Meeting Minutes for November 2016

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Meeting Minutes - November 2, 2016

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

*We want Veterans Day on the Hill to be in January.
*In our legislative agenda; tax deduction for hiring unemployed disabled veterans, revisit the heavy state tax on poll tabs on clubs and posts, promote veteran-owned businesses, MN county administrators are squeezing the funding of County Veteran Service Officers and we need to advocate on behalf of the CVSOs.
*(Bob Smith): the state is providing matching funds for Destination Medical, for the Mayo Clinic. We need to ensure that veteran contractors have equity participation in the project.

1. State Agencies and MN Veteran Assistance Organizations

MN Dept. of Veteran Affairs - Ben Johnson

MN Veterans 2016 Legislative Info  
*Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day is on December 7th at the Cedar Street Armory at 10:00 AM.

MN Military Affairs - Major Scott Ingalsbe
*The city of Northfield has been proclaimed as a Yellow Ribbon community, as well as South East Technical College in Red Wing and Winona. This brings it up to a total of 219 cities, 26 counties, and 49 companies.
*We have approved the action plan for Ameriprise Financial and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Minnesota and will be proclaiming them Yellow Ribbon companies in the January/February timeline.
*Our American Legion grant has given us two Americorp Vista members that our helping in our sustainment mode of our Beyond The Yellow Ribbon program. They have been assigned Metro-area Yellow Ribbon networks to ensure that all available resources have been connected and utilized.
*Following the shootings in Chattanooga, there has been increased concern about the protection of service members at recruiting stations and armories. Steps have been taken to train and equip selected individuals at each of the armories who can, at short notice, be armed and able to respond to an emergency situation. This capability did not exist before. We are also looking at new physical security features, so that our buildings can still be open to the community but also protect our service members. Another step was to identify the Prevention of Violence in the Workplace policy, which prevents the carrying of concealed weapons. Previously this also included the storing of weapons in vehicles, which is no longer the case. The organization takes responsibility for the protection of staff and service members on the premise. We are also working closely with law enforcement in case an incident should occur.
*We are pleased that the NDAA was passed, though have identified one area of concern. There is a provision that requests we convert 20% of our dual-status military technician workforce - roughly 50% of our fulltime force - to Title Five general scale civil servants.  We believe there are some readiness and professional development issues with this. We are working on this.
*Steps are being taken to arm the guards at Camp Ripley and the Aviation Support Center.

MN Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV) - Bradley Legrid
*There will be a legal clinic held on December 8th at the St. Cloud VA from 10:00 to 3:00 PM and another on December 10th at the Anoka County Government Center from 9:00 to 3:00 PM.
*Stand Down dates and locations are currently being planned, as well as future legal clinics. More information will be forthcoming.
*Our open house will be held on November 4th from 12:00 to 4:00 PM.

Military Action Group (MAG) - Jerry Kyser
*The next MAG meeting will be held on November 14th. There will also be a meeting held on January 25th at 10:00 AM.
*MAG will be having a meeting with MNDot on November 10th to discuss some of the changes they made to the decision process of who is involved with the women/minority/veteran in the route of getting contracts.
*Only 1% of businesses involved with the Viking Stadium project are certified veteran-owned.

Armed Forces Center At Airport - John Kingry
*After 45 years, the number of individuals eligible to use the center has been expanded to include retirees, Medal of Honor recipients, and recipients of the Purple Heart.
*We have an increased need for volunteers.
*There are plans to move the center to the other side of the TSA sometime in the future. This will mean increased operational cost and number of volunteers.
*Please look at supporting the Loose Change Act, introduced by Congressman Miller. The act would distribute loose change left at the TSA, roughly $7,000 a year, to the USOs. We do need an amendment to include the armed forces center in the act. It appears to be dead for the session, but would appreciate your support moving forward.

Women Veterans Initiative - Jill Troutner
*The Veterans Voices event was too long and we are seeking critique in order to improve in the future.
*We will have a roundtable discussion on December 15th. We’ll send out an announcement..  

2. Federal Agencies

VA Regional Office - Kim Graves - Ron Woolery Reporting
*Our regional office had a visit by the Department of Veterans Affairs and we are pleased to report that it went well.
*We have done excellent work and our backlog is down. This time, instead of getting more work with the same amount of people, we are getting an increase of 85 people. Our new staff members will include "restricted access employees". Overall there are 100,000 fewer claims. 55% of our employees are veterans.
[A handout provided substantial details.]

VA HCS Mpls - Director Patrick J. Kelly - Ralph Heussnerr
*The YMCA is waving its joiners fee for veterans. There are other advantages as well.
*On Friday the 18th, Vikings players will be visiting the hospital.
*There will be a town hall meeting in Chippewa Falls. There are 18,000 Wisconsin veterans in our area and we care for 5,000 of them.
*There will be a job fair on November 16th at the VA medical center in Minneapolis. 30 employers will be attending.

VAMC St Cloud - Hintgen reporting:
*The Joint Commission accrediting visit to St Cloud was successful.
*A Veterans Day ceremony on our grounds.
*There was a question about physician’s assistants doing (primary care) medical exams. Regulations say this is acceptable.

Ft. Snelling Cemetery - Bob Razer
*There were 414 internments in October. That is approximately 87 internments ahead of our numbers from last year, partially because of good weather.
*The Wreaths Across America event will be taking place on December 12th at 11:00 AM out of Fort Snelling. Volunteers would be greatly appreciated. The wreaths will be on display until January 20th.

Vets Employment and Training Services [VETS] - David Seay
*Things have slowed down after the end of the fiscal year.
*As of November, the unemployment rate has dropped to 3.9% and the veteran unemployment rate has remained lower than the civilian rate for 23 consecutive weeks. It is also at its lowest point since April 2008.  

Q. Unemployed can mean a lot of things. How many of those numbers are students who are going back to college, making money but not working?
A. I do not know off the top of my head. It ought to be comparable to the non-veteran statistics.

3. Federal Congressional Representatives and Senators

Senator Amy Klobuchar-  
*There is a provision in the Transportation Bill, which is currently in committee between the House and the Senate, that classifies veterans in the same category as women and other minorities. This would then allow them to have preferential treatment for contracts. We do not know for certain that the provision will be included, but are cautiously optimistic.
*Bryan Burton, our previous expert in veterans’ affairs and issues, has been relocated to the DC office. We are currently looking for someone to fill his position in Minnesota.

Senator Al Franken- Alex Schueller
*Not present.

1st District Representative - Tim Walz - Shawn Schloesser
*Introducing Mark Krugman, director of Constituent Services. He is moving into the role of veteran constituents and veteran advocate for the office.
*We are encouraging people to support the Agent Orange Extension Act, even though the deadline has passed.
*We are also supporting the Veteran Status Bill honoring military retirees who served 20 years or more in the reserve component. Currently these individuals do not have the term "veteran" applied to them because they did not serve in active duty and we wish to change this. The bill passed the House and the Senate passed a differing version of it. The House and Senate will come together soon to collaborate on a final product.
*The VA has published its Consolidation Report, taking its seven programs of care in the community and consolidating them into a single program called Veterans Choice. We are in the process of reviewing the report.
*We are currently looking for more reform ideas. If you or your organization has any, contact us.
*Walz wishes to form a Veterans Choice working group. Previously there have been two meetings in Minnesota and one on the national level. That working group consisted of the Minneapolis VA, VISN 23, Healthnet, National County Veterans Services Association, and the Minnesota National Association of County Veteran Service Officers.
*We are looking at 25 Service Academy nominations this year.
*Walz visited Duluth for a joint meeting with Congressman Nolan.

2nd District Representative - John Kline - Chaz Johnson
*Kline received the Charles Dick Medal of Merit and was also graced with the Major Frank Tajeda Award from the Marine Corps Reserve.
*The president has signed the National Defense Reauthorization Bill. This includes provisions from the VA Billing Accountability Act, as well as the Tri-Care Prime legislation that Kline added.
*Interviews for service academy nominations will be held on November 5th. Currently there are 25 individuals being considered.
*Ryan Silverberg has moved on. Megan McKenna will be stepping up in his position.  

3rd District Representative -Erik Paulsen - Margaret Cavanaugh
*Paulsen's provision for the paid transport of military dogs was included in the past National Defense Authorization Act. Service members with military dogs overseas will now be able to bring them home.
*We had 31 interviews for service academy nominations and are currently down to 29.

4th District Representative - Betty McCollum - Connie Haddeland
*We are working on HR 16-94, which discusses including veterans in the US Department of Transportation's Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program. HR 3997 is an alternative piece of legislature dealing with this, which would create a separate program for veterans within the Department of Transportation.
*Academy nomination interviews will be held on November 4th.
*The Veteran Benefits Administration has served 203,251 veterans. These numbers include those seeking home loans.

5th District Representative - Keith Ellison - Mike Siebenaler
*Ellison recently became a co-sponsor of the Honoring Our Veterans' Families Act introduced by Congresswoman Mia Love from Utah. If passed, this law would prevent families of deceased veterans from having to pay back the benefits received during the month of their death.
*Ellison co-sponsored the Honoring Our WWII Merchant Mariners Act.
*Ellison, along with several other congress members, signed onto a letter to the Appropriations Chairs to provide for the Star Base program, a STEM program for children out at the 133rd Airlift Wing.
*On Veterans Day, Ellison went to the VA medical center and spoke for several Veterans Day events.
*Currently we have 10 candidates for Service Academy nominations. Interviews will be held on December 12th.

6th District Representation - Tom Emmer -- Abby Rime
*We are pleased to hear that the NDAA passed.
*Currently we have 22 service academy applicants.
*Emmer will be touring Star Base in January.
*Emmer spoke at St. Michael Albertville and St. Thomas Academy for Veterans Day.

7th District Representative - Collin Peterson - Meg Louwagie
*Peterson and staff are currently reviewing changes to the Veterans Choice program that just came out.
*Peterson is pleased to note that the VA has updated its Agent Orange ship list.
*The Fargo VA will be having a town-hall meeting on December 3rd in Bemidji.
*Interviews for service academy nominations will be held on November 5th. Currently we have 6 upcoming interviews.

8th District Representative - Rick Nolan- Rick Olseen
*We commend Congressman Walz's office for their work on the Veterans Choice program.

4. Announcements

5. Meeting in Recess for ten minutes

Next meeting will be Wednesday December 7, 2016, at 9:30 PM at Building 9 at the Minneapolis VA

Don Rask UVLC Treasurer’s Report as of 1 November 2016

Balance as of 1 September, 2016 $3,760.99

Deposits for September & October, 2016 $250.00

Expenses for September & October
Transcription   September & October $120.00

Balance as of November 1, 2016 $3,890.99

*Motion passed to nominate Ralph Donais for Chairman.
*Motion passed to nominate Dan for the Second Vice President Position.
*Motion passed to nominate Don Rask for Treasurer.
*The positions of Secretary and First Vice will be up for nomination at the next meeting. The elections will be in January.
*Veterans Day at the capital will be on March 16th. Spread the word.
*Motion passed that the UVLC lobby the state to include legislation mirrors federal regulation stating that immediate family members of veterans be allowed to be buried at state cemeteries at no cost.
*Issues concerning disabled veterans being granted day and season passes to state parks, as well as the connected federal regulations, will be discussed at the January meeting.  
*Women Veterans Initiative will be having an open house on November 17th at the Minnesota Humanities Center from 3:00 to 8:00 PM.