The1st meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Seniors, Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection was held on Thursday, June 7, 2007, at 1:00 PM, in Room 169 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Elizabeth Tori, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Elizabeth Tori, Co-Chair; Representative Tanya Pullin, Co-Chair; Senators Perry B. Clark, Carroll Gibson, Denise Harper Angel, Vernie McGaha, Daniel Mongiardo, Joey Pendleton, Dick Roeding, Dan Seum, Katie Stine, Jack Westwood, and Ken Winters; Representatives Sheldon E. Baugh, Carolyn Belcher, Larry Belcher, Bill Farmer, David Floyd, Jim Glenn, Jeff Greer, Tim Moore, Fred Nesler, Tom Riner, Steven Rudy, Sal Santoro, Charles Siler, Dottie Sims, Ancel Smith, and John Tilley.
Guests: BG (Ret.) Les Beavers, Commissioner, Philip Franz, Veterans' Advocate, Kentucky Department of Veterans' Affairs; Brian Crall, Secretary, Carla Hawkins, Commissioner, Personnel Cabinet; Stephen McLean, President, Patton Museum Foundation; Ronald Abney, Donny Dampier, Brian Duffy, Chuck Longdale, Jim Richardson, John Marsh, Mike Smith, Chuck McAfee, Charles Elliott, VFW; Sidney Shouse, John bush, Bobby Thornberry, Joe Lewis, Terry Rice, Paul Rothenstine, Randy Fishe, American Legion; Ed Simon, Thurman Powell, Mike Westerman, Air Force Sergeants Association; Herman Horn, Pearl Harbor Survivor; James Chambers, Fleet Reserve Association; Frank Kenerman, Billy Waters, AMVETS; Don Dixon, MCL; Raymond Drake, Helen Drake; Larry Arnett, George Larsen, Bobbie Smith, and Carlos Pugh, JECVO.
LRC Staff: Scott Varland, CSA; Clint Newman, Mustapha Jammeh; Tyler Campbell, and Rhonda Schierer.
Co-Chair Tori summarized four Committee Resolutions honoring the following individuals who had lost their lives in the Global War on Terrorism: Sergeant William Glenn Bowling, Chief Petty Officer Gregory J. Billiter, Staff Sergeant Christopher N. Hamlin, and Corporal Joseph “Joey” Herman Cantrell IV. Co-Chair Tori then asked the committee to stand in a moment of silence to honor the memories of these fallen soldiers. Senator Katie Stine made a motion to adopt the resolutions and the motion was seconded by Representative Tim Moore. The resolutions were adopted by voice vote.
Co-Chair Tori recognized Senator Dan Seum. He said that a constituent had contacted him concerning the need for the General Assembly to help veterans in Kentucky. Senator Seum said that he has come to realize that very few citizens are aware of actions taken by the General Assembly on behalf of the state's veterans. Senator Seum provided a brief history of the committee and the interest of the General Assembly in veterans' issues. He proposed that the committee support a Joint Resolution during the next regular session to direct the Legislative Research Commission to create a historical document outlining the history and accomplishments of the committee and the General Assembly in the area of veterans' affairs.
Co-Chair Tori recognized Senator Pendleton. Senator Pendleton raised the issue of honoring the soldiers at Fort Campbell, Kentucky who have lost their lives in the Global War on Terrorism and who are not permanent residents of the Commonwealth. He stated that the state lowers flags to half-staff to honor the lives of soldiers who were born and raised in the Commonwealth and died in combat. However, the state does not do this for soldiers stationed in the Commonwealth who do not have Kentucky listed as their home of record.
Co-Chair Pullin recognized several guests attending the meeting, including: Carlos Pugh, Member of the Joint Executive Council of Veterans Organizations (JECVO); Larry Arnett, Legislative Director of JECVO; Commander John Bush, State Commander, American Legion Department of Kentucky; and Herman Horn, Pearl Harbor Survivor. She also thanked the other members of the various veterans' service organizations who were in attendance.
Co-Chair Tori then recognized BG (Ret.) Les Beavers, Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Veterans' Affairs (KDVA) and Deputy Commissioner Marty Pinkston to provide the committee with an overview of KDVA.
Commissioner Beavers provided an overview of the veterans' legislation passed during the 2007 Regular Session and signed by Governor Fletcher. Commissioner Beavers discussed HB 128 which increased the age of eligibility for tuition waiver recipients from age 23 to age 26 and increased the months of benefit from 36 months to 45 months. He stated that HB 225 establishes the "Wounded or Disabled Veterans" Program in KDVA to ease the transition from active service for wounded or disabled veterans and to ensure that those veterans receive the federal, state, and private benefits to which they are entitled. The General Assembly passed HB 280 which requires a funeral director to distribute a fact sheet, stating military burial rights, to the family of a deceased veteran. KDVA must supply the fact sheet to funeral directors. HB 390 eliminates all fees for a special Gold Star Mothers license plate and allows persons eligible for such a license plate to receive up to two plates. SB 22 requires the Commonwealth to offer TRICARE supplement insurance to eligible TRICARE eligible state employees at no cost. Employees may opt for the supplement and forfeit state health coverage.
Commissioner Beavers also addressed KDVA initiatives that were not passed by the General Assembly during the 2007 Regular Session. He stated that KDVA must correct a $2,000,000 structural imbalance. In addition, Commissioner Beavers addressed KDVA's need for the General Assembly to bond the entire expansion of the Western Kentucky Veterans Center. He stated that veterans preference legislation failed to pass for the third consecutive session and a true veterans preference must be passed in the Commonwealth. KDVA also addressed the need to fund the veterans personal loan program created by the 2006 General Assembly. In addition, Commissioner Beavers stated that KDVA would like to enact a conservator program which would authorize KDVA to serve as a conservator for veterans deemed incapable of handling their own affairs.
Senator Katie Stine asked Commissioner Beavers if the KDVA has instituted an education program that makes homeless veterans aware of potential jobs and employment opportunities within the state. Commissioner Beavers answered in the affirmative.
Co-Chair Pullin discussed the Veterans Service Organization training program. Historically, this program was a part of the KDVA Budget, but had since been excluded from the 2007-2008 biennium budget. Co-Chair Pullin asked Commissioner Beavers if he felt that the Veterans Service Organization training should be line-itemed for the upcoming biennium. Commissioner Beavers answered in the affirmative. Co-Chair Pullin moved that a Joint Resolution be created for the upcoming legislative session to make the Veterans Service Organization training a line-item in the upcoming biennium budget and increase the funding for the program. The motion was seconded by Representative Tim Moore and in a roll call vote unanimously passed the committee.
Senator Carroll Gibson asked Commissioner Beavers if KDVA offers a training program to patient aides in order to increase the direct care staffing hours at the veterans' nursing homes. Commissioner Beavers answered in the affirmative and explained that the training program is offered every month and the nurse's aide certification process includes a national certification exam.
Senator Roeding asked Commissioner Beavers to comment on the burial benefits of Kentucky veterans. Senator Roeding stated that he was aware of some Kentucky veterans who were buried in a private cemetery and did not have a headstone or marker at their gravesites. Commissioner Beavers stated that with the passage of 07 HB 280 funeral directors throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky are required to distribute a fact sheet stating military burial rights to all families so that any deceased veteran who desires a headstone and marker will have one available.
Representative Moore said that 07 RS HB 280 also amended the crime of interrupting a military funeral so that the crime would apply to a disruption from one hour before the funeral to one hour after.
Representative Carolyn Belcher asked Commissioner Beavers about the KDVA field benefit representative vacancies. Commissioner Beavers responded that legislation mandated KDVA to have 20 field representatives in place. However, KDVA has received funding to hire 18 field benefit representatives, resulting in two vacancies.
Co-Chair Pullin asked Commissioner Beavers to provide an update on the proposed Northeastern Kentucky Veterans Cemetery. Commissioner Beavers responded that KDVA is currently looking for a cemetery site.
Co-Chair Tori then invited Secretary Brian Crall of the Personnel Cabinet, Commissioner Carla Hawkins of Personnel Administration within the Cabinet, and Philip Franz, the new Veterans' Advocate, to the testimony table.
Secretary Brian Crall gave an overview of the Veterans' Advocate position in the Personnel Cabinet. He summarized the process that led up to the appointment of the Veterans' Advocate and described it as a joint effort among Governor Fletcher, the Personnel Cabinet, and KDVA to ensure that Kentucky veterans were receiving the proper assistance in applying for state jobs for which they were qualified.
Commissioner Hawkins stated that it is important to understand the needs of veterans as they seek state employment. It was difficult at times for state hiring managers to translate military service experience into civilian experience relevant to the 1400 state job classifications used by the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The Personnel Cabinet looked at the possible barriers limiting state employment of veterans and the measures necessary to implement a partnership with KDVA to create a position that would serve the veterans of the Commonwealth. Commissioner Hawkins stated that the goals for the Veterans' Advocate program are as follows: 1) assist applicants who are veterans; 2) assist Personnel Cabinet staff; and 3) assist non-veteran hiring managers.
Commissioner Hawkins stated that the partnership between KDVA and the Personnel Cabinet began in June 2006. The parties educated each other about the needs of veteran applicants for state jobs. The Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was signed in February 2007 to place the Veterans' Advocate in the Personnel Cabinet. She introduced Philip Franz to the committee and said that he began working at the Cabinet in April 2007.
Commissioner Hawkins outlined the early accomplishments of the Personnel Cabinet and the Veterans' Advocate. She outlined the success of the Veterans' Advocate in interpreting DD-214s and the verification of military duties. In addition, the Veterans' Advocate position has allowed the Personnel Cabinet access to a unique database to explain military duties to state hiring managers.
Philip Franz then introduced himself as the new Veterans' Advocate to the committee. Mr. Franz outlined his daily tasks to the committee which include: filing veteran's DD-214s, NGB-22s, and disability ratings for veterans preference points; helping veterans locate copies of military records as needed; describing veterans' MOS (Military Occupation Specialty) in civilian terms; reviewing veteran state job applications; counseling veterans on job opportunities with state government; consulting with counselors for review of veteran's time in service and daily job duties; and referring veterans with service-connected disabilities to Veterans Field Representatives.
Commissioner Hawkins stated that the Personnel Cabinet is making a concerted effort to publicize the services of the Veterans' Advocate not only to applicants but to agency hiring managers as well. Publicizing the services of the Veterans' Advocate and tracking the progress of veterans gaining access to state jobs are Personnel Cabinet priorities.
Co-Chair Tori asked Mr. Franz to approximate how long it takes to lead a veteran through the application process. Mr. Franz responded that it depends on the level of service required by the veteran. First time applicants may take between 1 to 1 1/2 hours to receive proper assistance, whereas individuals who have been involved in other areas of state employment might require 5 to 10 minutes of assistance. Co-Chair Tori also asked if a block appeared on the state application to indicate that an applicant is a veteran. Secretary Crall answered in the affirmative.
Senator Katie Stine asked Mr. Franz what the first step in the application process should be for a veteran. Mr. Franz described the application process. Senator Stine asked Mr. Franz how individuals know where to go and how to contact him. He stated that he fields a lot of telephone calls and walks individuals through the application process online. Secretary Crall stated that communication and publicizing the services of the Veterans' Advocate are Personnel Cabinet and KDVA agency priorities. A line of communication exists between these two agencies and will initially serve to get the word out about the Veterans' Advocate position. Commissioner Hawkins stated that a link does exist on the KDVA website directing veterans to the Personnel Cabinet and the Veterans' Advocate position.
Co-Chair Tori introduced Stephen McLean, President of the Patton Museum Foundation, and Don Williams, Vice-Chair of the Patton Museum Board of Trustees. Don Williams gave a brief history of the Patton Museum as it pertained to Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC). Mr. Williams stated that the Patton Museum was nearly relocated to Columbus, Georgia as a part of the BRAC process. He said that he began working with Senator McConnell, Senator Bunning, and Congressman Lewis to keep the Patton Museum at Fort Knox. The BRAC Commission Report relocated the Armory School from Fort Knox to Fort Benning, Georgia; however, the Secretary of the Army would decide the fate of the Patton Museum. He ordered that the museum stay in Kentucky. Mr. Williams thanked the Commonwealth's congressional delegation for keeping the Patton Museum in Kentucky.
Stephen McLean gave an overview of the Patton Museum expansion project and provided the committee with the Board of Trustees' vision for the new museum project. The new General George Patton Museum will include a diverse mix of guest experiences, including interactive exhibits, multimedia theatres, live demonstrators, simulators, outdoor activities, special events, and thematically integrated dining and museum store shopping.
Mr. McLean stated that the museum will have a bold design to attract tourists. He stated the following goals for the new General George Patton Museum: honor the American Soldier; explore the legacy of General George S. Patton, Jr.; inspire audacious leadership; promote army values; celebrate the people, stories, and traditions of Cavalry and Armor; complement training; create a flexible museum infrastructure that will allow growth and evolution; and increase attendance and generate revenue for sustaining the museum.
Mr. McLean stated the General George Patton Museum will set a new standard for military museums and provide an invaluable resource for future generations of Americans. Just as the Army has incorporated new practices and technology into its training program, the new museum will incorporate state of the art museum and presentation techniques to educate soldiers and inspire audacious leadership. The Patton Museum has primarily served as a training tool for the Armor School at Fort Knox; however, the new museum has an opportunity to expand its mission. The new museum will continue to celebrate and serve the needs of the active duty soldier, but it will also reach out to a much larger and broader audience with powerful messages of tremendous relevance for our society in the Twenty-First Century.
Representative Jeff Greer stated that his district borders Fort Knox, and that the Chamber of Commerce in his district conducted a tourist survey. Many tourists are more impressed by the Patton Museum than other neighboring attractions. Mr. McLean said that he has been pushing the idea of forming a statewide museum trail that would promote several museums in the Commonwealth. Representative Greer invited members of the committee to visit the Patton Museum and experience its value to Kentucky. Don Williams also extended an invitation for the committee to meet at the Patton Museum in the future.
Representative Floyd asked if the Patton Museum was undergoing a name change. Mr. McLean stated that the name will be changed from the "Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor" to the "General George Patton Museum."
Representative Baugh asked Mr. McLean if the Board of Trustees had considered having Lipizzaner horses come to the museum, because these horses were made famous by General George Patton. Mr. McLean stated that the finished product will include a stable which will hopefully hold visiting horses used for reenactments.
Senator Tori asked Mr. McLean the amount of money it will take to complete the project. Mr. McLean responded that a great deal of work remains in order to achieve the goals outlined in the museum plan, including funding, exhibit design, architectural design, construction, implementation of programs and business operations. It is anticipated that it will take from 3-5 years to raise the money for the new museum and 2 years for construction. Therefore, the projected completion date is approximately 5-7 years from now. The total projected cost of the new museum is $50,000,000. He stated that $35,000,000 will come from individual and corporate donations. The Patton Museum Board of Trustees will seek $10,000,000 from the federal government and the remaining $5,000,000 from the Kentucky General Assembly.
Senator Tori thanked both Mr. McLean and Mr. Williams for their testimony. She informed the members of the next scheduled meeting on July 10, 2007. The meeting was adjourned.