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10 Things You Should Know About the VA Before Tonight’s IAVA Commander-in-Chief Forum

VA LogoUnion representing frontline VA health care providers, AFGE, sets record straight ahead of historic town hall event

AFGE_Logo_high resWASHINGTON – Before Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump address military families and veterans at Wednesday night’s forum hosted by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, here are 10 things about veterans’ health care to keep in mind, as compiled by the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 220,000 federal employees throughout the Department of Veterans Affairs:

1. The VA tops the private sector in quality and service. The VA outperforms the private sector by more than 30% in delivering mental health care, and veterans get appointments with their primary care doctors three times faster than patients outside the VA.

2. More veterans are receiving care. Since 2014, the VA has hired nearly 14,000 additional health care workers and opened an additional 3.9 million square feet of clinical space – resulting in a 10% increase in direct patient care.

3. Wait times have been dramatically reduced. Last year, the VA completed 97% of appointments within 30 days of either the clinically indicated or veterans’ preferred date – an increase of 1.4 million over fiscal 2014.

4. Most veterans support the current VA system. Two-thirds of veterans oppose privatizing VA hospital programs and services, and 80% want their health care to be fully paid for by the government – not through vouchers that may not cover all of their costs.

5. Hillary Clinton will strengthen the VA. The daughter of a veteran, Secretary Clinton understands that veterans have unique health care needs that can only be met by trained VA providers and has promised to strengthen the VA, not privatize it.

6. Donald Trump would dismantle the VA. Trump, who received five draft deferrals to avoid serving in the Vietnam War, has vowed to privatize the VA health care system – over the objections of nearly all veterans’ advocates.

7. The Commission on Care’s recommendations would dismantle the integrated VA health care system. Health care professionals and employee groups say dismantling the VA’s integrated health care delivery system would erode veterans’ health care and be financially unsustainable.

8. Commissioner Michael Blecker strongly condemned the group’s report. A veteran himself, Blecker said the Commission’s proposal would push veterans toward lower quality health care options and threaten the survival of the veteran-centered system that most veterans prefer.

9. Gutting employee rights won’t improve veterans’ health care. Proposed “accountability bills” by Rep. Jeff Miller and Sen. Marco Rubio would give managers more authority to fire frontline employees without following federal due process laws. These are the same managers who manipulated wait time reports in the first place, and the same frontline employees who blew the whistle on that activity. A bipartisan Veterans First Act, on the other hand, would ensure bad employees are held accountable without trampling on whistleblower protections and employee rights.

10. AFGE will be live tweeting the forum. Follow AFGE’s Twitter feed and use the hashtag #IAVAForum for live reaction to the IAVA Commander-in-Chief town hall, and visit AFGE’s veterans action center for the latest news and updates.

Mark Connolly Takes A Bold Stand For Union Workers At WMUR

Last week we posted a story about how WMUR/ Hearst Television is refusing to negotiate with the members of IBEW local 1228 and are refusing add them to the pension system that other station workers already participate in. This contract negotiation dispute resulted in WMUR’s sponsorship of the NH Democratic Presidential debate. The NH Democratic Party reaffirmed their commitment to supporting the WMUR workers, by continuing to boycott WMUR sponsored debates.

“We told WMUR Station Management earlier this year that New Hampshire Democratic candidates would not participate in WMUR sponsored debates as long as the negotiations between the Union Production workers and Hearst were not resolved.” said Ray Buckley, Chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party. “We have not changed our position and the station knows it.”

This week, WMUR scheduled a Democratic Gubernatorial debate for next Tuesday night.  IBEW Local 1228 members are planning to hold an informational picket at WMUR’s Manchester studio the night of the debate.

Today, Mark Connolly, Democratic candidate for Governor, released the following statement regarding the scheduled gubernatorial debate hosted by WMUR Manchester and its parent company, Hearst Television, Inc. 

“Though I appreciate the opportunity provided by WMUR/Hearst, I strongly believe that each and every worker in the Granite State deserves a fair wage and benefits, and I stand with the dedicated workers of IBEW Local 1228.

“These workers are committed to delivering important information to the people of New Hampshire on a daily basis, and I strongly support their right to a collectively bargained contract. 

“Without an agreement in place between WMUR/Hearst and Local 1228, I will not cross the picket line to participate in next week’s debate. I encourage the other candidates to take the same stand.”

After receiving the news, Fletcher Fischer, Business Agent for the IBEW 1228 who represents the Union Production Department at WMUR who are struggling for their first contract said that they “greatly appreciated” the statement of support from Connolly.

“We are hopeful that all New Hampshire candidates running for Governor and any other office feel the same and show support to the working men and women who don’t deserve this type of Corporate attack. All they did was exercise their American right to form a Union and did not expect this type of retribution from the Company they have served so loyally for years,” Fischer added.

Pat Devney, campaign manager for Colin Van Ostern also released a statement in support of the IBEW workers but did not state whether Van Ostern would also skip the debate.

“With a full seven days between now and the debate, we encourage WMUR/Hearst management to sit down with employees and make meaningful and long-overdue progress toward a fair employment agreement.”

“We will continue to monitor negotiations and sincerely hope that progress can be made toward an agreement so that voters will have the opportunity to hear from all candidates about how we can keep New Hampshire moving forward.”

At the time of publication Steve Marchand had not responded to my request for a statement.

Veterans Blast Trump In Open Letter

Ahead of Trump Visit, More Than Fifty New Hampshire Veterans Contrast Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in Open Letter

Ahead of Donald Trump’s rally in Windham on Saturday, more than fifty New Hampshire veterans have penned an open letter contrasting Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on veterans issues and the economy. The signers call on all veterans to support Hillary Clinton because she has a plan that supports our veterans, will ensure they have the opportunities and tools they need to succeed upon returning home, and believes that our country is stronger when we stand together.

Read the letter here and below. 

Open Letter: New Hampshire Veterans Contrast Trump and Clinton Following this Pivotal Week

To all New Hampshire Veterans,

This week highlighted the stark difference between our two presidential nominees for all of us. While Hillary Clinton toured the country highlighting a jobs plan that would help reduce veteran unemployment within her first 100 days as President, Donald Trump was insulting veterans and disparaging the sacrifices of a Gold Star family.

Hillary Clinton understands the importance of investing in our veterans. Her economic plan would help to ensure that those who risk their lives have the resources they need to to find good paying jobs when they come home and the tools to start businesses of their own. That’s why she’s committed to expanding tax credits for veterans’ employment, improving the certification and credentialing programs for men and women who have served in the military, and strengthening veteran entrepreneurship programs. Clinton is clearly committed to building this economy up and putting our community on a path to a more prosperous future.

Hillary Clinton has put together a plan that an independent analyst calculated would result in the U.S. economy creating 10.4 million jobs nationally in her first term alone — contrast that with the 3.4 million jobs the same analyst found we’d lose under Trump’s plan. She would make huge and much-needed investments in our infrastructure, invest in manufacturing, create good-paying clean energy jobs, and support New Hampshire’s small businesses and the nearly 280,000 people they employ by providing tax relief and cutting red tape. That type of economic support would make a huge difference for the vets community, which struggles with high rates of unemployment.

Then, there’s Donald Trump.

Trump doesn’t have a jobs plan. What he has is a ruthless disregard for veterans’ service and a thin-skin. Not only has he repeatedly torn down veterans and trivialized their sacrifices, but he has lied about his donations to veterans’ charities, called avoiding STDs his “personal Vietnam,” fired or not hired veteran reservists due to their service commitments, and has now crossed another sacred line: he has attacked a Gold Star family for speaking out against his divisive policies. This man is not fit to serve as Commander-in-Chief.

We urge all veterans to join us in supporting Hillary Clinton. We need to send Trump a resounding message this November. And we want that message to be: in this country, we are stronger together.


Arthur Hilson of Portsmouth, United States Navy Veteran

Barry Conway of Hampton, United States Air Force Veteran, Former Commandant of the New Hampshire State Veterans Home, Chair Emeritus of the State Veterans Advisory Committee

Bill Duncan of New Castle, United States Navy Veteran

Bill Shaheen of Madbury, United States Army Veteran

Bob Hannan of Dover, United States Air Force Veteran

Brian Vawter of Portsmouth, United States Navy Veteran

Charles Mooskian of Pelham, United States Navy Veteran

Dave Bamford of Dover, United States Army Veteran

David Huot of Bedford, United States Navy Veteran

David Perkins of Amherst, United States Army Veteran

Doug Micklon of Salem, United States Navy Veteran

Gene Porter of Rochester, United States Army Veteran

George Fleming of Barrington, United States Marine Corps Veteran

Henry Lanteigne of Berlin, United States Air Force Veteran

Jack Scarborough of Plymouth, United States Marine Corps Veteran

Janice Oskar of Exeter, United States Air Force Veteran

Jeff Ballard of Brookfield, United States Army Veteran

Jim Smith of Salem, United States Air Force Veteran

Joe Plaia of Portsmouth, Corporal, United States Marine Corps Veteran, Portsmouth Police Commissioner

John D. Hutson, Dean Emeritus of UNH School of Law, Rear Admiral Judge Advocate General United States Navy (Ret.)

John Knowles of Hudson, United States Army Veteran

Josh Denton of Portsmouth, United States Army Veteran

Ken Latchaw of Newington, United States Navy Veteran

Ken Putney of Derry, United States Navy Veteran

Len DiSesa of Dover, United States Army Veteran

LeRoy Marcroft of Weare, United States Navy Veteran

Linda Lauer of Bath, United States Navy Veteran

Lou D’Allesandro of Manchester, United States Marine Corps Reserve Veteran

Michael O’Mahony of Bow, United States Air Force Veteran

Miriam Cahill of Yeaton, United States Air Force Veteran

Ned Helms of Concord, United Staes Army Veteran

Pete McVay of Atkinson, United States Navy Reserve Veteran

Pete Stearns of Amherst, United States Army Veteran

Peter Schmidt of Dover, United States Marine Corps Veteran

Purnell Ross of Dover, United States Air Force Veteran

R. James Steiner of Concord, United States Army Veteran

Ralph Hough of Grantham, United States Army Veteran

Raymond Levesque of Boscawen, United Staes Navy Veteran

Rick Ouelette of Nashua, United States Air Force Veteran

Robert LeClair of Manchester, United States Marine Corps Veteran

Robert Porter of Claremont, United States Army National Guard Veteran

Robert Williams of Concord, United States Navy Veteran

Ronald Jones of Manchester, United States Marine Corps Veteran

Skip Clark of Portsmouth, United States Army Veteran

Stan Solomon of Albany, United States Army Veteran

Steve Shurtleff of Concord, United States Army Veteran

Sumner Bennett of Amherst, United States Army Reserve Veteran

Terence O’Rourke of Alton, United States Army Veteran

Terry Shumaker of Concord, United States Army Veteran

Val Scarborough of Plymouth, United States Marine Corps Veteran

Wayne Alterisio of Manchester, United States Army Veteran

Wayne Burton of Durham, United States Army Veteran

William Cashin of Manchester, United States Army Veteran

William Connell of Atkinson, United States Navy Veteran

Featured Image by DVIDSHUB CC Filickr

Daniel Weeks organizes Trump Protest, calls on GOP leaders to say #NotInNH

Weeks, who is married to a South African immigrant, highlights Trump’s hateful rhetoric of immigrants as a “personal reason” he opposes Donald Trump.

Dan Weeks 3NASHUA, NH – Dan Weeks, the former Executive Director of Open Democracy and leader of NH Rebellion, is calling on concerned citizens of all stripes to peacefully protest Donald Trump’s upcoming New Hampshire event and urging other NH leaders to join in denouncing the Republican nominee. Trump is scheduled to address supporters at Windham High School this Saturday at 8pm; the protest will begin at 6:30pm outside the school.

Donald Trump has come under increased fire from veterans organizations and national Republican leaders in recent days since his open feud with Gold Star parents Khizr and Ghazala Khan after the Democratic National Convention. The Republican standard-bearer continues to stand by his calls for mass deportations of undocumented immigrants, statements condemning women and people of color, and his Constitutionally-suspect proposal to a ban Muslim immigrants from entering the United States. He has also drawn widespread public support from white supremacist leaders.  

“This isn’t just about the principles of a democratic and inclusive society — it’s also personal,” Weeks said. “Although my ancestors came to America long before Donald Trump’s, my wife emigrated from South Africa and our American-born children are considered black. I owe it to them to help ensure that the country and state I love welcome, rather than demonize, diversity. It’s good for society, good for our economy, and it’s the right thing to do.”

Weeks, a candidate for Executive Council in District 5 nearby Windham, also renewed his call on his opponent, incumbent Councilor David Wheeler, to denounce Donald Trump after Wheeler was the senior-most New Hampshire Republican  to attend Trump’s last event in state. Wheeler has not responded to the call, nor a recent call from Weeks to engage in public debates.

Although I am a Democrat personally engaged in a partisan election, I applaud the many Republicans who have already stood to their nominee’s divisive and hate-filled rhetoric,” Weeks concluded. “The Republican party into which I was born, the party of Lincoln, would never tolerate a person with such views and temperament in the White House, and nor should my opponent. It’s not the New Hampshire way.” 

The peaceful protest is open to the public and will start at 6:30pm outside the Trump rally at Windham High School, 64 London Bridge Rd in Windham, NH.

Congressional Response to Airport Wait Times Falls Far Short, TSA Union Says

AFGE says Congress must lift arbitrary workforce cap
and fund 6,000 additional security officers

AFGE TSA WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees, the union representing Transportation Security Officers at our nation’s airports, says recent Congressional actions to reduce passenger wait times are a good step but that the permanent solution remains hiring an additional 6,000 full-time screeners.

Congress on Monday approved shifting $28 million within the Transportation Security Administration’s current budget to convert 2,784 part-time officers to full-time positions and accelerate the hiring of 600 additional officers by the end of the fiscal year. This follows a similar action in May that enabled TSA to expedite the hiring of 768 new officers and pay additional overtime for current workers.

“The reprogramming requests that Congress has approved should provide some short-term relief to TSA officers who are clearly overworked and a flying public that is understandably frustrated,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said.

“However, the funding shifts fall far short in addressing the underlying issue, which is the failure of Congress to provide TSA with sufficient resources to meet its staffing needs and ensure the safety and security of the flying public,” Cox said.

Congress has set an arbitrary cap on the number of officers that the agency can hire, limiting TSA to no more than 45,000 screeners – although TSA can’t even meet the cap due to budget cuts.

Cox praised a group of 70 House lawmakers who sent a letter to leaders of the Homeland Security budget committee on June 8 calling the cap “arbitrary” and “illogical” and urging appropriators to remove it from the 2017 spending bill.

“Congress has set TSA up for failure by restricting how many workers it can hire and then slashing its budget to the point that it can’t even hire up to the arbitrary cap,” Cox said. “This results in passengers waiting two or three hours to get through checkpoints at peak times, while security lanes remain closed because there’s no staff to run them.

“Congress must lift this arbitrary worker cap and provide TSA with enough money to hire 6,000 additional officers, which would restore staffing levels to what they were in 2011.”

Hypocrite Trump To Hold New Hampshire Fundraiser With Known Job Outsourcer

Donald Trump (Image by Gage Skidmore CC FLIKR)

Donald Trump (Image by Gage Skidmore CC FLIKR)

Donald Trump says he is going to “make America great again” by magically bringing jobs back to the United States and opposes companies who offshored jobs. Trump has even gone so far as to say he would institute 35% tax on products made in Mexico and imported for sale in the United States.

Trump also spent most of the primary talking about how he was “really rich” and would self fund his campaign.

Trump stated on Facebook in September of 2015, “By self-funding my campaign, I am not controlled by my donors, special interests or lobbyists. I am only working for the people of the U.S.!”

Trump’s position opposing companies who outsource jobs and his statements about self-funding his campaign is what many of the Republicans liked about him. However now that he is the presumptive nominee, all of that is going out the window.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Trump would be coming to New Hampshire to hold one of many fundraisers in the area.

Wealthy donors like Sheldon Adelson are considering creating a pro-Trump Super PAC to help make up the campaign cash difference between Trump and Clinton. Trump will also be holding fundraisers with NY Jets owner Woody Johnson, who was “a top fundraiser for 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney.”

Image from Bill Binnie for Senate 2010 campaign

Image from Bill Binnie for Senate 2010 campaign

Here in New Hampshire, Trump is planning to attend a fundraiser with Bill Binnie who made an untold amount of money selling out American workers. Binnie was the chief of “Carlisle Plastics Inc. in 1990, when it closed a factory with more than 400 jobs and built a new 60,000-square-foot facility in Tijuana, Mexico.”

The WSJ continued, “According to the company’s 1991 annual report signed by Mr. Binnie, ‘will significantly lower the division’s operating costs.’”

Binnie eventually sold Carlisle Plastics to Tyco for a cool $121 million dollars.

Then the WSJ “asked if [Binnie’s] own corporate history contradicts Mr. Trump’s vow to boost American manufacturing by instilling high tariffs on companies to move jobs overseas, Mr. Binnie hung up the phone without responding.”

Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks told the WSJ that Mr. Trump “looks forward” to attending Mr. Binnie’s fundraiser.

Not only is Trump a hypocrite for lying to voters about self funding his campaign, now he is aligning himself with campaign donors who sell out American workers utilizing bad trade deals.

Dan Weeks Calls Partisan Obstruction Of Judicial Appointments Unacceptable At State And Federal Level

Dan Weeks 4Executive Council candidate pledges to vet all state nominees based on qualifications, not political litmus tests

NASHUA, NH – Executive Council candidate Dan Weeks will join dozens of concerned citizens today at noon at the Nashua office of Sen. Kelly Ayotte to call for an end to partisan obstruction of judicial nominees in the US Senate and the NH Executive Council.

As a longtime good-government reformer with a history of cross-partisan collaboration, Weeks noted that over 50 days have passed since Chief Judge Merrick Garland was nominated to the US Supreme Court and still Senate Republicans are refusing to fulfill their constitutional duty to consider the president’s appointment. Court observes predict that numerous pressing matters will go unresolved on the Supreme Court this year as a result.

“This brand of partisan obstruction of the appointment process is unacceptable not only in Washington, but also right here in New Hampshire on the Executive Council,” Weeks said. “Granite Staters expect their elected officials to fulfill their Constitutional mandate and do the job we elected them do. In the case of Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland, that means giving him a hearing and an up-or-down vote.”

Weeks noted that every Supreme Court nominee since 1875 has received a hearing or a vote, until today. Declaring the last year of the President’s four-year term “off limits” for nominations, especially on our nation’s highest court, disenfranchises the millions of voters who elected the sitting president and sets a dangerous precedent for Republican Executive Councilors in New Hampshire.

“The refusal last year of my opponent, Councilor Wheeler, and his fellow Republicans to approve the governor’s appointment of Dorothy Graham to the State Superior Court last November – simply because she did her job as a public defender – is a troubling case in point.” Weeks said. The Executive Council’s rejection of Dorothy Graham on a party-line vote, even after she received universal support from members of law enforcement at her public hearing, was a first in recent memory, according to NHPR.

“If elected to the Council, I will take the responsibility of vetting judicial nominations seriously and reject the partisan obstructionism we see today. Moreover, I will work to protect the rights of Granite Staters to publicly vet our judicial nominees, and will urge the governor to appoint highly-qualified individuals who reflect the character and diversity of our state,” Weeks concluded.

Thursday May 5th, March For A Raise And Rally With Low Wage Workers In Fight For $15

Workers protest poverty wages. Image by )OFL communications FLIKR)

Workers protest poverty wages. Image by (OFL communications FLIKR)

March for a raise!

The minimum wage has not been raised since 2008. Full-time workers earning $7.25 are below the poverty line if they are supporting just one other person. Anyone who’s willing to work full time should not live in poverty!

On Thursday May 5th, we will march in Concord to call for better wages. We will gather in the NH DOT lot on Hazen Drive at 4 PM. People will tell us about their experiences as low-wage workers, and then we will walk up Hazen Drive, turn right at East Side Drive, walk down to Loudon Road and come back to where we started.

Please join us!

Questions? Call Cindy at 435-7552. Thanks!

May Day Rally For Immigrant Justice

DURHAM, NEW HAMPSHIRE — Rejection of racism, xenophobia, and anti-Muslim sentiment will be the theme of the annual May Day Rally for Immigrant Justice to be held this year on the Durham campus of the University of New Hampshire. 

The rally will take place at 4:30 pm on the lawn in front of Thompson Hall in the center of the UNH campus.

“Speaking out for policies rooted in compassion, justice, and fairness is more important than ever,” said Eva Castillo of the NH Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees, a Manchester-based group that has been involved in organizing annual May 1 rallies since 2006. 

Speakers at the rally will include Castillo;  the Rev. Sandra Pontoh of the Maranatha Indonesian United Church of Christ in Madbury; Gabby Greaves of the UNH Black Student Union; Auderien Monareh, a UNH student; and the Rev. Larry Brickner-Wood of the Waysmeet Center. 

The Leftist Marching Band, a Portsmouth-based ensemble, will perform.

Sponsors of the rally include the Waysmeet Center, the Immigration Working Group of the United Church of Christ NH Conference, Maranatha Indonesian UCC Church, American Friends Service Committee, and the NH Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees. 

Previous May 1 rallies have been held in Portsmouth, Dover, Manchester, Nashua, and Concord.

May 1, which is celebrated as International Workers Day in many countries, has over the past decade become a day for immigrants and their allies to rally in the United States. 

Additional updates will be posted on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/1086051458124426/?active_tab=posts


Tax Day Leaflets Highlight Excessive Military Spending

nuclear bomb mockup (Ed Uthman FLIKR CC) Activists will visit Representative Guinta, Representative Kuster, Senator Shaheen, and Senator Ayotte’s office calling for an end of excessive spending on nuclear weapons.

MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE — Excessive spending on nuclear weapons and other military programs is the theme of a Tax Day leaflet that NH Peace Action, NH Citizens Alliance, and the American Friends Service Committee will distribute on Monday, April 18,  outside the Manchester and Concord offices of Senators Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen, and Representatives Frank Guinta and Annie Kuster. 

“At a time when veterans’ health care, infrastructure repair, and other urgent programs are badly under-funded, we want New Hampshire taxpayers to know that Congress has plans to spend a trillion dollars on a new generation of nuclear weapons systems that will do nothing for American security,” said Will Hopkins, Executive Director of NH Peace Action and an Iraq war veteran.

Members of the three groups plan to assemble on the sidewalk outside Senator Ayotte’s Elm Street, Manchester office at noon on Monday.  At 12:30 pm they will walk around the corner to Senator Shaheen’s office on Wall Street.  They will visit Representative Guinta’s Lowell Street office at 1:00 pm.  Finally, they will assemble outside Representative Kuster’s South Main Street office in Concord at 2:00 pm.  

At each location, they will offer to pedestrians a leaflet with information on the vast amounts the federal government spends on military programs.  They will also present leaflets to staff inside each office.

“It’s time for a new vision of American security,” said Kary Jencks, Executive Director of NH Citizens Alliance.  “The security of working families comes from decent pay in the workplace, affordable and quality health care, and secure retirement, all of which are imperiled when more than half of the discretionary budget goes to military programs,” she added.

According to the annual report on global military spending from the Stockholm Peace Research Institute, the United States spends more on military programs as the next seven countries, and “four of them are  our close military allies,” said Arnie Alpert, co-director of the American Friends Service Committee’s New Hampshire Program.

“On Tax Day, we are telling our members of Congress it’s time to turn away from excessive spending on weapons and war and to turn toward education, health, and creation of good jobs in the civilian economy,” he said.

Alpert added that the activities in Manchester and Concord are coordinated with the “Global Day of Action on Military Spending.” 

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