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


Minutes of the<MeetNo1> 1st Meeting

of the 2016 Interim


<MeetMDY1> June 9, 2016


Call to Order and Roll Call

The<MeetNo2> 1st meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection was held on<Day> Thursday,<MeetMDY2> June 9, 2016, at<MeetTime> 1:00 PM, in<Room> Room 154 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Albert Robinson, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.


Present were:


Members:<Members> Senator Albert Robinson, Co-Chair; Representative Will Coursey, Co-Chair; Senators Julian M. Carroll, C.B. Embry Jr., Carroll Gibson, Ernie Harris, Gerald A. Neal, Dennis Parrett, Whitney Westerfield, Mike Wilson, and Max Wise; Representatives Linda Belcher, Tom Burch, Larry Clark, Leslie Combs, Tim Couch, Ron Crimm, David Hale, Kenny Imes, James Kay, Martha Jane King, Donna Mayfield, David Meade, Terry Mills, Tim Moore, Rick G. Nelson, Tom Riner, Rita Smart, Jeff Taylor, and Russell Webber.


Guests: General (Ret.) Norman Arflack, Commissioner, Department of Veterans Affairs; Sherry Whitehouse, Lady Vets Connect; and Phyllis Abbot, Sheppard’s Hands.


LRC Staff: Erica Warren, Jonathan Philpot, Lesley Nash, and Rhonda Schierer.


Department of Veterans Affairs: Introduction and Vision

            General (Ret.) Norman Arflack, Commissioner, gave a brief introduction and discussed the vision of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs (KDVA). General Arflack was appointed as Commissioner of KDVA in April. He stated that he is fortunate to keep Heather French Henry on staff as the Deputy Commissioner as she brings a wealth of knowledge to the department. He gave a brief update on how things are going with the veteran’s nursing homes and cemeteries since his appointment. The nursing homes are all doing well and have set the standard across the nation for the right way to do business. Radcliff is close to coming online; the construction date has been moved from June to July 11, 2016. The veteran’s cemeteries are much to be proud, and the construction of the south east cemetery will start soon.


In response to a question from Representative King, General Arflack stated that KDVA is continuing to work on behavioral health issues among soldiers and look at ways to cut down the number of suicides and serious tragedies that are occurring as soldiers return home. He added that there is an emphasis on helping those with PTSD and other conditions by making them aware of all the organizations that are available to them for help and support.


Lady Vets Connect & Sheppard’s Hands: Addressing Homelessness among Female Veterans

Sherry Whitehouse, Founder of Lady Vets Connect and Phyllis Abbot, Founder of Sheppard’s Hands, gave a PowerPoint presentation on Lady Veterans Hands for Hope. Ms. Whitehouse discussed the merger between Sheppard’s Hands and Lady Vets Connect. Originally operating as two non-profit organizations, they joined forces to become Lady Veterans Hands for Hope. The new organization streamlined the work of both entities into one to provide high quality, comprehensive services to transitioning women veterans. The planned merger completion date is July 1, 2016.


Ms. Abbot stated that Jim Thurman, a member of NABVETS, donated the first home for lady veterans to Sheppard’s Hand. The dedication and ribbon cutting for the home is scheduled for July 1, 2016, at 10:00 AM, 980 De Porres Avenue, Lexington, Kentucky. Mayor Gray and KDVA Deputy Commissioner, Heather French Henry, will be present. The home will house three homeless women veterans for a year. During that year, the goal is to empower these three women and their children with health care, counseling, and job training skills.


There is a great need to continue the mission of serving women veterans. To do so, Lady Veterans Hands for Hope needs support and funding (grants, donations, temporary or permanent properties available), visibility, participation at events, and creating more legislation pertaining to women veterans.


Ms. Whitehouse discussed why a Veteran Resources United Lexington (VRUL) is needed. Veterans have distrust and fear, and the solution is communication and connections through the VRUL to the 19 Lexington and surrounding area Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs). Creating the VRUL helps increase visibility to the VSOs, VA, and Lexington Fayette County Government (LFUCG). The VRUL would increase numbers served by VSOs and the VA, leverage resources, identify gaps, and avoid duplications of services. On any given night, nearly 5,000 women veterans are homeless.


Ms. Whitehouse discussed why a transitional home is needed. Forty percent of women veterans have reported sexual trauma, one out of ten homeless veterans are now women, other shelters serving homeless veterans are not equipped for children, there is a need for bridging relationships with the VA and other resources, and women veterans struggle to be seen as veterans.


Upcoming events for Lady Veterans Hands for Hope are:

July 10th – Speaking at VFW State Convention Louisville

June 17th – Speaking at American Legion Conference

June 23rd – Rally Pont Veteran Resource Fair, Louisville

June 25th – Meet & Greet Louisville

July 1st – Ribbon Cutting Thurman-Abbott Home for Lady Veterans

July 9th – Kentucky Speed Way NASCAR Veterans Fair

September – TBA – KDVA Women’s Veterans Conference, Hazard


A copy of the PowerPoint and other meeting materials are a part of this official record in the Legislative Research Commission Library.


Other Business

Senator Embry thanked Ms. Whitehouse and Ms. Abbot for their assistance and dedication on SB 128 and invited them to the ceremonial signing of SB 128 and SB 217 in the Governor’s office on June 21st at 3:45 PM.


There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.