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 8, 2012, at 1:00 PM, in Room 149 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Jack Westwood, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Jack Westwood, Co-Chair; Representative Tanya Pullin, Co-Chair; Senators Carroll Gibson, Vernie McGaha, Dennis Parrett, Joey Pendleton, Kathy W. Stein, and Mike Wilson; Representatives Royce W. Adams, Linda Belcher, Petrey Bunch, Tom Burch, Mike Cherry, Leslie Combs, Tim Couch, Ron Crimm, Myron Dossett, David Floyd, Jimmie Lee, Donna Mayfield, Terry Mills, Tim Moore, Tom Riner, Carl Rollins II, Rita Smart, and John Tilley.
Guests: Ken Lucas, Commissioner, Margaret Plattner, Deputy Commissioner, and Gilda Hill, Executive Director, Kentucky Veterans Centers, Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs; Gene Kiser, Executive Director, Doug Recktenwald, Assistant Chief, Louisville Fire and Rescue Department, Gregg Bayer, Battalion Chief, Lexington Fire and Emergency Services Department, Kentucky Office of Homeland Security Heavy Search and Rescue.
Representative Lee moved to adopt the August 21, September 13, and October 11, 2012, meeting minutes. Representative Floyd seconded the motion. The minutes were adopted.
Co-Chair Pullin read resolutions honoring Senator Jack Westwood and Representatives Royce Adams, Bill Farmer, Alecia Webb-Edgington, Linda Belcher, and Mike Cherry. Chair Westwood read resolutions for Senators Joey Pendleton, Ken Winters, and Vernie McGaha. Representative Crimm moved to adopt all of the resolutions. Representative Burch seconded the motion. The resolutions were adopted.
Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs Update
Ken Lucas, Commissioner, Margaret Plattner, Deputy Commissioner, and Gilda Hill, Office of Kentucky Veterans Centers, of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs (KDVA) testified regarding the agency’s activities and services. The state veterans homes that are operational all have waiting lists for the beds as they become available. The commissioner provided a progress report on the planned Radcliff Veterans Center, including a gap in funding between the current VA building requirements, what the state has already committed, and what the VA has indicated is the maximum amount they will provide. Regardless of this funding gap, KDVA intends to bid the project in January 2013 with construction starting in the spring of 2013.
KDVA intends to begin participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs with its nursing home residents. It began assessing the billing requirements and financial structure necessary to bill Medicare and Medicaid in August 2012 and held informational meetings with residents and families in September. At this time, KDVA is awaiting certification by the federal programs and hopes have patients apply for Medicaid early next year. Initially, 40 percent of residents will qualify for Medicare or Medicaid billing and that within one year that will increase to 50 percent.
Commissioner Lucas and Deputy Commissioner Plattner testified about the projects funded through the Veterans Program Trust Fund, including assistance in opening a homeless veterans’ shelter in Western Kentucky and providing a grant to the Administrative Office of the Courts for a veterans treatment pilot program. The trust fund also provided grants to the University of Louisville for a veterans’ entrepreneurship program as well as for various organizations to purchase vans to assist transporting veterans with medical needs.
In response to a question from Representative Lee, Gilda Hill stated that KDVA is in the process of dually certifying all beds for Medicare/Medicaid and will not discharge veterans based on payment.
In response to a question from Co-Chair Pullin, Gilda Hill stated that KDVA will bill a veteran’s private insurance.
Kentucky Office of Homeland Security Heavy Search and Rescue
Gene Kiser, Executive Director of KOHS, explained that the office distributes federal grant funds for heavy search and rescue programs, which are generally located in urban areas, including two in Kentucky, and introduced Doug Recktenwald, Battalion Chief, from the Lexington Fire and Emergency Services Department and Gregg Bayer, Assistant Chief of the Louisville Fire and Rescue Department. Doug Recktenwald explained that heavy search and rescue is also called technical search and rescue, and its primary mission is to find and rescue people affected by major widespread disasters while working with multi-discipline teams. In addition to searches of collapsed buildings, search and rescue helps in situations like the tornadoes seen in West Liberty, the massive flooding experienced last year in Middlesboro, as well as potential earthquake response to the New Madrid Fault.
Gregg Bayer explained the funding history for these heavy search and rescue teams, which started in 2005 with a grant to the Louisville Fire and Rescue Department, however; it was a one-time resource as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security then began diverting the urban funds to larger cities that it deemed more likely to experience terrorist attacks. The Louisville and Lexington departments have also each received a KOHS grant on one other occasion, but do not otherwise have a continual funding source. Doug Recktenwald stressed their groups’ history of working together and in partnership with other emergency and first responders, as well as specialized civilian resources like construction equipment companies, engineers, and medical personnel. He also explained the multitude of specialized and credentialed training necessary to meet federal standards to serve in this capacity. Louisville and Lexington meet Type I capabilities of a Collapse Search and Rescue Team, but want to collaborate to meet Type II Technical Rescue capabilities.
Mr. Recktenwald and Mr. Bayer discussed the desire to develop a state training strategy and eventually have a legislatively enacted and funded program, develop satellite teams throughout the state that are at least partially trained in search and rescue techniques, provide state sponsored training, and therefore be able to provide the entire state with this needed expertise in a timely manner. All surrounding states provide ongoing state funding for heavy search and rescue needs. Response times from Louisville and Lexington throughout the state may not be adequate, but for a multi-state emergency such as a severe New Madrid fault earthquake, Kentucky may not be able to rely on resources from the surrounding states.
In response to a question from Senator Stein, Mr. Bayer stated that 90 percent of what the heavy search and rescue teams do is the search component of the search and rescue mission such as missing persons. Mr. Recktenwald stated that the teams also can go in and clear an area and affirm that no one is left in a building that is on fire or has collapsed.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.