The smartest, most surprising thing I did this summer was get my official HR file from my former employer. I never knew that this was a legal option and that it’s a statute in 35 states. In Minnesota, it’s Statute 181.961 (https://tinyurl.com/mn-hr-review). Current employees are able to view/copy every six months, but former employees have access once a year. You also have the right to contest/rebuke what’s in your file, or better yet, request that your most glowing accolades be included. The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) has guidelines for well-managed files and will help you compare your organization’s filing practice to a national standard.

For me, I had many surprises — some heartwarming, some heartbreaking. The awareness that disparaging remarks may be included in your HR file with no due process for clarification was shocking. In the world of grand advice like “exercise, eat your vegetables and save for retirement,” I now include “get your HR file” as one of the important things you can do as you shape your career and life’s legacy markers.

Tony Bol, Hudson, Wis.

VETERANS’ HEALTH CARE

The system is slow, but do all who use it need to, exclusively?

In reference to the July 5 commentary on VA patient waiting times (“My dealings with the VA: In a word ... frustrating”), I’m sympathetic to the writer, Timothy Connelly, to a certain degree. I’m a disabled veteran like Connelly who lives about 32 miles from the Minneapolis VA hospital. I, however, choose to get my care from doctors in my area. I can do this because I’m on Medicare and have a supplemental insurance policy.

I don’t know what Mr. Connelly’s financial situation is, but I have a good idea about what he gets per month for his 100 percent disability. From what I gather in his article, I’m sure he’s probably on Social Security, too. My point to these questions is there are many disabled vets who choose to use the VA system because it is free, when they have other health care they could use and not take the spot of a vet with lesser means. I’m not saying the VA system doesn’t need work and shouldn’t provide all vets who need it with the care they deserve. However, the system could also be overburdened.

Robert Peyterson, Maple Grove

• • •

As an 85-year-old Korean War Zone Navy veteran, I found it disconcerting to read such negative feedback by the irate veteran on his VA experiences. The VA facility deserves more positive publicity, such as what I personally experienced.

My being afflicted with bladder cancer meant that I made numerous visits for purposes of examinations, evaluations and subsequent chemo and radiation treatments to the Minneapolis VA hospital. I cannot say enough positive things relative to the welcoming atmosphere, helpfulness and efficiency of all people I came in contact with there. That includes many volunteers, clerks, nurses, doctors and technicians.

I entered into my first experience with the VA for the above-mentioned problem not knowing what to expect. My attitude was to not expect too much, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a great reception and professional care.

Regardless of what the irate veteran’s problem was, I would say that if his general attitude and outlook was more positive, he may have had a better experience.

Elwin “Butch” Berg, Lakeville

HOUSING, PART ONE

Small lots, tiny homes? Wish we could see that. Wait — we can!

Regarding the July 6 letter proposing subdivided typical city lots for tiny homes: One needs to look no further than the Main Street Bungalow Court at 810-820 Main St. NE to see one of Minneapolis’ best examples of tiny affordable houses.

There, hidden in plain sight, are six unique Craftsman-style free-standing single-family homes — built on two adjacent typical city lots, with three homes per lot and garages on the alley. In scale and context, they fit into this older established neighborhood and have been a resounding success with increasing equity, built-in neighbors, yet the privacy of four walls. When I conceived of and built them in 2008, they were perhaps a little ahead of their time, but today certainly the time is right.

Ronald Korsh, Minneapolis

HOUSING, PART TWO

Anyone truly build for seniors?

For several years, we have been looking for a senior-friendly property that would allow us to live independently, and in our situation — and likely in many other homeowners’ situations, too — we prefer a house that has no interior steps, a ramp from the garage into the house, and grab bars in the bathrooms.

Yet one builder advised me that if we wanted this, it would have to be done after the house was built and the contractor had received a certificate on occupancy. He added that he was targeting young families and that the senior citizens wishing to downsize would have to go elsewhere or accept houses with steps. Lot sizes were at a premium, he said. The message here clearly was that it was just too bad for the senior citizens.

The contractors can learn how to build such houses by studying those in Florida. We lived there three times; one house was 2,300 square feet, another was 2,400 and the third was 1,600. All of these houses were level-in from the front and back.

Meanwhile, houses advertised as single-level are not necessarily so; they have two levels, one in the front and two in the back, making steps necessary.

Wake up and show your kindness and compassion toward senior citizens!

Karen A. Hill, Carver

RECYCLING

Paradox or not, it’s up to all of us to amend our habits, lifestyles

Faye Flam in the July 5 commentary “The trouble with recycling: It’s a plastic paradox” writes that it could be our technique of recycling that is at fault. Or consumers not being careful enough about what they recycle. In the end she proposes that some innovation will perhaps be the answer. I propose that it is we who can change our habits and choices. We can strive to live a low-waste lifestyle, which means that we choose not to buy plastic-laden goods.

Lorraine Delehanty, St. Paul

• • •

It seems to me that plastic recycling could be cut back by simply requiring bottled water to be sold in glass rather than plastic. Far fewer people would leave their local stores with palettes of water bottles for their parties and businesses if the water was sold in much heavier and far less appealing glass containers.

Linda Woessner, Golden Valley

• • •

A few months ago, our newspaper carrier advised us that if we saved the plastic sleeves from our newspapers and returned them to him, he would reuse them. Ever conscientious about reducing, reusing and recycling, we immediately created a designated bag near our door where we now collect the sleeves and periodically place them outside our door for the carrier. (We give each sleeve a quick dusting as we pull it off the paper. Most have very little, if any, leaf litter or dust attached.) What a great idea on our carrier’s part! I don’t know if all carriers do this, but I’m sure more subscribers would be happy to get on board. Perhaps the Star Tribune would like to make this practice more widespread.

Louis Asher, Vadnais Heights