• Advertisement

Senate Passes National Defense Authorization Act With Praise From Shaheen, Hassan

(Washington, DC) – Today, the Senate passed the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which is critical legislation outlining the nation’s defense priorities for the fiscal year. The bill includes the following provisions spearheaded by U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), who is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee:

  • Shaheen’s bipartisan amendment that would direct the Department of Defense to fund a nationwide health study on implications of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), such as PFOA, in drinking water. In May, the Air Force announced it would not fund a health study of water contamination around Haven Well at the Pease International Tradeport – Shaheen’s amendment establishes the first-ever nationwide study on the human health effects of those exposed to PFCs in their drinking water;
  • Shaheen’s amendment to ban Kaspersky Lab software from being used by the federal government. The Moscow-based software company has ties to the Kremlin. Shaheen’s previous amendment to ban Kaspersky Lab software from being used by the Department of Defense was included in the committee-passed version of the bill in June. Last week, the Trump administration heeded Senator Shaheen’s call to ban the software company from all federal agencies;
  • Shaheen’s amendment encourages military exchanges (retail stores), including the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) on 3,100 U.S. Army and Air Force installations worldwide, to select more small business suppliers for its convenience and department stores;
  • Shaheen’s amendment to expand the ability of small businesses in rural areas to participate in the Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) program, which helps small businesses sell to the federal government;
  • Shaheen’s amendment to ensure that all non-active service members and their dependents have contraception coverage with no cost-share, bringing TRICARE in line with standard civilian birth control coverage;
  • Shaheen negotiated an additional 4,000 visas for the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. The SIV program allows Afghan interpreters and support staff who have assisted in the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and face threats as a result of their service to apply for refuge in the United States. Shaheen’s efforts have been instrumental in keeping this program operating for the brave men and women who have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Americans in the field, putting themselves and their families at risk to support American troops and operations.

“This bill contains a number of measures to help our communities, including my bipartisan amendment to authorize the Department of Defense to fund a health study on PFOA contaminant, which has polluted water supplies across the nation, and among them, the Haven Well at Pease International Tradeport,” said Shaheen. “The affected communities in New Hampshire have been fighting tirelessly for answers about the risks from exposure to perfluorinated chemicals in their drinking water. They deserve answers, and this measure will help do just that. Going forward, I’ll work to ensure that this national study pays particular attention to the health impacts on Seacoast residents so we can give peace of mind to New Hampshire families who have been impacted by these contaminants.”

“The case against Kaspersky Lab is overwhelming. The strong ties between Kaspersky Lab and the Kremlin are alarming and well-documented. I’m very pleased that the Senate has acted in a bipartisan way on my amendment that removes a real vulnerability to our national security. I applaud the Trump administration for heeding my call to remove Kaspersky Lab software from all federal computers. It’s important that this prohibition also be a part of statute and be expanded to the entire federal government, as my amendment would do. Considering the strong bipartisan, bicameral support for this proposal, I’m optimistic this will soon be signed into law.”

“We are forever indebted to the courageous Afghan civilian interpreters who risk their lives to help American forces. Their efforts have not only supported the United States’ mission in Afghanistan, but they have protected and saved the lives of our service members in the field, helping to ensure that our soldiers make it home to their families. Though investments in this program have previously wavered, I’m encouraged by this bill’s authorization to bolster visa allocations for interpreters and support staff, and I have confidence that Congress will build on this progress as we move forward,” Shaheen concluded.

Senator Maggie Hassan voted to support the legislation and released the following statement.

“In the face of a vast number of national security threats we face as a country, it is essential that the brave men and women who put their lives on the line every day to defend our freedom have the support and resources necessary to keep all Granite Staters and Americans safe,” said Senator Hassan. “I am proud to support the bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, which supports critical priorities for our national security including providing important funding to upgrade facilities at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.”

“This bipartisan legislation will not only help strengthen security in New Hampshire, but will help boost our economy and create jobs by authorizing funding for the procurement of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, which several suppliers in the Granite State help develop,” Senator Hassan added. “I will continue working across the aisle to ensure that our state and our country remain the strongest military force, while also remaining the greatest force for good.”

The NDAA for 2018 also establishes a nationwide health study on perfluorinated chemicals and other emerging contaminants in drinking war, it includes a 2.1 percent pay increase for U.S. military personnel.

The NDAA passed the Senate by a vote of 89 to 8.

The Senate and House of Representatives will now go to conference on the legislation where it will be finalized and sent to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

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

House Passes National Defense Authorization Act Include Amendments From Kuster And Shea-Porter

Amendments address opioid misuse, military sexual assault, outdated electronic medical records at the VA and address perfluorinated chemical (PFC) contamination around military bases

(Washington, DC) – Today the House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), legislation to fund the United States’ national defense and security operations. The 2018 NDAA includes amendments introduced by Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) and Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porte to improve the Department of Defense (DoD) response to opioid misuse, assist transitioning service members in receiving adequate care for addiction and chronic pain, address military sexual assault, and improve the Department of Veteran Affairs’ (VA) outdated electronic record system, address perfluorinated chemical (PFC) contamination around military bases.

“I’m pleased that today the House came together to fund important operations central to the security of our nation,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “This year’s NDAA includes several provisions I authored that will improve our response to the opioid epidemic within DoD, continue our effort to end military sexual assault, help care for our nation’s brave men and women once their service is over, and support the necessary work of improving the VA’s outdated medical record system.”

“We know that the opioid epidemic, in addition to impacting communities across the country, is posing a particular challenge to our service members and veterans,” Kuster continued. “Two of my amendments would direct the Defense Department to study the effectiveness of their opioid prescriber education policies and require Department providers to counsel or give referrals to the VA for transitioning veterans who suffer from addiction or chronic pain. We’ve seen the VA and DoD take important steps to support those suffering from substance misuse and these provisions will help bolster those efforts.”

On her amendment to address military sexual assault, Kuster said, “I’m encouraged that my Amendment to direct the Department to analyze sexual coercion in the military is part of its annual report on sexual assault. While I commend the Department for their progress in reducing the occurrence of sexual assault in the military, more work needs to be done. Understanding sexual coercion is important for the safety of our brave men and women and important for national security.”

“It’s long past time the Department of Veterans Affairs update its electronic medical records system,” Kuster said of her final amendment. “The men and women who serve our nation in uniform should not be relying on decades old computer systems that are woefully out of date and incapable of performing to the standards our veterans deserve. The American taxpayer should not continue to fund poorly implemented VA efforts to improve its health record. I’m hopeful this Amendment will lead to greater accountability of the VA’s latest endeavor to implement an improved and integrated system that will allow the VA and DoD to operate together seamlessly.”

The text of Kuster’s Amendments are available below:

Beginning in the 1970s, more than 600 U.S. military fire training sites used Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF), a firefighting foam that contained perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). Testing conducted by the Department of Defense at many of these sites has found PFC groundwater levels that exceed EPA guidelines many times over. At Pease, it is 12.5 times higher than the health advisory. In fact, a 2016 study by researchers at Harvard University’s Chan School of Public Health and Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences found that public drinking water for six million Americans exceeds the EPA’s lifetime advisory limits for perfluorinated chemicals.

Because of the broad scope of PFOA and PFOS use by entities including the U.S military, contaminated drinking water now poses a nationwide public health threat. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), PFOA is especially problematic “because it can stay in the environment and in the human body for long periods of time.” Numerous peer-reviewed studies indicate health dangers of perfluorinated chemicals, including links to testicular, kidney, and thyroid cancer and impaired immune system performance, decreased fertility, and harm to a developing fetus or child. However, ACS says “more research is needed to clarify these findings,” because a comprehensive, long-term study of the health impacts of PFOA and PFOS has not yet been conducted.

“Community members who live near contaminated sites like Pease deserve answers about how they and their children may be affected by perfluorinated chemicals, and guidance on what steps they can and should take to protect their health,” said Shea-Porter. “Bipartisan support for the provisions secured today reflects the national scope of PFC contamination around military bases across the country.”

The annual defense authorization bill, which Shea-Porter helped to write as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, includes:

  • An Shea-Porter cosponsored amendment directing the Department of Defense to conduct a health impact study on the effects of exposure to PFCs at affected military installations, including Pease.
  • Shea-Porter’s provision directing the Secretary of Defense to brief the House Armed Services Committee on:
    • The locations near current and former military installations where the Department has tested drinking water system PFC levels and a summary of the results of those tests, including whether they exceeded lifetime health advisory levels;
    • The Department’s short-term mitigation actions in locations where elevated PFC levels have been identified, such as Pease; and
    • The process and timeline for long-term remediation actions in locations with elevated PFC levels.
  • A Shea-Porter cosponsored amendment requiring a report on the Department of Defense’s progress developing and implementing alternatives to firefighting foam containing PFCs that was used at more than 600 U.S. military fire training sites, including Pease.

House Passes Six Veterans Bills Cosponsored by Shea-Porter

 WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed six bills to improve veterans’ services cosponsored by Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01).

“We owe a great debt to all veterans, and the bills passed today in the House show our continuing bipartisan commitment to honoring that debt,” said Shea-Porter.

Today’s House-passed bills include:

  • H.R. 1329 – Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2017: Veterans do not receive an annual Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) for their benefits unless Congress specifically passes legislation authorizing an increase. This bill would provide a 2.5% COLA for veterans benefits on December 1, 2017. Shea-Porter is also a cosponsor of H.R. 1328, the American Heroes COLA Act of 2017, which would provide an automatic COLA for veterans benefits each time there is a COLA for Social Security benefits.
  • H.R.1005 – To amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the provision of adult day health care services for veterans: This bill would require the VA to contracts withState Veterans Homes to pay for Adult Day Health Care for veterans who are eligible for but not receiving nursing home care. State Veterans Homes are operated by the states, but receive some funding from the VA. Adult Day Health Care is a VA program that allows veterans who need skilled services and help with daily living to go to nursing homes during the day to receive that care instead of being institutionalized in a long-term setting. It allows veterans to choose to stay in their homes and is less costly than long-term nursing home care.
  • H.R. 1725 – Quicker Veterans Benefits Delivery Act of 2017: The bill requires the VA to issue a report to Congress on a program to reduce the necessity for in-person disability examinations. It also asks the VA to issue a report on the use of privately-determined medical evidence instead of VA-provided evidence for the disability evaluations it uses to determine disability ratings.
  • H.R. 1545 – VA Prescription Data Accountability Act of 2017: This legislation requires VA to report data on all opioid prescriptions to states’ prescription drug monitoring programs. Currently, the VA is only transmitting data when prescribing opioids to veteran patients. Approximately 10% of the VA’s patients are non-veterans.
  • H.R. 1162 – No Hero Left Untreated Act: This bill would direct the VA to carry out a one-year pilot program for magnetic electroencephalogram/electrocardiogram-guided resonance therapy (MeRT) technology at up to two medical facilities. The pilot program would examine the effectiveness of using MeRT to treat PTSD, TBI, MST, chronic pain, and substance use disorder.
  • H.R. 2052 – PRIVATE Act: This legislation changes the Uniform Code of Military Justice to prohibit service members from distributing visual images, such as photographs or videos, that depict nudity when the person distributing the images should have known that the images were created under circumstances in which the person in the image would have had a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Shea-Porter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, and whose spouse is an Army veteran, has cosponsored more than 30 bipartisan bills to improve services for veterans during the 115th Congress. These include the WINGMAN Act, a bill she co-introduced and the House passed earlier this year to make it easier for certified Congressional caseworkers to assist veterans. 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. She has also been a leader in the fight to lift the harmful federal hiring freeze that is damaging the VA’s ability to provide care and limiting employment opportunities for returning veterans.

Kuster Says Trumpcare “Reneges” On Promises Made To Veterans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

American Legion-Endorsed Shea-Porter Amendment Earns Bipartisan Support 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Congresswoman Shea-Porter Cosponsors Bipartisan Veterans Legislation To Help Those Exposed To Agent Orange

Washington, DC – Congresswoman Shea-Porter cosponsored four pieces of bipartisan legislation to help veterans. H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Veterans Act, would make it easier for Navy veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange to receive disability compensation benefits. Shea-Porter also cosponsored H.R. 512, the WINGMAN Act, to streamline the process for constituent caseworkers to process veterans’ benefits claims. H.R. 411, the Veteran Suicide Prevention Act, would require the VA to collect new data on veterans’ suicide to better understand the causes of veteran’s suicide and identify risk factors. H.R. 488 The Military Spouse Job Continuity Act, would provide a tax credit to military spouses to offset the fees associated with transferring a professional license to a new state if a Permanent Change of Station order forces the family to relocate.

The Blue Water Navy Veterans Act corrects an unfortunate VA decision in 2002 to limit the scope of the Agent Orange Act of 1991. The Agent Orange Act allowed the VA to presume that certain illnesses were the result of Agent Orange exposure and grant disability benefits to veterans based on their service location and that presumption. In 2002, the VA began requiring veterans to prove they had “boots on the ground” orders before granting disability claims and limited the definition to infantry and riverine Navy. Many who served off the coast of Vietnam were forced to file individual claims to restore their benefits, and over 32,880 of those claims were denied from 2002 to 2009. H.R. 299 extends the presumptive coverage to veterans who served up to 12 miles off-shore of Vietnam, so they can more easily receive disability benefits for Agent Orange exposure.

“The bipartisan legislation I’ve cosponsored will make it easier for our Navy Vietnam veterans to receive disability benefits if they were exposed to Agent Orange. Too many veterans are denied benefits claims because of insufficient record keeping and unequitable rules. The Blue Water Navy Veterans Act would help solve this problem, and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this important legislation,” said Congresswoman Shea-Porter. 

Shea-Porter also cosponsored the WINGMAN Act, which grants certified Congressional staff access to the VA claims processing system in order to streamline the process for processing veterans’ casework. Currently, caseworkers that are trained and certified to view these records, must request individual documents and records from the VA, which takes time and forces the veteran to wait even longer to resolve disability claims disputes. WINGMAN would allow caseworkers to have “read-only” access to the claims processing system to speed up information sharing between VA staff and caseworkers.

“Veterans wait long enough to resolve their benefits claims; they shouldn’t be held up because of bureaucratic paperwork issues that increase the time it takes for caseworkers to review claims documents. The bipartisan legislation I cosponsored would make it easier for professional, certified Congressional caseworkers to view a veteran’s benefit claim records,” continued Shea-Porter.

Congressman Frank Guinta’s Double Speak On Supporting Veterans

“Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value,” proclaimed Vice President Joe Biden in a 2012 speech.

Vice President Biden is basically saying is that if you are not willing to pay for something you say you value, then you really don’t value it at all. This type of double speak is common among some politicians.

In New Hampshire, Congressman Frank Guinta talks a good game about his support for veterans, but in Washington, he has a long history of failing our veterans.

“Our nation’s active duty personnel and veterans risk their lives to ensure our country remains safe in the face of ever evolving threats. Our military heroes deserve the very best, and as your representative to Washington, one of my highest priorities is to protect and expand the resources, services and support available to them.

We must keep our promise to provide for those who courageously put their lives on the line to serve and protect our great country. I have always been a strong advocate for our military members and veterans in the Granite State,” wrote Guinta on his website.

We owe our veterans the benefits they’ve earned, but Frank Guinta has consistently voted against increasing funding for veterans programs.

“Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.”

Just nine months ago, Guinta voted against the Omnibus Appropriations bill that funds the government. The bill increased funding for the VA by $6.4 billion. The legislation, which fortunately was not tanked by Guinta’s refusal to support it, increased funding for medical care by $4.7 billion and provided funds to hire 770 VA disability claims processors to tackle the claims backlog.   

In one fell swoop, Guinta voted to shut down the government and refused to increase funding for critical veterans programs. He even called these important funding increases “inducements to vote for more federal bloat and debt.”   

While serving on the Budget Committee this year, Guinta rejected an attempt by Congressman Seth Moulton, an Iraq war veteran, to increase funding by $340 million for FY2017 and $1.14 billion for FY2018. These increases would have been paid for raising taxes on the wealthiest and repealing tax breaks for Big Oil and corporations that ship jobs overseas.

“Frank Guinta may claim to fight for our veterans, but his votes prove that he betrays them in Congress.  His votes against increased funding for medical care, VA claims processors, and repairs to crumbling VA facilities show his dishonesty and disrespect for veterans,” said Carol Shea-Porter spokeswoman Naomi Andrews. “His Budget Committee votes place multinational corporations, billionaires, and Big Oil ahead of our obligations to our veterans. Carol Shea-Porter was a military spouse and is proud of her husband and all of America’s veterans. She looks forward to working again for our troops and our veterans in Congress.”

It seems pretty clear that Frank Guinta’s claim to be “a strong advocate for our military members and veterans” is just campaign double speak.

Congresswoman Annie Kuster, A True Fighter For America’s Veterans

Congresswoman Kuster’s Work for Veterans Praised in New Television Ad

In her second television ad of the 2016 cycle, a Nashua veteran praises Congresswoman Kuster’s work to secure affordable housing and jobs for homeless veterans in New Hampshire.  

In the ad, titled “Thank You,” John Elsten discusses his military experience and his living situation during his unemployment.  A Vietnam veteran, he was forced to sleep under bridges and in alleys in downtown Nashua after losing his job.  He was able to secure housing through the VA Supported Housing program, a rental assistance voucher program through the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, that Congresswoman Kuster has worked to expand.  While touring a shelter in Nashua, Congresswoman Kuster met John, who was living and volunteering at the shelter.  She has made expanding affordable housing for homeless veterans in Nashua, Keene, Plymouth, and throughout New Hampshire a key part of her work to support Granite State veterans.

“I was heartbroken when I heard about John’s struggle, as well as the struggles of so many veterans like him, to find affordable housing and employment,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “I fight every day to help veterans like John who have given so much to our country.  We have a solemn responsibility to support the brave men and women who have served our country, and that includes ensuring they have a roof over their head, as well as gainful employment and accessible health care.”

Click here to watch the ad

Addressing the problem of veteran homelessness is no small task. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates that nearly 40,000 are homeless on any given night.  Specifically in New Hampshire, HUD estimates that there are between 123-138 homeless vets, many who are forced to live in temporary shelters.

Part of ending homelessness for our veterans in providing them with sustainable employment after they return. As the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans notes, “military occupations and training are not always transferable to the civilian workforce, placing some veterans at a disadvantage when competing for employment. NCHV strongly believes that all programs to assist homeless veterans must focus on helping them obtain and sustain employment.”

About 1.4 million other veterans “are considered at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing,” NCHV added.

Rep. Kuster talks with student veterans and higher education administrators today in Concord.

Rep. Kuster talks with student veterans and higher education administrators in Concord.

In January of 2016, Kuster met with student veterans and higher education administrators from across New Hampshire to discuss the importance of supporting veterans as they pursue higher education following the completion of their service. This discussion allowed Congresswoman Kuster to learn more about the work being done by New Hampshire colleges to implement education benefits, as well as to hear directly from student veterans about how she can best support them through her work in Congress.

“When our brave men and women return from their service in the Armed Forces, we must ensure that they have access to the tools they need to complete their education and to compete in today’s workforce,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “During today’s conversation, we were able to bring together student veterans and representatives from some of the Granite State’s top institutions of higher education to discuss how we can help returning veterans pursue their college education here in New Hampshire. We are lucky to have such a dedicated group of higher education leaders here in the Granite State who have done an incredible job supporting veterans seeking college degrees.”

As a member of the U.S. House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Kuster has long worked to ensure that veterans have access to the resources necessary to support their transition back into civilian life and to pursue higher education after completing their service. Kuster has supported legislation for student veterans throughout her time in office, including the GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act of 2013, which proposed allowing veterans to pay in-state tuition for out-of-state schools. This legislation passed the House of Representatives, and its provisions were later passed into law as part of another bill. 

In February, Kuster was pleased to announce that three bills she cosponsored had passed in the House of Representatives.

  • H.R. 2360, the Career Ready Student Veterans Act, will help ensure that educational and training programs serving our nation’s veterans meet state accreditation standards, protecting the quality of education provided for veteran students.
  • H.R. 2915, the Female Veteran Suicide Prevention Act, will direct the VA to identify suicide prevention programs that are proven to be most effective for female veterans in order to ensure the unique needs of women veterans are more effectively addressed.
  • H.R. 3036, the National 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center Act, will designate the September 11th Memorial at the World Trade Center as a national memorial, thereby awarding a grant of up to $25 million per fiscal year for the maintenance of the site.

To some politicians, taking care of our veterans is nothing more than lip service. They say they support veterans while they made deep cuts to social programs that help thousands of veterans avoid homelessness and help keep them from falling into poverty.

Congresswoman Kuster does not just talk about supporting veterans; she is fighting to ensure that we end veteran homelessness and provide the best opportunities for our veterans throughout their entire lives.

At House Veterans Affairs Committee Hearing, Kuster Highlights Efforts to Improve Health Care for Veterans

Kuster discussed legislation to reduce opioid use among veterans, increase hiring of veterans in VA medical facilitieskuster

(Washington, DC) – Today, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02), a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee and the lead Democrat on the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, took part in a hearing to discuss healthcare for veterans at the VA and how to improve access to care. The hearing focused on “The Commission on Care and the Future of the VA Healthcare System” a report mandated by the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act (VACAA) of 2014. 

During her statement, Kuster highlighted two pieces of legislation that would advance improvements to access to healthcare and treatment for veterans. Kuster discussed the Helping Our Veterans With Chronic Pain and Opioid Addiction Actwhich would establish pilot programs to facilitate the coordination of care and case management to veterans in need of chronic pain management, including veterans suffering from opioid dependency. Kuster specifically pointed out that past reliance on certain metrics for addressing pain had led to increased prescribing of opioids and that her legislation would encourage alternative methods of pain treatment.

Kuster also highlighted the Grow Our Own Directive: Physician Assistant Employment and Education Act of 2015 which would create a pilot program within the VA to provide educational assistance to former medics and corpsmen for education and training as physician assistants in the VA. 

You can watch Congresswoman Kuster’s full remarks here.

 

  • Subscribe to the NH Labor News via Email

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 12,447 other subscribers

  • Advertisement

  • Advertisement