Call to Order and Roll Call
The6th meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection was held on Thursday, November 10, 2016, at 1:00 PM, in Room 154 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Dean Schamore, Vice Chair of the House Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Safety, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Representative Dean Schamore; Senators C.B. Embry Jr., Carroll Gibson, Ernie Harris, Christian McDaniel, Gerald A. Neal, Dennis Parrett, Whitney Westerfield, and Max Wise; Representatives Linda Belcher, Regina Bunch, Tom Burch, Larry Clark, Leslie Combs, Ron Crimm, Myron Dossett, David Hale, Kenny Imes, James Kay, Donna Mayfield, David Meade, Tom Riner, Jeff Taylor, and Russell Webber.
Guests: Chell Austin, Executive Director, Alex Nauert, Veteran Outreach Coordinator, Zack Scoskie, Veteran, Diane Schirmer, Patty Jackson, Brain Injury Alliance of Kentucky (BIAK); Debbie McGrath Executive Director, Epilepsy Foundation of Kentuckiana; Commander Richard Quire, Chairman, Carlos Pugh, Legislative Liaison, Denzil Lile, Bobbie Smith, Michael Whitfield, and Jack Mattingly, Joint Executive Council of Veterans Organizations (JECVO); Mike Sunseri, Kentucky Office of Homeland Security (KOHS).
LRC Staff: Erica Warren, Jessica Zeh, Jonathan Philpot, and Rhonda Schierer.
A motion was made by Representative Combs and seconded by Representative Kay to approve the October 13, 2016, meeting minutes. The motion carried with a voice vote.
Brain Injury Alliance of Kentucky (BIAK)
Chell Austin, Executive Director, explained the organizationís mission. The BIAK military outreach program works independently and with other veteran service agencies to actively seek out veterans and their family members affected by military traumatic brain injury (TBI) and connect them to the resources they need in order to maximize their recovery and future success.
††††††††††† Alex Nauert, Veteran Outreach Coordinator, described BIAKís early efforts which began in 2006. Brain injury is the signature wound of the Global War on Terror. Many TBIs were being misdiagnosed or ignored. Some did not recognize the significance of an injury if they didnít lose consciousness, some would deny issues to return home sooner, issues would surface later in anger, impulsivity, and headaches and many other ways.
††††††††††† Mr. Nauert explained that BIAK received a grant from the Commonwealth in 2010. The KYANG asked BIAK to seek and serve those with mild TBI. Their biggest challenges are letting veterans know there are services available to them and veterans who are in denial of their injuries. Many veterans with a mild TBI returned home and attempted to resume their life, unfortunately issues arose at home, work, or school. Many veterans want to avoid the stigma of having a brain injury.
††††††††††† Mr. Nauert explained the differences between TBI and PTSD. These conditions have co-occurring symptoms. Veterans with TBI suffer from physical, cognitive and emotional issues, impulsive control disorders, substance abuse, family disorders, and unemployment.
Not all veterans qualify for VA services, but BIAK helps those who do qualify and those that do not. There were more military deaths by suicide than in combat in 2012. AT least 300,000 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been diagnosed with PTSD, and those who also have TBIs may experience an increase in suicidal thoughts and behavior. BIAK is working with veterans organizations, reaching out to schools/colleges, getting information to community based outreach clinics, and training service officers about brain injury. BIAK is advocating for veterans issues by helping veterans get VA recertification of TBI, compensation and pension for service connected injuries, polytrauma clinic screenings for TBI, medical appointments, qualifications for assistance in state colleges, and resources for short or long term care.
Mr. Nauert discussed BIAKís current efforts which include assisting over 140 veterans in Kentucky to find needed resources this year. They have updated the resource journal and have distributed them all over the state. Social media and veteransí events are key to seeking out veterans with TBI and getting them out doing things such as sporting events in a civilian world. They also assist with resiliency.
Mr. Nauert discussed the future efforts of BIAK. The program will conduct seminars around the Commonwealth partnering with: the Epilepsy Foundation, KDVA and local governments as part of the homeless veteransí initiative, the VA on TBI re-evaluations, law enforcement on crisis intervention team training, state universities, and state agencies and veteran organizations for social events.
Zach Scoskie, USMC veteran and TBI survivor, gave a brief testimony about how BIAK has been beneficial to him. Mr. Scoskie stated that he was in the U.S. Marine Corps from July 2004 to July 2011. He explained that on October 5th, 2010, in Afghanistan, he developed a TBI. Since then he has received his bachelorís degree from the University of Louisville and is pursuing his masterís degree, and that he is a veteran farmer.
Epilepsy Foundation of Kentuckiana (EFK)
Debbie McGrath, Executive Director, gave a PowerPoint Presentation on EFK and their Operation Outreach to veterans who develop seizures due to TBI or PTSD. She explained the difficulty for one person to meet over 300,000 veterans in person. In 2013 the program realized the need to use the mass media to help spread the word of their services. Operation Outreach was able to get on Kentuckyís airways and raise awareness about Post Traumatic Epilepsy. The foundation now has broadcast media coverage on many TV channels as well as print media to send a strong message presence. Operation Outreach also has an internet and Facebook presence.
She discussed the Kentucky Veterans of the Year gala that is operated solely from corporate donations and ticket sales. No grant money is used for this program. There is one female and one male awarded Kentucky Veteran of the Year.
Joint Executive Council of Veterans Organizations (JECVO)
Carlos Pugh, Legislative Liaison, Commander Richard Quire, Chairman, and Denzel Lile, Vice Chairman, elected in October for their positions, provided an update on their organization and issues going forward.
Commander Quire stated that JECVO serves 330,000 veterans and their families in the state. There are 27 service organizations across the Commonwealth that are a part of JECVO. JECVO is independent of KDMA and the KDVA but they work closely with them. 2017 will be the 50th anniversary of JECVOís services. JECVO utilizes a monthly newsletter, Facebook, and Twitter.
Mr. Pugh expounded upon two of the legislative priorities of 2016: (1) fully funding the KDVAís budget, and (2) changing the Governorís Advisory Board membership to having two of seven members chosen by JECVO. JECVO is looking forward to the 2017 General Assemblyís legislative session and will be hosting a 50th year anniversary celebration and discussing its 2017 legislative priorities at their annual dinner. JECVO will advise members of the date and time.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.