Call to Order and Roll Call
The3rd meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection was held on Tuesday, August 21, 2012, at 1:00 PM, in Room 154 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Tanya Pullin, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Jack Westwood, Co-Chair; Representative Tanya Pullin, Co-Chair; Senators Joe Bowen, Perry B. Clark, Carroll Gibson, Vernie McGaha, Dennis Parrett, Dan "Malano" Seum, Kathy W. Stein, and Mike Wilson; Representatives Royce W. Adams, Linda Belcher, Regina Petrey Bunch, Tom Burch, Dwight D. Butler, Larry Clark, Leslie Combs, Tim Couch, Ron Crimm, Myron Dossett, Bill Farmer, Jeff Greer, Martha Jane King, Jimmie Lee, Donna Mayfield, Terry Mills, Rick G. Nelson, Tom Riner, Carl Rollins II, Rita Smart, Ben Waide, and Alecia Webb-Edgington.
Guests: Shedrick Jones, Sr., Irvin Lyons, Gail Lyons, Lloyd Davis, Emilia Cruz, and Janice Pullen, National Association of Black Veterans (NABVETS); Ken Lucas, Commissioner, Department of Veterans Affairs (KDVA); Major General Edward W. Tonini, Adjutant General, Kentucky National Guard; David Moore, Veterans’ Employment Training Service (VETS); David Kuhn, State Program Coordinator, Local Veterans Employment Representative, Lee White, State Program Coordinator, Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program, Kentucky Office of Employment and Training; John Savona, Plant Manager, Ford Motor Co. Assembly Plant; Mike Price, Toyota Motor Mfg. Kentucky, Inc.; Jacob Fuller, Senior Airman (E4), Kentucky Air National Guard; Firefighter/EMT, Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati International Airport; Michael Krause, KCTCS; Brandon Edwards, Union College; Wayne Pfeffer, Director, Judy Williams, Public Affairs Officer, Tammy Holdcroft, Facility Planner, Robley Rex Louisville Veterans Medical Center; Jim Thompson, Education and Workforce Development Cabinet; Steve Bullard, Department of Military Affairs/Kentucky National Guard (DMA/KYNG); Margaret Plattner, Deputy Commissioner, Stacy Shane, Marlene Youngblood, Kentucky Department of Military Affairs; and Carlos Pugh, Joint Executive Council of Veterans Organizations.
Representative Burch moved to adopt the July 12, 2012, meeting minutes. Representative Mills seconded the motion. The minutes were adopted.
National Association of Black Veterans (NABVETS)
Shedrick Jones, Sr., State Commander, NABVETS, introduced his guests, Janice Pullen, Retired Air Force and inductee into the NABVETS, Irvin Lyons, thirty-one year retired Army Vietnam Veteran, Commander of Chapter Fort Knox NABVETS, and Senior Vice Commander of the Kentucky State Military Order of Purple Heart.
Mr. Jones discussed a five year plan for the NABVETS. The organization has three chapters and would like to expand three more chapters in the Commonwealth. He asked the committee members to give him information on which areas they would like to establish new chapters. NABVETS would like to assistance with identifying Dixie Highway in Louisville as Patriot Parkway. He stated that 16 private cemeteries with veterans need to be brought to a higher standard. An annual Veterans State Fair Day on was started on August 20, 2012.
Commander Lyons spoke to the committee about submitting legislation on making Kentucky a Purple Heart State. The Governor has proclaimed the state as a Purple Heart State for one day, but he would like the designation to be permanent. He has a campaign of making 150 cities within the Commonwealth a Purple Heart city, and there are 32 to date. Chair Pullin stated that South Shore, Kentucky, is a Purple Heart City. She encouraged members to participate and take the information to their hometowns.
Mr. Lyons introduced Gail Lyons, President of the Kentucky State Ladies Auxiliary for the Military Order of Purple Heart and Mr. Lloyd Davis, MCOIC, of Missing in Action Homefront. Chair Pullin thanked them for their military service and their service now.
Hiring Kentucky Heroes
Ken Lucas, Commissioner, KDVA, stated that the purpose of Hiring Kentucky Heroes is to employ veterans who return home from service. Bill Riggs, Deputy Secretary, Department of Education and Workforce Development, spoke on his part in the collaboration of agencies that work on veterans issues and hiring. He stated that the Department of Labor has the agreement that the resources come through the Department of Education for veterans outreach. Mr. Riggs’s department put together an initiative labeled by Governor Bashear to be Hiring Kentucky Heroes. He stated that Hiring Kentucky Heroes is a partnership among Education Development Cabinet, the Kentucky Committee for Employers’ Support for Guard and Reserve, Kentucky National Guard, the US Department of Labor Veterans Employment and Training Services, Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs, Kentucky Community and Technical College System, the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, the Small Business Administration, the Kentucky Small Business Development Center, the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, and the University of Louisville Office of Military Affairs Partnerships. The direct response lately is working directly with the troops coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a collaborative effort, which makes it a better program.
Major General Edward Tonini, Adjutant General, KYNG, emphasized the importance of the Hiring Kentucky Heroes program. He stated that the National Guard has been called upon so much since 9/11, and many soldiers went on multiple deployments and were employed by the army on a regular basis. The reality is that, when soldiers returned home, they never had a real job in the private sector. Adjutant General Tonini stated that the collaboration is making a wonderful difference. Many jobs have been identified in the past six months where the soldiers can use their skills in the private sector. Adjutant General Tonini believed that there will be a day when, if a soldier says he is unemployed, it will simply be because he does not want to work.
David Moore, Veterans Program Specialist, U.S. Department of Labor, spoke on areas of responsibility that fall under the U.S. Department of Labor Veterans’ Employment and Training Service. His agency provides ongoing technical assistance to veterans, National Guard, reservists, transitioning service members and employers pertaining to employment, reemployment, and military service, and acts as the administrator for competitive grants that assist reconnecting veterans with employment. In Kentucky, one program is serving to reintegrate 152 homeless veterans back into employment. The grant for $300,000 is for one year with two additional one year renewal options. The Transition Assistance Program is an employment workshop that provides instruction and guidance on a multitude of job search and employment readiness skills such as writing, interview, and converting military experience into employment specific skill sets. His office is the administrator for the Jobs for Veterans State Grant, which is a staffing grant that allows the state to efficiently staff the employment office with Disabled Veteran Outreach Program and Local Veteran Employment Representative employees. The $2.5 million grant includes 40 staff—all veterans—who provide coverage for 120 counties of Kentucky. This program allows the collaborative agencies to empower and employ Kentucky veterans.
In response to a question from Representative Clark, Mr. Moore stated that his office communicates 2-3 times a week with the Helmets to Hardhats and other apprenticeships.
In response to a question from Senator Stein, Mr. Moore stated that his office offers benefits to WWII veterans. The program was created in 1944.
David Kuhn, State Program Coordinator, Local Veterans’ Employment Representative Program, Kentucky Office of Employment and Training, spoke about on LVER program. He pointed out that the map given to each member shows where various offices working in the Hiring Kentucky Heroes program are located, along with names and contact information. A copy of the map is a part of the official record located in the Legislative Research Committee Library. Mr. Kuhn’s office gives these maps to members of the National Guard when they return from deployment. The local veterans’ employment representative is the face of the veteran to a business community. The primary function to that LVER is to talk to businesses about hiring veterans and the skills required to work for them, and the federal and state dollars that come with that veteran. Businesses get a tax break for hiring certain types of veterans and on the job training programs that will pay half the salary of the veteran for up to six months.
In response to a question from Senator Gibson, David Kuhns stated that the grant is $2.4 million for getting veterans employed for this fiscal year.
Lee White, State Program Coordinator, Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program, Kentucky Office of Employment and Training, spoke about the program. He stated that a Disabled Outreach Specialist provides intensive services to meet the employment needs of disabled veterans and other eligible veterans with maximum emphasis on those who are economically and educationally disadvantaged. Outreach includes Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers, veterans service organizations, homeless shelters, and corrections. The program provides vocational guidance to eligible veterans in need of intensive services. DVOP also works with disabled veterans who have completed training through the vocation rehabilitation and development training program. Those veterans are seeking employment relating to their training and that would not aggravate their disabilities. There are two transitional assistant facilitators at Fort Knox who are DVOP specialists.
In response to a question from Representative Riner, Mr. White stated that DVOP works with many veterans who have criminal backgrounds.
In response to a question from Representative Burch, Mr. White discussed the Uniform Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act. DVOP investigates to make sure a job is held and that a veteran has a right to re-employment, and also to make certain that the veteran is entitled to any promotions and/or raises that he or she would have missed due to being in the military or on active duty.
John Savona, Plant Manager, Fort Motor Co. Louisville Assembly Plant, spoke about what the Ford Motor Co. offers veterans. Mr. Savona stated that Ford has 500 veterans employed at the Louisville Assembly Plant and the Kentucky Truck Plant. Ford has a veterans network group that began in 2007. Across America, Ford Motor Co. does local community work to help veterans. Mr. Savona stated that he was able to take the Honor Flight with 35 other WWII veterans to Washington. He accepted an award on behalf of Ford for helping veterans with employment at an event hosted by the US Navy. Mr. Savona stated that the military turns men into leaders, disciplined and loyal, fit in body and mind, and who can work under pressure, and these are the type of employees Ford would be honored to hire.
Mike Price, Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Kentucky, Inc., spoke about what Toyota offers veterans. Mr. Price stated that Toyota has two plants in Kentucky with have 7,000 team members in Georgetown, Kentucky, and 1,200 in Erlanger, Kentucky. Toyota is looking closely at doing things for veterans. The company is setting a goal of having veterans fill 7 percent of its workforce, which would equal jobs for 415 veterans in full-time positions. Toyota uses Kelly Services to help employ veterans in temporary positions, with over 100 veterans working in the facilities. Toyota met with veterans exiting the military in Louisville to see if their skill sets area match to their facility. He added that Toyota has a large number of employees who will retire in the near future, which will create many new jobs that veterans can be trained to do. Toyota is partnering with Bluegrass Community College to help train individuals for the skills needed. Toyota recently started a support group for partnering with veterans. The company is working to help non-veteran employees learn to work with veteran employees and the possible needs they may have and to break barriers they may have in communication with each other. Mr. Price added that Toyota has a wall of honor for employees who have served.
In response to a question from Representative Smart, Mr. Price stated that employees are recruited through Kelly Services for full-time but work with employment agencies and usually get medical benefits and vacations, and some are hired within 6 years.
Jacob Fuller, Senior Airman (E4), Kentucky Air National Guard; Firefighter/EMT, Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati International Airport, gave his success story of transitioning from a crash car rescuer in the National Guard to a fireman at the airport in five years and shared his gratitude for the opportunity. Mr. Fuller explained that he had taken advantage of some of the programs described today.
Robley Rex Louisville Veterans Medical Center Relocation
Wayne Pfeffer, Director, Robley Rex Louisville Veterans Medical Center, spoke on the Wounded Warrior Initiative in which the hospital partnered with Fort Knox for soldiers returning home with a disability who are waiting on decisions for medical clearance either to go back to the military or to be discharged to civilian life. The Wounded Warrior program started with two individuals helping the veterans to acclimate to society and jobs that will work with their disability or situation by working at the medical centers. The medical center now has 24 Fort Knox soldiers working in this program and hopes to eventually have 100 individuals helping.
Mr. Pfeffer gave an update on the new Robley Rex Louisville Veterans Medical Center. Mr. Pfeffer stated that the land has been purchased off of Brownsboro Road adjacent to the Waterson Expressway. The Brownsboro site became the site for a number of reasons. The center has just finished the master planning phase which is laying out the requirements of the facility and the space needed for different departments. The ultimate goal is to have it open and operational by 2018. He stated that the center is holding town hall meetings with constituents and veteran groups to get feedback on what is needed and has spoken with residents because it will be located in a residential community.
In response to a question to Representative Clark, Mr. Pfeffer stated that there were a number of problems with choosing a downtown site for the new hospital. There were many issues such as underground storage tanks, a number of streets that would require eminent domain purchases, and traffic issues, to name a few. After much research, the Brownsboro Road location was the most practical. The distance for the University of Louisville hospital is about the same distance as it is now.
In response to a question from Representative Burch, Mr. Pfeffer stated that the new hospital will have 110 beds. He also stated that a plan for the old hospital location is to possibly become a state veteran’s home or assisted living facility since there is no federal veteran’s nursing home in Western Kentucky.
In response to a question from Representative Mills, Mr. Pfeffer stated that the clinics that are outlying Scott and Grayson Counties, and Fort Knox will stay due to the distance to the hospital, although the center hopes to incorporate some of the local clinics into the new hospital.
Administrative Regulation: 106 KAR 2:030.
Chair Pullin stated that she had read and reviewed the administrative regulation, 106 KAR 2:030, regarding the adoption benefit program for the Kentucky National Guard and was happy with it. All members had a copy of the regulation in their meeting folders.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned.