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Senator Hassan Commends Harbor Homes For Work Fighting Veteran Homelessness

Senator Hassan Commends Harbor Homes, Community Leaders for Efforts to Effectively End Veteran Homelessness in Nashua,
Highlights Work Ahead to Support Veterans and their Families

NASHUA – Friday, Senator Maggie Hassan participated in the celebration of the greater Nashua region’s effort to effectively end veteran homelessness, where she commended Harbor Homes and community members for their efforts and emphasized that more work must be done to end veteran homelessness in New Hampshire and across the nation. 

Senator Hassan speaking at Harbor Homes in Nashua.

The celebration brought together local stakeholders, community members, veterans, and elected officials to celebrate the City of Nashua for receiving certification from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness for having effectively ended homelessness among veterans in the region. 

“All citizens, especially our brave veterans who have sacrificed for our freedoms, deserve the opportunity to live healthy, productive lives,” Senator Hassan said. “I commend Harbor Homes for its tireless efforts to effectively end veteran homelessness through its ‘Veterans FIRST’ program, as well as local and state veterans groups for their commitment to this important issue, but we know that our work is far from over. We must continue working together at all levels to ensure that our veterans, service members, and their families have the support and resources they need – and deserve – to thrive in our economic and civic life.”

As Governor of New Hampshire, Senator Hassan worked with Harbor Homes on the Housing Choice Vouchers for Veterans Program to help veterans transition to permanent housing in the community, helping to open more beds to serve homeless veterans at Harbor Homes. Also as Governor, the Senator’s office coordinated regular calls with community agencies aimed at developing housing plans for individual homeless veterans in Nashua and across the state. 

In the Senate, Senator Hassan has continued her efforts to end veteran homelessness. This week, the Senator joined her colleagues in introducing bipartisan legislation to assist and empower women veterans, which included measures that will work to combat homelessness among women veterans. The Senator also joined in introducing legislation that would provide education benefits to service members and veterans who often have to leave behind schools, jobs, and homes to serve their country. Yesterday, the Senator joined Senator Shaheen in introducing the VA Appeals Modernization Act of 2017 to help streamline the appeals process for veterans to access their benefits. 

Kuster Says Trumpcare “Reneges” On Promises Made To Veterans

Kuster Joins Duckworth, Veterans in Congress to Criticize Trumpcare’s Devastating Tax Hike on Millions of Veterans

(Washington, DC) — Today, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) joined combat Veteran and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee Jack Reed (D-RI), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Tim Walz (D-MN), and several others to criticize President Trump and his Republican allies in Congress for attempting to impose a tax hike on millions of Veterans’ healthcare. Despite the President’s campaign pledge to “ensure our Veterans get the care they need wherever and whenever they need it,” a last-minute amendment proposed to the Republican healthcare repeal plan would make Veterans ineligible for health care tax credits that could help them afford private health insurance. 

This week, Republicans introduced an amendment to the American Health Care Act that would prohibit veterans who are “eligible” to receive VA care from receiving any tax credits to help pay for care outside the VA, even if they are not enrolled in the VA. In addition to preventing veterans from access to affordable health care options, forcing veterans to seek care at the VA could create a significant influx of veterans enrolling in the VA at a time when the VA is not equipped to enroll them quickly. This is particularly a concern in light of President Trump’s hiring freeze.

“It’s unacceptable that House Republicans would jeopardize the healthcare of millions of veterans by continuing their irresponsible and shoddy late night changes to the American Health Care Act,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “It’s bad enough that this bill would already leave tens of millions of Americans without health insurance and now it’s reneging on our promise to the men and women who have served in uniform. Making it harder for veterans to afford health insurance is un-American and nonsensical. I was proud to join Senator Duckworth and my colleagues today to denounce this misguided proposal.”

“We already know that this President has a record of breaking his promises, but pushing a plan that makes it harder for millions of Veterans to get the health care they deserve after he promised to improve care for our Veterans is disgraceful,” said Senator Duckworth. “Either the President and House Republicans are intentionally sacrificing Veterans and putting them on a chopping block, or they wrote this bill so haphazardly that they don’t know what’s in it. It makes you wonder: what else don’t we know about this bill?” 

“Trumpcare would do a real disservice to our veterans and working Americans,” said Senator Jack Reed (D-RI).  “Every time Republicans rewrite and revise the bill it just gets worse and worse.  The underlying principle of Trumpcare is a massive tax cut for millionaires and higher costs and less coverage for everyone else.  The only element of Trumpcare that seems constant is the fact it would shift a heavier financial burden onto older Americans, veterans, working families, and all fifty states.  Americans deserve better.” 

“In a desperate attempt to keep AHCA from failing on the House floor, Congressional Republicans introduced a poorly thought out amendment that puts millions of veterans at risk of losing access to their current healthcare or forcing them to seek care through the VA,” added Ranking Member Tim Walz. “For many veterans and their families, AHCA will leave them with no affordable insurance options. It is absolutely shameful that some in members of the House feel so strongly about passing such a substantially unvetted health bill that they would put the health of our nation’s heroes at risk. I call on Republican colleagues to immediately address this issue before moving forward with any health care related legislation.”

Also joining Duckworth, Reed, Walz, and Kuster today were Representatives Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Mark Takano (D-CA), Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Anthony Brown (D-MD) and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA). 

“It is irresponsible that Republicans would rob 7 Million veterans of both the options to get care through the VA system and the option to access affordable private health plans,” said Representative Gallego. “That is a disgrace. The GOP should drop this bill immediately.”

“The potential harm the American Health Care Act inflicts on veterans across the country is inexcusable. It reflects the rushed and reckless strategy for passing this bill, and it demonstrates little understanding of how America’s 22 million veterans access health care,” said Congressman Takano. “I sincerely hope my colleagues across the aisle will take the time to understand the serious consequences their bill will have for veterans and their families, who have already sacrificed so much for the country.” 

“House Republicans are so intent on recklessly forcing their healthcare bill through Congress, that they have made their repeal of healthcare for 24 million Americans even more destructive – preventing over 7 million veterans from receiving tax credits to offset healthcare costs,” said Congressman Carbajal. “It is cruel for this legislation to leave behind millions of veterans and their families who were willing to risk their lives to defend our democracy.” 

“This amendment, which would strip health care from at least 7 million veterans, is a yet another example of how the quickly, carelessly crafted AHCA would hurt Americans,” said Congressman Panetta. “Through my experience with the Veterans Transition Center on the central coast of California, I saw firsthand how important it is for veterans to have a choice when it comes to the health care they receive. The AHCA takes away that choice.”

“As a nation, we must support our veterans in recovering from the harsh and sometimes traumatic experiences they undergo,” said Congressman Brown. “This means putting the full weight of a responsive mental health system at their disposal. The disastrous GOP repeal bill makes this impossible. Not only does TrumpCare strip millions of veterans of their ability to afford high-quality insurance, but it denies our service members of critical mental health, substance use, and behavioral health services. This is not only wrong but shameful. The rushed GOP repeal bill completely misses the mark and ignores the responsibility to safeguard and take care of our veterans, who have sacrificed so much to protect our nation.”

Full video of the press conference is available here and below.

Senator Hassan Joins Colleagues, Advocates for Disability Community in Speaking Out Against Trumpcare

Senator Highlights Devastating Impact Cuts to Medicaid Would Have on Critical Services for Granite Staters Who Experience Disabilities

WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), former Senator Tom Harkin, members of the disability community, and advocates for a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol highlighting the devastating impact Trumpcare would have on Granite Staters and Americans who experience disabilities.

“Trumpcare hurts people who experience disabilities with drastic cuts to the traditional Medicaid program,” Senator Hassan said to advocates outside the Capitol. “This plan changes Medicaid into per capita caps or a block grant system – and that is just code for a massive cut to the federal support states receive…[If Trumpcare passes], states will be faced with cutting services that people with disabilities depend on, such as personal care, prescription drugs, and rehabilitation services.”

“We can’t afford to go back to the days where we marginalize or don’t assist some of our most vulnerable people, so I’ll will stand strong with the people of New Hampshire, and my colleagues in fighting against this dangerous bill that would pull us backward,” Senator Hassan added.

Senator Hassan emphasized the importance of building a stronger, more inclusive society where all citizens can be engaged and active in our economic and civic life. The Senator also urged attendees to continue speaking out against Trumpcare, underscoring the importance of advocacy efforts in impacting real change on a local and federal level.

Watch video of the press conference here.

Senator Hassan Presses DOL Nominee Alex Acosta on Workplace Safety

Senator Also Highlights Importance of Job Training
and New Hampshire’s Job Corps Center

WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Maggie Hassan participated in the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee confirmation hearing for Alex Acosta, President Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Labor.

Senator Hassan highlighted the importance of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and OSHA inspections, which reduce injury rates at inspected workplaces and lower worker compensation costs.

The Senator noted that there are only seven OSHA inspectors to oversee safety and health at 50,000 worksites throughout New Hampshire, and voiced concerns with President Trump’s budget proposal to cut the Department of Labor’s budget by 21 percent. Senator Hassan asked Mr. Acosta, “Can you commit that if confirmed as Secretary that you will advocate for and seek funding that will maintain OSHA’s enforcement budget at no less than current levels?” Mr. Acosta responded, “I would be very concerned in a situation like you mentioned where there are only seven inspectors because going from seven to six has a substantial impact.” However, despite acknowledging the negative impact of a shortage of OSHA inspectors, Mr. Acosta wouldn’t commit to fighting to prevent harmful cuts that would exacerbate the situation.

Senator Hassan also pressed Mr. Acosta on his commitment to creating a more inclusive work environment for Granite Staters and Americans who experience disabilities. Citing that federal law allows employers to pay subminimum wages to workers who experience disabilities, Senator Hassan asked Mr. Acosta if he “supports individuals who experience disabilities being paid a subminimum wage.” Mr. Acosta declined to directly answer the Senator’s question or commit to supporting individuals who experience disabilities, saying, “I think this is a very difficult issue.”

In her opening statement, Senator Hassan also expressed her concern with President Trump’s proposed budget cuts that would decimate job training programs throughout the nation, and highlighted the importance of job training programs and the new Job Corps Center in New Hampshire that is helping build a stronger workforce that businesses throughout the state need to grow and compete. The Senator urged Mr. Acosta to do everything in his power should he be confirmed “to support both job training and our Job Corps Centers.”

After the Senate hearing, Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, released the following statement:

“Alex Acosta’s testimony today raises serious questions and doubts whether he is committed to making life better for working families. Mr. Acosta’s nomination was a major improvement over the previous nominee, based on his qualifications, yet he offered no indication that he would use those qualifications to stand up for workers.

 The Labor Secretary is not just another Cabinet member – his or her actions directly impact our wages, safety, retirement security and rights on the job every single day. Working people wanted to hear how Mr. Acosta would enforce and uphold labor laws to benefit us and not further tilt the balance of power toward corporate CEOs. Today, presented with the opportunity, he failed to do so and ensure America’s workers he’s on our side.”

Watch Senator Hassan question Alex Acosta below.

Watch video of Senator Hassan’s questioning here.

On The House Floor, Shea-Porter Pushes Amendment To Require Insurance Coverage Of Opioid Use Disorder Treatment

As Congress Debates Health Care Legislation, Congresswoman Highlights New Hampshire Heroin, Fentanyl, and Prescription Opioid Crisis 

WASHINGTON, DC Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) today offered and the House voted on a Motion to Recommit that would require association health plans to provide coverage for substance use disorder treatment. As Congress this week considers the American Health Care Act, which would cause 24 million Americans to lose their coverage, Shea-Porter called on her colleagues to work together to improve access to quality, affordable health care.

“Today, Members of Congress can say to my constituents in New Hampshire and their constituents across this great nation: we hear you. We know your sons and daughters, your nieces and nephews, your neighbors and friends are struggling, and we have your back,” said Shea-Porter. “We believe all Americans deserve good health insurance they can count on when they need it most. We aren’t going to pull the rug out from under people who are about to turn their lives around.”

Shea-Porter’s remarks highlighted the fact that much-needed treatment facilities, such as Hope on Haven Hill in Rochester, which she recently visited, have been able to open because more Americans now have insurance that covers treatment thanks to the Affordable Care Act and its Medicaid expansion. 

177 Democrats and 2 Republicans voted for Shea-Porter’s motion.

SHEA-PORTER’S FULL HOUSE FLOOR REMARKS

“I rise today on behalf of the families and communities across this nation that are confronting a public health threat of our time: the heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioid crisis. 

“This motion would simply ensure that the health insurance plans that today’s bill would permit must still cover substance use disorder treatment, including for opioids, as an essential health benefit.

“Under current law, we require insurers to cover this treatment. Before the Affordable Care Act, many insurers either didn’t cover treatment at all or imposed onerous requirements that blocked people from getting needed care.

“H.R.1101 would roll back that guarantee. It would allow association health plans to return to the kind of skimpy coverage that left so many people struggling with an opioid disorder in dire straits at critical moments. We know there’s often a narrow window of opportunity — after an overdose, for example — for someone to commit to treatment, and these are the moments when being able to make a single phone call can make all the difference. 

“This week’s debate about health care is extremely important. Will we decide to work together to improve the American people’s access to quality, affordable health care or weaken benefits and kick 24 million or more of our constituents off their plans? We all need to speak up on behalf of those whose lives have been turned around because they can now access care.

“As I talk to families, medical professionals, and law enforcement officials in my district, I hear stories that highlight the dramatic impact that improved access to coverage has had in making treatment a real option for people with substance use disorder.

“This week, we see that base of coverage is under serious threat. In fact, experts estimate that repealing the Affordable Care Act’s coverage provisions would cause about 2.8 million Americans with a substance use disorder to lose some or all of their coverage.

“And the quality of that coverage is also at risk. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, insurance now must cover treatment for behavioral health and substance use disorder, just the same as it would cover any other medical service. These parity protections mean insurers must cover treatment for substance use disorder with comparable cost-sharing — no more surprises, like annual visit limits, higher copays, or frequent pre-authorization requirements and medical necessity reviews.

“Badly needed facilities are opening because plans now cover these services. I recently visited a recovery home for pregnant women and new mothers that was able to open its doors this year in my hometown only because it could rely on Medicaid expansion. Legislation like H.R.1101 would cause fewer people to have this coverage, meaning fewer facilities can open.

“Many of you know that my home state of New Hampshire is on the front lines of the heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioid crisis. Our communities are struggling, and helping people get treatment is key to turning the tide. I have met the people who couldn’t be in a recovery facility without Medicaid expansion. 

“Today, Members of Congress can say to my constituents in New Hampshire and their constituents across this great nation: we hear you. We know your sons and daughters, your nieces and nephews, your neighbors and friends are struggling, and we have your back. We believe all Americans deserve good health insurance they can count on when they need it most. We aren’t going to pull the rug out from under people who are about to turn their lives around.

“I urge my colleagues to support this motion, which would not delay passage of the underlying bill. Thank you.”

Shaheen, Hassan Call for Reversal of Proposed EPA Cuts That Would Devastate Americans’ Clean Air and Water

SENATORS: Trump’s pledge for clean air and water is “meaningless” when followed by proposal for drastic cuts that would undercut EPA’s core mission 

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined a group of 36 Senators in opposing President Trump’s proposal to inflict a more than 30 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget.

Expressing “extreme concern” over the cuts, the Senators wrote to appropriations leaders, “During the President’s February 28, 2017 address to Congress, he pledged to ‘promote clean air and water.’ Such a pledge is meaningless when the President follows it by proposing a 31 percent cut to the EPA’s budget and a 20 percent reduction in its staff. If enacted, this funding cut would effectively eliminate the EPA’s ability to execute its core mission to protect public health and ensure citizens have clean air, clean water, and are protected from hazardous waste and contaminants.” 

The Senators highlighted many areas of concern where the proposed cuts would significantly harm communities across America—from reducing clean air and clean water grants and cutting enforcement against polluters, to cutting funding for Superfund sites by 30 percent, to entirely eliminating efforts to combat climate change and clean up major regional bodies of water, like the Great Lakes and the Columbia River Basin. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has insisted that states should be the primary protectors of the environment. However, this proposed budget would drastically cut grants that are crucial for states to protect their clean water and clean air, monitor health impacts of pollution, and reclaim toxic-contaminated sites throughout the country.

“We urge you to oppose these drastic and dangerous cuts, and support continued funding for the EPA,” the Senators concluded.

The letter was signed by Environment and Public Works Committee Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-DE), and Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tom Udall (D-NM), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Chris Coons (D-DE), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Al Franken (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Mark Warner (D-VA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Gary Peters (D-MI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ).

The full text of the letter is copied below.

Dear Chairman Cochran and Vice Chairman Leahy:

We write to express our extreme concern over the drastic cuts President Trump proposed in FY2018 funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). During the President’s February 28, 2017 address to Congress, he pledged to “promote clean air and water.” Such a pledge is meaningless when the President follows it by proposing a 31 percent cut to the EPA’s budget and a 20 percent reduction in its staff. If enacted, this funding cut would effectively eliminate the EPA’s ability to execute its core mission to protect public health and ensure citizens have clean air, clean water, and are protected from hazardous waste and contaminants.

As the Senate works to finalize FY2017 appropriations and develop legislation to fund the federal government in FY2018, we urge you to oppose these cuts.  The EPA must receive funding and staffing levels that ensure the agency can fulfill its mission to protect the environment, reduce pollution, and safeguard public health.     

Unfortunately, instead of maintaining environmental protections, President Trump’s FY2018 budget blueprint would simply eviscerate the EPA’s core functions and adversely impact state budgets that rely on EPA grants for environmental remediation. President Trump’s vision for the EPA includes:

  • reducing clean air and clean water grants programs and cutting enforcement against polluters by 23%,
  • instituting a 45% cut to core state grants programs which make up nearly 30% of state environmental agencies’ budgets and allow them to implement longstanding environmental laws,
  • eliminating the Energy Star program, which saved consumers over $34 billion in utility bills in 2015 alone, and over $430 billion since 1992,
  • cutting research funding by nearly 50%,
  • eliminating the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program, which allows the EPA to evaluate impacts to human health from chemical exposure,
  • cutting funding for Superfund sites by 30 percent, making it harder to clean up and reclaim contaminated and polluted sites across the country
  • eliminating climate change research and partnership programs, international climate change programs, and defunding the Clean Power Plan,
  • eliminating geographic programs accounts that provide important resources to clean up iconic water bodies that provide millions of Americans with drinking water including the Chesapeake Bay, the Great Lakes, Puget Sound, the Columbia River Basin, the Long Island Sound, and the San Francisco Bay,
  • cutting all funding for the U.S.-Mexico border program that support cross-border drinking water and sanitations improvements in the southwest,
  • cutting all funding for Alaska Native villages and rural communities that helps provide critical drinking water and sewer systems, and
  • eliminating the Targeted Airshed Grants program, which provides tools for local states, governments and tribes to reduce hazardous air pollution.

This is not the vision of the EPA that Americans support. We must ensure that vital public health and environment protections are maintained and funded. We urge you to oppose these drastic and dangerous cuts, and support continued funding for the EPA in the FY2017 and FY2018 appropriations process.

Sincerely,

US House Passes Bill To Arbitrarily Fire Workers At The VA, Bypassing The Union’s Due Process

Yesterday, in a largely party line vote of 237-178, the U.S. House passed, “H.R.1259 – VA Accountability First Act of 2017.” A bill that would allow the Secretary of the VA to arbitrarily fire workers without any due process. HR 1259 was written and sponsored by Tennessee Republican, Rep David Roe (R-TN-1) who also cosponsored legislation to revoke the Department of Labor’s new rule mandating employers keep records on all workplace injuries.

The Hill explains:

The bill would give the VA secretary expedited removal authority, meaning any employee fired by the secretary would be out of a job and off the department’s rolls that day.

…One point of conflict in the legislation was the elimination of the union grievance process available to represented employees as a means to appeal negative personnel actions. About 76 percent of VA’s workforce is represented by a union, and Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and author of the accountability bill, has complained the grievance process takes an average of 350 days to complete. The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 230,000 VA employees, called the legislation ‘a union-busting bill, plain and simple.

…A spokeswoman for Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said the senator is still “exploring options” for a bill that can pass the Senate. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has introduced companion legislation for Roe’s House-backed measure. Isakson himself said he is committed to working with his House colleagues and Democrats on his committee to move accountability legislation forward.

“I’m committed to moving legislation that gives Secretary Shulkin the tools to discipline bad employees,” Isakson said. “Accountability reform is a top priority.” The senator authored bipartisan legislation in the last Congress to expedite the firing process at VA, but it stalled in the Senate after clearing his committee.

This bill is designed to bypass the American Federation of Government Employees grievance procedures and weaken the union’s ability to represent workers.  David Cox Sr., National President of AFGE released the following after the bill passed the House.

“The House has passed a venomous piece of legislation from Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee that would undermine the government’s sacred obligation to serve our veterans by gutting frontline employees’ basic worker rights at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“Make no mistake – this legislation is not about improving accountability at the VA, and it certainly won’t improve veterans’ access to quality care and earned benefits. This is part of an orchestrated attack on the rights of federal workers and employee unions that’s ripped from the playbook of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

“While we are deterred by the House’s action, we are not defeated. We will fight this bill when it goes before the Senate, and we will continue to make the case to lawmakers and the public that attacking the rights of working-class men and women at the VA and across government is counterproductive to our shared goal of providing the best service to the American taxpayers.”

The AFl-CIO was also displeased with the passage of this legislation calling it a “slap in the face” to the workers at the VA.

“Yesterday, instead of standing up for working families, 10 Democrats in Congress joined with Republicans in attacking workers at the VA. Their support of this anti-worker legislation is not only a slap in the face to the 120,000 VA employees who are themselves veterans, but a betrayal of the promise to treat all VA workers fairly,” said Bill Samuel, AFL-CIO Director of Government Affairs. 

Everyone agrees that the VA needs help.  They are understaffed, overloaded, and underfunded, but the ability to arbitrarily fire hard working people at the VA will do nothing to solve any of these problems.

The reforms Congress should be looking for would include ones like the amendment submitted by Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH01) to improve VA hiring of mental health professionals.

Congress must also accept that additional resources are necessary to hire more doctors and nurses at VA health centers and to reduce the delays many veterans face in getting the care they need.  This would include spending money to merge the DOD’s and the VA health records system.

Another major issue facing the VA is that 20 veterans commit suicide every day.  Many of these vets are suffering from PTSD and are unable to get the care they need. NH Congresswoman Annie Kuster (D-NH-1), a member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, is working with the newly appointed Secretary of Veterans Affairs, David Shulkin, to address this ongoing epidemic.

“The men and women who have served our nation in uniform cannot be cast aside once they have returned home,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “The suicide rate among veterans is a tragedy and it’s long past time we came together to address this challenge.”

“The president and I have made it clear that suicide prevention is one of our top priorities,” Secretary Shulkin said in a statement. “We know the rate of death by suicide among Veterans who do not use VA care is increasing at a greater rate than Veterans who use VA care. This is a national emergency that requires bold action. We must and we will do all that we can to help former service members who may be at risk. When we say even one Veteran suicide is one too many, we mean it.”

So while 20 veterans a day commit suicide and the thousands that die every year awaiting care should be the top priority of the President and Congress, but instead they are choosing to attack the very workers who are trying to help fix this broken system and get care to those who desperately need it.

Senator Hassan Reintroduces Paid Sick Leave Bill

 Healthy Families Act would help hard-working Americans, protect public health, and strengthen the economy

WASHINGTON – This week, Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined her colleagues in the Senate and House in introducing the Healthy Families Act, which would allow Granite State workers to earn paid sick leave to use when they are sick, to care for a loved one, to obtain preventative care, or to address the impacts of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault. Currently, 41 million workers across the nation do not have access to paid sick leave, forcing them to take time off with no pay, and at times even risk their jobs when they or a loved one is sick. 

“Ensuring that our workers have the flexibility to support themselves and their families during times of need is critical to maintaining a healthy and productive workforce and a strong economy,” Senator Hassan said. “I’m proud to join in reintroducing the Healthy Families Act to help ensure that no hard-working American is forced to choose between their health and economic security. I’ll continue working across the aisle to expand paid family leave in order to strengthen our families, our businesses, and our economy.”

The Healthy Families Act would allow workers at businesses with at least 15 employees to earn up to 56 hours, or seven days, of paid sick leave each year. This would allow workers to stay home when they are ill, to care for a sick family member, seek preventive medical care, or seek assistance related to domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault. 

Businesses that already provide paid sick leave would not have to change their current policies, as long as they meet the minimum standards of the Healthy Families Act. Studies show that paid sick leave can reduce the spread of contagious diseases like the flu and a national paid sick day policy would reduce emergency room visits by 1.3 million annually, saving $1.1 billion a year.

Senator Hassan is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

 

Shea-Porter Gets Amendment To Improve Hiring At The VA, Passed In US House

American Legion-Endorsed Shea-Porter Amendment Earns Bipartisan Support 

WASHINGTON, DC— Everyone agrees the VA needs help.  Healthcare professionals at the VA are swamped. There is a shortage of qualified health professionals and this is leading to the VA’s failure to care for those who need it.

The VA’s current shortage of mental health providers causes unacceptable wait-times for veterans who need care for mental health conditions, including substance use disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and military sexual trauma.  More than 20% of veterans suffering from PTSD also suffer from substance use disorder, and 25% of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan showed signs of substance use disorder.  Between 2010 and 2015, the number of veterans suffering from opioid use disorder increased by 55%.

Yesterday, the U.S. House passed an amendment introduced by Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH01) to improve VA hiring of mental health professionals.

“The VA faces a critical shortage of mental health professionals, including psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health counselors, and peer support specialists. These providers care for our veterans with behavioral health needs that include post-traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma, and substance use disorder. Too many of our veterans must wait to receive the mental health care we have promised to them, and some never receive needed care at all,” Shea-Porter said while offering the amendment on the House floor. “In my home state of New Hampshire, we are fighting a fentanyl, heroin and prescription opioid crisis that is disproportionately affecting the veteran community. Increasing mental health provider capacity will allow more of these veterans to enter treatment and, ultimately, recovery.”

Congressman Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health, rose to speak in support of Shea-Porter’s amendment, saying: “It’s critical that VA closely track to mental health vacancies on an ongoing basis so they can be prioritized and filled to prevent any disruptions in care to our most vulnerable veterans. I’m fully supportive of this amendment and grateful to Representative Shea-Porter for submitting it.” 

The American Legion said: “The American Legion thanks Congresswoman Shea-Porter for her amendment, which will improve veterans’ access to critical mental health services, allowing the VA to better serve those who have sacrificed for our nation.”

Shea-Porter’s amendment passed as part of H.R. 1367, a bill to improve the VA’s ability to hire and retain health providers, which would create a database to help match qualified applicants to critical open positions at the VA, facilitating faster hiring. Because of Shea-Porter’s amendment, that database will list open mental health positions if the bill becomes law, improving the VA’s ability to hire needed mental health professionals.

A former military spouse, Shea-Porter understands the challenges facing our military families and veterans. This Congress, she has cosponsored 18 bipartisan bills to improve services for veterans, including the WINGMAN Act, legislation she co-introduced and the House passed earlier this year to make it easier for certified Congressional caseworkers to assist veterans. She has been a leader in the fight to lift the harmful federal hiring freeze that is damaging the VA’s ability to provide care and limiting employment opportunities for returning veterans.

“Our veterans deserve to be treated by professionals who fully understand the veteran experience and veteran-specific mental health conditions. That is why it is so important for veterans to have the option to receive specialized mental health from VA mental health professionals who have the training that will allow them to build trust,” said Shea-Porter on the floor of the House yesterday“There is an urgent need to address this problem. Every day, 20 veterans commit suicide. MST. Opioid. PTSD. These are all crises we need to address. The time to act is now. Please vote yes on this amendment.”

Trump’s Budget Is A Disaster

NH Elected Leaders Along With National Labor And
Environmental Leaders Respond To Trump’s Proposed Cuts.

President Trump unveiled his $1.1 trillion dollar budget for discretionary spending yesterday. Elected leaders, labor unions, environmental groups, and advocates for working people are outraged at the massive cuts.

The Hill reports:

The 54-page “America First” document, focused primarily on fiscal 2018, would boost the Defense Department and related programs at Energy by $54 billion, and Homeland Security by $2.8 billion. It would offset such increases by cutting the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development by $10.1 billion (28 percent) and the Environmental Protection Agency by $2.6 billion (31 percent). The latter cut would eliminate approximately 3,200 positions, according to the document.

The agency-by-agency plans include eliminating dozens of grant programs at the Education and Commerce departments—many of them related to climate change. And Trump would eliminate the following agencies:

The African Development Foundation; the Appalachian Regional Commission; the Chemical Safety Board; the Corporation for National and Community Service; the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; the Delta Regional Authority; the Denali Commission; the Institute of Museum and Library Services; the Inter-American Foundation; the U.S. Trade and Development Agency; the Legal Services Corporation; the National Endowment for the Arts; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation; the Northern Border Regional Commission; the Overseas Private Investment Corporation; the United States Institute of Peace; the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness; and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

“The Trump administration should immediately go back to the drawing board,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). “This budget is a blueprint for undermining the health and well-being of Granite Staters and would be particularly devastating for seniors. It’s needless and cruel to drastically cut programs that so many people in New Hampshire depend on like Meals on Wheels and heating assistance. It also makes no sense to cut clean air and water programs, coastal protection, and economic development to struggling rural communities.

“President Trump’s budget is built for corporate special interests, not hard-working families and small businesses. The Trump budget makes indiscriminate cuts that will make it harder for entrepreneurs to grow job-creating small businesses, harder for children to access a high-quality public education, and harder for seniors to stay in their own homes and live independently,” said Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH).  “President Trump’s budget would undermine efforts to strengthen our health care workforce, making it more difficult to combat the heroin, fentanyl and opioid crisis. It would slash funding for life-saving medical research. And it would cripple our ability to fight climate change, which threatens New Hampshire’s economy and our way of life.”

“A budget is a moral document. As an American, I’m deeply concerned about the drastic cuts President Trump has proposed in this budget blueprint, which fail to reflect our shared morals and values. As your representative in Congress, I will fight to stop this budget, which would hurt New Hampshire in so many ways,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH01). “As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I’m particularly concerned that this budget reflects an incomplete understanding of how we keep our nation safe. Since World War II, our international affairs budget has been key to maintaining stability around the globe, and cutting critical international aid and diplomatic funding would be disastrous for our national security.”

“Today’s budget would even eliminate programs that feed the hungry, including after-school nutrition assistance and Meals on Wheels. Contrary to the Administration’s outrageous statements at this afternoon’s press briefing, these programs do work, and cutting them is the exact opposite of ‘compassionate.’ I will not stand by while this Administration uses falsehoods to justify destroying vital support systems for our most vulnerable citizens. Today I will be sending the Trump administration just a few of the dozens of peer-reviewed studies that show Meals on Wheels improves seniors’ overall health and nutritional intake and reduces social isolation. This budget is yet one more example of President Trump turning his back on the very people he claimed he was there to help,” Shea-Porter added. 

“President Trump’s preliminary budget proposal is simply a disaster for our economy, environment, seniors, and hardworking families in New Hampshire and across the country,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster (D-NH02). “This budget proposal should raise red flags for anyone who wants to grow our middle class, create good paying jobs, protect human health and our environment, and fight climate change. We can’t turn back the clock on the progress we’ve made in recent years to get our economy pointed in the right direction and this budget is little more than a return to the same failed policies of the past. President Trump needs to seriously reconsider this approach and focus on crafting a budget proposal that benefits all Americans, not just those at the very top.”

Kuster also highlighted cuts to programs that directly impact New Hampshire working families.

“In New Hampshire, we know the serious impact toxic contamination can have on drinking water, public health, and quality of life. Slashing thirty one percent of the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget will only make defending public health and our environment more difficult. Cutting the Department of Health and Human Services by thirteen percent will eliminate the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and harm programs like Meals on Wheels and home visits that our seniors and low-income families rely on.”

Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO called this budget proposal “destructive and dangerous.”

“Working people in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin didn’t vote for a budget that slashes workforce training and fails to invest in our nation’s infrastructure. President Trump’s proposed budget attempts to balance the budget on the backs of working families. The $54 billion cut to programs that benefit working families is dangerous and destructive. Huge cuts to the departments of Labor, Education and Transportation will make workplaces less safe, put more children at risk and make improving our failing infrastructure much more difficult. The administration can and should do better.”

David Cox Sr., National President of the American Federation of Government Employees warned that this budget would lead to massive layoffs. 

“This budget shirks our nation’s responsibility to care for its citizens and ensure the public’s health and safety, help our struggling neighbors secure better jobs and safe housing, and promote democracy around the world,” Cox stated. “The severity of the budget cuts proposed by President Trump could require mass layoffs of employees at federal departments and agencies, although the budget blueprint released by the White House does not detail how many federal employees could lose their jobs.

“This cuts, if implemented, would have devastating and lasting consequences on the nation. Every American should study the facts, reject the rhetoric, and decide for themselves if they share the bleak vision of America that President Trump is promoting,” Cox added. 

Ed Wytkind, President of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), said these cuts take our transportation infrastructure in the wrong direction. 

“The austerity measures offered for transportation in the President’s budget blueprint go in the wrong direction and must be rejected. We cannot cut our way to a better and more modern transportation system. The President has rightfully called for a historic $1 trillion investment in our transportation system and infrastructure. But the budget released today does not advance that vision and instead would deal a severe blow to many key investment programs that are critical to our passenger and freight transportation network.”  

“This budget proposal makes it even more clear that Trump has no intention of protecting our communities or preserving our future,” said 350.org Executive Director May Boeve. “Slashing the EPA’s funding only helps make fossil fuel executives richer while wrecking the climate and leaving workers and families by the wayside. What we really need is investment in a 100% renewable energy economy that creates jobs and curbs the climate crisis, and our movements will keep fighting until we get it.”

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