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Kuster Talks Healthcare at Lamprey Health Center in Nashua

(Nashua, NH) – Today Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) joined healthcare leaders and local residents to discuss her plan to improve the Affordable Care Act and increase access to quality health care at Lamprey Health Center in Nashua. The visit comes as Congress begins to look at solutions to improve the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Kuster has been vocal about the need for Congressional Republicans to abandon their single-minded focus on repealing the ACA and instead work across the aisle to make meaningful reforms. Earlier this year, Kuster helped unveil a five-part plan to improve upon the Affordable Care Act and stabilize the individual marketplace.

  • Protect Plans for People with Pre-Existing Conditions
  • Keep Costs Down for Lower Income Families
  • Promote Enrollment and Ensure People Pay their Fair Share
  • Creating More Affordable Options
  • Technical Changes and Improvements

Read more about Kuster’s new plan here.

“The Affordable Care Act has made important progress in expanding access to healthcare and ensuring protections for tens of thousands of Granite Staters and millions of Americans,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “We need to defend the ACA from attempts to roll back critical protections for people with preexisting conditions and for those who have been able to access health insurance for the first time. But we also need to recognize the law is not perfect. I’ve put forward commonsense proposals to stabilize the individual market and contain costs. The perspectives of the people here at Lamprey Health Center are so critical for informing how we address these issues in Washington. In conversations with my Republican colleagues, I know there is much common ground and I look forward to working across the aisle to improve the ACA for all Granite Staters.”

“Lamprey Health Care has always been proud of our ability to care for all patients regardless of ability to pay,” said Greg White, of Lamprey Health Center. “Since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and Expanded Medicaid, we have seen a tremendous reduction in our numbers of uninsured patients.  This law has opened up things beyond our walls such as specialty care, diagnostics, and medications.  We are thrilled that Congresswoman Kuster came here to Lamprey during Community Health Week to talk about these critical issues, and we are grateful for her work to improve this law and expand access to care.”

“Southern New Hampshire Health has worked hard to be a good steward of the community,” said Dr. Wolf-Rosenblum. “Anything that can be done to preserve the individual market allows resources to be deployed towards prevention rather than rescue. This enables us to reach more people and keep them healthier. We truly appreciate Congresswoman Kuster coming to Nashua and sharing the work she is doing to stabilize the individual market and improve our system of care.”

Shea-Porter: President Trump’s Charlottesville Comments “A Disgrace to Our Nation”

Yesterday, Congresswoman Co-Introduced Anti-White-Supremacy Resolution

DOVER, NH – Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) condemned President Trump’s Tuesday afternoon comments equivocating “both sides” in Charlottesville.

“There are no ‘very fine’ neo-Nazis. I never thought we would hear such disgusting and outrageous comments from a President of the United States – comments that were immediately praised by David Duke, the former leader of the Ku Klux Klan. Today’s comments from President Trump are a disgrace to our nation,” said Shea-Porter. “Over the past week, the President has twice failed to condemn white supremacists’ violence and terror, and today, he went so far as to suggest there is moral equivalence between neo-Nazis and those who protest hate. If President Trump and his pro-white-supremacist staffers in the White House think they can tear down everything America stands for, they are wrong. We will not let them extinguish America’s beacon of hope and tolerance.”

Yesterday, Shea-Porter co-introduced a resolution, together with Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal and 30 other members of Congress, urging President Trump to strongly condemn white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and other hate groups, and to remove individuals who have supported white nationalists, including Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and Sebastian Gorka, from the White House.

“As Members of Congress, we must clearly and forcefully repudiate white supremacists and those who support them, whether they are terrorizing citizens in Charlottesville or advising the President in the White House,” said Shea-Porter.

The resolution:

  • Condemns the role of white supremacist, neo-Nazi, KKK and other hate groups in the “Unite the Right” rally and domestic terror attack in Charlottesville;
  • Denounces the increase in organizing, fear-mongering, racism, anti-Semitism, bigotry and violence perpetrated by white supremacists, neo-Nazis, the KKK and other hate groups;
  • Offers condolences and sympathies to the families of Heather Heyer, Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, and urges a quick recovery to those injured;
  • Strongly urges the president to:
    • Fire individuals in the White House and Trump administration who have supported or encouraged support for white nationalists;
    • Quickly and publicly repudiate and denounce white supremacist, neo-Nazi, KKK and other hate groups;
    • Use all available resources of the Office of the President and the Cabinet to address the growing prevalence of such hate groups domestically; and
    • Use his office to unite all Americans against hate.

In addition to Shea-Porter and Jayapal, the resolution is co-sponsored by 30 members of Congress: Reps. Frank Pallone (NJ-06), Alcee Hastings (FL-20), Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Nydia Velazquez (NY-07), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Adam Smith (WA-09), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Grace Napolitano (CA-32), Raul Grijalva (AZ-03), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Hank Johnson (GA-04), Andre Carson (IN-07), Chellie Pingree (ME-01), Judy Chu (CA-27), Bill Foster (IL-11), Donald Payne Jr. (NJ-10), John Delaney (MD-06), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Juan Vargas (CA-51), Don Beyer (VA-08), Brendan Boyle (PA-13), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Debbie Dingell (MI-12), Seth Moulton (MA-06), Dwight Evans (PA-02), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-08) and Al Lawson (FL-05).

Air Force Agrees to Provide City of Portsmouth $1.3 Million to Continue Ongoing Pease Clean-Up Effort

 PORTSMOUTH, NH — Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Senator Maggie Hassan, and Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) today announced that the U.S. Air Force has agreed to pay the City of Portsmouth $1.3 million to complete next steps in the ongoing Pease clean-up effort.

“Today’s announcement demonstrates a real and ongoing commitment from the Air Force to rid the Pease wells of dangerous water contaminants,” said Senator Shaheen. “Granite State families who are worried about their children getting sick from drinking contaminated water deserve peace of mind, and the additional funding for this carbon filtration system is an important step forward. I’ll continue to work to improve the safety of drinking water in New Hampshire communities.” 

“The announcement of this funding from the Air Force to address water contamination at Haven, Harrison, and Smith Wells  is a step in the right direction, but there is more work to do to ensure that all Granite Staters and their families have access to clean, safe drinking water,” Senator Hassan said. “Communities exposed to emerging contaminants in their water understandably have many concerns about their health, and I will continue working with the Congressional Delegation and federal partners to ensure that those concerns are urgently addressed.”

“Today’s investment by the Air Force is a good next step toward addressing unacceptable PFC contamination in our drinking water,” said Congresswoman Shea-Porter. “I will continue to insist that the Air Force take financial responsibility for both cleaning up our water and for studying the health impacts of the level of PFC exposure that Pease-area residents have already experienced.”

Today’s Environmental Services Cooperative Agreement for Engineering Design Services will require the Air Force to provide the City of Portsmouth with funding to complete design plans for the carbon filtration system that will remove perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) in water from the Haven, Harrison and Smith Wells, which are treated at the former Pease Air Force Base water treatment facility now operated by the City. This is the third agreement between the Air Force and the City for expenses related to mitigating PFC levels, which have been measured at levels exceeding the EPA’s lifetime health advisory in local drinking water. The first two agreements provided funding for preliminary design services and for a pilot project and demonstration of PFC removal. 

To date, the financial commitment of the Air Force for Pease mitigation activities totals $25 million. The Air Force’s projected $30 million investment in 2017 includes $13 million to retrofit the water treatment facility.

Last month, Shea-Porter’s amendments directing the Department of Defense to fund a CDC health impact study of exposure to PFCs in groundwater around military installations, as well as an amendment she cosponsored to fund ongoing mitigation efforts, passed the House with unanimous support as part of its annual Defense Appropriations bill. 

In April 2017, Senator Shaheen introduced the Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act, bipartisan legislation, which Senator Hassan cosponsored, that would help strengthen Federal and state efforts to improve drinking water systems. The Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act creates a national strategy to coordinate the Federal response to emerging contaminants and provides state assistance in responding to related public health challenges. Shaheen also successfully included a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act that directs the Department of Defense to fund a nationwide health study on the implications of perflourinated chemicals in drinking water. Both Senators and the Congresswoman continue to work to ensure that the Air Force continues to engage with the Pease community and responds to their concerns.

VA Secretary Meets With NH Congressional Delegation At Manchester VA Facility

Yesterday, U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, joined New Hampshire’s Congressional delegation, Governor Chris Sununu, and VA leaders at the Manchester VA Medical Center to tour the facility and hold a town hall with employees. The delegation called for the visit following a Boston Globe Spotlight report that highlighed whistleblowers’ serious concerns about care provided by the facility.

In their meeting with Secretary Shulkin, the delegation stressed the importance of an independent medical review process, fixes to the Veterans Choice program, and improvements for services for women veterans at the facility. The Senator also reiterated her support for a full-service VA hospital in New Hampshire.

The Union Leader is reporting that the Sec Shulkin has promised nearly $30 million to fix the issues at the Manchester, NH facility.

The new spending will include a $5 million coordination of care center, $7 million to fix damage caused by recent flooding and another $18 million in construction projects on the campus.

Shulkin said the task force finding in a report due out by Jan. 1 may not be for a full-service hospital but rather giving veterans access to all services by networking with community hospitals.

“While many veterans receive quality care from the Manchester VA, there’s much work to be done to ensure accountability for substandard services,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen. “I applaud the courageous whistleblowers who bravely spoke out on behalf of patients at the Manchester VA and am glad they had the opportunity to speak directly with Secretary Shulkin. It’s so important that the VA rebuild trust with the veteran community by consistently delivering the quality care they deserve in a timely fashion. Secretary Shulkin’s presence today, and his attentiveness to care delivery issues at the Manchester VA, gives me hope that the VA will address any shortfalls at this facility. New funding for a coordinated care center is a very positive step in the right direction. And I’m very pleased that funding to repair water damage is being quickly provided. I also appreciate Secretary Shulkin’s commitment to establish a task force that will examine providing New Hampshire’s veterans with the full range of care services. All of New Hampshire’s veterans deserve high quality, convenient, accessible health care and I will continue to work with Secretary Shulkin, the VA and the delegation until we achieve that goal. ”

I appreciate VA Secretary Shulkin’s visit to Manchester and the commitments that he made, but this must just be the first step of many to address the reports of unacceptable quality of care and administrative indifference at the Manchester VA Medical Center,” said Senator Maggie Hassan. “As I told Secretary Shulkin, we need a thorough and independent review process, which includes interviews with clinicians and patients, in order to address these claims and to prevent future failures in care for our veterans. I am going to continue to work with Secretary Shulkin and the VA, Governor Sununu, and our congressional delegation to ensure that all of our veterans receive the care that they need and have earned.”

“Today, Secretary Shulkin made a firm commitment to implementing needed reforms and investments at our Manchester VA with the urgency New Hampshire veterans expect and deserve,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. “The current situation is clearly unacceptable, and I am insisting that the VA do everything in its power to provide New Hampshire veterans with timely, high-quality care and also to fully cooperate with the concurrent investigations so we can get to the root of these problems and make sure they never happen again.”

During her meeting with Secretary Shulkin, Shea-Porter requested several specific commitments, including sufficient funding to expedite community provider appointment scheduling and to establish a new Office of Community Care at Manchester as well as a firm timeline for filling each position required to sustain an effective care coordination model. Following the meeting, Secretary Shulkin announced an investment of over $30 million in the Manchester VAMC, including $12 million in new funding. Shea-Porter also reiterated her strong support for a full-service VA hospital in New Hampshire. In January, Shea-Porter reintroduced the Veterans Health Equity Act, a bill that would remedy New Hampshire’s status as the only state in the nation without a full-service VA hospital or equivalent access. The bill has been cosponsored by every member of the New Hampshire delegation, Republican and Democratic, since Shea-Porter first introduced it in 2008.

“I appreciate Secretary Shulkin coming to New Hampshire to address the very serious allegations regarding quality care at the Manchester VAMC and his announcement of a thorough new investigation into the charges brought by the whistleblowers,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “I’m encouraged that Secretary Shulkin is committing $30 million in funding for capital projects and quality improvements, including a new office of care coordination. It’s imperative that we get all the answers to what happened at Manchester and how we can improve access to care for our veterans moving forward. Next month, I’ll be convening a field hearing of the House VA Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations in New Hampshire so that the VA Committee can hear directly from the whistleblowers about their experience at the Manchester VAMC and their thoughts on how we can improve access to quality care for our veterans.”

This week, Kuster, the lead Democrat on the House VA Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, announced that she will convene a field hearing on September 18th of the Subcommittee in New Hampshire to examine the allegations.

According to the Union Leader, management shakeups have already begun and new leadership will be appointed to run the facility going forward.

(Read the entire Union Leader article)

Kuster Announces Veterans’ Affairs Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Field Hearing in NH

Field hearing will examine issues at Manchester VA Medical Center, challenges to access to care for New Hampshire veterans

(Concord, NH) –Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02), the lead Democrat on the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, announced today that she will convene a field hearing of the Subcommittee in New Hampshire to examine reports of quality of care issues at the Manchester VA Medical Center. Kuster will be joined by the Chairman of the Subcommittee, Congressman Jack Bergman (MI-01). The field hearing will examine quality of care issues at Manchester VAMC as well as challenges in access to care for New Hampshire veterans. The whistleblowers who raised the issues of care at Manchester will be invited to testify at the hearing on September 18th. Time and location will be announced closer to the hearing date.

“The issues that have been raised about quality of care at the Manchester VA Medical Center need to be thoroughly examined and that means the VA Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee must hear directly from the whistleblowers,” said Congresswoman Kuster.I’m hopeful that by bringing the Subcommittee to New Hampshire we’ll be able to gain a greater appreciation for what went wrong in Manchester, how we can fix those issues, and how we can prevent this from happening in other areas. Granite State veterans deserve better, and we need to do all we can to ensure that they are able to access the services and care they need.”

“Congresswoman Kuster and I will hear directly from VA whistleblowers in Manchester next month,” said Chairman Bergman. “Our goal is to thoroughly examine the gross mismanagement and improper patient care at the Manchester VA Medical Center so this does not remain a problem for our Veterans. This field hearing will lead to greater accountability in the future within the Manchester VA Medical Center and the Department of Veterans Affairs as a whole.”

Congresswoman Kuster wrote to Chairman Bergman earlier this month to request that the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hold the hearing to examine the concerns raised by the VA whistleblowers. In her letter, Kuster outlined the unique challenges faced by New Hampshire veterans.

“These concerns are especially troubling to me because New Hampshire is the only state, except Alaska and Hawaii, which does not have a full-service medical center,” Kuster wrote. “As the Boston Globe explained, that means New Hampshire must send veterans to private-sector community providers or other VAMCs. Given the realities of veterans’ medical care in a state without a full-service facility, we must examine the Manchester VAMC’s usage of these critical programs.”

Her full letter is available here and below.

Congresswoman Kuster has served on the U.S. House Veterans’ Affairs Committee since taking office in 2013, and has served as the Ranking Member of the Veterans’ Affairs Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee since 2015. As Ranking Member, she pushes for increased transparency at the VA and helps to lead the charge in Washington on the need to improve access to care for veterans across the country. The daughter of a WWII veteran, Congresswoman Kuster has long advocated for the needs of New Hampshire veterans, and she frequently holds veteran roundtables, forums, and job fairs for Granite State veterans across the district.

170718_LTR_OI field hearing request on Manchester VA

Sen. Maggie Hassan: Time To Focus On Bipartisan Health Care Solutions

Last week, three of my Republican colleagues — Sens. Susan Collins, John McCain, and Lisa Murkowski — put the well-being of the American people before partisan politics, joining Democrats to defeat a health care repeal bill that would have raised health care costs and stripped health insurance away from millions.

Members of both parties defeated this dangerous bill, and it is going to take bipartisanship to move us forward. The Affordable Care Act needs improvement; we must move on from repeal and fix what’s not working with the law, and build on the progress we’ve made in order to bring down costs for hard-working people. Some of us have already started this conversation; I was part of a bipartisan group of senators who are also former governors who recently met to find common ground.

It is possible to find bipartisan solutions, even on an issue as complicated as health care. As governor, I worked across party lines to pass a bipartisan Medicaid expansion plan that is delivering quality, affordable insurance to more than 50,000 hard-working Granite Staters.

Medicaid expansion has made a real difference for communities across New Hampshire, particularly for people impacted by the heroin, fentanyl, and opioid crisis. People like Elizabeth, who I recently met at Goodwin Community Health in Somersworth.

Elizabeth told us that she had been homeless and lost the custody of her son as a result of a substance use disorder. Now, Elizabeth is in recovery and working at the SOS Recovery Community Organization in Rochester, helping others get the support they need. She said that she owes her recovery to the insurance she received through Medicaid expansion.

Elizabeth’s story is a great example of what is possible when Democrats and Republicans work together to improve the health of our people.

We need to take the same bipartisan approach in Congress that we took in New Hampshire, and I am eager to work with my colleagues to find areas of bipartisan cooperation so we can make key improvements to the Affordable Care Act.

To start, we must stabilize insurance markets and protect the marketplace from the Trump administration’s actions to sabotage it, actions that are increasing the cost of health insurance premiums.

One of these destabilizing actions is the administration’s ongoing threats to withhold payments — to fund what are known as cost sharing reductions — that help lower out-of-pocket expenses such as deductibles and co-pays for individuals with health insurance plans in the marketplace. This creates uncertainty, which in turn drives up costs. That’s why I’m supporting a proposal from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, which would help lower premiums by ensuring that these payments get made.

I also joined my colleagues in introducing legislation to encourage the creation of reinsurance programs, which help reduce insurance premiums by lowering the risk to insurance companies associated with high-cost patients. At the state level, the New Hampshire Department of Insurance is also pursuing a waiver under the Affordable Care Act to establish a reinsurance program.

Additionally, we need to address the Affordable Care Act’s income cliff that currently blocks many middle-class individuals and families from receiving financial help to purchase insurance through the marketplace. This will help bring down the cost of premiums for middle class Granite Staters and allow more people to access affordable coverage.

While we work to ensure market stability and address premium prices, there are other steps we can take to bring down health care costs. One of the most common issues I hear about from Granite Staters is the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs, and it’s long past time for Congress to act.

I joined my colleagues in introducing legislation to crack down on big pharmaceutical companies that hike the cost of prescription drugs that have been on the market for years or who game the system at the expense of consumers. I also believe that we should allow Medicare to negotiate the prices of prescription drugs and permit the safe importation of drugs from countries such as Canada.

There is more work to do, and these are important steps that we can take now to lower costs for consumers.

Every American deserves to have access to quality, affordable care so that they can be healthy and contribute to our economy. By working across party lines, we can take important strides toward reaching that goal.

High Praise For The Passage Of The Veterans Affairs “Choice Program”

Friday Congresswomen Annie Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter both voted “yes” on a bipartisan bill to extend the Veterans Choice Program for six months and make critical investments in VA health care, which passed the House with a unanimous vote of 414-0.

“I’m pleased that we were able to come together on the VA committee and in the House to pass this reauthorization of the Choice Program and bolster support for veterans,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “In a state like New Hampshire that lacks a full service VA hospital, we need to ensure that veterans are able to access care outside the VA in a timely and efficient manner. The Choice Program has been an important tool for many Granite State veterans, but not all veterans have found success in the program. I’m committed to working with my colleagues on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee to improve the Choice Program so that no veteran struggles to get the care they need.”

“I’m pleased that today’s bill includes an amendment I authored to improve VA hiring of mental health professions, who are on the front lines of our state’s efforts to combat the heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioid crisis. Today’s bipartisan vote is an example of the good that can come when Democrats and Republicans work together to improve access to healthcare for our nation’s veterans. I was proud to support this bipartisan bill, which will extend the Veterans Choice Program for six months.  It makes much needed investments in the VA and includes several provisions that will help the VA fill its nearly 50,000 open jobs, most of which are in health care,” said Shea-Porter.

Both Congresswomen offered amendments that were included and approved in the final bill.

The new reauthorization also includes a provision from Congresswoman Kuster’s legislation, the GOOD Act, which will help improve veterans’ access to quality care by making the Department of Veterans Affairs more competitive when hiring physician assistants.

“I’m excited that this Choice Authorization includes language from my legislation, the GOOD Act,” said Kuster. “We need to make sure that the VA is competitive when hiring medical staff and my legislation will increase pay for VA physician assistants. I’m thrilled that earlier today the House passed additional provisions of GOOD Act and I urge the Senate to act on this commonsense legislation.”

For months, Shea-Porter has voiced deep concerns about failures in the administration of the Veterans Choice Program by the VA and its contractor, Health Net. In April, Shea-Porter sent a letter to Congressional leadership calling for the reorganization of VA’s Community Care programs, including Choice, into a permanent and sustainable program that meets the needs of New Hampshire veterans. The letter called on Congress to immediately address “problems with access to care as well as the Department’s inability to pay medical claims to community providers in a timely way.”

The legislation passed Friday will provide $2.1 billion for the Veterans Choice Program, funding the temporary program for another six months while the Veterans Affairs Committees continue work on a permanent solution to streamline and improve access to community providers, as Shea-Porter requested.

The legislation also included several provisions to improve hiring at the VA and makes critical investments in VA health care facilities. Several of the hiring provisions were passed by the House in March as part of H.R. 1367. That bill created a database to improve hiring for critical open positions. Shea-Porter successfully amended the bill to require that the database include mental health professionals. The database provision, and her amendment to include mental health professionals, were included in the bill passed today (Sec. 208).

Image from AFGE rally for the passage of the VA Choice Program

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the largest federal union which also represents civilian employees inside the VA, is “encouraged” by the passage of this bill.

“Today Congressional leaders came together, put party politics aside, and passed legislation that is vital to the future of the VA. We are very encouraged by the passing of this bill, which will allow additional investment in the VA, and allow the VA to manage non-VA care better than the broken Choice program,” American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr.

“While we still stand with the veterans who overwhelmingly tell us they want the VA for their healthcare, it’s important that those who cannot receive care at the VA have outside options. The VA Choice and Quality Employment Act isn’t a cure-all for the VA or the Choice program, but is a temporary fix that will allow more veterans access to the care they need,” Cox added.

Cox also highlighted that many of the problems plaguing the VA come from years of neglect and austere cuts to funding.

“But after years of starving the VA’s funding for the Choice program, it’s the investment in veterans’ first preference for medical care that has us most in support of this legislation.”

“Infusing our nation’s largest healthcare system with $1.4 billion for hiring, workforce improvements, and the authorization of 28 new leases that increase the department’s internal capacity to deliver care will make a huge difference at a time when the VA is facing nearly 50,000 vacancies nationwide. With the VA now more able to gather data in recruitment, retention, and staffing, there will finally be some transparency – but it’s not enough.”

After praise the passage of the VA choice program, AFGE is also calling on Congress to take action of similar legislation to address the staffing needs of the VA.

“We at AFGE believe that for true transparency, and a fully-operational department, Congress must pass Rep. Anthony Brown’s bill, the VA Staffing and Vacancies Transparency Act of 2017. If Rep. Brown’s bill is passed, we will finally have transparency in the VA, and the ability to identify the necessary hires the department needs. That in turn will allow more veterans to receive more access to the only healthcare system created for veterans, and by veterans in this country.”

Senators Urge Sec. Mattis Not To Enact Trump’s Discriminatory Anti-Transgender Policy

Shaheen, Hassan Join Bipartisan Letter Urging Secretary Mattis Not to Implement Transgender Ban

Last week, President Trump tweeted that transgender individuals could no longer serve in the US Armed Forces.

“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”

If enacted this new policy against transgender individuals would reverse policies issued by Sec of Defense,, Ash Carter in 2015 that stated:

“No Service member shall be involuntarily separated or denied reenlistment or continuation of active or reserve service on the basis of their gender identity, without the personal approval of the Under Secretary of Defense for personnel and Readiness.”

However since Trump’s policy announcement on twitter, the White House and the Department of Defense have not issued any official policy changes, leaving the thousands of transgender Service members hanging in the balance.  Since the official policy announcement in 2015, there have been zero reported issues by any branch of the military.

Now, everyone is waiting to see what Secretary of Defense James Mattis will do next.

Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan joined a bipartisan letter signed by 43 additional Senators to Secretary Mattis urging him to advise the President against implementing the announcement he made via Twitter Wednesday that transgender Americans can no longer serve in the military.

“We strongly oppose this policy change, and urge you to advise the President against it,” the Senators wrote in the letter. “This announcement contradicts existing Defense Department policies, undermines our military readiness, and puts our transgender service members as well as their commanders in an impossible situation.”

“We appreciate General Dunford’s message that no policy changes should be made until implementation guidelines have been issued. We further write to request that, at a minimum, you do not separate any service member due to the person’s gender identity until you have completed the assessment that you announced on June 30, have reported back to Congress about any challenges that you foresee in the accession and retention of transgender troops, and determined the Department is unable to mitigate these challenges.”

Veterans like Jason Lindsay fear that this policy shift is a “colossal step backwards” in a statement issued Wednesday.

“As an Iraq war veteran and member of the LGBTQ community who was personally impacted by ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ I am appalled at Donald Trump’s announcement this morning banning transgender people from serving in the military,” said Jason Lindsay, Executive Director of Pride Fund to End Gun Violence. “This is blatant discrimination, full-stop, and a colossal step backwards for our country.”

“Trump vowed to protect the LGBTQ community during his campaign, but his methodical dismantling of LGBTQ protections and rights shows his true intentions. This morning’s announcement is a direct attack on the transgender community,” said Lindsay.

The full text of the Senators’ joint letter is included here and below.

Letter to Mattis on transgender troops

Republicans Fail (Again) To Repeal And Replace: NH Senators Respond

Photo by Victoria Pickering on Flickr.

Democrats stood united against the GOP ‘repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act” with the help of three Republican Senators, Susan Collins, John McCain, and Lisa Murkowski they defeated yet another bill that would have stripped healthcare from 15 million Americans.

Last night’s version of the GOP plan to reform healthcare labeled the “Skinny Repeal” still gave massive tax cuts to the wealthy, would increase the cost of healthcare on working families, and make drastic cuts to Medicaid and Medicare.

“Republicans released the skinny bill just three hours before voting began. It would have retroactively repealed the Obamacare penalty on individuals who do not purchase health insurance, repealed for eight years a penalty on certain employers who do not provide employees with insurance and repealed a medical device tax until 2020. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that if it became law, 15 million fewer Americans would be insured in 2018 than under existing law,” wrote the Associated Press.

Many are praising Senator McCain for opposing this bill, however the real heroes are Sen Collins and Sen Murkowski who have been vocal opponents of the GOP repeal and replacement plans.  These two women have withstood attacks from their colleagues on the right and still found the strength to oppose these cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and specifically women’s health.

“I thank Senators Lisa Murkowski, John McCain, and Susan Collins for putting the health and well-being of the American people before partisan politics,” said Senator Maggie Hassan.  “I am also incredibly grateful for the brave Granite Staters and Americans who have laid themselves bare and shared their stories over the past months. Without you, this outcome would not have been possible. Now, it is time for Republicans and Democrats to come together and get to work on improving and building upon the Affordable Care Act in order to bring down health care costs for hard-working people.”

“Tonight, I’m very relieved that, for the time being, healthcare repeal has been set aside,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen. “Republican leadership, through a reckless and partisan process, came dangerously close to undermining healthcare for millions of Americans and tens of thousands of Granite Staters. The American people have made their voices heard and deserve credit for defeating this dangerous legislation. It’s time for Republican leadership to finally abandon their attempts to repeal healthcare and begin working across the aisle to improve the Affordable Care Act. Healthcare is a life and death issue and it’s time for Democrats and Republicans to come together and do the will of the American people.”

“Last night was a win for the American people who are tired of partisan politics getting in the way of real solutions,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “Everyone who took the time to call their members of Congress over the past several months has played an important role in defeating this misguided effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and I want to thank you all. I have also heard from Granite Staters who have faced challenges accessing healthcare through the ACA. I appreciate those concerns, and I recognize the ACA is far from perfect. I urge my Republican colleagues to abandon their focus on repealing the ACA and instead come to the table in good faith to improve our healthcare system so that everyone is able to access quality, affordable health insurance. I’ve outlined what I hope can be the basis for bipartisan conversations about commonsense solutions to fix problems within the ACA and look forward to working with my Republican colleagues on this critical issue.”

Last week, Kuster wrote an op-ed with Congressman Peter Welch (VT-At Large) in the Valley News on their proposal to improve upon the successes of the Affordable Care Act, like reducing the uninsured rate and improving the quality of health insurance, while fixing the remaining issues in our nation’s healthcare system. Kuster and Welch also highlighted how repealing the ACA and passing the Republican healthcare bill would harm their constituents.

After the first failed attempt to repeal the ACA, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter released the following statement:

“Senate Republicans took a vote to rip healthcare from millions of Americans without even knowing themselves what’s in Mitch McConnell’s latest repeal plan. In doing so, they not only voted to take health coverage and financial peace of mind from their own constituents — they also betrayed the fundamental values of transparency and openness that underpin our democratic system. I share the anger and frustration of the many New Hampshire families and health care providers whose voices were ignored by the Senate today. This is not how our government is supposed to work.”

The AFL-CIO Executive Council also spoke out against these attacks on Medicare and Medicaid and called for real reforms that help working people.

“Quality health care should be a basic right in the United States. It should not be a commodity that can be denied because you have too little income, do not have the right job or any job, or have a pre-existing medical condition. Republican leaders in Congress, however, are pursuing an agenda that attacks this principle and undermines everyone’s health care, whether you are covered through a job, an individual plan, Medicaid or Medicare. Each of their attempts, so far, to pass legislation that repeals major parts of the Affordable Care Act has failed, however, largely because tens of millions of Americans have spoken out against their proposals, and because some Republican lawmakers have stood up for working people against these health care cuts despite enormous pressure from within their party.”

The NH Democratic Party thanked Senators Shaheen and Hassan and highlighted Governor Sununu’s silence on the GOP healthcare reforms.

“Endless thanks are due to Senator Shaheen and Senator Hassan for standing up on behalf of Granite Staters in our nation’s capital. Last night, 51 Senator voted to do the right thing by rejecting a health care bill that would have kicked millions of Americans off insurance and hiked premiums by 20% just next year. New Hampshire voters delivered two of those key Senate votes by electing Democrats in competitive races in 2014 and 2016. This should underscore the importance of the Democratic energy that continues to grow in New Hampshire and across the country,” said NHDP Chairman Ray Buckley.

“Meanwhile, Governor Sununu refused to use his platform to stand up for the 73% of Granite Staters who don’t support Trumpcare. Instead, he said nothing. He had the opportunity to join five other Republican governors opposing this devastating bill. Instead, he did nothing. It couldn’t be clearer than it is today: Governor Sununu serves President Trump, Washington Republicans, and corporate special interests, not New Hampshire.”

It is clear that the Republicans are not interested in helping to ensure that more Americans have access to healthcare or god forbid have healthcare provided to them, they are only interested in tax breaks for the wealthy and the corporations who are bankrupting working people.

Shea-Porter Offers Amendment Limiting Congressional Mailers to Size of Postcard

Congresswoman Pushes for Responsible Restrictions on Taxpayer-Funded Mass Mailings

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) today offered an amendment to a House appropriations bill that, if passed, would have restricted the size of taxpayer-funded unsolicited Congressional mailings to the dimensions of a standard postcard.

“As Members of Congress, it’s our job to set the standard for responsible stewardship of taxpayer funds, and public resources should not be spent on excessive, campaign style mailers,” Shea-Porter said to her colleagues. “We can keep constituents informed by sending a simple postcard, without all of the glitz and gloss.”

The Congressional franking privilege is regulated by federal law, House rules, orders of the Committee on House Administration, and regulations of the House Commission on Congressional Mailing Standards. Each mass mailing sent by a Member of Congress must bear the following notice: “Prepared, Published, and Mailed at Taxpayer Expense.” House Members are prohibited from sending mass mailings fewer than 90 days prior to any general or primary election in which they are a candidate, and are prohibited from sending unsolicited mass mailings outside their district.

Shea-Porter’s full remarks:

“My amendment is simple and straightforward. It would change the way our official taxpayer-funded mass mailings to constituents look by limiting the mailer to the size of a standard postcard. As Members of Congress, it’s our job to set the standard for responsible stewardship of taxpayer funds, and public resources should not be spent on excessive, campaign style mailers. A significant part of our duties as elected representatives is to keep our constituents informed about what we are doing in office. I support mass mailings to our constituents, but we can keep them informed by sending a simple postcard, without all of the glitz and gloss. Also, when official mail looks like campaign mailers, people are more likely to toss it out, thereby defeating the very purpose of informing our constituents. Our official mail should not look like campaign ads or junk mail. Our constituents don’t want large mailers, they just want information. This amendment delivers. I yield back.”

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