Kansas Common Sense

Hello,

Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” Thanks for your continued interest in receiving my weekly newsletter. Please feel free to forward it on to your family and friends if it would interest them.

Senate and House Should Not Walk Away from VA Reform
On Tuesday, the nominee to be the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Bob McDonald, testified before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. While I was pleased to hear that Mr. McDonald believes the VA must restore their values to truly care about the well-being of veterans, I emphasized the need for immediate action on the Veterans Choice Act to assist millions of veterans across the country who are struggling with access to the quality care they deserve. While speaking to Fox News prior to the hearing, I called on the Senate to stay in Washington D.C. rather than heading out of town for the traditional August recess until a conference committee report has been reached.



It’s been understandable to criticize the VA for its failures in providing care to our veterans, but if we do not reach a conclusion on this legislation, the United States Senate is deserving of that same condemnation. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid should say we’re not going home – there’s no August recess until we get this issue resolved.

The day after Mr. McDonald’s nomination hearing, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee quickly voted in favor of McDonald’s nomination by a vote of 14 to 0. His nomination will head to the Senate floor to complete the confirmation process and I look forward to working with him as the new Secretary of the VA. I am hopeful the Senate and House will show leadership and make certain the new VA Secretary has the Veterans Choice Act to implement in service to our nations veterans.

 
Visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta
On Monday, I visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), our nation’s health protection agency, to learn more about how CDC works to safeguard the United States from health, safety and security threats. CDC strengthens the health security of our nation by fighting disease and supporting local health departments and other health organizations across the country. As Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Health Subcommittee, which has funding jurisdiction over CDC, it is important for me to understand how the agency allocates its scientific expertise, tools, and resources to promote health, prevent disease, and prepare for new health threats.

CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden hosted me on this visit and showed me around CDC’s campus. We toured the CDC Emergency Operations Center (EOC), which is CDC’s command center for coordinating emergency responses to domestic and international public health threats. The EOC is the central point of contact for state health agencies reporting potential threats to CDC. We also saw the CDC Influenza Lab which monitors and assesses flu viruses and improves vaccines. This lab improves global control and prevention of seasonal flu viruses and enhances flu pandemic preparedness and response.

We visited about how Kansas utilizes CDC support to help rural health care providers leverage resources to stay connected to patients living across wide areas and improve their medication adherence to control high blood pressure and other chronic conditions. Kansas also utilizes CDC to bolster vaccine immunization coverage in our state and reduce healthcare-associated infections. Finally, we discussed CDC’s plans to strengthen oversight of government laboratories handling dangerous microbes in the wake of several disturbing safety lapses recently. Thank you to Dr. Frieden and his team for their hospitality in hosting me at CDC and their commitment to keeping our country safe and healthy.

 
Discussing Kansas Priorities with HHS Secretary Burwell
On Wednesday, I met with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell to discuss health care topics of importance to Kansans. As I visit with health care providers, almost every discussion involves concerns with the burdens Washington policies place on them as they work to care for Kansans. Kansans are strongly opposed to the Obama Administration’s proposals to cut reimbursements to Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) and eliminate hospitals from this essential rural health program. CAHs are small, rural hospitals that receive enhanced Medicare reimbursements to provide care to an increasingly aging population across wide rural areas. Kansas has 83 of these hospitals, more than any other state. I explained to Sec. Burwell how the Administration’s policies would jeopardize the survival of many rural hospitals and endanger access to health care in our own communities. In addition to discussing the importance of hospitals to the rural health care delivery system, Sec. Burwell and I visited about the urgent need to improve the Medicare’s Recovery Audit Contractor program, the valuable role that pharmacists play in delivering health care in their communities and how the decisions at her department that threaten their future, and the unprecedented influx of unaccompanied children from Central America arriving at the United States border. I appreciate the Secretary’s willingness to meet with me, and I look forward to a renewed dialogue with her and her team on a range of health care topics important to our state. Click here to read more about this meeting.

 
Working to Keep Government Out of Your Email Inbox
This week, I sponsored the Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendments Act (S.607) to help protect the privacy of American citizens online by updating the privacy protections for electronic communications stored by third-party service providers – including email and social media services. The importance of updating the privacy protections was recently underscored by an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) claim that American Internet users “do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy” when it comes to their emails being accessed by the government. 

Americans have a constitutionally protected right to privacy that no one, including the IRS, may take away. Our electronic communications privacy laws need to be updated to reflect that fact. These outdated laws, designed in the era of floppy disks, do not make sense in an era of cloud computing, when users essentially have infinite storage online. Americans rightfully expect their private communications to be protected from intrusion, especially by government bureaucrats. S. 607 will affirm Americans’ right to privacy and help bring this 1980s law into the 21st Century. This legislation would update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 by requiring government entities to obtain a warrant in order to access electronic communications stored by third-party service providers – including email, social media, and cloud storage services. Click here to read more about the legislation.

Standing Up For Israel During Turbulent Times
On Thursday, I spoke on the Senate floor about the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. In my speech, I referenced Resolution 498 which the Senate passed unanimously on July 17 to express American support for Israeli self-defense efforts and call for an immediate cessation of Hamas’ attacks against Israel.

Americans would not tolerate the threat of terrorism that Israelis face on a daily basis. Since 1948, attacks have repeatedly forced Israel to defend its people. The Senate will continue to demonstrate that the United States stands with Israel – especially during these turbulent times as Israel takes necessary action to reduce Hamas’ means of terror and to disarm those who stand firmly in the way of a real and lasting peace. Click here to view a video of my full speech.

 
Touring Heartland Community Health Center in Lawrence
At the end of the week on my way home, I visited and toured Heartland Community Health Center in Lawrence. Heartland is a Community Health Center (CHC) that provides comprehensive health services through an integrated care model to residents of Douglas, Jefferson, Franklin, Leavenworth and Osage counties. Heartland also collaborates with the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center in Lawrence to connect patients with important behavioral health services.

I have supported CHCs since I came to Congress in 1997 because they help underserved patients by providing them a wide range of preventive and primary health care services in their own communities. CHCs, which are primary care centers located in medically underserved areas that provide care to individuals regardless of their ability to pay, are a targeted initiative that addresses a specific patient access need. They also lower health care costs by reducing expensive emergency room visits and promoting disease prevention and wellness. I welcome insight on the unique challenges they face caring for patients. Thanks to Heartland CEO Jon Stewart and Communications Coordinator Sean Hatch for hosting my visit.

 
Visiting TravAlong Trailers in Waterville
On Friday, I had the opportunity to tour TravAlong Trailers in Waterville. TravAlong Trailers has more than 60 employees in Waterville and Manhattan who will produce around 800 steel and aluminum trailers for construction and agribusinesses this year. It’s always exciting to see Kansas businesses thriving, and at times catching the spotlight. Recently TravAlong participated in the upcoming Discovery Channel 2015 TV Series "How it’s made." Thanks to Tom Grieshaber and Buzz Harris for the informative and enjoyable tour.

 
More Kansas Listening Tour Stops
I continued my Kansas Listening Tour this weekend with stops in Washington and Westmoreland. In Washington, I heard from area residents about overregulation, the lesser prairie chicken listing, the federal budget, importance of Ft. Riley and maintaining a strong military. Thanks to the First National Bank for hosting the town hall.

 
In Westmoreland, Pottawatomie County residents attended and shared feedback on the critical issues facing Kansas and the nation including EPA regulations, the lack of “regular order” in the Senate, the budget, immigration, and the need to pass VA reform legislation. The issues I focus on and the work I do in Washington, D.C., are largely based on the conversations I have with Kansans during these town hall meetings. Click here to see a list of upcoming stops.

 
Kansas in the Office

National HEP/CAMP Association
Kim Severance of Fort Scott
Steve Kramer of Fort Scott
Lynne Wheeler of Fort Scott
Beth Towner of Fort Scott 

GEAR UP
Deltha Colvin of Wichita
Corrine Nilsen of Wichita
Ricardo Harris of Wichita
Vanessa Souriya-Mnirajd of Wichita
Barbara Koch of Pittsburg
Regina Rose of Ellinwood
Justin White of Wichita
Silvia Morales of Hutchinson
Ami Dean Nilsen of Andover
Alexa Morales of Hutchinson 

Christians United for Israel
Daniel Ketchum of Olathe
Carol Ketchum of Olathe
Alisha Burnison of Lawrence
Geta Bedasso of Lawrence
Isaac Schmied of Wichita
Mary Robinson of Galena 

Plastics Industry
Susan Avery of Overland Park
Crystal Roberts of Overland Park 

International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
Derrick Davis of Wichita
Teressa Peart of Wichita 

Patient Quality of Life Coalition
Bob Twillman of Lenexa 

Big Hearts Pet Brands
Luke Livingston of Lawrence 

Future Business Leaders of America
Tory Arnberger of Great Bend 

Black and Veatch
Paul Weida of Overland Park 

Iola
Ron Baker of Iola
John Masterson of Iola
David Toland of Iola

Balls Food Stores
Amanda Applegate of Lenexa
Haley Palmer of Kansas City
Katelyn Steele of Mission

American Legion Auxiliary Girls and Boys Nation
Shelby Carpenter of Wichita
Sophie Jerwick of Leawood
David Holguin of Hutchinson
Simeon Willis of Wichita
Thane Chastain of Wichita 

Capitol Tour
Bret Wilson of Overland Park
Christy Wilson of Overland Park
Ed Pyle of Lenexa
Shelly Douglas of Garnett
Ryan Moore of Garnett
Philip Schatzer of Garnett
Amanda Schatzer of Garnett
Kim Hoobler of Baldwin City
Barbara Picek of Louisburg
Eric Klein of Garnett
Rhonda Klein of Garnet
Brian Freiss of Lyons
Linda Friess of Lyons
Ken Clausing of El Dorado
Jennifer Clausing of El Dorado
Cameron Clausing of El Dorado
Connor Clausing of El Dorado
Myron Butler of Shawnee
Susan Butler of Shawnee
Devan Butler of Shawnee
Landon Butler of Shawnee
Lauren Butler of Shawnee
Al Cody of Derby
Jennifer Cody of Derby
Ashtyn Cody of Derby
Morgyn Cody of Derby
Gracyn Cody of Derby
John Creager of Topeka
Jairus Creager of Topeka
Jayda Faithe Harris of Junction City
Grace Ellen Harris of Junction City
Robyn Harris of Junction City
Sammy Harris of Junction City
Tim Congrove of Lake Quivira
Sara Congrove of Lake Quivira
Maggie Congrove of Lake Quivira
Dennis King of Overland Park
Susan King of Overland Park
Michael Gray of Pittsburg
Hailey Gray of Pittsburg
Hannah Gray of Pittsburg
Kathryn Gray of Wichita
Justin Bignell of Topeka
Andrew Franke of Overland Park
Kevin Gottschalk of Hays
Christine Gottschalk of Hays
Kaylor Gottschalk of Hays

Honored to Serve You in Washington
It is an honor to serve you in Washington, D.C. Thank you to the many Kansans who have been calling and writing in to share their thoughts and opinions on the issues our state and country face. I appreciate the words of Kansans, whether in the form of a form of letter, a Facebook comment or a phone call, who wish to make their voice heard.

Please let me know how I can be of assistance. You can contact me by email by clicking here. You can also click here to contact me through one of my Kansas offices or my Washington, D.C., office.

Very truly yours,

Jerry

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