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Shea-Porter Announces 2017 Congressional App Challenge

 DOVER, NH – Congresswomen Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) today announced a call for entries for the 2017 Congressional App Challenge, a competition aimed at encouraging U.S. high school students to learn how to code by creating their own apps. Since 2015, the Challenge has highlighted the value of computer science and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education and encouraged students to engage in these fields.

“I am excited to announce today’s call for entries, and I’m encouraging high school students in New Hampshire’s First District to hone their creativity and technical skills by entering the App Challenge,” said Shea-Porter.

The competition is open to all New Hampshire high school students who meet the eligibility requirements, regardless of coding experience. Shea-Porter strongly encourages students of all skill levels to participate and learn how to create their own apps. Winners will be selected by a panel of judges and be given Congressional recognition for their achievements in STEM and Computer Science. Their apps may be eligible to be featured in a display in the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. and on the Congressional App Challenge website.

The Challenge was created because Congress recognized that STEM and computer-based skills are essential for economic growth and innovation, and that the U.S. has been falling behind on these fronts. By some estimates, the U.S. may be short as many as a million programmers by 2020. These are high-paying, high-demand jobs. To maintain American competitiveness, it’s crucial that the United States invests in our youth now, and helps them acquire these valuable skills.

The deadline for entries is November 1st. For more information or to submit an entry, constituents may visit shea-porter.house.gov/services/appchallenge.  For further information about the Congressional App Challenge, please visit www.CongressionalAppChallenge.us.

Shea-Porter To Trump: Release Promised ACA Navigator Funding

Shea-Porter Leads 31 House Democrats in Urging Trump Administration to Release Promised Navigator Funding

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) led 31 House Democrats today in sending a letter urging the Trump administration to release promised funding for the Affordable Care Act’s Navigator enrollment assistance grant program.

“Navigators are an essential resource for the American people, and the Navigator program is critical to the success of Open Enrollment. We urge you to unfreeze these funds immediately,” Shea-Porter and other Members wrote. “Americans already face a number of new hurdles to enrolling in coverage during the upcoming Open Enrollment period, including an enrollment timeframe that has been cut in half and a 90% cut to the outreach budget that could have informed consumers about this significant change. Destabilizing the Navigator program could further compound the challenges consumers will face in understanding when and how to enroll.”

The letter, addressed to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma, notes that on Friday, September 1st, HHS unexpectedly froze committed funding for the Navigator grant period that was scheduled to begin on Saturday, September 2nd. As of Monday, September 11th, grantees had received no update on when they should expect to receive this essential funding. The letter urges that funds be released immediately with a retroactive date of September 2nd.

The Members noted Navigators’ significance in keeping the Marketplaces stable, writing: “Helping Americans sign up for Marketplace coverage has many benefits, including strengthening the risk pool of the individual health insurance market. Conversely, discouraging enrollment could weaken the market and drive up premiums.”

Last week, Shea-Porter submitted an amendment that would save the Navigator grant program from elimination in House Republicans’ Fiscal Year 2018 omnibus appropriations bill.

2017.09.12 - HEA - Navigator Grants

Trump’s Sham Commission On Voting Integrity Meets In New Hampshire

Yesterday, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Voting Integrity convened their second official meeting at St. Anslem College, in Manchester, New Hampshire. The group, led by right-wing extremist Kris Kobach, who is currently the Kansas Secretary of State, continued to take aim at our voting rights.

Kobach gained local notoriety over the past week as he made the claim that Senator Maggie Hassan only won because of thousands of illegal votes from out of state residents. He claimed that because 3,000 people voted in NH with out of state licenses that their votes were examples of voter fraud. The claim was quickly debunked due to the fact that NH does not require voters to have NH drivers license or to register their automobile with the state in order to legally vote.

“It’s alarming to see New Hampshire being singled out by the national voter suppression movement,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. “This Commission has no claim to credibility after failing to condemn last week’s out-and-out lies from Vice Chair Kris Kobach about our state’s voters. Granite Staters should consider any claims made during this meeting with extreme skepticism.”

“Study after study, report and report, and even previous commissions have shown that voter fraud is extremely rare and always very isolated,” said Alex Padilla, California Secretary of State. “That is proof that the current protections are working, but we have policies and technologies in place to allow us to facilitate the participation in the political process to more and more citizens. We have a moral obligation to do that.”

Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who is currently serving the people of New Hampshire in the U.S. Senate in Washington D.C, submitted written testimony to the commission.

In her testimony, Senator Shaheen condemns the commission’s clear intention to make it more difficult for Granite Staters to vote, writing, “The truth is that, here in New Hampshire and across the nation, voter fraud is extremely rare. I am deeply concerned that falsehoods about illegal voting are being spread as a pretext for restricting access to the ballot box. This risks disenfranchising eligible voters and undermining faith in our democracy.”

“Granite Staters take pride in our state’s brand of open and direct democracy, which encourages maximum participation, including by college students and active-duty members of the military who live in our state.  It is not the New Hampshire way to make voting unnecessarily difficult or to target specific groups of voters with deliberately onerous ID laws,” Shaheen wrote.

Senator Maggie Hassan joined Senator Shaheen in submitting legislation to disband the commission.

“I am deeply concerned that since its inception President Trump’s voting commission has attempted to mislead voters and erode trust in the voting process by pushing misleading claims that have been debunked time and again. It is clear that this commission is simply a partisan exercise to lay the groundwork for new attempts at voter suppression, which is why I joined Senator Shaheen in cosponsoring a bill to disband the commission.”

“President Trump’s voter commission has been formed with the predetermined conclusion that voter fraud is a widespread problem and that restrictive voter ID laws are necessary to safeguard our democracy,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “This is despite the fact there is no evidence of such fraud. Rather than protecting our democracy, voter suppression efforts threaten to undermine the legitimate right of people to exercise their self-determination at the ballot box.”

Kuster added, “The accusations levied by Secretary Kobach are an insult to thousands of local officials and volunteers, both Republican and Democrat, who ensure our free and fair elections in New Hampshire and make the Granite State worthy of being the first-in-the-nation presidential primary.”

“Our elected officials should be working to facilitate civic involvement and build voter participation, especially amongst college students and younger voters,” said St. Anselm student Olivia Teixeira on behalf of the NH Young Democrats. “Instead, with sham commissions like the one meeting today on my campus and through bills like SB 3, Republican’s are using baseless lies of voter fraud in an attempt to suppress voter turnout.”

“If we want to  attract and retain young people to our state, we should be working to empower younger voters to take part in our state’s proud democratic process by advocating for modernizing our voting systems and registration,” Teixeira added.

Aside from the continued discussion on the non-existent voter fraud problem the commission also discussed possible solutions to “strengthen” the integrity of the election process.

At one point, John Lott, a right-wing shill, proposed the idea of using the same background check system we currently use to buy firearms to verify a voters’ eligibility.  Lott is new to “voting rights” advocates however he is well know in “gun rights” circles.  Even before Lott presented his skewed testimony, the Brennan Center for Justice issued a warning, not to believe Lott’s “fuzzy math.”

“Lott’s statistical analysis includes far too many variables and controls – a tell-tale sign of statistical chicanery,” wrote the Brennan Center for Justice.

Additionally, Commission member and former Ohio Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell, suggested that long lines at the polls were a “good strategy.” This is the same man who “distributed voter lists with the Social Security numbers of 5.7 million voters.”

“Today, we met the various characters who decorate Trump’s sham commission. Unfortunately, their fringe conspiratorial thinking is not a caricature but an understatement,” said NH Democratic Party Chair, Ray Buckley. “From absurd proposals to run registered voters through background checks to one commission member calling the creation of long voting lines a ‘good strategy’ to Kobach re-asserting his claim of voter fraud in New Hampshire, it’s clear this commission has an agenda, the focus of which is voter suppression. Kobach showed he was willing to lie to the Granite Staters’ faces about New Hampshire law and embarrass Secretary Gardner in his own state by delegitimizing election results.”

“This is a commission that welcomes, absorbs, and operates in conspiracy. President Trump is getting his way when this commission entertains baseless voter fraud claims, muddying the waters and creating uncertainty and distrust in our election system.” Buckley added.

Outside, over a hundred people gathered to protest Trump’s “sham commission.” Among the protesters were members of the NH Chapter of the League of Women Voters, the ACLU of New Hampshire, America Votes, the NAACP, Granite State Progress, Mayday.US, and the national group Let America Vote.

The protests also garnered a special appearance from Cleanup Carl. “Cleanup Carl is a 12 ft tall superhero for democracy. Committed to taking on the dirty villains trying to destroy our democracy with their toxic anti-voter influence.” Cleanup Carl is project of grassroots democracy organization MAYDAY America.

“This commission is the real threat. It’s a toxic mix for our democracy!” said Cleanup Carl through his spokesperson MAYDAY National Campaign Director Chris Tallent. “New Hampshire residents and Americans should take caution! Some of the most dangerous contaminants known to democracy, Kris Kobach, Mike Pence, and the rest of the sham ‘election integrity’ commission will be in New Hampshire this morning to try to advance their dirty agenda. That’s a volatile mix for democracy! Time to clean ‘em out of our democracy and uphold the right for everyone’s voice to be heard!”

Many of the people outside were also calling on NH’s Secretary of State, Bill Gardner, to resign from this “sham” commission.

“One thing is clear: New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner doesn’t belong with this cast of conspiratorial misfits,” said Buckley. “He has carried out free and fair elections for over four decades and any suggestion to the contrary is offensive, incorrect and dangerous. Gardner cannot risk sullying New Hampshire’s sterling reputation by remaining on a commission that is willing to travel to our state to insult us in service of a baseless conspiracy designed to suppress votes.”

Gardner, who is currently the longest serving Secretary of State, is “being used by the Trump/Pence sham commission,” said a group of New Hampshire Voters who recently started a petition calling for Gardner to resign his position in the commission.

In response to Trump’s Election Integrity Commission, the Democratic National Committee joined with allies and created the Commission to Protect American Democracy from the Trump Administration. The DNC held a press call to explain how the Trump administration’s voter fraud commission is working to suppress the fundamental democratic rights of Americans and to lay out the steps that Democrats are taking to fight back.

“Make no mistake: this isn’t a war on voter fraud, it’s a war on voters. And it’s only being waged by Republicans, and we will not let our guard down for a moment.  As Democrats, our goal is the engage every eligible American voter as an active participant in our democracy,” said Tom Perez, Chair of the DNC. “We want to make it easier for people who are eligible to vote, not harder for them to vote.  And that means fighting voter suppression tactics to create free, fair, and accessible elections.  We must protect the one right that preserves all others—the right to vote.”

“Instead of building themselves around policies that reach out to communities like minorities and low incomes folks and the elderly and the disabled, instead of doing that, they’re just going to exclude those folks from democracy.  That’s their solution.  And it’s cynical, and it’s wrong, and it’s un-American,” Jason Kander, Chair of the DNC commission, former Missouri Secretary of State, and President of Let America Vote. “We’ve had this argument before in America.  Folks marched across a bridge, American heroes did, in Selma.  And they faced batons, they faced down dogs and hoses, and it was all for the simple idea that in America everybody counts.  We shouldn’t go backward.  We should only go forward on these issues.”

Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed public comments outlining the glaring problems with the Commission including its lack of ideological diversity or commitment to transparency in accordance with federal law.

“Today’s Commission meeting in New Hampshire lacked diversity, facts, or actual solutions to support our democracy and combat voting discrimination that we know prevents racial minorities from voting,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Instead, Kris Kobach and his colleagues continued marshaling data in misleading ways to continue building a false narrative that voter fraud exists.  This myth has been widely discredited, and yet we listened to commissioners reiterate these claims in ways that proved truly irresponsible.”

“Today’s Commission meeting must be viewed in the context of a Justice Department that has all but abandoned its obligation to enforce laws that would eliminate voting discrimination.  The Commission is part of the administration’s broader agenda to promote national policies that would make it harder for minority communities to vote,” Clarke concluded.

Congresswoman Shea-Porter Works To Address NH’s Manufacturing Woes

Shea-Porter Announces UNH Project to Address State’s Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Needs

Rep Shea-Porter at the 2016 NH AFL-CIO Labor Day Breakfast showing her support for working families.

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) today announced that the University of New Hampshire has been awarded a $300,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to launch a pilot project in collaboration with the state’s community colleges and advanced manufacturing partners. The partnership will work to address the workforce needs of New Hampshire’s advanced manufacturing sector.

“This innovative project will leverage New Hampshire’s strengths to address the pressing need for in-state advanced manufacturing workers,” said Shea-Porter. “I congratulate UNH on launching this unique partnership, which will also support low-income students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs at our community colleges.”

UNH’s pilot project will be a collaborative effort with the Community College System of New Hampshire, local advanced manufacturing businesses, and the New Hampshire Department of Business and Economic Affairs to address workforce development in the advanced manufacturing sector in the state. The grant will provide mentorship, paid internships and job placement for students as well as work with businesses throughout the state. Advanced manufacturing is the use of innovative technology to improve manufacturing products or processes. It’s a leading industry in the Granite State and a $1.7 trillion industry nationwide.

“We are grateful for the support we have received from NSF and Congresswoman Shea-Porter,” said P.T. Vasudevan, senior vice provost for academic affairs at UNH and the principal investigator on the $300,000 grant. “We believe working to support and retain low-income students currently in the degree programs that will help us to grow the pipeline of advance manufacturing workers will benefit not only students and industry leaders in the state, but the state as a whole.”

UNH received one of 27 new awards through NSF’s INCLUDES program, aimed at enhancing U.S. leadership in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) discoveries and innovations through a commitment to diversity and inclusion.

In 2009, Shea-Porter helped initiate New Hampshire’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership in Education (AMPEd), which was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and has successfully helped New Hampshire businesses and colleges partner to invest in the state’s manufacturing workforce.

Congresswoman Shea-Porter Submits Amendment to Save ACA’s Navigator Program

Congresswoman Defends New Hampshire
Enrollment Assistance Jobs

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) today submitted an amendment that would save the Affordable Care Act’s Navigator enrollment assistance grant program from elimination in this week’s House omnibus appropriations bill.

“Navigators provide an essential, free service to people in New Hampshire and around the country who need help finding the best plan for their needs and budget,” said Shea-Porter. “Comparing coverage options can be confusing, especially for people who haven’t had insurance in the past. I’ve seen New Hampshire Navigators’ skill and compassion firsthand, which is why I’m fighting to protect this essential community program from partisan Washington attacks.”

The enrollment assistance program, which provided $600,000 for New Hampshire grantees to hire Navigators last year, faces escalating threats from the Trump administration and House Republicans. On Friday, the Trump administration proposed cutting the Navigator program by $23 million, while this week’s House Republican Omnibus bill would completely eliminate the program by prohibiting any funding for Navigator grants during the upcoming fiscal year. Shea-Porter’s amendment strikes this prohibition and instructs the Administration to return $3 million to the Navigator program. Earlier this year, the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO), which administers the Navigator program, transferred $3 million in Navigator funding to conduct an anti-ACA study.

“Without local Navigator support, individuals and their families may lack information to make a thoughtful decision on insurance coverage options,” said Tess Stack Kuenning, President and CEO of Bi-State Primary Care Association, one of New Hampshire’s Navigator grantees. “Navigators are an ongoing community resource to help ensure that New Hampshire families have the coverage they need to stay healthy.”

Since its inception, the Navigator program has helped educate over 9 million consumers about their coverage options. In New Hampshire, Navigators who work through the Bi-State Primary Care Association and the state’s Community Health Centers to provide impartial information about Marketplace plans, help consumers understand and evaluate all their options and apply for federal tax subsidies to lower the cost of premiums and out-of-pocket costs, and assist residents throughout the enrollment process.

Tomorrow afternoon, the House Rules Committee will decide whether Shea-Porter’s amendment is in order for a House floor vote later in the week.

NH’s Congressional Representatives Decry Trump’s Decision To End DACA

Today, it was announced that President Trump will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) that protects 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to this country as children.

“President Trump’s decision to end DACA is cruel, inhumane and completely unnecessary,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen. “This decision drives hundreds of innocent Dreamers in the Granite State, and hundreds of thousands across the country, into the shadows of our society. I’m encouraged that several Republicans, including Speaker Ryan, have voiced their support for legislative action to continue DACA. Congress should immediately get to work on a bipartisan plan that protects Dreamers.”

“This decision is morally wrong and cruel. It also would hurt our economy, which is why a wide range of American businesses are speaking out,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. “I agree with Speaker Paul Ryan: decisions about the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program should be made by Congress. These are young people who were brought to the United States as children through no fault of their own. They are showing their dedication and commitment to our country by pursuing higher education, working in our communities, or serving our nation. Penalizing the 966 New Hampshire young people who take part in this program is harmful to our local economies and denies these students, workers, and veterans the opportunity to strengthen the communities they grew up in.”

“Immigration enforcement should focus on people who are criminals and threats to public safety, not young people who often have no significant connections to the countries of their births, and whose energy, hard work and innovation are vital components of our economic future,” said Senator Maggie Hassan. “President Trump’s decision to go back on his word to protect these young people is harmful and wrong. I strongly support the bipartisan DREAM Act and previously joined my colleagues in urging President Trump to protect these young people who have great potential to continue contributing to our society and economy. Members of both parties have expressed support for continuing this program, and I urge my colleagues to come together across party lines immediately to support these young people.”

“I’m deeply disappointed by President Trump’s decision to end DACA, which allows people brought to the United States as children the opportunity to work legally and live without fear of deportation,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “The young people protected by DACA are contributing to our nation in countless ways: they are serving in our military, paying taxes, and helping to create jobs and grow our economy. Diversity strengthens our fabric as a nation and this ill-advised decision is nothing more than political pandering that will hurt real people and families. Congress must act as soon as possible to reform our broken immigration system and extend protections to Dreamers across the country, including the hundreds in New Hampshire.”

Last week, a group of business leaders sent an open letter to President Trump expressing their opposition to ending DACA. In the letter the groups writes, “All DACA recipients grew up in America, registered with our government, submitted to extensive background checks, and are diligently giving back to our communities and paying income taxes. More than 97 percent are in school or in the workforce, 5 percent started their own business, 65 percent have purchased a vehicle, and 16 percent have purchased their first home. At least 72 percent of the top 25 Fortune 500 companies count DACA recipients among their employees.

The letter continued, “Unless we act now to preserve the DACA program, all 780,000 hardworking young people will lose their ability to work legally in this country, and every one of them will be at immediate risk of deportation. Our economy would lose $460.3 billion from the national GDP and $24.6 billion in Social Security and Medicare tax contributions.”

“DREAMers, many of whom are still children, are a part of our American family,” said NH Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley.  “Today, the Trump administration kicked this hardworking, inspiring group out of our shared home. So many DREAMers know no other country, flag or allegiance and came here through no fault of their own. DACA is simply a chance for DREAMers to work hard and stay in the country they deservedly call their own. Today’s decision by the Trump administration and the way in which they handled it are vindictive, cowardly, counterproductive and wrong-headed. It’s not how we’ve ever behaved in America and it is hypocritical for a country founded by, built by, and prosperous because of immigrants.”

The people at United We Dream put out a guide about what this new news means for Dreamers.

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)

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.”

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