is increasing. The number of our staff who are veterans topped a thousand in 2015, with a total staff of around 3,400.
    *VA Research Day will be held on May 23rd, celebrating the 70th year of research collaboration with the University of Minnesota.
    *The Veterans Job Fair will be held on June 1st on the second floor Flag Atrium. 20 employers will be there ready to give interviews and hire.
    *Mohs Surgery, a skin cancer technique, is now available to be performed on-site.
    *We have also started bariatric surgery, with two bariatric surgeons on staff.
    *We are now supplied to provide Hepatitis C treatment.
    *We are using Jabber to reach veterans who are on college campuses and need counseling, rather than having them come directly to the VA. The VA sets up the scheduling and the software.   
    VAHCS St Cloud VA Medical Center - Director Barry Bahl 
    *St. Cloud is in good shape. We are ranked #1 in the nation for quality, #2 for SAIL reports, and #3 for efficiency. There is also a robust construction program. We will see around 39,000 veterans this year. There will be an increase to the long-term nursing homes. We are in the top 25 in the nation for environmental care.
    *Barry Bahl and Kim Graves have been in the news a lot lately. We have noticed a lack of support from the veterans’ organizations. If you want the VA to continue providing veterans benefits, you need to support us.
    *In gratitude for his 40+ years of service and contributions to the organization, the UVLC presents Barry Bahl a certificate to recognize his accomplishments.
    Ft Snelling Cemetery - Director - John Knapp
    *For the month of April, there were 157 internments. About 2/3rds of those were cremations.
    *Memorial Day events begin at 10:00 AM. The keynote speaker is Brigadier-General Kelly (RET).
    *Turf renovation is ongoing.
    *There were 231 rifle salutes for the month of April. 114 for the Army, 60 for the Navy, 2 for the Air Force, 23 Marines, one for the Coast Guard, and one Merchant Marine. To date, there have been 1,271.
    St. Paul Regions - Alan Ruvelson
    *Representing the Lee and Penny Anderson Hero Care program of Regions Hospital, and introducing Christine Dawson.
    *Hero Care was first started two years ago. It has grown immensely since then. In the first year, the goal was to see and treat 60 veterans. Six months into the program, we had already seen over 100. As of today, May 4th, we have 52 veterans currently in the hospital. As of 2015, we saw 476 veterans. Our job is to meet with veterans, see that their needs are being met, and determine whether or not they are enrolled in any of the available veteran services. We have also established good working relationships with our community partners and are in the process of refining our own practices in order to reach more veterans who may be slipping under the radar. Our primary funder is the API group.
    *We have received the ESGR Seven Seals Award and were then recognized in an award by the Minnesota Hospital Association.

    • Federal Congressional Representatives and Senators

    Senator Amy Klobuchar- Tim Cossalter
    *Not present.
    Senator Al Franken- Alex Schueller
    *Not present.
    2nd District Representative - John Kline - Chaz Johnson
    *The Service Academy Information Night was held on April 25th.
    *The NDAA will be hitting the floor of the House in mid-May. Congressman Kline’s language for troop flexibility will be in that bill.
    *The Military, Law Enforcement, and Medical Provider Appreciation event was held on May 3rd, in connection with the upcoming Medal of Honor convention.
    3rd District Representative - Erik Paulsen - Margaret Cavanaugh
    *Reception for Service Academy appointees will be on June 6th. This year we have had thirteen offers of appointment and one offer to the Naval Academy Prep School.
    *We are asking for your assistance in finding outstanding veterans from the Third District who we could nominate for the 2016 Veterans Voices Award.
    4th District Representative - Betty McCollum - Connie Haddeland
    *Concerning the NDAA, McCollum serves on House Appropriations and the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee which will begin their hearings shortly.
    *HR 27-47, the Atomic Veterans Service Medal Act, which directs the Secretary of Defense to sign and produce an Atomic Veterans Service Medal to honor retired and former members of the Air Force who are radiation-exposed veterans. This medal can be awarded to the family of a deceased veteran.
    *The Health Care Parody Act would expand certain medical benefits to veterans based on their service.
    *A select committee on POW and MIA Affairs has been established.
    *An Academy Recognition Event will be taking place on May 5th.
    5th District Representative - Keith Ellison - Mike Siebenaler
    *Ellison and staff will be at the VA hospital on May 6th to meet with the prosthetics department.
    *There is currently a letter circulating asking the VA to use Federal Trade Commission resources to vet schools they use the GI Bill at.
    *Ellison is co-sponsor of the resolution that Paulson introduced to recognize the 75th Anniversary of the Coast Guard Auxiliary in Minnesota.
    *Ellison will be going to Fridley, MN on May 9th to have an open house forum with seniors. It will be held at the Fridley Community Center at 4:00 PM.
    *Ellison appointed two people to the Naval Academy in the last month.
    *Introducing Brianna Marticorena.
    *The NDAA is expected to reach the floor the week of May 16th. Amendments will be due May 11th. 
    6th District Representation - Tom Emmer -Andrew Matthews
    *Not present.
    7th District Representative - Collin Peterson - Jodi Dey
    *Not present.
    8th District Representative - Rick Nolan- Rick Olseen
    *Not present.
    1st District Representative - Tim Walz -Shawn Schloesser
    *Not present.
    4. Announcements
               We are also on Twitter

    5. Meeting in Recess for five minutes


    UVLC Treasurer’s Report as of 4 May, 2016

    Balance as of 1 April, 2016                                        $4,05.99

    Deposits for April, 2016                                             $100

    Expenses for April
                Transcription                                                   $120
    Balance as of May 1, 2016                                         $3,985.99


    Dues Collected                                                           $1200
    Budget                                                                        $2250


    Submitted by Donald Rask, Treasurer UVLC

    Next Meeting 9:30 AM - Wednesday 1 June, 2016