Meeting Minutes for January 2017

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Meeting Minutes - January 4, 2017

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

* Introducing Alex Karim, the new intern for Annette Kuyper at MN Military Affairs.
*Introducing Allison Alstrin, project manager with Project Got Your Back.
*Introducing Jim Dahlin with Paralyzed Veterans of America.
*Introducing Louise Canthero with Supportive Services for Veteran Families.

1. Federal Congressional Representatives and Senators

Senator Amy Klobuchar- 
*Not present.

Senator Al Franken- Alex Schueller
*Not present.

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

2nd District Representative - John Kline - Chaz Johnson

*Chaz was acknowledged for his nine years of service and presented with a plaque.

3rd District Representative -Erik Paulsen - Margaret Cavanaugh
*Not present.

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

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

6th District Representation - Tom Emmer -- Zack Freimark
*Looking at the Employee Accountability Act.
*Veteran's Choice is up for reconsideration.
*On the Sinai vets: no results yet.
*There will be a new chairperson of House Veterans Committee.
*The PDMRA is a national issue.

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

8th District Representative - Rick Nolan- Rick Olseen
*We're looking at the VA Choice program. The end of its 3rd year is this August.
*There is a growing list of facilities that no longer see veterans.
*For a medical bill already authorized it takes a year for the vendor to be paid.
*The Choice program has been screwed up from the start.
*We had a vets forum in Duluth with Congressman Walz.

2. State Agencies and MN Veteran Assistance Organizations

MN Dept. of Veteran Affairs - Ben Johnson
* Not Present

MN Military Affairs - Major Scott Ingalsbe - Annette Kuyper 
*Introducing Alex Karim, the new intern for Annette Kuyper at MN Military Affairs.
*There has been a change in command for the 34th Division of the National Guard Infantry. Brigadier General Jon Jensen will become a two star general.
*On January 28th, the 257th Military Police Department will be deploying to Guantanamo Bay.
*General Nash will be Minnesota’s Adjutant General for the final time.
*7500 of  Minnestota’s National Guard will be in Washington DC to support the presidential inauguration.
*The MN Beyond The Yellow Ribbon program has galvanized 98 communities into networks. There are currently 219 cities registered. There are two questions going forward. First, are the resources available to the people who need then and secondly, are there any gaps in the resources?
*With MACV, we have resources and volunteers, though the new Executive Director has not been named yet. A point of contact list for all networks has been made and 90% of them have been determined to be meeting all needs.
*There will be a Joint Community Forces conference on March 7th at Little Falls. It is free to attend.
*The Minnesota Wild hokey team has joined the Yellow Ribbon program.
*An employee mentor is used during drill weekends to spread information about available resources.

MN Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV) - Bradley Legrid
* Not present

Vets Employment & Training Service [VETS] - David Seay
*Not present.

Military Action Group (MAG) - Jerry Kyser
*The Executive Director for MACV has been selected.
*The next MAG meeting will be January 9th on the 5th floor.
*Senator Anderson is the new committee chairman. Jerry Newton is the raniking Democratic member. 
*On the legislative side, we want to get pension relief for 20 year veterans. Currently the state does not see enough money benefits to hiring a disabled veteran and we want to work to change that.
*It currently costs $750 for a non-veteran spouse to be buried at the state cemetery. We are looking to change this.
*The property tax relief for disabled veterans is now 8 years. We are working to make it permanent.
*The legislative director for Disabled American Vets is Trent Dilks.
*There is a bill by Bob Dettmer to offer eligibility for the benefit of the widow. This does not effect the state but it will impact county taxes.
*The Department of Transportation will not consider veterans as socially disadvantaged. We will need to work with them on getting a VA certification.

Women Veterans Initiative - Jill Trotner
*Not present.

3. Federal Agencies

VA Regional Office - Kim Graves - Ron Woolery
*There are currently 800 employees who deal with Restricted Access claims across the country. There are 20 positions for non-rated people.
*We are in the process of creating a Facebook page.

VISN 23 - Janet Murphy - Jason Petti
*The sales report indicated that St. Cloud and Minneapolis got a 5 star rating. This was acknowledged in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
*There is a P-3 Approval (Private Public Partnership) to build a new ambulatory surgery center.
*The call center will do comp and pension exams and help transitions to an outside contractor.
*The GAO reviewed six VA facility sites.
*Regarding female veteran privacy standards, 74% of VA outpatient facilities are in compliance.
*House File 6325 is the Nutrition and Food Service In VA Kitchens Issues. Though there are ongoing issues in other areas, our facilities do not have problems.

VA HCS Mpls - Director Patrick J. Kelly - Ralph Heussnerr
*There was an open house of the hybrid OR on January 3rd. It can be adjusted to perform 250 surgeries and includes scanners and imaging equipment in the actual operating room. Having this upgraded facility will hopefully attract more surgeons.  It cost $5 million in construction and $700 million in equipment. There are only three of these ORs in the state of Minnesota.
*We have become aware of a bacteria problem in a heater-cooler device that could lead to infections. KARE-11 covered the issue, though chose to omit several relevant background details.
*The Homeless Survey will be in January.
*There will be a veteran Town Hall meeting in the North St. Paul VFW on March 9th.

VAHCS St. Cloud VA Medical Center - Director Cheryl Thieschafer - Barry Venerable
*A new director has not yet been announced.
*There was a joint commission hospital task force in November.
*We received a notice of Full Accreditation and that we have a Culture of Improvement.
*There will be a National Salute February 5th through the 10th. 
*There will be a Town Hall meeting in Buffalo on February 5th at American Legion Post 270 at 304 10th AVE S.
*The copay in the pharmacy is changing. The Treasury department will now be collecting first party debt.

Q. Is that people not paying the bill?
A. Copays go by the funding format, there is a waiver process for those who are unable to financially challenge the pay.

Q. The VA attempts to collect?
A. Yes. Then it gets turned over to the Treasury.

Q. Asked by Tom Diamond. House File 2763 is in regards to Property Tax Exemption. If you are 100% disabled, you get a $300,000 Property Tax Exclusion or the value of your home. If you are 70% to 90% disabled, then you get $150,000 exclusion. We want the exclusion to be proportionate to your disability rating.

Ft. Snelling Cemetery - John Napp
*Not present.

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

4. Announcements
*Veterans Day on the Hill will be March 20th on the rotunda.
* Bob Smith: The president-elect has visited with Johns Hopkins and the Cleveland clinic. There is currently no issue with Mayo concerning try-care.

5. Meeting in Recess for ten minutes

Next meeting will be February 1, 2017.