Legislature(1995 - 1996)

03/22/1996 05:29 PM MLV

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
                   HOUSE SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON                                  
                 MILITARY AND VETERANS' AFFAIRS                                
                         March 22, 1996                                        
                           5:29 p.m.                                           
                                                                               
                                                                               
 MEMBERS PRESENT                                                               
                                                                               
 Representative Ivan Ivan, Co-Chair                                            
 Representative Pete Kott, Co-Chair                                            
 Representative Ed Willis                                                      
 Representative Richard Foster                                                 
                                                                               
 MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                
                                                                               
 Representative Eldon Mulder, Vice Chair                                       
 Representative Gail Phillips                                                  
 Representative John Davies                                                    
                                                                               
 COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                            
                                                                               
 * HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 61                                               
 Opposing the proposed changes in the functions of the federal                 
 Office of Veterans Affairs in Anchorage.                                      
                                                                               
      - PASSED OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                
                                                                               
 * HOUSE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 32                                          
 Establishing YUKLA 27 Remembrance Day.                                        
                                                                               
      - PASSED OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                
                                                                               
 (* First public hearing)                                                      
                                                                               
 PREVIOUS ACTION                                                               
                                                                               
 BILL:  HJR 61                                                               
 SHORT TITLE: ANCHORAGE VETERANS AFFAIRS OFFICE                                
 SPONSOR(S): STATE AFFAIRS                                                     
                                                                               
 JRN-DATE      JRN-PG          ACTION                                          
                                                                               
 03/08/96      3029    (H)   READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S)                 
 03/08/96      3029    (H)   MLV, STATE AFFAIRS                                
 03/22/96              (H)   MLV AT  5:00 PM CAPITOL 17                        
                                                                               
 BILL:  HCR 32                                                               
 SHORT TITLE: YUKLA 27 REMEMBRANCE DAY                                         
 SPONSOR(S): LABOR & COMMERCE                                                  
                                                                               
 JRN-DATE      JRN-PG          ACTION                                          
 03/08/96      3028    (H)   READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S)                 
 03/08/96      3028    (H)   MLV                                               
 03/22/96              (H)   MLV AT  5:00 PM CAPITOL 17                        
                                                                               
 WITNESS REGISTER                                                              
                                                                               
 TIM ARMSTRONG, Commander                                                      
 Taku Post, Veterans of Foreign Wars                                           
 Service Officer, Auke Bay American Legion Post                                
 6590 Glacier Highway, Space 101                                               
 Juneau, Alaska  99801                                                         
 Telephone:  (907) 780-6723                                                    
 POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HJR 61                           
                                                                               
 GENE DAW, Past Commander                                                      
 Taku Post, Veterans of Foreign Wars                                           
 P.O. Box 0995                                                                 
 Juneau, Alaska  99802                                                         
 Telephone:  (907) 586-3816                                                    
 POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HJR 61                           
                                                                               
 ACTION NARRATIVE                                                              
                                                                               
 TAPE 96-5, SIDE A                                                             
 Number 0025                                                                   
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR PETE KOTT called the House Special Committee on Military             
 and Veterans' Affairs meeting to order at 5:29 p.m.  Members                  
 present at the call to order were Representatives Ivan, Kott,                 
 Willis and Foster.  Members absent were Representatives Mulder,               
 Phillips and Davies.                                                          
                                                                               
 HJR 61 - ANCHORAGE VETERANS AFFAIRS OFFICE                                
                                                                               
 Number 0067                                                                   
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIRMAN KOTT announced that the first order of business to come           
 before the committee was HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 61, Opposing              
 the proposed changes in the functions of the federal Office of                
 Veterans Affairs in Anchorage.                                                
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ED WILLIS introduced HJR 61, which he stated was               
 brought to his attention by a group of Anchorage veterans.  The               
 resolution supports continuation of the Anchorage Veterans Affairs            
 (VA) Regional Office.  Alaska's demographics are such that the                
 state's already large veteran population will continue to increase,           
 putting even greater demands on the existing office in Anchorage.             
 The resolution also points to the efficiency rating of the                    
 Anchorage VA office, which is the sixth highest of the 57 regional            
 VA offices in the nation.  HJR 61 also states that moving the                 
 pension and claims functions of the Anchorage office to Reno,                 
 Nevada and Phoenix, Arizona would impact the processing of claims             
 and applications, and prevent personal access by veterans.                    
 Finally, HJR 61 puts the Alaska legislature on record as opposing             
 the federal proposal of downsizing the Anchorage VA office and                
 shifting the functions to other states.  Representative Willis                
 introduced Tim Armstrong and Gene Daw, of the Veterans of Foreign             
 Wars (VFW).                                                                   
                                                                               
 Number 0306                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE RICHARD FOSTER commended Representative Willis for             
 introducing HJR 61.  He stated that at least a dozen veterans had             
 visited his office to discuss the issue, and that he had spoken               
 with Colonel John Ritz of Senator Stevens' staff in Washington,               
 D.C., about the matter.  He noted that passage of HJR 61 would make           
 a strong statement.  Representative Foster made a motion that HJR             
 61, with attached fiscal note and individual recommendations, pass            
 out of the House Special Committee on Military and Veterans'                  
 Affairs.                                                                      
 Number 0395                                                                   
                                                                               
 TIM ARMSTRONG, Commander, Taku Post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars           
 (VFW) and Service Officer, Auke Bay American Legion Post, stated              
 that Gene Daw, Past Commander of the Taku VFW post, wished to                 
 address an issue of concern to veterans.                                      
                                                                               
 Number 0460                                                                   
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIRMAN KOTT asked if the proposed testimony was related to HJR           
 61.                                                                           
                                                                               
 GENE DAW, Past Commander, Taku Post of the VFW, stated that the VFW           
 is in 100 percent support of HJR 61, but that he also wished to               
 testify on another matter.  He explained that he has been working             
 with Senator Stevens' office.  Senator Stevens has requested that             
 the VA send an under secretary to Anchorage, to discuss the                   
 proposed relocation.  In addition, the under secretary will also              
 discuss the issue of out-patient treatment for veterans.  The VA              
 plans to put veterans under a Medicare fee schedule.  In some areas           
 of Alaska, this will result in veterans having to pay a portion of            
 their own medical bills.  In the past, for those having a greater             
 than 50 percent disability, the VA has paid 100 percent of the                
 bill.  Mr. Daw emphasized that Anchorage and Fairbanks would not be           
 affected by this change, because VA centers are located there,                
 where the veterans can receive out-patient treatment at no cost.              
 For veterans in Southeast Alaska or other outlying areas, however,            
 they must receive out-patient treatment in their own communities.             
                                                                               
 Number 0662                                                                   
                                                                               
 MR. DAW further testified that when U.S. troops are sent to battle,           
 they are called the best troops in the world.  He asked why                   
 disabled veterans should not receive the best medical treatment.              
 He reiterated that the VFW supports HJR 61, but that they would               
 also like to see a resolution related to health care for veterans             
 in the state.  He stated the resolution needs to be passed before             
 the under secretary's visit to Anchorage, in order to help convince           
 the VA that it is making a mistake.  He further noted that Senator            
 Stevens is behind the veterans 100 percent, and that passing a                
 resolution would give him more ammunition.                                    
                                                                               
 Number 0769                                                                   
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIRMAN KOTT stated that someone from his staff could assist              
 Mr. Daw in crafting language for a new resolution.  He noted that             
 the deadline would be tight, due to the five day notice requirement           
 for hearings.                                                                 
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE FOSTER suggested that, since time remaining in the             
 session is so short, a letter signed by all of the committee                  
 members might be helpful.                                                     
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIRMAN KOTT noted that a letter would not carry the same                 
 weight as a resolution.  He also noted that, because of the dual              
 subject rule, language regarding the health care issue could not be           
 incorporated into HJR 61.                                                     
                                                                               
 Number 0834                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS concurred that the two issues should be kept            
 separate.                                                                     
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIRMAN KOTT asked if there was any objection to moving HJR 61            
 out of the committee.  Hearing no objection, HJR 61 was moved out             
 of the House Special Committee on Military and Veterans' Affairs,             
 with unanimous consent and attached zero fiscal note.                         
                                                                               
 HCR 32 - YUKLA 27 REMEMBRANCE DAY                                           
                                                                               
 Number 0915                                                                   
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIRMAN IVAN IVAN announced that the next order of business to            
 come before the committee was HOUSE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 32,             
 Establishing YUKLA 27 Remembrance Day.                                        
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE PETE KOTT noted that a bill resembling HCR 32 had              
 been previously introduced, but at the request of many members, it            
 was re-drafted as a resolution.  He stated that the event referred            
 to is unmatched within the state, in terms of loss of life and                
 resources.  The resolution includes the provision that copies will            
 be forwarded to the next of kin of the deceased airmen.                       
                                                                               
 Number 1026                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE RICHARD FOSTER made a motion that the committee pass           
 out the resolution.                                                           
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIRMAN IVAN announced that, there being no objection, HCR 32             
 was passed out of the House Special Committee on Military and                 
 Veterans' Affairs, with unanimous consent and attached zero fiscal            
 note.                                                                         
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIRMAN IVAN then noted that Mr. Daw wished to make a                     
 statement.                                                                    
                                                                               
 Number 1275                                                                   
                                                                               
 MR. DAW then continued his discussion of the proposed reduction to            
 veteran's benefits.  He explained that under the new system, when             
 a medical care provider presents a bill to the VA, the VA will pay            
 whatever the normal Medicare payment would be.  In Southeast Alaska           
 and other outlying areas, this would amount to about 60 percent.              
 Thus, the veteran would be required to pay the remaining 40                   
 percent.  He emphasized that, especially for retired disabled                 
 veterans, this would be a real hardship, especially since it is so            
 unexpected.  These veterans have always counted on the VA to pay              
 their medical bills.                                                          
                                                                               
 Number 1228                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE IVAN suggested that Mr. Daw work with legislative              
 staff to develop a resolution regarding the issue.                            
                                                                               
 MR. DAW further testified that a meeting regarding the Medicare fee           
 schedule had been held in Juneau recently, but no veteran's                   
 organization representatives were invited.  Only medical care                 
 providers were invited.                                                       
                                                                               
 Number 1330                                                                   
                                                                               
 MR. ARMSTRONG noted that the meeting was only discovered by                   
 accident, through a comment by a federal building security guard.             
 No veteran's organizations were notified about the meeting.  Even             
 the local VA affairs representative in the building was not aware             
 of the meeting until it was actually ongoing.                                 
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIRMAN KOTT encouraged Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Daw to work with            
 his staff, and develop language for a resolution.  Co-Chairman Kott           
 noted that the committee would be happy to expedite such a                    
 resolution.                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE IVAN noted that his staff was also available to help           
 with the resolution.                                                          
                                                                               
 ADJOURNMENT                                                                   
 Number 1445                                                                   
                                                                               
 There being no further business to come before the House Special              
 Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs, Co-Chairman Kott                  
 announced that the meeting was adjourned at 5:50 p.m.                         
                                                                               

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