Minnesota Veterans took to Minnesota’s Capitol Hill in St. Paul on Tuesday, March 12 in an effort to lobby for important issues presented on the 2013 Minnesota legislative agenda.
Veterans Day on the Hill is a yearly initiative sponsored by the Minnesota Commanders’ Task Force, the United Veterans Legislative Council and the Minnesota Association of County Veterans Service Officers. This unified event is an effort to bring all Veterans together and meet with their legislative representatives to ask for support on initiatives that impact Minnesota Veterans and their families.
“You answered the call. Your nation’s need asked you for your services and asked you to risk your lives. In support of our country, freedoms and principles you answered the call. You were willing to take that enormous risk. For that, we are eternally in your debt and we owe you our eternal gratitude,” said Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton to a group of Veterans gathered in the Capitol Rotunda.
In his speech, Governor Dayton pledged $1 million to expand the Minnesota GI Bill; $1 million to County Veterans Service office grants, money to fund a sustaining funeral honor guard, continued funding of the Gold Star Program, funding for a Veterans cemetery in Fillmore County, $5 million in health care improvements and money dedicated to continue the renovation of the Minneapolis Veterans Home.
“I also said I would support the removal of state taxation on Veteran’s service and retirement pensions as another way of saying to those of you who served that we respect your dedication and devotion to patriotism,” said Dayton.
During the event, Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Larry Shellito read a proclamation signed by Governor Dayton announcing March 12, 2013 as Veterans Service Organizations Auxiliary Members Day. The proclamation honored Veterans Service Organizations Auxiliaries throughout Minnesota who have donated time and millions of dollars in donations to assist Veterans, families and their communities.
On Sunday, March 24th, I attended a Vietnam Veterans recognition event in Forest Lake, Minnesota. This was their 6th annual event and very well done! It was especially moving when the daughter of a Vietnam Veteran spoke. Her father had died and Agent Orange was believed to be the contributing factor in his illnesses. It was this example of a daughter’s love that magnified the impact our Veterans have on their immediate and greater families. Veterans are a key part in the foundational structure of our society – the family unit! Our goals in caring for Veterans must include their spouses and children.
During the month of April, the State of Minnesota will recognize the Military Child. The goal is to emphasize the important role military children, regardless of age, play while a parent or important adult is serving or has served. The children of service members sacrifice a great deal when their parent is deployed or are suffering from the impact of their service.
Military members volunteer, but their families are drafted. The importance of recognizing the sacrifices families - especially children - make cannot be over emphasized. We can be proud of our tradition of honoring not only our service members but the family as well.
During this month, Governor Mark Dayton will send current military children a letter of gratitude in honor of their service and sacrifice. In 2012, Governor Mark Dayton sent over 1,000 letters to military children in Minnesota.
Month of the Military Child was first celebrated in April 1986 under former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. Too often, when we as Veterans give our support to service members and newly returning Veterans, we forget there are others in their lives that also need our support. I ask that we all take some time this month to assist these young people and honor them.
Through this program, service members can nominate their children to receive a letter of “thanks” straight from Governor Dayton. To register a military child to receive a letter from the Governor visit http://www.mdva.state.mn.us/child/index.htm.
Communities can also do their part to recognize military-connected youth during Month of the Military Child by wearing purple on Purple Up Day, which will take place April 15. Purple Up Day shows support of military-connected youth and raises awareness of their sacrifices.
When April comes to an end, let’s not let the concept behind this program end. I challenge you to continue to recognize the sacrifices of our youngest members of society all year long. I guarantee it will impact them more than you ever realize, for years to come.
As the 2013 legislative session entered the Easter break from March 23-April 2, 2013, much has happened regarding the bills of Veterans interest. Although this is the halfway mark, those interested are encouraged to stay in contact with legislators to ensure these bills come to fruition.
Currently, there are 66 bills that have been introduced relative to Veterans issues. Of those 66, all but six are still “alive” after the second committee deadline. These bills include appropriation requests for bonding dollars for current or future Veterans Homes, education and higher education bills, a multitude of tax bills, legal, training and military issues, adjustments to Veteran license plates, additional funding for homeless Veterans, CVSO grants, MDVA budget bills and much more.
Regarding the military bills, many are referred to as “housekeeping” bills meaning there are not a lot of substantive changes that affect those outside of the military. Much the same can be said as well about some of the MDVA bills that will have mostly internal effects. That said, MDVA did propose two bills to design five new Veteran license plates and a Veterans Lottery Ticket bill which we hope will enable the Department to generate revenue for emerging needs in the Veterans community. The fate of those proposals and the rest of the bills is still yet to be determined.
An area to keep an eye on is what will likely be a bonding Omnibus Bill. What the agency hopes to see in it is funding to complete the renovations at the Minnesota Veterans Home - Minneapolis. MDVA has progressed to a point where we are seeking funding for the third and final phase which is the construction of a new 100 bed Skilled Nursing Facility. The new building will enable MDVA to reduce the waiting list of Veterans trying to gain access. It is estimated that 225,000 Veterans fall within the 65 mile catchment area of that campus. Since an estimated 44 percent of the states’ Veterans are age 65 or older, the completion of the final phase of construction should be good news for the metro and nearby surrounding areas.
Session is officially scheduled to end May 20. Legislative updates from MDVA are available at the end of each week. Visit www.mdva.state.mn.us and click the sign up box to receive weekly legislative updates and other communications.
During the month of April, military-connected youth throughout the state will be recognized for the sacrifices they make while a parent serves in the Armed Forces.
"Parents can register to receive a letter from the governor that recognizes military-connected youth as being our smallest heroes and offers a small token of appreciation," said Laura Groeneweg, lead youth programs coordinator for Deployment Cycle Support Family Programs.
Dayton proclaimed April as Month of the Military Child on March 13, encouraging support for organizations that provide direct support to military children and families, said Groeneweg. Letters can be requested by visiting the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs, or MDVA, website.
"Military members volunteer, but their families are drafted," said MDVA Commissioner Larry W. Shellito. "This program is an important recognition of the sacrifices families - especially children - make in supporting their parents. I'm proud of our tradition of honoring not only our service members but the family as well."
Month of the Military Child was first celebrated in April 1986 under former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, said Groeneweg. The recognition reinforces to military-connected youth that they play an integral role in supporting their service member.
Communities can also do their part to recognize military-connected youth during Month of the Military Child by wearing purple on Purple Up Day, which will take place April 15, said Groeneweg. Purple Up Day shows support of military-connected youth and raises awareness of their sacrifices.
Letters from the Governor can be requested here.
For more information on Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, visit their website.
The Minnesota National Guard and the Interagency Working Group was recognized as the “Best of Show” by the Minnesota chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. As judged by industry peers, “Hire Minnesota’s Veterans” has been officially designated at the most effective communication campaign of any entity in Minnesota in 2012, whether a government organization, national company, local business or public relations firm.
This professional honor is shared with the Veterans Community. First and foremost, the great Citizen-Soldiers of the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, who were showcased in this effort. Interagency partners included the Employment Resource Team, media partners, the Minnesota National Guard Deployment Cycle Support team, the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development – and more -- were essential in achieving this award.
Hire Minnesota’s Veterans Campaign also earned first place in three other Public
Relations Society of America categories:
a. “2012 Best Institutional Program in Minnesota”
b. “2012 Best Public Service Campaign in Minnesota”
c. “2012 Best Industry Campaign in Minnesota.”
About Hire Minnesota’s Veterans Campaign:
After increasing levels of unemployment among post-9/11 Veterans, the Minnesota National Guard organized the Hire Minnesota’s Veterans campaign to help today’s Veterans translate and polish their skills and link them with employers. Through this program the Guard and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development initiated a military-focused Interagency Employment Working Group to create a three-step process for Veterans and employers that consolidated existing programs and bridged gaps with new resources. A pilot unit with the 1st Brigade Combat Team dropped from 19 percent to 1.3 percent unemployment as a result of this campaign, while more than 20 million impressions on Veteran employment publicized benefits of hiring Veterans
This year marks the commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the start of the Vietnam War. On March 29, in recognition of Minnesota Vietnam Veterans Day, the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs (MDVA) and the Minnesota Twins announced a partnership to honor Vietnam Veterans. In April, June and September, more than 30 Minnesota Vietnam Veterans will raise the American Flag at the start of Minnesota Twins baseball games. MDVA Commissioner Larry Shellito, a Vietnam Veteran will kick off the partnership by raising the flag at the April 3 game.
"Together with the Minnesota Twins, we are not only honoring Minnesota Veterans who served in Vietnam, but we are taking this time to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, and those who are still missing. As a Vietnam Veteran, I can tell you that this recognition is an important part of healing for many Veterans who served in Vietnam,” said Larry Shellito, Commissioner of Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs. “This is just one of many events and partnerships planned throughout 2013 to commemorate this important anniversary.”
The response from Vietnam Veterans to volunteer was overwhelmingly positive and all slots were filled within a week. MDVA looks forward to this partnership and hopes to see it continue in the future.
Minnesota has a significant military history related to Vietnam. There are approximately 130,000 Vietnam-era Veterans in Minnesota, with this group representing the largest percentage of Minnesota’s 372,000 Veterans. At 7.5 million, Vietnam-era Veterans also represent the largest group of the 22.7 million Veterans in the United States. In 2009, Minnesota was one of the first states in the country to enact a law observing March 29 as Vietnam Veterans Day. This date signifies the troop withdrawal from Vietnam.
MN Veterans 4 Veterans Trust Fund ( V4V ) presented a $25,000.00 grant to assist Minnesota Veterans from rural Northwestern Minnesota Counties in receiving medical care.
The check from the V4V Trust fund was presented on March 14, 2013 at the NW Minnesota County Veterans Service Officer’s meeting in Detroit Lakes. In addition, it was announced at the meeting that the Disabled American Veterans is donating an additional $25,000.00 in support of this new Veterans transportation program for NW Minnesota.
This grant was approved in collaboration with the MN Disabled American Foundation, the National DAV / VA Transportation Program and local businesses and Veterans organizations to assist in purchasing three vans to transport Veterans in the 15 counties in Northwest MN to the VA Medical Centers in Fargo North Dakota and the St. Cloud VA Medical Center. The total amount in grants to get the program off and running is $105,000.00. Paula Conrad, the Veterans Service Center Manager at the Fargo VA Regional Office stated “There is a great need for services, particularly transportation, in rural communities such as most of Northwestern Minnesota where public transportation is scarce or non-existent.”
Laurie Brooke, the Becker County Veterans Service Officer stated “By virtue of geography and economy, Northwest Minnesota has been lacking in transportation resources.” Ms. Brooke went on to say “Access to basic medical care due to lack of transportation is a common complaint in rural Minnesota. Using current statistics from CVSO’s, over 3,000 Veterans have been identified as needing transportation in the year 2012.” The transportation program will be run by the County Veterans Service Officers of the counties participating in this program.
Commissioner Larry Shellito of the MN Dept. of Veterans Affairs recently stated "I commend the County Veterans Service Officers for their efforts and teamwork in addressing the transportation needs of the Northwest Minnesota Veterans community. Clearly, this effort will bring a better quality of life to the Veterans served by this program."
The Old Glory Run will take place on May 18th in Cold Springs, Minnesota. The proceeds from this event will go to the Minnesota branch of Disabled American Veterans. To learn more and register for this event please visit their website.