HOUSE COMMITTEE ON

 VETERANS' AFFAIRS

 

February 24, 2005   Hearing Room C

8:30 A.M.  Tapes 28 - 29

 

MEMBERS PRESENT:            Rep. Donna Nelson, Chair

Rep. Phil Barnhart, Vice-Chair

Rep. Debi Farr, Vice-Chair

Rep. Brian Boquist

Rep. Scott Bruun

Rep. Dave Hunt

Rep. Betty Komp

 

STAFF PRESENT:                  Jim Stembridge, Committee Administrator

Erin Seiler, Committee Assistant

 

MEASURES/ISSUES HEARD:

                                                Veterans’ Issues – Informational Meeting

                                                Introduction of Committee Measures – Work Session

 

These minutes are in compliance with Senate and House Rules.  Only text enclosed in quotation marks reports a speaker’s exact words.  For complete contents, please refer to the tapes.

 

TAPE/#

Speaker

Comments

TAPE 28, A

004

Chair Nelson

Calls the meeting to order at 8:33 a.m.  Recognizes veterans present.  Opens the informational meeting on Veterans’ Issues.

VETERANS’ ISSUES –INFORMATIONAL MEETING

014

Debbie Kincaid

County Veterans’ Service Officer (CVSO), Washington County.  Submits and reviews written testimony on veterans’ issues (exhibit a).  Mentions significant issues for veterans.  Notes the necessity of representation for veterans.   Explains the role of County Veterans’ Service Officers.  Discusses the Veteran’s Pilot Project.  References related budget note (exhibit b).  Reviews cost reduction determinations of the Project.  References and reviews summary data of savings from the Pilot Project (exhibit b).  Relates the impact of uncaptured data from pending claims remaining at the conclusion of the Project.  Notes the value of the program due to savings generated.

168

Chair Nelson

Inquires how Kincaid’s position is currently funded.

174

Kincaid

Reports her position is currently funded by county general fund dollars.  Elaborates.

181

Chair Nelson

Inquires regarding the average salary for Kincaid’s position.

185

Kincaid

Believes the amount is inconsistent across the state, but in pending legislation is based upon the Veteran’s Benefits Counselor position of $45,000 to $50,000 per annum including benefits. 

194

Chair Nelson

Questions how many clients are served in Washington County.

195

Kincaid

Notes of the 39,000 veterans, 3,000 are actively served by three officers.

203

Chair Nelson

Inquires as to the best method of expediting the processing of claims.

214

Kincaid

States advocacy is crucial, noting those who are not receiving, or receiving less than the benefits to which they are entitled.

247

Chair Nelson

Inquires if Kincaid works on a daily basis with TRICARE and TriWest.

248

Kincaid

Notes she works less with TRICARE.  Mentions why. 

256

Rep. Bruun

Questions the training process for CVSO’s.

264

Kincaid

Relates details which include training from the county, state and federal departments.  Discusses tools available such as the National Veteran’s Legal Services Project. 

295

Rep. Bruun

Inquires about an informal network of officers.

300

Kincaid

Notes there is not enough contact between officers of different counties, although they do have a loose knit association.

322

Chair Nelson

Questions whether veteran’s benefits are more comprehensive than Medicaid benefits.

330

Kincaid

Comments the benefits are not as comprehensive, but more complicated and complex.  Refers to Medicaid as the “full meal deal.”  Relates the disadvantage of there being no single coordinator of benefits for a veteran or widow of a veteran.   Relates the lack of coordination between the compensation, health and cemetery arms of the Veteran’s Administration.

379

Rep. Boquist

Questions why the Pilot Project spent $70,000 less than was authorized.

403

Kincaid

Relates she is unsure.  Notes the differences between the operating platforms of Washington and Multnomah counties.

419

Rep. Boquist

Inquires about the remaining $70,000.  Requests clarification regarding the savings in the second year of the program when there was no staff to generate savings.

TAPE 29, A

004

Kincaid

Reports more than 79 clients were served in the first year.  That is the number of clients that actually received awards from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) that showed a savings.  The totals in the succeeding year are cumulative. 

011

Rep. Boquist

Suggests the savings-per-veteran would rise with additional FTE’s.  Questions how many additional people were hired as a result of the Project’s determinations.  Asks how many CVSO’s there are statewide.

031

Kincaid

Relates she is the lone surviving Pilot Project CVSO.  Believes the $300,000 accounted for five staff members.  Discusses varying funding sources for CVSO’s.

044

Rep. Boquist

States the CVSO is the first person aware of deployments and therefore able to inform others.  Discusses expanding the duties of the CVSO’s.

073

Kincaid

Notes existing legislation is intended to build in sureties that funding will not be removed.  Relates the number of CVSO’s statewide.  Relates CVSO’s not only serve veterans, but also their dependents.

091

Rep. Boquist

Requests a matrix from the Association of Oregon Counties (AOC) of the existing CVSO’s and their funding streams.

117

Rep. Komp

Concurs with Rep. Boquist’s request.

127

Chair Nelson

Inquires if there is a need for the Legislature to define the responsibilities and role of CVSO’s.

145

Kincaid

Comments such does not exist.

147

Chair Nelson

Requests the Association survey its members to provide a draft of responsibilities and how they can be measured.

153

Rep. Boquist

Notes identifying by county is also identifying by vote count.

170

Chair Nelson

Discusses the overwhelming responsibilities for CVSO’s.  Comments Oregon has almost as many veterans as school children.  Asks Kincaid if she is aware of any veteran moved from Medicaid to VA benefits that has been geographically displaced from their family.

207

Kincaid

Explains how the combination of benefits works and the unlikelihood of anyone being displaced when moving from Medicaid to VA benefits.  Relates the differences between various VA benefits.  Discusses nursing homes.

270

Chair Nelson

Asks how often Kincaid speaks with the state VA offices.

271

Kincaid

Notes she speaks with the state VA Portland office daily and they are very responsive.

280

Chair Nelson

Inquires about requests that the toll-free number to be advertised.

283

Kincaid

Believes the access number is for CVSO’s only.  Relates the intent is for veterans to work through they local CVSO.

300

Chair Nelson

Inquires where veteran’s go for financial help when in need.

310

Kincaid

Comments there are always people who will fall through the cracks.  Notes various benefits are only available to certain veterans.

318

Chair Nelson

Requests a recommendation on how the Legislature should respond to such complications and make coverage more comprehensive, providing bridge money to those in need.  Inquires about Kincaid’s contact with the Oregon National Guard.

400

Kincaid

Reports her contact with the Guard is infrequent.

417

Chair Nelson

Requests to be part of the April meeting in which Kincaid is involved.

TAPE 28, B

011

Ed Winkler

Major, Oregon National Guard.   Submits and reviews written testimony on his recent experiences while serving in the Middle East (exhibit c).  Relates six key points related to training, medical issues, injuries and equipment. 

188

Chair Nelson

Asks how information is communicated through the ranks.

190

Winkler

Reports information was generally communicated by email due to geographical constraints.  Continues testimony. 

233

Chair Nelson

Questions whether there are any restrictions on military personnel speaking before the committee on issues of concern.

242

Winkler

States he has never been told he could not speak about his organization.

262

Rep. Bruun

Requests more detailed information on Winkler’s personal experience with the network of support, beginning with his activation for service.

282

Winkler

Relates his wife indicated she could always access the help she needed.

301

Rep. Bruun

Inquires regarding the ability of Winkler’s squad to acclimate to civilian society, life and work.

312

Winkler

Mentions those who returned to small businesses that had folded while they were gone.  Notes most did not have trouble finding work.  Comments most made more money while deployed than while in civilian employment.

332

Rep. Farr

References testimony of a witness in an earlier committee meeting who reported waiving rights to military medical coverage so he could return home.  Questions whether this needs to be addressed at Fort Lewis.

353

Winkler

Relates how medical issues were addressed in his battalion.

370

Rep. Farr

Restates it appears information on such things needs to be coordinated to all locations.

378

Chair Nelson

Inquires about the opportunity of commanders to assess the mental stability of their personnel on return, and questions how such opportunities can be facilitated.

388

Winkler

Reports he met with each of his squad and reviewed a mental health checklist available in the demobilization packets.  Notes he recommended further evaluations based on the results of his interviews.

423

Chair Nelson

Questions where the evaluations go when complete.

424

Winkler

States the evaluations remain with the individual packets.  Notes someone is assigned to address the red flags.

439

Rep. Farr

Questions whether soldiers might be uncomfortable admitting to side effects of combat.

TAPE 29, B

003

Winkler

Confirms, yes.  Clarifies the day-to-day reality of constant conversation with other members of one’s squadron.

013

Rep. Farr

Asks what kind of treatment is available to personnel with issues.

017

Winkler

Reports returning veterans are qualified for VA benefits.

030

Chair Nelson

Inquires if Winkler has ever spoken with his CVSO.

031

Winkler

States, no.

032

Chair Nelson

Inquires if Winkler has ever had contact with the VA.

033

Winkler

Confirms, yes, at the unit level.

036

Rep. Boquist

Requests persons in Winkler’s chain of command.

041

Winkler

Relates persons in leadership and when they changed command.

056

Rep. Boquist

Inquires about Winkler’s drill schedule.

057

Winkler

Notes they were not required to drill until September.

062

Chair Nelson

Questions what one benefit would be most appreciated by returning veterans.

077

Winkler

Relates a package he received as a citizen-soldier is highly prized.  Notes the money now being offered to enlist and extend one’s enlistment.

115

Bill Kluting

Legislative Advisor, Western Council of Industrial Workers.  Notes his only question was answered relating to whether necessary information reaches the families back home.

131

Mac MacDonald

Representative, Veterans’ Organizations.  Reports the joint VA office in Portland has Veteran’s Service Officers in addition to the 34 county CVSO’s.  Discusses claims for disability.  Explains the impact on Medicaid benefits when someone receives VA benefits.  Expresses concern the Pilot Project will not benefit veterans.

179

Jim Willis

Director,  Oregon Department of Veteran’s Affairs.  Offers to answer questions.

189

Chair Nelson

Closes the informational meeting on Veterans’ Issues. Opens a work session for the introduction of committee measures.

INTRODUCTION OF COMMITTEE MEASURES - WORK SESSION

190

Jim Stembridge

Committee Administrator. Submits and summarizes the list of legislative drafts for introduction as committees measures (EXHIBIT D).  

203

Rep. Hunt

Mentions the bills that don’t relate to the jurisdiction of the Committee.

215

Chair Nelson

Addresses LC 3197.

240

Rep. Komp

Inquires whether each representative’s name on the committee will appear on the bill.

244

Stembridge

Explains the name of the committee will appear on the bill.

254

Rep. Farr

Questions whether LC 3437 is unconstitutional.

256

Chair Nelson

Notes her understanding of the concept.

265

Rep. Farr

Relates the finding in Eugene that no stickers or decals are allowed on state vehicles.

278

Stembridge

Comments the merits of the drafts could be more appropriately argued after they are printed as bills.

330

Rep. Boquist

MOTION:  Moves that the list of LC drafts with the exception of LC 3197 and LC 3404 BE INTRODUCED as committee bills.

 

 

VOTE:  7-0-0

345

Chair Nelson

Hearing no objection, declares the motion CARRIED.

363

Stembridge

Mentions the special committee meeting Monday, February 28 at 3:45.

380

Rep. Komp

Notes her unrewarding experience using the TriWest website.  Requests assistance in a future meeting.

454

Chair Nelson

Discusses future invited testimony.  Closes the work session on introduction of committee measures. Adjourns the meeting at 10:25 a.m.

 

EXHIBIT SUMMARY

 

  1. A.     Veteran’s Issues, written testimony, Debbie Kincaid, 5 pp
  2. B.     Veteran’s Issues, Veteran’s Pilot Project Budget Note, Debbie Kincaid, 3 pp
  3. C.     Veteran’s Issues, written testimony, Ed Winkler, 1 p
  4. D.    Introductions, LC 1911, LC 2038, LC 2039, LC 3021, LC 3042, LC 3396, LC 3399, LC 3400, LC 3401, LC 3430, LC 3433, LC 3437, LC 3439, staff, 1 p