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

 

Minutes of the<MeetNo1> 3rd Meeting

of the 2014 Interim

 

<MeetMDY1> September 11, 2014

 

Call to Order and Roll Call

The<MeetNo2> 3rd meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection was held on<Day> Thursday,<MeetMDY2> September 11, 2014, at<MeetTime> 1:00 PM, in<Room> Room 149 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Tanya Pullin, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.

 

Present were:

 

Members:<Members> Senator Jimmy Higdon, Co-Chair; Representative Tanya Pullin, Co-Chair; Senators Carroll Gibson, Ernie Harris, Dennis Parrett, Jerry P. Rhoads, Albert Robinson, Reginald Thomas, Whitney Westerfield, and Mike Wilson; Representatives Robert Benvenuti III, Regina Bunch, Tom Burch, Denver Butler, Dwight D. Butler, Tim Couch, Ron Crimm, Robert R. Damron, Myron Dossett, David Floyd, Kenny Imes, Martha Jane King, Jimmie Lee, David Meade, Terry Mills, Tim Moore, Tom Riner, Rita Smart, John Tilley, and Russell Webber.

 

Guests: Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Tina Gay Riddle, Lieutenant Commander USNR-Ret. Margaret Plattner, Deputy Commissioner, and SFC (Ret.) Angela Worley, Women Veterans Coordinator, Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs; Miki King, Governorís Advisory Board for Veterans Affairs; Colonel John Mills, JAG, Headquarters and Charles Lay, SAPR, Kentucky Army National Guard; Colonel Tim Cocanougher, Special Investigator, National Guard Bureau; Dr. Stephanie Mayfield Gibson, Commissioner, Department of Public Health; Joel Neaveill, Chief of Staff, Governorís Office of Agricultural Policy; Carlos Pugh and Bobbie Smith, JECVO.

 

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

 

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

 

Chair Pullin asked members to have a moment of silence in memory of those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.

 

Chair Pullin called on Greg Higdon, President and CEO of the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers (KAM), to give a brief announcement. Mr. Higdon stated that KAM is celebrating manufacturing in Kentucky the entire month of October. On October 16, KAM is having a Military to Manufacturing event at the Boone Campus of Gateway Community & Technical College in Florence, Kentucky. Commissioner Heather French Henry and Maj. Gen. (Ret.) D. Allen Youngman are the two guest speakers for the event. A pamphlet with a list of all events and information is part of this official record.

 

Services in Kentucky for Women Veterans

Lt. Col. (Ret.) Riddle discussed the need for women to have mentoring for women in the military and female veterans. There is more and more diversity within the guard, and more women and minorities should have a place in the military. Many women in the military experience sexual harassment and military sexual trauma, making mentoring relationships critical.

There are many issues facing homeless female veterans, and there are fewer places that cater just to women who are homeless. Most often homeless women veterans are unaware of places where they can seek shelter. A majority of the veterans in the existing facilities are men who may have alcoholism or drug addiction issues. This creates an intimidating and unsafe place for the women. There is also a need to make women aware of their educational benefits and to provide more job fairs, small business workshops, and childcare for them while on drill weekends.

 

†In response to a question from Representative Floyd, Lt. Col. (Ret.) Riddle stated that there are several facilities for homeless veterans in Louisville, however the locks are insufficient and the facilities are not specifically designed for women.

 

Deputy Commissioner Plattner stated that there are about 2.5 million women veterans nationally. They have had multiple deployments, blurring combat and non-combat operations, which suggest that their needs may differ from women veterans of previous eras. The average age of female veterans is 49 and the average age of male veterans is 60. A higher percentage of female veterans than non-veteran women have a bachelorís degree or higher, and about 38 percent of female veterans work for local, state, or federal government, compared to 18 percent of non-veteran women.

 

Ms. Plattner stated that the VA is improving services to make sure women who are eligible for VA healthcare can access services for their needs. There has been expanded research on the impacts of trauma, combat exposure, mental health outcomes of civil reintegration, and overall healthcare needs for women. The womenís VA call center for benefits, education, and healthcare is 1-855-VAWOMEN. A handout was provided in members folders and is part of the official record.

 

In response to a question from Representative Moore, Ms. Plattner stated that there are 248 homeless women veterans on record in the state.

 

In response to a question from Co-Chair Higdon, Ms. Plattner stated that KDVA hopes to have a full-time position for a womenís veteran coordinator by 2016, but current budget levels prohibit a full-time position at this time.

 

Ms. Worley stated that there are 33,000 Kentucky women veterans; KDVA only has 1,900 claims. The reason for the low number of claims is that women veterans often do not define themselves as veterans because some think they had to be in combat to be eligible for any type of service. Ms. Worley stated that she only works part-time as a women veteranís coordinator and expressed the need for a full-time position to meet the needs of all of women veterans.

 

In response to a question from Chair Pullin, Ms. Worley stated that she spends approximately 15 percent of her job time working with women veterans. The veteran women in rural areas have no representation.

 

Revisions to the KY Code of Military Justice

Col. John Mills and Col. Tim Cocanougher discussed revisions to the Kentucky Code of Military Justice. Col. Mills stated that the new code has common law offenses but gives much greater flexibility and covers newer offenses such as cyber stalking and harassment through technology. Previous penalties given were as little as six months, and those penalties now are up to ten years, which gives a greater level of deterrence. The revised code allows the Kentucky National Guard to take personnel action for inappropriate conduct off duty as well as on duty. Having additional victim advocates has improved awareness in the new code, and victims trust it enough to come forward.

 

In response to a question from Representative Moore, Col. Cocanougher stated that there is a training period and video of the revised code for all new members of the National Guard. Existing members are all briefed and given the new set of rules. There are annual briefings for all military. The new code has made members of the Guard responsible to Guard standards 24-7.

 

In response to a question from Senator Parrett, Col. Cocanougher stated that there are six sexual assault advocates and 60 trained victim advocates. There are 70 armories across the state; it would be beneficial to have 70 victim advocates, which would allow one victim advocate for each armory.

 

Ebola and Kentucky Tobacco Plants Used in Pharmaceutical Research and Treatments

Dr. Gibson gave a PowerPoint presentation on the Ebola virus disease. The Ebola virus was first recognized in 1976 near the Ebola River Valley, which is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. Outbreaks typically occur in tropical regions of Sub-Saharan Africa. Mortality rates of these outbreaks range from 25 percent to 90 percent. The 2014 outbreak in West Africa is the largest to date. There are five subtypes of the Ebola virus. The ongoing outbreak in West Africa is caused by the Zaire Ebola Virus. The Zaire and Sudan strains cause the most severe illness and have higher case-fatality rates. The 2014 West Africa Ebola Virus outbreak has confirmed 3,707 cases and 1,848 deaths. The count is a challenge as remote areas have not made it into the count. Transmission of the virus occurs through direct contact with infected body fluids. The natural reservoir is most likely fruit bats. The virus typically runs its course in 14-21 days. There are no specific FDA-approved vaccines or antiviral or other medications for treatment of the Ebola virus. Experimental treatments have been proven effective in animals but have not been studied in humans. ZMapp is a preparation of antibodies manufactured in tobacco plants. It has been used as an experimental treatment, but it is too early to know if it is effective. Drug manufacturers have begun safety and efficacy studies. There are no cases of the virus in Kentucky. Four healthcare professionals who were diagnosed with Ebola in Africa have been brought back to the U.S. for care.

 

There is currently a very low risk of Ebola in the United States. Airline passengers are screened for symptoms before leaving countries with ongoing outbreaks of the virus. State health departments and partners are working at U.S. ports of entry to prevent introduction of the virus into the population. U.S. military will be deployed to provide equipment and other assistance to contain the outbreak. The Kentucky Department for Public Health (KDPH) is using an approach similar to its established methods of responding to other emerging infectious diseases to prevent an outbreak. These methods include training and providing information to local health departments, healthcare providers, and hospitals on how to report potential cases, working with local healthcare facilities, colleges and universities to quickly identify and assess persons with a travel history to affected areas, sending public health advisories to partners regarding voluntary home quarantine, infection control, and Ebola risk assessment which can be found on the KDPH health alerts page, and preparing a tabletop exercise scenario that hospitals and healthcare facilities can use to test their plans and responses. The PowerPoint presentation on the Ebola virus is a part of this official record.

 

In response to a question from Chair Pullin, Dr. Gibson stated that Kentuckyís healthcare facilities and hospitals can examine individuals who feel they have symptoms or who could be infected.

 

Mr. Neaveill gave a brief overview on the use of tobacco in the research and production of pharmaceuticals and the role that the Governorís Office of Agricultural Policy has played in funding startups involved in that research, such as Kentucky Bio Processing, whose product has been part of the experimental Ebola treatment. He discussed diversification efforts for tobacco to develop proteins for treatment of cancer and other illnesses. Kentucky Bio Processing extrapolates proteins from tobacco plants to create vaccines and antiviral medication. This could be a great potential for tobacco farmers; however, these specific tobacco plants must be grown indoors to survive.

 

Other Business

Co-Chair Higdon announced that the next committee meeting will be at the Robley Rex Louisville VA Medical Center in Louisville on October 9, 2014.

 

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.