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08-27-1996 VETERANS AFFAIRS ADVISORY BOARD CITY OF LAS CRUCES P.O. DRAWER CLC LAS CRUCES, NM 88004 MINUTES OF 27 AUGUST 1996 The board convened at 1:00 p.m. in the Board Room of the Branigan Memorial Library. Roll call was taken. Present were: Joseph Heintz, chairman; Warren Rogers, vice chairman and DAV rep; Elsa Baker, VVA rep; Robert Wiley, VFW rep; and Noel Cooley, AMVETS rep. This constituted a quorum. Also present were Fred Frank, DAV chap 10; Mel Barlow, DAV chap 38; and Darlene Garcia, Senator Domenici's rep. The minutes of the July meeting were approved as written. Warren Rogers announced that there was to be a meeting 10 to 11:30 a.m. on 28 August at the Alamogordo Civic Center where the VA will discuss latest policies on health care. There will also be a presentation by the New Mexico Veterans Service Commission. Fred Frank and Warren Rogers will attend. Meeting is open to the public. Fred Frank proposed that a list of veteran speakers be developed to give talks to the Las Cruces schools on military history subjects. The idea was endorsed by the VAAB with the recommendation that it be presented to the UVC of Dona County for action. Elsa Baker read two E-mail reports from TROA about actions being taken on medicare subvention, having medicare billed by DOD medical facilities when treating medicare eligible retirees. There is a similar program being considered by the VA. Elsa Baker reported on the status of the veterans park. City Manager Zaldo does not believe that $200,000 should come out of the city flood control budget for the park drainage structures. Moving the site to avoid this expensive construction is being considered. Relocation of the access road and developing the land closer to the flood control dam is a possible alternate. Copy of Elsa Bakers' Veterans Park Report is attached as encl 1. Joe Heintz and Warren Rogers met with representative Joe Skeen 23 August to discuss veterans affairs and military funding. Skeen was in agreement with veterans that underfunding of the VA budget and delays in processing veterans claims were matters needing correction. He also agreed that the military pay must be raised to keep it in line with its civilian counterparts to ensure a quality all volunteer force. He was in agreement that the medical care for retirees and their dependents must be improved. Mel Barlow read a letter from the VA on new National Cemeteries. There are none being considered for New Mexico, and only a couple are being scheduled in the more densely populated area of the country. Copy of VA letter to Senator Bingamon about cemeteries is attached as encl 2. Action continues on the Veterans Day Parade. Commitments from various groups are being received by the parade committee. There being no further business, the board adjourned at 2 :20 p.m. Next meeting is 24 September. Warren Rogers Acting Secretary Veterans Memorial Park. The proposed letter to Mayor Smith and the City (discussed at our 23 July meeting) was signed by thirteen veteran:; and taken to City Ball the next day (24 July) . As a result, the City Ptar,a cr, Mr. Zaldo, has taken a special interest in the project and its total cost. In order to build the park on the already designated parcel on Roadrunner :could require the $70,000 already earmarked for supplies, would use the iiomebuilder's Association donated labor and would require $200,000 to lay three concrete drainage pipes (for flood control) . Additional funds would need to be ad;_ed later for the monument (gazebo) and restrooms. Mr. Zaldo has set some actions in motion. First, the office of the City attorney is to press the land developer to turn over the additional land he is required to turn over for City park use. Second, Joni Gutierrez , Landscape Architect, is to re-design the park by 30 August using available adjoining land (one option) . On 23 August, Elsa Baker, Joseph Heintz, Warren Rogers and Mel Barlow, were shown an adjoining piece of land to the present parcel as a possibility. This land is the flood plain east of tie present parcel. While it would make a good park site in general, no buildings should be built on it. Therefore, the monument, restrooms, access road and parking would still need to be placed on the higher ground of the existing site. Bottom line as of this date (27 August) , is that the City is looking at options. encl - 1 i UQDEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AlfFAIRS National Cemetery Syste Washington DC 204201 JUL 231996 The Honorable Jeff Bingaman UUL 3 0 Ws United States Senatlar 505 S. Main Street Suite 148 Las Cruces, New Mexico 88001 Dear Senator Bingaman: - I am replying to your letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jesse Brown on behalf of Mr. Mel Ba-low, who vr:otn to VOU again, concerning 0:-: burial needs of veterans. Your letter `..gas forwarded to the "catlonai Carnatei y System and I ani replying as I am responsible for the daily field operations of our 114 VA national cemeteries. We share Mr. Barlow's concern that there be sufficient burial space available to serve those eligible veterans who desire interment among their fellow veterans. In 1987 and 1994 we prepared Reports to Congress to identify those areas of the country most in need of new national cemeteries. Our studies were based on concentrations of veteran population not served. We also must ensure that America's taxpayers receive the most return possible for their investment--in this instance, that new national cemeteries are built in areas where the greatest number of veterans will be served. To that end, we are currently in the process of constructing new national cemeteries to serve Albany, New York; Chicago, Illinois; Cleveland, Ohio; Dallas, Texas, and Seattle, Washington. After the year 2000, we intend to review the need for national cemetery establishment in the other areas of the country identified in the reports. To continue to serve those communities where established national cemeteries are a vital part of the local environment, we are expanding those cemeteries that have available adjacent land that we can obtain. For example, we expanded Fort Gibson National Cemetery in Oklahoma and reopened Port Hudson National Cemetery in Louisiana through expansion. We are also pleased that recent legislation provides for the transfer of additional land from the Department of the Army to VA for the expansion of Fort Bliss and Fort Sam Houston National Cemeteries in Texas. Mr. Barlow may be interested to know that the Government is not transferring national cemeteries to the states. Aside from national cemeteries, the other program to provide burial space for veterans is the State Cemetery Grants Program. This program is a complement to the National Cemetery System, but does not transfer its cemeteries to the states. When VA received jur;sdiction for most of the Nation's national cemeteries through the National Cemeteries Act of 1973, the Act's language recognized that the Federal Government could not provide for the burial needs of all of our Nation's veterans. On October 18, 1978, Congress encl 2 Page 2 The Honorable Jeff Bingaman enacted the State Cemetery Grants Program, which provides Federal funding of up to one-half the cost for establishing, expanding or improving State-owned and - operated veterans cemeteries. The program is voluntary and each State's legislature must determine whether the State will participate. The program encourages and supports States to provide gravesites in those areas where the burial needs of veterans are not being met by the primary service area of an existing national or state veterans cemetery. There are now 51 state veterans cemeteries in 28 States and the Territory of Guam, with new state veterans cemeteries currently under construction. VA has provided a total of $45,016,610 to States and Territories to date. Some States have been so pleased with the program that they have constructed more than one state veterans cemetery. The State of Hawaii will have eight state veterans cemeteries when its establishment program is completed. Maryland has five state veterans cemeteries, while North Carolina and Tennessee each have three. New Mexico has none. The State of New Mexico is served by two active national cemeteries, in Santa Fe and Fort Bayard, and it does not have large enough concentrations of veteran population to be identified as an area in need of an additional national cemetery. We, therefore, have no plans to establish a new national cemetery in New Mexico. The reference to the State Cemetery Grants Program in our November 30, 1994, letter to you was to apprise Mr. Barlow of another option available to increase the availability of burial space for veterans in New Mexico. I hope this information is helpful to you in replying to Mr. Barlow. Sincerely yours, % 1cjISRvo R. p orffiof ieYd Operations encl 2