Meeting Minutes for June 2017

Minutes Header

Meeting Minutes - June 7, 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 Michael lacsamana with MACV
  • Introducing Danelle Bybee and Lynn Brannon with Building Healthy Military
  • Introducing Doctor Alvaro Sanchez.
  • Introducing Luiz Campero with the American Legion.

1. Federal Agencies

VA Regional Office - Kim Graves Reporting:

*We have been asked to bring on additional staff to help process claims for MN veterans
and veterans across the nation. Thus far, all the new staff are coming into our veteran
service center and restricted access area. Our allowable ceiling has grown to 895 FTE.
We are hoping to hit 900. This does make us the 4th largest office in the VA system. We
have brought on 142 new employees since October 1st.

*Concerning claims processing on the compensation side, we have done just short of
53,000 rating claims since October. This only includes ratings, not the other types of

*For rating claims with a MN address, our average days to complete is 109 days. The
national average is 123 days.

*The pending work for veterans with MN addresses is 85.5 days. The national average is
98 days.

*We are the sole processing center in the nation for the c123 claims. We continue to get
those cases. We have done over 700 decisions since August 2015.

*We are Phase 1 of a new program in VBA called the Decision-Ready Claims Program.
It only works through a VSO or CVSO. The veteran works with the service
representative to file the claim but also to request medical information to include a
medical exam for the condition being claimed. When that comes in, they file the claim
and our commitment is to resolve those within 30 days. Right now we are only doing
claims for increase. We have only been implementing these in the past 30 days. We have
completed about 10 cases. Our average time from submission to completion is less than 5
days There are plans to roll this out in Waco, Texas in June.

*We had a Veterans Town Hall a few months ago in North St. Paul where a veteran
raised a question of how do I, as a veteran, get in touch with the office? The phone
number used to go to a call center. There is now a direct email link on the website, so
veterans have the opportunity to contact us directly.

Q. Are you and the Department of Defense able to interact?
A. We do have access when a service member separates and becomes a veteran. Their
records are sent to us. We also have connections to the DOD's electronic system.

VISN 23 - Director - Janet Murphy - Jason Petti Reporting;

*The hiring freeze is still impacting the VA. Though it is not impacting direct patient
care, it is impacting some of the services we contract.

*We are shifting to the same electronic platform that the DOD uses. The change should
take a year to a year in a half to finalize.

*We have two pilot sites where we will be doing everything from.

*The new Office of Inspector General visits are taking place. The focus has shifted to
look at leadership, to make sure the leadership teams are accountable to the medical staff
and tax payers, as well as to the needs of the veterans. We are still focusing on primary
care, access to care, and mental health.

*Access to care also includes suicide prevention. This is a strong priority for us. We are
aiming for zero suicides. We need to focus on veterans who were discharged with an
other than honorable discharge. We suspect that veterans with TBI are more likely to
have an other than honorable discharge and have trouble accessing the care they need
after leaving the military. This is a population that we are currently not reaching. We
need to rework the concept of eligibility.

*VISN 23 is the top performing network across the country. We have two areas in the
yellow that we are working on: mortality and avoidable adverse events.

*Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sanchez reporting: Suicide prevention is my number one

Q. Is it a VA or DOD regulation that excludes veterans with an other than honorable
A. It is a VA regulation. Which is a problem.

VAHCS Minneapolis - Director Patrick J. Kelly - Ralph Huessner Reporting:

*To address high risk veterans we have outreach mental health and a suicide prevention

*The secretary of the VA announced that more mental health staff will be in the pipeline,
but we are not waiting. We interviewed two candidates on June 6th for our second
Suicide Prevention Coordinator. More information will be forthcoming.

*Another of the secretary’s priorities is timeliness of services. We announced the new website several months ago. You can go on the website and see the
current wait-times. For Minneapolis, our numbers are good, especially in mental health.
In primary care, we are averaging three days. One challenge area is new patients and
primary care. Our wait time for new patients was 40 days after the website was
announced and has since shifted to 38 days. There is no wait time for returning patients
looking for mental health care. For new patients, the wait is 6 days unless it is an

*Updates on the Minneapolis VA. The canopy was damaged and the repairs have delayed
the opening. The original opening was scheduled for June 21st. The new opening will
occur this winter. We are ensuring that there will be no further damage or potential risk to
patients. Because of this, we will have to relocate the summer farmer's market to a new

*Building 222 has been under construction for renovations for several months. We are
planning on opening it in the fall. We are hoping to then move our administrative offices
out of the hall and increase space for patient care.

*Veterans East housing project will be opening in the fall with 100 units.

*The next town hall will be June 21st in the Whipple building from 5:00 to 7:00 PM.

*There is an effort underway to change the Minneapolis VA to all single rooms. Single
rooms are healthier, more efficient, and afford privacy for the patients. This will be a
major challenge moving forward. The planning effort is currently underway. We have a
goal of completion in 2025.

St. Cloud VA HCS - Director Stephen D. Black - Tyler Bieneck reporting:

*We will be hosting the next UVLC meeting on July 12th in Building 96.

*Our chief of staff, Dr. Markstrom, will be retiring after 25 years. We are in the process
of selecting a new candidate and hope to have someone later this summer.

*The Practice Green Health system declared that the St. Cloud VA had Environmental
Excellence. We are recognized as one of the top 25 hospitals in the nation.

*We have been successful with our provider agreements, with 132 provider agreements
with our community stakeholders. This is helping veterans get to their appointments more

*We are in the process of designing a new optometry clinic in Building 29.

*We are starting design on a patient parking ramp.

*We are starting construction later this year on our community living cottage and Adult
Day Healthcare building.

*There is a new app called the Veteran Appointment Request Portal. This allows veterans
to either request or directly schedule their appointments through the app.
Ft. Snelling Cemetery - Bob Razor

*We had approximately 50,000 vehicles inside our gates during the Memorial Day

*On July 14th, Sgt. James Joseph Hubert, a repatriated Marine, will be laid to rest. We
will be hosting a repose for him at Ft. Snelling.

*We are going under a slight restructure. There will be a new director. John Knapp will
be the deputy-director. The big five cemeteries are all getting SESs. The new SES that
has been selected is Amy Callahan. We are planning to introduce her at the August

Vets Employment and Training Services [VETS] - David Seay

*Nothing to report.

2. Federal Congressional Representatives

Senator Amy Klobuchar - Greg Swanholm reporting:

*Klobuchar attended and spoke at the Ft. Snelling Memorial Day ceremony, as well as
the Chanhassen Memorial Day program.

*Klobuchar held a press conference on May 31st about the Supporting the Children of the
National Guard and Reserve Act.

*The American Law Enforcement Heroes Act, which encourages state and local law
enforcement to hire veterans, has passed congress and is looking to be signed into law in
the next few days.

*Klobuchar and Tillis sent a letter to the administration asking for robust funding for
fiscal year 2018.

Senator Al Franken - Alex Schueller

*Not present.

1 st District Representative - Tim Walz - Shawn Schoesser

*Walz attended the burial and memorial service for Glaydon Iverson, a naval veteran
whose body was recently recovered.

*Walz appreciates the support of the Ft. Snelling employees to help create another
memorial ceremony befitting of the sacrifices made by our veterans.

*Walz wishes to show his appreciate to Secretary Shulkin for the other than honorable
discharges and encouraging the ability of those veterans to have access to mental health
services. We applaud this move. We also applaud the move toward one electronic health

*We are interesting in feedback from anyone who is using the White House VA
Healthline. The number is 855 948 2311

*Walz has been busy with his role on the VA Committee. We are continuing to pursue
the Fairness For Deployed National Guard Reserve (HR 1384). We are looking at this in
a two-phase plan. The first phase is to stop the inequality. The second phase is to go back
and retroactively make whole the individuals who were negatively impacted by the 2012

*The National Guard And Reserve Fairness act has not passed yet. What has passed is
reducing VA claims backlogs by finding workable solutions. Walz has reintroduced a
Quicker Benefits Delivery Act.

*Another piece of legislation that recently passed the house allows the VA to modernize
the appeals process. It addresses legacy claims and modernizing the appeals process
moving forward.

2 nd District Representative - Jason Lewis - Mathew Pagano

* Not present.

3 rd District Representative - Erik Paulsen - Margret Cavanaugh

*Not present.

4 th District Representative - Betty McCollum - Connie Haddeland reporting:

* On Memorial Day, McCollum attended a ceremony in Woodbury and went to White
Bear Lake to observe the flyover and commemorative ceremony.

*McCollum is supporting the Reserve Components Parity Act. She is one of the original

*McCollum supports HR 1681, the Women Veterans And Families Health Service Act.
This bill provides assistance for family planning.

*HR 2519 the American Legion 100th University Commemorative Coin Act. McCollum
is one of the original co-sponsors.

*We held our Academy Recognition evening on June 5th with the 10 students in our
district that will be attending the service academies.

5 th District Representative - Keith Ellison - Mike Siebenaler

*Not present.

6 th District Representative - Tom Emmer - Abby Rime reporting:

*Emmer reintroduced the Atomic Veterans Service Medal Act, HR 2754.

*Emmer signed onto HR 2519, the American Legion 100th University Commemorative
Coin Act.

*Emmer voted in favor of HR 467, the VA Scheduling And Accountability Act. This will
improve compliance measurements related to scheduling and medical appointments.

*Emmer voted in favor of HR 2288, the Veteran Appeals and Improvement
Modernization Act of 2017.

*Emmer spoke at the Sartell Veterans Park Memorial Day ceremony and the St. Cloud
Memorial Day program.

*The US Small Business Administration is hosting a free class for veterans and spouses
on entrepreneurship on July 26th in Eden Prairie. It also enrolls participants in a free 8
week online class.

*Emmer signed onto HR 1384, the Reserve Components Parity Act.

7 th District Representative - Collin Peterson - Meg Louwagie

*Peterson spent Memorial Day in Pelican Rapids at the service there.

*Peterson has signed onto the letter to the secretary about the proposed cuts in the fiscal
year 2018.

*He cosigned on three bills: HR 1212 the Brave Act, HR 632 the Atomic Veterans
Healthcare Bill, and HR 1928 Families of Fallen Service Members First Act.

8 th District Representative - Rick Nolan - Rick Olseen

*Not present.

3. State Agencies and MN Veteran Assistance Organizations

MN Department of Veteran Affairs - Commissioner Larry Shellito - Ben Johnson

*The regular session ended on May 22nd. They immediately went into a special session.
We were supportive of the governor's veto - these bills can do more for veterans.

*The session analysis will be forthcoming.

*The governor wished to express his sincere gratitude for the veteran service
organizations and their efforts.

*The repairs of the Trust Bridge have been funded. It has been signed.

*The Preemption Bill was vetoed. That included a lot of things that the governor wanted
but also included material that would have prevented cities and municipalities from
incorporating their own labor standards. Everything else was signed. This was a result of
a lot of work and compromise between legislature and various leaders.

*MDVA received our base funding from the state bonding bill. We also received
additional funding for ongoing increases. We also received funding for the Duluth
cemetery, scheduled to open in July 2018. There have been some added provisions to the
MN GI bill concerning testing and licensure. There have also been some changes to
create more parity with on the job training and post-secondary portions of the GI bill.

*Veterans Journey Home - development of new or rehabbed housing. This is one-time
funding to support the construction or rehabilitation of housing for low to
moderate-income veterans and their families.

*The Veterans Defense Grant provides funding and outreach education to folks who
interact with veterans in the criminal justice system. This is supported by the MN
Humanities Center. This is funding for a nonprofit organization and not paying for court
fees or lawyers.

*The Legacy Bill is the constitutionally mandated increase in sales tax that goes to
environment, water, and arts. Within that context, there are several line items for
veterans, including the Medal of Honor memorial at the MN capital, the Veterans Voices
initiative, Vietnam: Minnesota Remembers grant, funding for Legionville, funding for
Big Marines Veterans Rest Camp, and several memorials.

*The Helmets to Hardhats Initiative is a development grant to help with construction

*The Bear Hunt raffle has given preference to one veteran's home resident.

*There was a push to reduce the threshold of disability to 50% to give access to free
hunting and fishing licenses. The governor supported it. Unfortunately, the legislature
was looking to maintain baseline funding. We will continue to push this in the following

*The tax bill includes a reduction in class rate for nonprofit organizations or charities to

*There have been changes made to the disabled veterans home real taxe xclusion. It
benefits veterans and surviving spouses, and expands availability to more veterans.

*The bonding bill funded the Truss Bridge repairs. The timeline for construction has not
been finalized yet. Asset Preservation appropriated $5 million, less than half of what we
requested, but this is a good start. We will be working on critical issues first. Rice
Country Veterans Memorial received an additional $30,000 to finish construction.
MN Military Affairs - Major Scott Ingalsbe and Annette Kuyper reporting:

*The selection process for our next adjutant general is underway for when General Nash
retires in early September.

*The 2nd Battalion 135th Infantry Regiment is returning from their deployment. They
were mobilized under the 12304B Mobilization Authority. There is increased funding for
mobilization from the DOD, though not for benefits. We appreciate the support of our
congressional delegation in trying to correct this.

*August 29th is Military Appreciation Day at the State Fairgrounds.

*We will publish our new dates for Stand Downs soon.

*We now have 55 companies as members of Beyond The Yellow Ribbon: McGladry and
Regions Hospital are new.

*We want to get all 17 of Minnesota’s Fortune 500 companies, there are 17 of them and
we already have 11. That’s ambitious, but we can do it. We have 220 communities and
90 networks.

*Our largest Stand Down, the metro, will be again at the Boy Scouts Site at Fort Snelling
on August 1-2.
MN Assistance Council For Veterans (MACV) - Neal Loidolt - Michael Lacsamana

*Our CEO, Neal Loidal, is on 30 days military duty. He has installed a more strategic
approach and we are benefiting from that.
Vets Employment & Training Services [VETS] - David Seay

*Not present.
Military Action Group (MAG) and Honor Flights- Jerry Kyser reporting:

*MAG will have a meeting at 1000 on Monday, June 19th.

*Our next Honor Flight is September 30th. One attendee is 101 years old. There are only
5 thousand WW11 vets and 22 thousand Korea vets left.

Not reporting:
MN Paralyzed Veterans Of America - Todd Kemery
Project Got Your Back - Allison Alstrin
Women Veterans Initiative - Edna Mackenzie
National Association of Atomic Veterans - Keith Kiefe

Next meeting July 12, 2017, St Cloud VAMC