Meeting Minutes for August 2017

Minutes Header

Meeting Minutes - August 2, 2017

  • 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 - Commissioner Larry Shellito - Ben Johnson Reporting

*Several initiatives that were passed last year went into effect on August 1st. We would like to highlight the one concerning veterans disclosure statements. This initiative would help veterans recognize that the VA and Veteran Service Officers offer help with receiving and filing benefits for free and veterans do not need to spend money working on this. This particular initiative ensures that for-profit veteran services will now be required to inform veterans that they can receive this service from the VA for no cost.

*August 7th is Purple Heart Day. There will be an event at the Minneapolis veterans home at 11 AM.

*August 29th is Military Appreciation Day at the State Fair. This is the seventh annual Military Appreciation Day. The theme this year will be the 100 year anniversary of the founding of the 34th Infantry Division. 

Q. What is the Minneapolis campus's take on medical cannabis?
A. The same that the federal VA has taken. It is a schedule one drug and more research is required. Our issue is that veterans’ homes are drug-free. The presence of cannabis, medical or otherwise, presents a challenge to the sobriety of veterans there who are dealing with chemical addiction. We will defer to the federal VA on this matter.

Q. What is going on with the bridge contract?
A. We are working with the Park Board to develop a timeline and other concerns moving forward. It should be completed in 2018.

MN Military Affairs - Major Scott Ingalsbe and Annette Kuyper Reporting

*We are keeping a close eye on the National Defense Authorization Act as it moves through the House and Senate. We are hearing good things so far, especially concerning the 12304 B Mobilization Authority, which involved getting TriCare for the 12304 B and their families and hopefully in the future will include getting them post 9/11 GI Benefits. We are waiting for the final version of the NDAA before releasing an official comment.

*General Jensen will be promoted on August 13th, where he will receive his second star.

*The National Guard Association is proud to announce Connie Haddeland as the 2017 recipient of the Patrick Henry Award.

*Military Appreciation Day at the State Fair will be held at Carousal Park by the Grandstand. There will be a full day of children's birthday party activities on the stage at Carousal Park.

*Two additional Yellow Ribbon Companies have been approved, Great River Energy in Maple Grove and Excel Energy. Minnesota West Community and Technical College has also been approved as a Yellow Ribbon Company.

*The city of Proctor, MN will be added as a Yellow Ribbon city on August 19th at 1 PM. They will be our 221st Yellow Ribbon city.

*September 12th is our first Joining Community Forces event at Albert Lee. November 2nd at Metro State. Please send representation or attend in person.

MN Assistance Council For Veterans (MACV) - John Lovald Reporting

*Introducing John Lovald, Senior Operations Manager.

*Our Metro Stand Down was incredibly successful and we thank all of our partners who contributed.

*August 15th is the Fargo legal clinic. August 24th in International Falls is a Stand Down. August 25th is the Duluth Stand Down. The Minneapolis legal clinic is on August 12th.

*Our offices have moved to 2700 Lake Street in Hiawatha.

Vets Employment & Training Services [VETS] - David Seay Reporting

*The national veteran unemployment rate has dropped to 3.7%, down from 4.2% in June 2017.

*The solicitation for the MN Assistance Council for Homeless Veterans Reintegration Act have closed and though we do not have any new grantees, we are still serving the MN population of homeless veterans.

*Concerning the Uniform Services Employment and Reemployment Act, we have had a downward trend in investigations but an uptick in technical assistance. Between our efforts and outreach, we believe we have been resolving cases in an informal basis.

*The Hire Vets Medallion Program will recognize employers who recruit, retain, and employ veterans, and who offer charitable services in support of the veteran community. This is a Department of Labor program. There will be two levels of awards, gold and platinum. More information will be forthcoming.

Military Action Group (MAG) - Jerry Kyser Reporting

*The next MAG meeting is August 14th at 10:00 on the fourth floor.

*Concerning the tax bill, we did not receive a tax deduction for companies hiring MN veterans. This will be a priority for the coming year.

*There will be two flyovers in conjunction with Military Appreciation Day at the State Fair at 10:30 AM. The Minnesota Vietnam Veterans Charity, along with the Department of Military Affairs, will host another flyover with 12-14 aircraft.

MN Paralyzed Veterans Of America - Todd Kemery Reporting

*With the current news concerning airlines, the MN Paralyzed Veterans Of America and other veterans' organizations have partnered to revisit the Air Care Access Act ( There needs to be more oversight and enforcement of laws.

*We thank Mike Rivard for his efforts in partnering MN PVA and Veterans City Farm on the Lake Hiawatha golf course program to turn the golf course into a veterans' farm.

NightWare- Patrick Skulzacek Reporting

*Tyler Skulzacek developed a watch app to help with sleeping and PTSD. The app uses a formula to predict heart-rate and other bodily movements, and vibrates whenever a wearer is having a night terror, thus waking them up.

Project Got Your Back - Allison Alstrin Reporting

*Nothing to report.

Women Veterans Initiative - Edna Mackenzie Reporting

*Nothing to report.

National Association of Atomic Veterans - Keith Kiefer

*Not present.

2. Federal Agencies

VA Regional Office - Kim Graves - Ron Woolery Reporting

*We continue to promote the Decision-Ready claims program as a means to expedite the claims process. Veterans contact VSRs, who help gather information, arrange exams, and submit claims information. The average response time for the Decision-Ready claims program is 7.9 days.

*The new accountability rules concerning Dependent Indemnity Claims are incredibly stringent. Some employees have not been working to their full potential and we have introduced measures to ensure that everyone works hard for the veterans. Such measures include the addition of keystroke loggers to work computers to ensure that the work is being done in a timely manner.

VISN 23 - Director - Janet Murphy - Andre Kok Reporting.

*We have a centralized Accountability office and we are seeing a focus on accountability on all aspects, both personal and leadership.

*There are five current priorities for the VA. One: greater choice. This is not meant to privatize the VA but to provide veterans more choices with where to receive their care. Two: modernize the systems. We are in the process of switching over to a new, more effective medical records system, but understand this will take time to implement. Three: suicide prevention. Four: efficiency. Five: improving timeliness.

*Please help spread the word about the Department of Defense (DoD) Self-Service Logon (or DS Logon) to help veterans and their caregivers access multiple resources from a single portal.

*There are upcoming town hall meetings on August 10th in Aberdeen, South Dakota, September 19th in Montevideo, Minnesota, and September 28th in Hibbing, Minnesota.

VAHCS Minneapolis - Director Patrick J. Kelly - Ralph Heussner Reporting

*The canopy connector between the ramp and the hospital opens on August 7th. This is later than expected and there will be some cosmetic work to be done, but it will be operational.

*There have been several requests to bring the Bob Hope statue back and we are looking for a place to put it.

*Veterans East will open in September. It will provide affordable housing to 100 individuals. By contract, 51% will be veterans. There will be a ribbon cutting ceremony at 10 AM on September 21st.

*We are building two new outpatient clinics on the fourth floor. Those units will be completed by the end of 2017.

*The Minneapolis VA has a Tele-ICU, started in 2011. It connects with hospitals in remote areas. Five Air Force hospitals will soon be attached to our Tele-ICU. This will increase the number of intensive care trauma doctors and nurses available to hospitals in rural areas.

St. Cloud VA HCS - Director Stephen D. Black - Dave Hintgren Reporting

*The ribbon cutting for our new food services building will take place in September.

*The senate passed the funding bill for the VA, which included funding for expanding the Choice program. Due to funding uncertainties, a lot of those programs were not going to be expanded past September. We are hopeful for a quick signature from the president so we can continue to provide care to veterans.

*We are including mandatory training in suicide awareness for all VA employees, not just the clinical workers.

Q. What is going on with the wind turbine?
A. We are nine months into a twelve-month feasibility study. We will decide whether to replace or tear it down by then.
Ft. Snelling Cemetery - Bob Razor

*Not present.

Vets Employment and Training Services [VETS] - David Seay

*Veterans official unemployment rate is down to 3.7% from 4.2%.

3. Federal Congressional Representatives

Senator Amy Klobuchar - Greg Swanholm

*Not present.

Senator Al Franken - Alex Schueller

*Not present.

1st District Representative - Tim Walz - Shawn Schoesser

*Not present.

2nd District Representative - Jason Lewis - Mathew Pagano

*Not present.

3rd District Representative - Erik Paulsen - Margret Cavanaugh Reporting

*Our Academy information night will be September 19th at the Oak Grove Middle School in Bloomington. Interviews for the 2018 entrance will be on December 2nd.

4th District Representative - Betty McCollum - Connie Haddeland Reporting

*We thank MACV for a very well organized Stand Down in Minneapolis.

*Regions hospital is now a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon company. As part of their Hero Care program, they identify veterans in the mental health clinic who are being served, to the point of bringing a veteran services officer into the hospital to help with whatever the veteran needs to resolve their issues. Since joining Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Program, they have added a feature where they ask every patient who comes in if they are a veteran, to better connect them to available services. We are very pleased with this progress.

*The House has passed an extension of Veterans Choice.

*The War Veterans help-line number is:1877-927-8387, staffed entirely by combat veterans for combat veterans and their families. The care is free. Please spread the word.

5th District Representative - Keith Ellison - Mike Siebenaler

*Not present.

6th District Representative - Tom Emmer - Abby Rime

*Not present.
7th District Representative - Collin Peterson - Meg Louwagie

*Not present.

8th District Representative - Rick Nolan - Rick Olseen Reporting

*We are hoping that these proposed changes to the Choice program do come into effect, as we are having problems retaining providers with the current system.

*The entire House Veteran Affairs Committee will be coming to Duluth on August 10th at the Duluth Law Enforcement Center. There will be a focus on rural healthcare.

*Nolan has gotten some amendments on the Defense Appropriations bill, including recognizing America's iron ore and steel industry as a national asset, and adding $2 billion to cancer research. There will also be a 2.4% increase in military pay. TARDEC (Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center) has received $6 million in funding to develop unmanned combat vehicles.

4. Announcements

5. Meeting in Recess for five minutes

Next meeting September 6, 2017.

Treasurer’s Report as of 1 August 2017

Balance as of 1 July 2017                                                       $4,111.45

Deposits for July 2017                                                            $0.00

Expenses for April 2017
            Transcription Expense             ($120.00)


Balance as of 1 August, 2017                                                 $3991.45

Submitted by Donald Rask, Treasurer UVLC

An AF veterans post lost $8,000 due to a failure to understand current tax exemptions. This should not happen again.