Legislative Update April 2021

Greetings Members,

I am reaching out to provide you with an update on where we are at the state level for this year, so far. 

Legislative Update

I had a busy early session at the state level with a lot of testifying, however it doesn’t appear this will be a very successful year for many of the VSO supported initiatives. When I was asked prior to this year my thoughts on the session, I gave an honest assessment that in a budget year, during a pandemic, with a divided Government (House and Gov different party than Senate) I didn’t expect to get much traction. 

The House and Senate have both passed from their Veterans Committees what their versions of the military and Veteran’s portion of a future omnibus bill. Here is a quick side-by-side for you all:

Veterans Services Budget

  • Senate version $79,851,000 for Veterans Affairs
  • House version $84,168,000 for Veterans Affairs

The biggest differences here are: 

  • The Senate has $750,000 for Veterans Homelessness Initiative and the House has $3,165,000 for the same.
  • The Senate has $112,000 for the 9/11 Task Force and the House has $500,000 for the same.

Veterans’ Healthcare Budget

  • The Senate version has $60,633,00 and the House version $62,120,000. 
  • These are the funds used to operate the Veterans Homes and their programs.

Policy Initiatives

  • The House version includes the language from the Veterans Restorative Justice Act (VRJA), the Senate version does not.
  • The VRJA is supported by all member organizations of the CTF, and would give Veterans a chance to get treatment for their service-connected mental health issues when they start to get into legal trouble.
  • Both versions would make the first Saturday of every October Veterans Suicide and Awareness Day.
  • The Senate version includes language to make a flag flown over the Capitol available to family members of service members killed in the line of duty, the House version does not.
  • Both versions make some technical changes to the MN GI Bill, authorizing MDVA to provide Adult Day Healthcare and Dental services.

As you can see, there will definitely be some work to be done in an eventual Conference Committee. Unfortunately, it does not look like either chamber is currently planning on passing a Military and Veterans Omnibus, and instead we will be wrapped up in whatever partisan fight these two chambers decide to have over an even larger monstrosity of an omnibus bill. The DAV MN, along with our partners continues to push for a standalone omnibus for Veterans.

Veterans Week of Advocacy 

Next week we will have the first “Veterans Week of Advocacy” here in Minnesota. Essentially it is an expansion on the previous Veterans Day on the Hill. Mostly it will consist of messaging to the public about what we want to see done at the state and federal level. I hope to have it grow into a much bigger event, but this year we are just proving some concepts and laying the groundwork. In the future I hope to have a Veterans Week of Advocacy that includes a huge rally at the Capitol as a part of it.

If you are not already, I strongly encourage everyone to sign up for the DAV’s Commanders Action Network which can be found here: https://www.dav.org/learn-more/legislation/join-action-network-take-action/  

This is also the go-to place for federal updates. Once you are signed up for DAV CAN, you will occasionally get emails asking you to send a message to your Representative or Senator, it takes 30 seconds after your signed up and it lets our members of Congress know we want our priorities acted on.

I am also asking members across Minnesota to contact their State Senators and State Representatives to voice a couple of priorities for the end of session. Here is an example of how that message can go,

“Hi I am (Your Name) a constituent from (where you live) and I am asking (Representative or Senator So-and-so) to ensure they do everything within their power to ensure this is the year the Veterans Restorative Justice Act SF116 and included in HF 752 passes, and that Veterans issues be separated from all the partisan fighting and moved the floor as a standalone omnibus.” 

That simple of a message, if they ask any questions you aren’t prepared to answer respectfully ask that they reach out to DAV MN’s Legislative Director Trent Dilks at 651-291-1212 for further details. It is nice if you can speak to the member, but their Legislative Assistant can most definitely pass along the message or left on a voicemail is fine.

If you aren’t sure how to contact your state level lawmakers you can find their information by entering your address here: https://www.gis.leg.mn/iMaps/districts/ 

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Regards,
Trent C Dilks
Legislative Director
Disabled American Veterans, Dept. of MN 

Virtual Mid-Winter Conference: National Commander’s Testimony

We want to extend our thanks to all those who took part in our 2021 Virtual Mid-Winter Conference this past weekend. While we would have liked to meet in person, we are glad that so many of you logged on and engaged in our legislative discussions, performed important interim committee business and helped move the ball forward in terms of DAV’s advocacy efforts.

We do have one more event lined up which we hope you will all make time to attend virtually— the centerpiece of our annual mid-winter event, the national commander’s presentation of DAV’s legislative priorities before Congress.
National Commander Stephen “Butch” Whitehead’s testimony before a joint session of the Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs committees has been scheduled for March 3 at 10 a.m. EST. A link will be made available at www.dav.org/2021midwinter and across our social media channels.

We also encourage you to visit the updated 2021 Virtual Mid-Winter Conference page for additional resources, including our legislative critical policy goals for the 117th Congress along with staff overviews, advocacy award presentations, a legislative roundtable discussion and more.


Thank you all for helping to make this year’s Virtual Mid-Winter Conference a success. Please feel free to reach out to DAV’s legislative staff with any questions you may have, and as always, thank you for your continued advocacy efforts and for your support for DAV’s legislative goals.

Marc Burgess
National Adjutant

Legislative Update March 2021

Greetings All,

The state legislative session is underway, and that means DAV MN has been active in advocating for Minnesota’s Veterans during the process. This session is something far different from anything I have experienced in the past 6 years doing legislative work for the DAV. None of the hearings are being held in person, everything is Zoom. There is one major upside to this, it puts all of us on a level playing field. If you are from Greater Minnesota, you have just as much access to testify, or attend a hearing as the usually heavily represented Metro area.

The session started with DAV MN having an opportunity to present who we are as an organization to the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees. This is always a highlight for me, as I enjoy the opportunity to share what we as an organization do to make an impact in the lives of Minnesota’s Veterans, their families, and survivors. I strongly encourage every chapter to do something similar, and have one member (hopefully your BPTL) contact the Representatives and Senators who represent your area and let them know who DAV is locally.

The initial round of introductions has been followed by testifying on some legislation, the primary bills I am working on this year are HF 641 & SF 683. These are companion bills that would create a tax credit for hiring homeless or disabled Veterans in Minnesota at $1,500 and $3,000, respectively. This has been something we have been working on for years, but never seems to make it across the finish line. It is past time that Minnesota joins states like Wisconsin, with a $4,000, Iowa with a $4,8000, and not to mention New York who has a up to $15,000 credit to encourage hiring Veterans.

The DAV also remains active with the Commanders Task Force, who has again made their primary focus the Veterans Restorative Justice Act. This bill has been amazingly frustrating as St. Paul politics have seen it pass in one chamber or the other, and fail for reasons that seem unrelated to actual content of the bill.

Veterans Day on the Hill UPDATE

know many of you look forward to our annual Veterans Day on the Hill event, where hundreds of Veterans from across Minnesota make some noise in the Capitol Rotunda. It is also one of my favorite events. Unfortunately, due to everything that is going on with the current pandemic it has been decided that we can’t safely make the event happen this year.

That doesn’t mean we’re not planning something though. I have presented, and had accepted a DAV driven idea to instead try a “Veterans Week of Advocacy”.  Many more details will come out in the coming weeks, but please start thinking about ways we can drive advocacy through the roof and at least for one week push Veterans priorities to the top of the list. We are currently looking at April 11-16 to ask the Veterans community, and our supporters, to engage in various ways to advocate for Minnesota’s Veterans.

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at [email protected] or 651-291-1212.

——–Trent C Dilks, Executive Director-Foundation

DAV Mid-Winter Conference 2020

Greetings All,

Earlier this week over 30 members from the DAV MN return to Minnesota after another successful DAV Mid-Winter Conference. While I didn’t take time to count up members from every other Department, I feel confident saying we once again had the largest delegation of members in attendance to learn and advocate.

This was my fifth year leading a group out to DC in my role as your BPTL at the Department level, and every year I am impressed by the professionalism and passion our members bring to Washington. This year members met with staff members from all 8 U.S. Representative’s Offices, learned more about our national legislative priorities during a 2-hour briefing, heard from the VA Undersecretary for Benefits, attended a meeting with U.S. Senator Tina Smith, and met with Rep. Phillips, Emmer, and McCollum at our annual Congressional Breakfast.

The highlight of the trip was getting the opportunity to see MN’s own Stephen “Butch” Whitehead address a joint session of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. National Commander Whitehead spoke in a strong voice that now is the time to take action to help our Nation’s disabled Veterans and their survivors.

It was a lot to get done in 3 ½ days and our members stayed busy and likely returned tired. Every year I hear from our members how glad they are that they came, how much they learned, and how motivated they are to bring these lessons home. I would like to thank the Chapters that have supported their members to attend, this advocacy is our mission and we must remember that. Also, to the chapters that historically send zero participants, please start considering sending at least one member for Mid-Winter 2021. It is so important to have a mixture of voices from across Minnesota participating in our advocacy.

Thank you again to everyone who attended.

Trent C Dilks, Dept. Adjutant

Adjutant Dilks Receives Award

It is a great honor to announce that DAV MN BPTL – Trent Dilks, was selected by DAV National Legislative Director as the Division II Outstanding Performance in Advocacy. As you all know, Trent has done an outstanding job at advocating on behalf of the disabled veterans and their spouses, not only for State of MN issues but for National issues as well. Keep up the great work Trent!!

Stephen “Butch” Whitehead, DAV National Commander

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Veterans Day on the Hill 2020

Greetings all;

I am happy to announce we are currently scheduled to have Veterans Day on the Hill (VDOTH) 2020 on April 20th, 2020. I am well aware this is the latest date to hold the event since I have been involved with the planning, and I want to assure the setting of a date was not without reasons:

  1. This is the session leading up to an election, I fully suspect that the pace will go something like this: Initial committee work, two months of issues based politicking to appeal to elected official’s base, final weeks to complete the work necessary and govern.
    1. The later date is partially based on my belief that the combined efforts of the Veteran’s community can push our supported legislation through the first couple of stops in the committee process which is the first part of how I suspect the session will go.
  2. Historically, interest in the process has been high early on when the path for bills is relatively predictable; original committee, subsequent committee, etc.. with regularly scheduled committee hearings. However, once the process starts to “breakdown” into legislation being “held over for possible inclusion”, entire bills become small parts of a ‘monster’ omnibus bill, etc.. it becomes hard to explain the process, difficult to coordinate responses, and our advocacy suffers as a result at the most important times.
    1. A later date will allow for a clear statement of current position in the most confusing part of the process.
  3. We can focus our advocacy on the bills that actually have a chance. It’s harsh to say, but many of our groups will support many pieces of legislation but the honest truth is very few of them have a chance based on the priorities set during the session.
  4. As a community we can make it clear that by holding Veterans Day on the Hill this late we would gladly make it into a celebration if our elected officials get their work done for Veterans within the first three months of session. If they decide to keep Veteran’s issues moving, and above the predictable partisan fighting, they can all enjoy a day of being cheered for a job well done.
  5. However, if the more likely scenario happens where politicking is taking the place of progress, this later date will have us positioned to make a strong call for our officials to “Get it DONE for our Veterans” (or some better tagline).
  6. This is Minnesota and the weather can suck earlier in the session.

Additional details will emerge as the CTF, UVLC, and MACVSO work toward their vision of the formal VDOTH proceedings. The DAV MN does intend to offer funding busses and providing a lunch prior to the formal event again this year. Details will be shared as they become available.

Please feel free to reach out me with questions or concerns. The gavel will drop before we know it and it is important we continue to work together for our Veterans.

Regards,

 ———–

Trent C Dilks

Department Adjutant  

Disabled American Veterans, Dept. of Minnesota

20 West 12th St., 3rd Flr, St. Paul, MN 55155

O: (651) 291.1212 C: (651) 788.3186

Cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) Increase for 2019 Passed into Law

On October 9, 2018, President Trump signed Public Law 115-258, which provides a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) increase of 2.8 percent, effective December 1, 2018, for veterans disability compensation and dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC) for survivors and certain other benefits.

VA compensation and DIC benefits are retrospectively paid on the first of each month, for the previous month. This means that the 2.8 COLA increase effective December 1, 2018, will not be included until the January 1, 2019 payment.  This increase matches the COLA provided to Social Security recipients.

This COLA benefits injured and ill veterans, their families and survivors by helping to maintain the value of VA benefits against inflation. Without annual COLAs, many disabled veterans, who sacrificed their own health and family life for the good of our nation, may not be able to maintain the quality of life they deserve.

We thank Representative Mike Bost (IL), Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs for introducing HR 4958, the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2018 and Congress for final passage of the bill on September 25, 2018.

Likewise, we appreciate your support for service-disabled veterans and your grassroots efforts in the DAV Commander’s Action Network, which helped get this critical legislation enacted.  Please share this information on all of your social media sites. Thank you for all you do for America’s veterans and their families.

This alert is for your information only. No further action is required at this time.

H.R. 5671, The Burn Pits Accountability Act

On May 1, 2018, Representative Tulsi Gabbard (HI) introduced H.R. 5671, the Burn Pits Accountability Act.

Since the Persian Gulf War, a common waste disposal practice at military sites outside the United States was the use of burn pits.  Smoke from these pits contained toxic substances that may have short- and long-term health effects, especially for those who were exposed for longer periods.  Many service members reported acute symptoms of respiratory or eye irritation, gastrointestinal distress, or rashes during or shortly after exposure, but the research thus far has been inconclusive about whether there are longer lasting consequences to these exposures, as many veterans still struggling with conditions that arose during or after military service believe.

H.R. 5671 will require the Secretary of Defense to ensure that periodic health assessments ascertain whether a service member has been at a location when an open burn pit was used or exposed to toxic airborne chemicals.  It will further require the Secretary of Defense to enter into an information sharing agreement with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.  If a service member was exposed, the VA Secretary will enroll the member into the VA Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, unless the member elects not to enroll.

In agreement with DAV Resolution No. 120, DAV supports H.R. 5671-legislation that would ensure that exposure to burn pits and airborne chemicals are recognized by both the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

Your commitment and advocacy helps make DAV a highly influential and effective organization in Washington.  Thank you for all you do for America’s veterans and their families.

Take Action

Taking Action Request ONE

DAV MN Taking Action 2018

This is the 1st request as a part of the DAV MN “Taking Action 2018” campaign. This campaign is designed to present briefly and clearly current situations and ways you can “Take Action”. These actions are designed to take less than 5 minutes. The purpose of this campaign is to improve the lives of our Veterans, and their families, by achieving our legislative goals.

Background: This year the DAV MN set two legislative goals:

  • Protect our most vulnerable Veterans and surviving spouses from predatory lenders.
  • Ensure surviving spouses can remain in their homes.

Situation: The bills in the MN House and Senate to successfully achieve these goals survived the legislative deadlines. However, it has been over a month since they have gotten a hearing and their failure looks likely, unless we take action.

How you can “Take Action” today: Call you State Representative and State Senator and tell them,

“I fully support HF 3429/SF 3261 (if talking to House member use HF & Senate-SF) to keep the surviving spouses of our severely disabled Veterans, and spouses of those who died as a result of their service, in their homes. I would like to see this bill moved quickly to the floor for a vote. Please do everything within your power to ensure that happens and notify me when it has passed.”

Logistics: If you don’t currently have the contact information for your MN Representative or MN Senator you can find the information here: https://www.gis.leg.mn/iMaps/districts/ *Please note leaving the message with their Legislative Assistant or Voicemail is just fine. They will get the message.

Please drop me a note after you take action so I can track our efforts. I can be reached at: [email protected].

Please forward this to anyone you feel may be willing to take action.

Regards,

Trent C Dilks
Legislative Director
Disabled American Veterans, Dept. of MN