Interim Joint Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection

 

Minutes of the<MeetNo1> 2nd Meeting

of the 2014 Interim

 

<MeetMDY1> August 14, 2014

 

Call to Order and Roll Call

The<MeetNo2> 2nd meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection was held on<Day> Thursday,<MeetMDY2> August 14, 2014, at<MeetTime> 1:00 PM, in<Room> Room 154 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Tanya Pullin, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.

 

Members:<Members> Representative Tanya Pullin, Co-Chair; Senators Perry B. Clark, Carroll Gibson, Ernie Harris, Christian McDaniel, Dennis Parrett, Albert Robinson, Reginald Thomas, and Whitney Westerfield; Representatives Johnny Bell, Dwight D. Butler, Larry Clark, Leslie Combs, Tim Couch, Will Coursey, Ron Crimm, Myron Dossett, David Floyd, Jim Glenn, Kenny Imes, Martha Jane King, Jimmie Lee, Donna Mayfield, David Meade, Terry Mills, Tim Moore, Tom Riner, Rita Smart, and Russell Webber.

 

Guests: Bobby Reynolds, Chairman, Larry Arnett, Vice Chairman, and Carlos Pugh, Legislative Liaison, Joint Executive Council of Veteransí Organizations; Tara Klute, General Manager, Pretrial Services, and Connie Neal, General Manager, Drug Court, Administrative Office of the Courts; Heather French Henry, Commissioner, Margaret Plattner, Deputy Commissioner, Mark Bowman, Office of Kentucky Veterans Centers Director, Jeff Acob, Cemetery Director, and Paul Hartless, Field Operations Director, Kentucky Department of Veteransí Affairs; David Thompson, Executive Director, Kentucky Commission on Military Affairs; Steve Bullard, Department of Military Affairs.

 

LRC Staff: Erica Warren, Kristopher Shera, Jessica Causey, and Rhonda Schierer.

 

Chair Pullin called for a motion to adopt the July 2014 meeting minutes. A motion and second were made and the minutes were adopted.

 

Joint Executive Council of Veteransí Organizations Annual Update

Bobby Reynolds discussed the JECVO meetings throughout the year, invited legislators to attend the meetings, and invited legislators attend the legislative dinner that JECVO provides at the beginning of the Regular Session to voice and hear concerns.

 

Larry Arnett testified about the Kentucky veteransí nursing homes. There are several reasons for the large number of empty beds. JECVO has coordinated and communicated with KDVA on opportunities to partner to improve problems among the nursing homes. JECVO is working with KDVA and VSOs to approach a trend line that is better for filling empty beds. They have considered opening nursing home admission to spouses. JECVO is meeting in September to explore admitting nonveterans and potential ramifications. Other states have designated a percentage of beds to nonveterans.

 

In response to a question from Senator Robinson, Mr. Arnett stated that JECVO would have a conservative approach to the initiative of allowing nonveterans into the nursing homes.

 

In response to a question from Representative Floyd, Mr. Arnett stated that nonveterans would have to pay full price for their stays in the nursing homes if they have the ability to pay. Medicaid or Medicare may pay for the stays if nonveterans are eligible. Nonveterans would not be eligible for the per diem and other resources that the VA provides for veterans.

 

Carlos Pugh stated that last year an additional $100,000 was designated for the state honor guard program. There are only 13 or 14 WWII veterans in the Lexington, Frankfort, and Louisville area, and only 4 or 5 Pearl Harbor survivors in Kentucky. JECVO works with 23 organizations that volunteer to help the veterans. There have been 918 volunteers who worked 79,190 hours. Material donations equate $670,714 and they have 30 van drivers, 64 patient escorts to help patients in wheelchairs to get to doctor appointments, and 86 honor guard volunteers. He stated that young volunteers are needed because many of current volunteers are aging and becoming unable to volunteer. JECVO works diligently to take food and games to the 40 veterans who reside in the homeless shelter in Lexington. Mr. Pugh said that JECVO will have three possible issues to come before the committee for support in November.

 

Veterans in the Criminal Justice System

Tara Klute discussed veterans interacting with the judicial system and the Administrative Office of the Courts. Since 2010, AOC has identified over 25,000 veterans who have been arrested and charged with a crime. The pretrial service officers ask three questions to determine if a veteran is eligible for services: whether the person has prior or current military service; whether the person is a veteran; and whether the person has been in combat. By asking all three questions, AOC is more likely to capture a person who is potentially a veteran and eligible for services. After getting the information, AOC asks permission to provide the information to the Veterans Justice Outreach Coordinators (CVJOs). AOC has some misdemeanor and low level felony diversion programs throughout the state.

 

Connie Neal spoke discussed AOCís Department of Drug Court. AOC has identified areas with high concentration levels of veterans in the criminal justice system to initiate the veteransí treatment court program, and she provided a handout that gave an overview of the county programs in operation. The current programs are in Campbell, Hardin, and Jefferson counties. Christian and Fayette counties have started pilot programs using drug court funding until they can get federal funding. Northern Kentucky is a tier one program that is a fully funded veteransí treatment court.

 

In response to a question from Senator Westerfield, Ms. Neal stated that Tennessee is implementing a veteransí drug court without cost to the state, but there is more expense to the veteran. Funding for the programs in Kentucky means AOC can take veterans who have a high level of benefit and veterans who may have received something other than an honorable discharge and pay for their treatment services in other areas. The funding also pays for drug testing for veterans.

 

In response to a question from Representative Smart, Ms. Neal stated that the 18 month program targets veterans with felony level offenses, and most veterans have charges at the misdemeanor level. Areas chosen for the programs are those with a higher concentration level of veterans with felony offenses. AOC is developing a tier two program to help veterans with lower level offences.

 

In response to a question from Representative Bell, Ms. Neal stated that the tier two program benefit communities needing help with veterans who have PTSD, drug addiction, and other issues. The goal is to take the model throughout the state to provide access to a veteranís docket or a veteransí treatment court for every veteran. Statewide drug courts must take a systematic approach to each area to assess need.

 

Jamie Watts and Sonny Hatfield presented a PowerPoint presentation on the US Department of Veterans Affairs Veteranís Justice Outreach. Mr. Hatfield stated that the VAís system-wide effort is to ensure access to services for veteran population at risk for homelessness, substance abuse, mental illness, and physical health problems. He described the Sequential Intercept Model. There are 300 law enforcement officers in Kentucky who have been trained to work with PTSD, TBI, and the veteran/military culture since 2011. All VJOs will know where to find a veteran in any county. There are six VJOs that cover the entire state. The VJOs receive a list of veterans each day, and there are currently between 475 Ė 500 veterans on the list. The VJOs are referred to as the Veterans Advocacy Gathering Group. These services are not part of the 18 month Veterans Treatment Court program.

 

In response to a question from Chair Pullin, Mr. Hatfield stated that the number one role of the VJOs is to identify unenrolled veterans and link them to the VA.

 

Kentucky Department of Veteransí Affairs Annual Update

Heather French Henry, Margaret Plattner, Mark Bowman, Jeff Acob, and Paul Hartless gave a PowerPoint presentation for the KDVA annual update to include homeless veterans, services, veteransí homes, field operations, cemeteries, and news. Commissioner Henry said that Pat McKiernan is Kentuckyís Homeless Veteran Outreach Coordinator. The two homeless veterans programs are Lexingtonís Leestown Campus Homeless Veterans Shelter and Louisvilleís Interlink Counseling Services.

 

In response to a question from Senator Thomas, Commissioner Henry stated that there are 18,638 WWII veterans living in Kentucky.

 

Margaret Plattner testified about other services that have no line-item funding but where it is possible to partner and collaborate with other agencies. The Veteransí Trust Fund has given $120,000 to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet over the last few years for a non-emergency Medicaid transportation program with a veterans component. Veterans who previously did not have transportation service to the VA hospital may have them because of this program, which serves those with low income and who are disabled or veterans who do not have transportation.

 

Services also include mental health. KDVA is partnering with the federal VA to expand telemental health services, particularly in rural areas and at a facility in Corbin. Community mental health centers are providing space and the VA is providing the telemental health equipment and staffing. This approach allows veterans who live in the area to stay in their homes instead of traveling to Lexington, Kentucky. The department is looking into other areas of the state for partnership. Working with the Department of Behavioral Health, KDVA has established a veteran peer network in Louisville, Lexington, and Northern Kentucky. KDVA is looking to bring stronger mental health services to the veteransí nursing homes and will be meeting with the VA in September to discuss the possibilities. Ms. Plattner stated that an interagency work group meets regularly to determine ways to reduce the unemployment rate among veterans. The veterans unemployment rate in Kentucky is 7.2 percent. KDVA has partnered with the US Chamber of Commerce to host job fairs in Lexington and Louisville. The trust fund has also given money to host several job fairs, and Morehead University hosted an expo in Ashland.

Mark Bowman testified about Kentucky veteransí nursing homes. Thompson-Hood Veterans Center in Wilmore has beds for 285 veterans and has 261 residents. The Eastern Kentucky Veterans Center in Hazard has 116 residents and stays at full capacity. The Western Kentucky Veterans Center in Hanson has 108 residents and has reopened a wing to improve access and admissions. There are 438 beds total in the nursing homes, and 78 beds are available. The available beds are mostly due to the vacancies in the Western Kentucky home. The Radcliff Veterans Center is scheduled to open in the fall of 2015.

 

In response to a question from Representative Lee, Mr. Bowman stated that he has a software system that allows KDVA to find the length of stay for each veteran. He will provide the information the committee members.

 

Paul Hartless testified about field operations. KDVA has 1,862 new applicants, has received 824 new claims, and has issued 88 tuition waivers this year. In the last year, field operation has submitted fully developed claims in two-thirds of the cases, helping veterans and dependents receive benefits in a more timely manner. KDVA is working with the VAís appeals branch to create a fully developed appeal form.

 

†Jeff Acob testified about the Kentucky veterans cemeteries, providing statistics on the Veterans Cemetery West, Veterans Cemetery Central, Veterans Cemetery North, and Veterans Cemetery Northeast. There is no residency requirement, and veterans from other states buried in the Kentucky cemeteries. The next cemetery site is Veterans Cemetery Southeast; the project is progressing.

 

Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Assessment

Col. (Ret.) David Thompson gave a PowerPoint presentation on the Armyís Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Assessment (SPEA) process. The nationís reductions in Army strength impacted Fort Campbell and Fort Knox. There is about a one percent decrease in head count at Fort Campbell and a 42 percent decrease in the active component force at Fort Knox. Fort Campbell is being considered for an additional maximum cut of 16,000 soldiers and Fort Knox for a 7,600 cut, which is inclusive of the 3,500 who have already been cut. Approximately 8,500 letters have been sent to the Army on behalf of the installations. He encouraged all levels of elected officials to tell the Army about the importance of the installations. The combined economic impact of the loss at Fort Knox and Fort Campbell is $6 billion.

 

Chair Pullin suggested that the committee prepare a resolution. Mr. Thompson stated that a resolution would be needed by August 25, 2014. A motion and second to adopt the resolution urging the Department of the Army to avoid further cuts at Fort Knox and Fort Campbell was made. The resolution was adopted.

 

In response to a question from Senator Westerfield, Col. Thompson stated that the economic impact affects many more areas than is listed in the census.

 

In response to a question from Senator Thomas, Col. Thompson stated that there is no impact on the Blue Grass Army Depot or any other depot because they are in a different category and not part of the SPEA project.

 

Other Business

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.