Legislature(2017 - 2018)GRUENBERG 120

03/09/2017 01:00 PM MILITARY & VETERANS' AFFAIRS

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Audio Topic
01:02:09 PM Start
01:02:52 PM Presentation: Ak Veterans Advisory Council
01:58:49 PM HB150
02:07:27 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Presentation: AK Veterans Advisory Council TELECONFERENCED
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
+= HB 150 PAY, ALLOWANCES, BENEFITS FOR MILITIA MEM TELECONFERENCED
Moved HB 150 Out of Committee
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
   HOUSE SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON MILITARY AND VETERANS' AFFAIRS                                                                  
                         March 9, 2017                                                                                          
                           1:02 p.m.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Representative Chris Tuck, Chair                                                                                                
Representative Gabrielle LeDoux, Vice Chair                                                                                     
Representative Justin Parish                                                                                                    
Representative Ivy Spohnholz                                                                                                    
Representative George Rauscher                                                                                                  
Representative Dan Saddler                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Representative Lora Reinbold                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
PRESENTATION: AK VETERANS ADVISORY COUNCIL                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     - HEARD                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
HOUSE BILL NO. 150                                                                                                              
"An Act relating to pay, allowances, and benefits for members of                                                                
the organized militia."                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
     - MOVED HB 150 OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
BILL: HB 150                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: PAY, ALLOWANCES, BENEFITS FOR MILITIA MEM                                                                          
SPONSOR(s): MILITARY & VETERANS' AFFAIRS                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
03/01/17       (H)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
03/01/17       (H)       MLV, FIN                                                                                               
03/07/17       (H)       MLV AT 1:00 PM GRUENBERG 120                                                                           
03/07/17       (H)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
03/07/17       (H)       MINUTE(MLV)                                                                                            
03/09/17       (H)       MLV AT 1:00 PM GRUENBERG 120                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
PAMELA BEALE, Chair                                                                                                             
Alaska Veterans Advisory Council (AVAC)                                                                                         
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION  STATEMENT:   Gave an  overview of  the Alaska  Veterans                                                             
Advisory Council.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
PHILLIP HOKENSON, Member                                                                                                        
Alaska Veterans Advisory Council (AVAC)                                                                                         
Fairbanks, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:   Spoke about  veteran healthcare  during the                                                             
overview of the Alaska Veterans Advisory Council.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
SUELLYN WRIGHT NOVAK, Vice Chair                                                                                                
Alaska Veterans Advisory Council (AVAC)                                                                                         
Eagle River, Alaska                                                                                                             
POSITION  STATEMENT:   Gave  an  update  of the  Alaska  Veterans                                                             
Museum  during  the  overview of  the  Alaska  Veterans  Advisory                                                               
Council.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
VERDIE BOWEN, Director of Veterans Affairs                                                                                      
Office of Veteran Affairs                                                                                                       
Department of Military & Veterans' Affairs (DMVA)                                                                               
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:   During the overview of  the Alaska Veterans                                                             
Advisory Council (AVAC), offered  remarks about the operations of                                                               
the council.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
JAMES HASTINGS, Member                                                                                                          
Alaska Veterans Advisory Council (AVAC)                                                                                         
Wasilla, Alaska                                                                                                                 
POSITION STATEMENT:   During the overview of  the Alaska Veterans                                                             
Advisory  Council,   remarked  on  training  and   employment  of                                                               
veterans.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
RONALD SIEBELS, Member                                                                                                          
Alaska Veterans' Advisory Council (AVAC)                                                                                        
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION  STATEMENT:    Talked about  the  Alaska  Pioneer  Homes                                                             
during the  overview during the  overview of the  Alaska Veterans                                                               
Advisory Council.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
BRIAN DUFFY, Director                                                                                                           
Administrative Services Division                                                                                                
Department of Military & Veterans Affairs (DMVA)                                                                                
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER), Alaska                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  Answered questions  during the hearing on HB                                                             
150.                                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
1:02:09 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CHRIS TUCK  called the House Special  Committee on Military                                                             
and   Veterans'   Affairs  meeting   to   order   at  1:02   p.m.                                                               
Representatives  LeDoux, Parish,  and  Tuck were  present at  the                                                               
call to order.   Representatives Spohnholz, Rauscher, and Saddler                                                               
arrived as the meeting was in progress.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
^Presentation: AK Veterans Advisory Council                                                                                     
           Presentation: AK Veterans Advisory Council                                                                       
                                                                                                                              
1:02:52 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR TUCK announced that the first  order of business would be a                                                               
presentation by the Alaska Veterans Advisory Council.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
1:03:19 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  TUCK   invited  council   members  present   to  introduce                                                               
themselves.   They were:  Robert  "Ski" Marcinkowski (Fairbanks),                                                               
William  Sorrells (Eagle  River),  Phillip Hokenson  (Fairbanks),                                                               
Ronald  Siebels  (Anchorage),  James Hastings  (Wasilla),  Steven                                                               
Williams  (Juneau),  Ronald   Huffman  (Nome),  Irene  Washington                                                               
(Bethel),  Terrance   Pardee  (Haines),  Gerald   "Butch"  Diotte                                                               
(Wasilla), Suellyn  Wright Novak,  Vice Chair (Eagle  River), and                                                               
Pamela Beale Chair (Anchorage).                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
1:04:16 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
PAMELA  BEALE, Chair,  Alaska Veterans  Advisory Council  (AVAC),                                                               
gave  an  overview  of  the  council.   She  paraphrased  from  a                                                               
document  [included  in  the committee  packet],  which  read  as                                                               
follows [original punctuation provided]:                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     The  council consists  of 13  members appointed  by the                                                                    
     governor.    One  or  more  persons  appointed  to  the                                                                    
     council will  be from a  veterans organization,  one or                                                                    
     more persons from a state  agency that manages programs                                                                    
     affecting veterans,  and one  or more persons  from the                                                                    
     general public who are familiar with veterans issues.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     The  council advises  the  Department  of Military  and                                                                    
     Veterans  Affairs  and,  through  the  governor,  other                                                                    
     departments  and  agencies  of  the  state  on  matters                                                                    
     concerning state veterans,  their dependents, and their                                                                    
     survivors.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
     The council  makes recommendations to the  governor and                                                                    
     the  Department concerning  the needs  of and  benefits                                                                    
     for  the state's  veterans, for  developing public  and                                                                    
     private   partnerships  to   meet   those  needs,   for                                                                    
     providing information regarding  veterans' benefits and                                                                    
     services, for improving  recognition of state veterans,                                                                    
     and on  other matters; and hold  meetings and establish                                                                    
     committees  and internal  procedures  as necessary  and                                                                    
     appropriate to carry out its duties.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MS. BEALE listed some of AVAC's  highlights since 2006:  there is                                                               
now  a flag  signifying  veteran status  on  the Alaska  driver's                                                               
license  and ID  card; there  are  Purple Heart,  gold star,  and                                                               
disabled  veteran  license  plates; [there  is  availability  of]                                                               
education benefits for  spouses and dependents of  those who died                                                               
on active  duty; AVAC  now has  a designated  seat on  the Alaska                                                               
Workforce  Investment  board  (AWIB);   and  AVAC  established  a                                                               
pioneer  home which  currently houses  117 veterans.   She  noted                                                               
that AVAC has participated in  several successful veteran summits                                                               
across the  state.  She  added that AVAC now  has a section  on a                                                               
webpage  for  to  allow  the  public  to  ask  questions  to  the                                                               
committee through the Office of Veteran Affairs.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MS.  BEALE explained  that  the committee  plans  to continue  to                                                               
monitor the  U.S. Department of Veterans  Affairs (VA) healthcare                                                               
agreement.   She remarked,  "We also  know that  as of  August 7,                                                               
[2017], we will not have the  Choice Program as it's been, so ...                                                               
[there] will be  some changes going on."  She  indicated that the                                                               
council  plans  to  consider  VA  benefits  and  any  changes  or                                                               
additions to state benefits.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
1:07:50 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
PHILLIP  HOKENSON,  Member,   Alaska  Veterans  Advisory  Council                                                               
(AVAC), gave  an overview  of veteran  healthcare.   He indicated                                                               
that he  also works for the  VA and has worked  in the healthcare                                                               
arena with  the Choice Program  and with sharing  agreements with                                                               
the  tribal healthcare  organizations throughout  the state.   He                                                               
stated that  he does not  know the  status of the  Choice Program                                                               
after August  7, 2017.   He offered  his understanding  that when                                                               
the law came into  effect, it fenced in the money  for the VA and                                                               
forced the  VA in Alaska  to use  the Choice Program  to purchase                                                               
healthcare.   He noted  that there  was trouble  implementing the                                                               
program initially,  but now the  [VA] has  acclimated to it.   He                                                               
explained that  the program is  the primary method  of purchasing                                                               
care from private healthcare providers throughout the state.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. HOKENSON  noted that he  is not sure what  veteran healthcare                                                               
will  look like  after the  funding  runs out  on August  7.   He                                                               
offered that hometown integrated  healthcare services - the folks                                                               
who know  the veterans in  Alaska and  know the providers  - will                                                               
still  be directly  interfacing with  veterans and  providers and                                                               
will be  pushing out authorizations  to community providers.   He                                                               
offered his  belief that contractors  will be doing  the back-end                                                               
work of  paying the bills and  completing the claim process.   He                                                               
stated  that although  he is  unsure of  all the  details, he  is                                                               
confident the transition will be relatively painless.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
1:10:15 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  TUCK asked  how healthcare  was funded  before the  Choice                                                               
Program was instituted.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MR. HOKENSON  explained that the  Choice Program is based  on the                                                               
Alaska model  [of funding].   Veteran healthcare in Alaska  has a                                                               
small, primary care-focused footprint, with  one major clinic:  a                                                               
joint-venture  hospital with  the air  force clinic  at JBER  and                                                               
other outpatient  clinics in  Fairbanks, Kenai,  and Juneau.   He                                                               
indicated  that  prior to  the  Choice  Program, Alaska  received                                                               
station  funding,  and  there weren't  "different  lines."    The                                                               
Choice  Program  came with  certain  stipulations  for using  the                                                               
funding.   One stipulation was that  the VA would be  a secondary                                                               
payer  when care  was purchased  in  a community.   He  remarked,                                                               
"There was  money that was basically  fenced into that pot."   He                                                               
relayed that there is still  station funding; nothing has changed                                                               
regarding the  purchase of urgent  emergency care in  Alaska, but                                                               
there is a different mechanism of funding.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
1:12:16 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SADDLER  asked if  there  is  a call  center  for                                                               
"Vet's Choice" in Alaska.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR.  HOKENSON  responded  that  the  phone  lines  were  recently                                                               
transitioned.  He  described that a call center  had been brought                                                               
back into Alaska following a  debacle with a contractor:  TriWest                                                               
[Healthcare  Alliance]  did  not   understand  the  specifics  of                                                               
healthcare within  Alaska.  He  noted that the call  center still                                                               
exists for  purchasing care, and there  is now a call  tree.  The                                                               
call tree goes through a regional  call center to "free the hands                                                               
of front-line  employees" who take  as many  as 60 phone  calls a                                                               
day so that they can coordinate care.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER asked for clarification on the call tree.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR. HOKENSON explained that when  someone calls the VA in Alaska,                                                               
he/she  is most  likely  referred  to a  call  center, which  Mr.                                                               
Hokenson  said  he  believes is  in  Walla  Walla,  [Washington].                                                               
Then,  a  phone operator  directs  the  call to  the  appropriate                                                               
person,  such as  a  nurse or  provider.   This  process is  more                                                               
efficient.  He acknowledged that  with implementing such changes,                                                               
there will be "some hiccups."   He offered his understanding that                                                               
the VA has tried to reconcile any issues and fix problems.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
1:14:51 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS.  BEALE   stated  that   the  council   is  working   on  five                                                               
resolutions.   She  indicated  that the  council  will need  help                                                               
implementing the resolutions.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
1:15:32 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SUELLYN  WRIGHT  NOVAK,  Vice  Chair,  Alaska  Veterans  Advisory                                                               
Council (AVAC),  gave an  update of  the Alaska  Veterans Museum.                                                               
She  said that  she  is  the Executive  Director  for the  Alaska                                                               
Veterans  Museum.   She  stated  that  the  effort for  a  museum                                                               
started 16  years ago, and the  museum will have been  open for 6                                                               
years on April 17.   She remarked, "It took 10 years  to do a lot                                                               
of branding and [for] people to  realize who and what we were and                                                               
what we  were trying to do."   The museum opened  on Palm Sunday,                                                               
April 17,  2011.   Since then,  the museum  has won  many awards,                                                               
including:   a Seymour Award  from Visit Anchorage, for  the best                                                               
community organization,  and the Dena'ina Service  Award from the                                                               
Downtown Partnership,  for the best community  team in Anchorage.                                                               
She  stated that  the museum  raised  $47,000 on  the "Iron  Dog"                                                               
raffle,  which was  the most  successful non-profit  partner that                                                               
the Iron Dog had ever had.  She recounted:                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     If we sold  700 tickets, we were supposed  to get about                                                                    
     $50,000.   Well,  we sold  800 tickets,  but thanks  to                                                                    
     somebody  in Fairbanks  stealing the  second prize,  we                                                                    
     kind of lost a little money.  So, it is what it is.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MS. WRIGHT NOVAK  explained that the museum has  been active with                                                               
various support groups and service  organizations.  The museum is                                                               
working with the History Channel  and PBS documentaries on a six-                                                               
part mini-series on the Aleutian  campaign and the Alaska scouts,                                                               
and now the  Discovery Channel is considering  starting a similar                                                               
project.  She  stated that the funds for the  75th anniversary of                                                               
bombing at Dutch Harbor are  being handled through [the museum's]                                                               
501(c)(3) status.  The event will  take place in Dutch Harbor, on                                                               
June 2-4,  2017, and  the Discovery Channel  and a  Japanese film                                                               
crew are anticipated to present.   She summarized that the museum                                                               
has been  extremely active.   She urged  the committee  to become                                                               
members and  said, "It's  the best  $30 you'll  ever spend.   And                                                               
when you're  in Anchorage,  it's the best  $3 you'll  ever spend,                                                               
but that's  why, you  see, you  need to  be a  member -  then you                                                               
don't have to  pay."  She informed the committee  that the museum                                                               
is in the Blue Marketplace Mall,  on the corner of 4th Avenue and                                                               
D Street in Anchorage.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
1:18:31 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER asked  how a visit to  the Alaska Veterans                                                               
Museum fits  into the  typical itinerary of  a traveler  from the                                                               
Outside, who is visiting Southcentral Alaska.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MS.  NOVAK responded  that  the museum  has done  a  good job  in                                                               
advertising  and marketing  "virtually everywhere."   She  stated                                                               
that the  museum is  a "desired  destination for  American Legion                                                               
Members," which gives  the members benefits and  gives the museum                                                               
visibility.   She noted that  in the summertime, the  museum sees                                                               
up to 35 guests  a day, but only sees 0 to 2  visitors per day in                                                               
the  winter.   However, the  museum had  65 visitors  on Iditarod                                                               
Saturday  and  received  71 extra  donations,  as  she  remarked,                                                               
"because we  put a ladder out  front so people could  crawl up on                                                               
top to take pictures of the dogs."                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SADDLER  asked  for  an explanation  of  how  the                                                               
support of veterans and volunteers  contributes to the mission of                                                               
the museum.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MS.  NOVAK explained  that it  is an  all-volunteer organization.                                                               
She  noted  that veterans  support  the  museum  the most.    She                                                               
conveyed  that  the  veteran  service  organizations  ensure  the                                                               
museum  has  funding.   She  said  the  museum does  [apply  for]                                                               
grants, but grants  possible for a non-profit like  the museum do                                                               
not cover operating  funds; funding from such  grants covers only                                                               
things  like bringing  up  a traveling  exhibit  or building  new                                                               
exhibits.  She  stated that the museum has  received funding from                                                               
both the  Atwood and Rasmussen  foundations.  She  remarked, "For                                                               
the most part, it is our  veterans that support us, so that's why                                                               
we  are  actively  seeking  your membership."    She  cited  that                                                               
alaskaveterans.org is where one could apply on line.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER  identified that  he is already  a member.                                                               
He asked  what the physical  plan is for the  museum's exhibition                                                               
material and space.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MS. NOVAK answered that the museum  has a very full, 1,433 square                                                               
foot, L-shaped  room.  She said,  "If I were queen,  I would take                                                               
over the  entire mall  down there,  or at  least that  back end."                                                               
She explained that  there might be a better plan:   the museum is                                                               
investigating  co-locating with  the  Alaska  Aviation Museum  to                                                               
share   resources   and   expertise  for   museum   studies   and                                                               
conservation.   She  said  the museum  is  actively pursuing  co-                                                               
location  and is  developing the  proposal.   The draft  proposal                                                               
will be  available by April  and signed by  June.  She  aired her                                                               
hope  to move  to the  Alaska Aviation  Museum by  the middle  of                                                               
October.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
1:22:40 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
VERDIE  BOWEN, Director  of Veterans  Affairs, Office  of Veteran                                                               
Affairs,  Department  of  Military &  Veterans'  Affairs  (DMVA),                                                               
stated that  he provides administrative and  financial support to                                                               
the  [council].   He explained  that he  meets annually  with the                                                               
council to  review current state  laws that provide  benefits for                                                               
veterans  and  to  review  items   of  interest  pointed  out  by                                                               
veterans, such  as the driver's license  identification passed by                                                               
Representative Saddler, which had  been reviewed and supported by                                                               
the council.   He  noted that the  board has  supported different                                                               
issues with the Hmong [veterans].   He stated that the council is                                                               
good  at   researching  and  reviewing  items   of  interest  for                                                               
veterans, because  council members are from  communities all over                                                               
Alaska, which  brings a veteran,  area-specific expertise  to the                                                               
council and to Alaska.  He continued:                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
     Sometimes  it's  hard ...  to  visualize  what goes  on                                                                    
     along  the [Yukon-Kuskokwim]  (YK) Delta  unless you've                                                                    
     been out  there. ... But  if you ask  Irene Washington,                                                                    
     she  can tell  you instantaneously  some of  the issues                                                                    
     that she  faces within the  Bethel region.  You  can do                                                                    
     the same thing  with Ron Huffman, in Nome,  which has a                                                                    
     whole different flavor  of events.  And then  as you go                                                                    
     into Haines,  you have other  issues that  the veterans                                                                    
     will be experiencing there, as well.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
1:24:35 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX thanked Mr.  Bowen for mentioning the Hmong                                                               
community.   She asked  what efforts  are being  made by  AVAC or                                                               
Congress  to  make sure  the  Hmong  [veterans] are  getting  the                                                               
benefits they  were promised when  they were fighting in  the war                                                               
in Laos and  Vietnam.  She noted that the  Hmong veterans haven't                                                               
been formerly acknowledged as veterans.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MR. BOWEN  stated that the  Hmong license plate was  supported by                                                               
AVAC.  He  noted that last year, the  council supported extending                                                               
the  veteran status  to the  Hmong onto  the driver's  license in                                                               
recognition of the Hmong [veterans'  service].  He stated that in                                                               
2012 and  2013, in  Washington, D.C., his  office worked  to help                                                               
the Hmong  [veterans] receive the  rights of access to  burial in                                                               
federal cemeteries.   He noted  that the  bill has never  made it                                                               
out of  committees, but  Senator Murkowski  has brought  the bill                                                               
forward several  times.   He said  that those  type of  items are                                                               
brought back before the council each  year.  He offered that some                                                               
members of  the council attend  the Hmong memorial  services held                                                               
in May each year.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
1:26:32 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER  listed many wars and  conflicts that have                                                               
occurred  since the  Vietnam  War.   He asked  if  the Office  of                                                               
Veteran  Affairs can  address  the needs  of  veterans from  more                                                               
recent  conflicts.   He asked  if  there is  anything helping  or                                                               
hindering the office from doing so.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MR. BOWEN  explained that  currently people  serving in  Iraq are                                                               
between the  ages of 18 and  60, because the National  Guard is a                                                               
frontline force;  therefore, the office  can't specify an  age of                                                               
veteran.  He stated that the  biggest issue the office faces with                                                               
assisting returning  veterans is  that once  a service  member is                                                               
out of  service, it is  very hard  to get back  into the VA.   He                                                               
said  it is  somewhat cyclic:   After  the Vietnam  War, veterans                                                               
either did  not seek care  or were  treated poorly when  they did                                                               
seek  care.   Today,  veterans are  not  treated poorly;  they're                                                               
treated very well.   He indicated the DMVA tries  to reach out to                                                               
veterans with community events, but  they often don't enroll.  He                                                               
stated that each veteran has  his/her own personal reason for not                                                               
enrolling.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR. BOWEN recounted that he worked  to get an individual into the                                                               
VA system  for three years.   This individual paid for  a surgery                                                               
on his leg, which was injured  in Iraq.  After the individual got                                                               
into  the  program  and received  his  disability,  he  remarked,                                                               
"Gosh, I wish I would have done  that five years ago."  Mr. Bowen                                                               
described that  comments made today  mirror those made  after the                                                               
Vietnam War:  veterans from  current conflicts say all the people                                                               
in the VA are from the  Vietnam war; Vietnam veterans used to say                                                               
all the people in  the VA were World War II  veterans.  He stated                                                               
that those comments are  not true - the ages of  people in the VA                                                               
vary from young to old, just like in the military.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
1:29:41 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. BEALE asked if AVAC members could ask questions.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR TUCK said, "Sure."                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
1:30:09 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
JAMES  HASTINGS,   Member,  Alaska  Veterans   Advisory  Council,                                                               
identified that  he has been part  of the council since  2011 and                                                               
has  seen a  lot of  good  things happen.   He  said that  things                                                               
change over  time.  He  expressed that  there has been  some good                                                               
legislation, and more is forthcoming.   The council has been able                                                               
to interface  with the community  and bring  constituents' issues                                                               
to the  legislature.   He stated  that the  council has  kept its                                                               
focus  on the  big picture,  instead  of being  bogged down  with                                                               
individual  concerns  which  can  be  dealt  with  through  other                                                               
systems.   He explained  that the council  looks at  the economic                                                               
stimulus of  the Alaska veteran  and the  transitioning military.                                                               
He remarked:                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
     We're still  at a point  where we import labor  when we                                                                    
     have a work-ready  labor force prepared to  step out of                                                                    
     the  uniform and  go to  work the  next day.   We  work                                                                    
     closely  with  the  Department of  Labor  [&  Workforce                                                                    
     Development] at  the state and  the federal  ... level.                                                                    
     We've  been able  to  ...  utilize a  lot  of the  step                                                                    
     grants outside of just simply the union training.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR. HASTINGS said the council  has been fortunate in getting more                                                               
generous  acceptance of  military  training for  credit with  the                                                               
[University of  Alaska Anchorage] (UAA).   He stated, "We  have a                                                               
workforce."  He noted that  268 veterans per month transition out                                                               
of some military  component.  The transition program  at the Army                                                               
Career and Alumni Program (ACAP)  meets weekly.  About 30 percent                                                               
of attendees  say that they  "want" to  stay in Alaska,  but only                                                               
half of those  "are going to" [stay].  He  reported that when the                                                               
attendees  are asked  whether they  would  stay if  they had  job                                                               
training  and could  afford a  home off-base,  70-80 percent  say                                                               
they would stay.  He  emphasized the importance of state training                                                               
and employment program grants.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MR. HASTINGS  reported that the  Division of  Employment Training                                                               
Services is working with the  council on federal grants that help                                                               
identify needs  of members  of the military  and match  them with                                                               
employers.   The employers make  "pre-offers" in a  process which                                                               
is similar  to enlisting in the  military and is familiar  to the                                                               
veterans.   He  stated that  this gives  veterans the  ability to                                                               
forecast and  make plans.   He expressed  that having  a seamless                                                               
transition  is  the  goal;  currently  there  is  a  break  after                                                               
veterans get  out of the military.   They must decide  where they                                                               
want to go to  work and they must find home  financing.  Having a                                                               
job lined  up ahead of  time, gives  the military the  ability to                                                               
assuage unemployment, which is important to DoD.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
1:34:38 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR.  HASTINGS  acknowledged that  homeless  veterans  need to  be                                                               
taken  care  of, but  not  without  first  making the  effort  to                                                               
prevent veterans from getting to that point.  He remarked:                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     Let's catch them  in the uniform and say,  "Hey, do you                                                                    
     want  to be  an  Alaskan  for the  rest  of your  life?                                                                    
     Cause  if you  do,  we've got  a plan  for  you."   And                                                                    
     that's  what the  state's doing  right now  through our                                                                    
     own funding and our federal funding.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR.  HASTINGS encouraged  the committee  to  support any  funding                                                               
that    deals    with    transitional    employment,    training,                                                               
certification,  and entrepreneurial  [education].   He  described                                                               
that  funding that  helps make  that American  citizen an  Alaska                                                               
resident will  lead to  a greater Alaskan  workforce.   He stated                                                               
that  exporting  Alaska's  income   has  been  reversed  in  some                                                               
instances.   He explained  that there are  now truck  drivers who                                                               
drive for  three weeks  at a  time in  the Lower  48 but  live in                                                               
Alaska.    He  reminded  the  committee  that  veterans  and  the                                                               
military are an economic impulse for the state.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
1:35:45 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SADDLER asked  if "bumping  up" military  resumes                                                               
has helped employees.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR. HASTINGS  said it has  helped.  He  stated that the  onus has                                                               
been on the veteran to  "speak civilian," but some companies have                                                               
reversed  that and  have  human resources  staff  who can  "speak                                                               
military."    He  noted that  employers  can  overlook  qualified                                                               
personnel  by not  understanding military  keywords in  a resume.                                                               
He expressed  that veterans  are also  getting better  at writing                                                               
civilian resumes.  He remarked:                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
     We had 37  people on the Point Thomson  build that were                                                                    
     hand  selected, still  in  uniform,  that went  through                                                                    
     selected  [a]  training  program,   and  went  to  work                                                                    
     building Point  Thomson, and we're starting  again with                                                                    
     ConocoPhillips [Alaska, Inc.] on the next ramp up.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MR. HASTINGS added  that he has told  ConocoPhillips Alaska, Inc.                                                               
that the  military can find  and train  as many people  as needed                                                               
for the jobs.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER applauded Chair Tuck  for the passage of a                                                               
bill  for veteran  preference for  private employers.   He  asked                                                               
what things the  committee could do to further help  with job and                                                               
skill training for veterans.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. HASTINGS responded  that the council will  be encouraging UAA                                                               
with educational  funding and the Technical  Vocational Education                                                               
Program (TVEP).   He spoke  of leveraging funds by  encouraging a                                                               
genuine acceptance of military training  for credit.  He asserted                                                               
that there  must be an  individual breakdown on  capabilities and                                                               
potential.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
1:38:27 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  PARISH thanked  the  council for  its  work.   He                                                               
expressed that yesterday he introduced  a bill which would direct                                                               
the  state to  learn  to  "speak a  little  bit  of military"  by                                                               
considering military  experience in hiring and  possibly allowing                                                               
military experience  to substitute  for a  four-year degree.   He                                                               
requested  the council  to work  with him,  review the  bill, and                                                               
offer feedback.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MR. HASTINGS responded that the  council would love to help craft                                                               
the bill  language.  He  expressed that council members  offer an                                                               
advantage because of their years  of military experience at every                                                               
level.  He remarked,  "We want to be a part of  this program.  We                                                               
want to be able  to ... look at it line for  line."  He requested                                                               
that  the  council  be  engaged in  projects  and  ideas  through                                                               
working with the Office of Veteran  Affairs.  He said he has seen                                                               
individuals who can build an entire  city from the desert up, but                                                               
can't get a job at Lowes'  for various reasons.  He characterized                                                               
the   bill  [mentioned   by   Representative   Parish]  as   good                                                               
legislation.  He stated that  he understands the fiscal issue and                                                               
the council is not looking for  money, but he asked the committee                                                               
to consider  economic drivers  such as property  tax breaks.   He                                                               
explained  that some  resist such  a  tax break  saying it  would                                                               
"break the borough."   He noted that the sum of  such a tax break                                                               
is not even  $10 million.  He said that  the return on investment                                                               
for that  $10 million  tax break  results in  veterans purchasing                                                               
homes and raising  families in Alaska, which  easily replaces the                                                               
funding.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
1:41:11 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR   TUCK   informed   the    committee   and   council   that                                                               
Representative Parish's bill would be heard in a week.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
1:41:22 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SPOHNHOLZ  mentioned the need for  universities to                                                               
be  more  welcoming institutions.    She  recalled that  UAA  was                                                               
recognized as a  veteran-friendly institution.  She  asked if Mr.                                                               
Hastings still finds  that to be true and asked  if there are any                                                               
barriers that need to be addressed.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MR.  HASTINGS   stated  that  he   doesn't  hear   complaints  of                                                               
universities  not working  well with  individuals, and  he thinks                                                               
it's a good relationship.   He offered his understanding that the                                                               
more generous a  university is with its  accreditation, the fewer                                                               
dollars come through.  He asked  Mr. Bowen how many complaints he                                                               
sees.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
1:42:17 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. BOWEN  said that  the complaints received  by his  office are                                                               
generally  from transitioning  credits between  schools, such  as                                                               
from UAA to  UAF.  He explained that one  university won't accept                                                               
coursework from another, when the  courses have the same book and                                                               
syllabus.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SPOHNHOLZ  noted  that  this is  a  problem  with                                                               
having three  separate accreditations.  She  explained that often                                                               
the courses  aren't identical; they are  "just different enough."                                                               
She  stated that  she is  familiar with  the kinds  of complaints                                                               
regarding  transferring.   She asked  if there  are any  concerns                                                               
about  the  admissions  processes,   support  for  veterans  once                                                               
they've  been  admitted,  or providing  appropriate  services  to                                                               
current military students.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
1:43:45 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR.  BOWEN responded  the biggest  issues  are about  counselors,                                                               
returns  of  phone  calls,  or  financial  departments,  and  the                                                               
complaints  are not  about the  classroom side.   He  stated that                                                               
problems generally  arise when  processing government  issue (GI)                                                               
bill  payments   and  getting  the  proper   documents  from  the                                                               
university back  to the VA.   He said that the  Office of Veteran                                                               
Affairs has  expanded Mercedes Angerman's  job title  [of program                                                               
coordinator] to  add the state  approving agency so that  she can                                                               
help with  the education process in  the state to reduce  some of                                                               
the issues between the university and the VA.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
1:44:46 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR TUCK  added that  he serves  on the  trustee board  for the                                                               
Alaska  Electrical  Apprenticeship School  and  is  proud of  the                                                               
"Helmets to  Hardhats" program.   He noted  that even  though the                                                               
program has been  cut back, the program's  standards still accept                                                               
military students.  He said  the program does recognize their [DD                                                               
Form 214, Certificate  of Release or Discharge  from Active Duty]                                                               
(DD214).  He said although  some [credits] are difficult to apply                                                               
to state  licenses, the program  applies a  lot of the  credit to                                                               
continuing their education to get a  license.  He stated that the                                                               
pillars  of  the  program's  motto   are  attitude,  skills,  and                                                               
knowledge.   He described that  the military personnel -  both in                                                               
the  Helmets to  Hardhats program  and outside  of the  program -                                                               
have the pillars well established.   He expressed that within the                                                               
apprenticeship  programs,  military  personnel  tend  to  be  the                                                               
leaders,   foremen,  and   project  managers   immediately  after                                                               
completing the  program.   He summarized  that it's  important to                                                               
have  veterans' hiring  preference  and programs  like these  for                                                               
valuing  military personnel's  skills, teamwork,  and ability  to                                                               
adapt and make decisions.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
1:46:30 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
RONALD  SIEBELS,   Member,  Alaska  Veterans'   Advisory  Council                                                               
(AVAC),  noted that  he has  previously worked  with many  of the                                                               
committee  members.   He congratulated  the  committee for  their                                                               
support of veterans.  He said  that other states' veterans do not                                                               
get support  from their legislatures.   He remarked,  "In Alaska,                                                               
we do have ears that listen."                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. SIEBELS explained  that he also serves on  the Alaska Pioneer                                                               
Home Advisory  Board.  He  requested the committee spend  time in                                                               
the Alaska  Pioneer Homes,  which house veterans.   He  said that                                                               
the veterans  in the Alaska Pioneer  Homes don't say a  lot, they                                                               
don't complain  a lot  or make  phone calls, but  they care.   He                                                               
asked  the committee  to talk  to the  residents and  veterans in                                                               
Alaska  Pioneer Homes.    He expressed  that  the Alaska  Pioneer                                                               
Homes are  important for the  state of  Alaska; they are  a much-                                                               
needed asset.   He  expressed his  wish for  more homes  and more                                                               
money to fund staff.  He  said Alaska Pioneer Homes give Alaska a                                                               
good name.  He urged the committee  to do anything it can to help                                                               
the Alaska Pioneer Homes.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
1:48:37 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS.  BEALE stated  all the  council  members have  a passion  for                                                               
military.  She thanked the committee for its time.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
1:49:12 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  TUCK  thanked  AVAC  for   its  service,  dedication,  and                                                               
volunteerism.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
1:49:23 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SADDLER asked  what  the committee  could do  for                                                               
AVAC that would be the most beneficial.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
1:49:33 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS.  BEALE  answered  that  committee  members  consideration  of                                                               
AVAC's  resolutions would  be the  most beneficial.   She  stated                                                               
that having  support to take  a bill or resolution  forward would                                                               
help veterans.   She remarked,  "It may  not be ...  something of                                                               
dollar value, but  it's a value to  each of us as  a veteran, and                                                               
each of the military members."                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
1:50:43 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
The committee took an at-ease from 1:51 p.m. to 1:59 p.m.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
        HB 150-PAY, ALLOWANCES, BENEFITS FOR MILITIA MEM                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
1:58:49 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR TUCK  announced that the  final order of business  would be                                                               
HOUSE  BILL NO.  150, "An  Act relating  to pay,  allowances, and                                                               
benefits for members of the organized militia."                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  TUCK stated  that  HB  150 would  authorize  the same  pay                                                               
allowance and  benefits for the  organized militia,  whether they                                                               
are called  into state  active duty by  the governor  or adjutant                                                               
general,  or called  to serve  under federal  active duty  by the                                                               
president.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
1:59:33 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SADDLER stated  that he  protests the  bill being                                                               
introduced as a committee  bill.  He said he thinks  it is a good                                                               
bill, he  appreciates the indeterminate  fiscal note, but  he has                                                               
some questions about the costs.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  TUCK reviewed  the costs  of HB  150.   He explained  that                                                               
without knowing what natural disasters  may happen in the future,                                                               
determining  set  costs  is  difficult.     He  stated  that  the                                                               
department detailed  the costs of  the 2015 "Sockeye  Fire" under                                                               
the  current   system,  which  required  classification   of  all                                                               
activities  performed  by any  member  of  the organized  militia                                                               
under a  call by  the governor.   The classification  and payment                                                               
are based on what other employees  across the state get paid.  He                                                               
explained  that  an  individual  may  be  on  as  many  as  eight                                                               
different pay  scales in one  day under  the current system.   He                                                               
expressed  that  HB  150  would simplify  the  payments  for  the                                                               
department.  He detailed that  under the current system, the cost                                                               
of  [the  Sockeye  Fire]  was $30,681.93,  while  under  the  new                                                               
system,  [the  cost   of  the  Sockeye  Fire   would  have  been]                                                               
$31,046.33.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SADDLER asked  for clarification  on whether  the                                                               
pay listed  on the  "Sockeye Fire  Spreadsheet" [included  in the                                                               
committee packet] is per hour or per day.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR TUCK answered that it is per day.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER  noted that according to  the spreadsheet,                                                               
a corporal with  11 or more years of service  would make $17 more                                                               
per day under the current system.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
2:02:08 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SPOHNHOLZ  explained that the difference  in total                                                               
salary paid under  the current system and the  proposed system in                                                               
HB 150  for the 2015 Sockeye  Fire is a net  increase of $364.40.                                                               
She  noted  that  the  calculation   does  not  account  for  the                                                               
administrative   cost-savings   of   the  service   members   and                                                               
department staff calculating multiple changes  in work duty.  She                                                               
offered  her intuition  that the  costs  would result  in a  "net                                                               
zero" after  accounting for  "the administrative  simplicity that                                                               
would be implemented."                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
2:03:15 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER mentioned to  "always label your numbers."                                                               
He  asked what  the  column header  in  the spreadsheet,  labeled                                                               
"What if 4+ years" means.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR TUCK offered  his understanding that "years"  refers to the                                                               
years of experience per individual.   He asked Mr. Brian Duffy if                                                               
that is correct.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
2:03:56 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
BRIAN   DUFFY,   Director,  Administrative   Services   Division,                                                               
Department  of  Military  & Veterans  Affairs  (DMVA),  confirmed                                                               
Chair Tuck was correct.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER  again asked if the  aforementioned column                                                               
header assumes four years of service "in that rank."                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR. DUFFY answered that is correct.   He stated that a captain at                                                               
grade  O-3 in  military  vernacular,  who had  over  11 years  of                                                               
service, would  receive the rate  listed in the top  column based                                                               
on rank and experience.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
2:04:55 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE PARISH expressed  that HB 150 is a  good bill that                                                               
lifts  an administrative  burden  from the  state and  individual                                                               
service  members,  who  have  "better things  to  be  doing  than                                                               
checking  their  watches before  and  after  fighting a  fire  to                                                               
estimate  the amount  of time  that they're  spending on  a given                                                               
task."   He stated  that he  supports the bill.   He  thanked the                                                               
chair for being  gracious and "sharing the credit"  by making the                                                               
bill a committee bill.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER  commented that HB  150 is indexed  to the                                                               
federal pay  levels:   If there  is an increase  in salary  for a                                                               
certain range  across all the  U.S. Department of  Defense (DoD),                                                               
then the pay would also be increased in the state salaries.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
2:05:48 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR TUCK responded that is  correct.  He offered his experience                                                               
that as a  foreman, keeping time for all the  different duties on                                                               
a  construction  jobsite  required  a lot  of  time  to  document                                                               
paperwork and took  away from his time supervising the  work.  He                                                               
speculated that  the department would  be more  efficient without                                                               
the detailed time cards and variable pay scales.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
2:06:40 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  LEDOUX  moved  to  report HB  150  out  of  House                                                               
Special  Committee   on  Military  and  Veterans'   Affairs  with                                                               
individual  recommendations and  the  accompanying fiscal  notes.                                                               
There being no objection, HB 150 was moved from committee.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
2:07:27 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
ADJOURNMENT                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
There being no  further business before the  committee, the House                                                               
Special Committee  on Military and Veterans'  Affairs meeting was                                                               
adjourned at 2:07 p.m.                                                                                                          

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
AK Veterans Advisory Council 3.7.17.pdf HMLV 3/9/2017 1:00:00 PM
Alaska Veterans Advisory Council