Kansas Common Sense


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.

Supporting the Veterans Choice Act
On Wednesday, the Senate voted 93-3 to pass legislation to address the failures within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and a sponsor of the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014, I was pleased the Senate rose to the occasion and came together on this critical legislation. I was unable to vote as I was in Kansas for my father’s funeral, but there should be no question about my support for this bill. Had I been in Washington, I would have joined my colleagues in voting in favor of this bipartisan plan to help make certain veterans receive the access to quality, timely care they deserve. I will continue to work to address the challenges and problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs so our nation’s heroes have a VA worthy of their service. Click here to watch an interview with Eyewitness News KWCH in Wichita about this legislation. 

VA Audit on Quality, Access to Care
I was once again disappointed to hear the latest news from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) regarding their findings from a so-called “nationwide audit” conducted by VA employees through face-to-face interviews, which I believe is far from a comprehensive assessment and sincere look at the magnitude of the dysfunction at hand. The Office of Inspector General (IG) wasn’t involved whatsoever, and those conducting the audit did not utilize the same practices and procedures as the IG. If this cursory investigation discovered thousands of veterans who have yet to receive care, I believe these numbers only scratch the surface of the far-reaching problems plaguing veterans. While the VA is touting that more than 3,772 VA staff were interviewed, I’d like to know how many veterans themselves — if any — were interviewed. We need to ask our veterans if they are satisfied with the quality of care that they’re receiving and let them be the judge of whether or not good things are happening at the VA. I expect to learn more about these delays and unauthorized lists, and will continue to engage with VA leaders directly until this situation is resolved.

Introducing Legislation to Expand Access for Emergency Care, Urging DOJ to Investigate VA Misconduct and Calling on VA Secretary Gibson for Long-Overdue Answers
On Thursday, I introduced the Veterans Emergency Health Safety Net Expansion Act of 2014 with Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, which would expand access to the Department of Veterans Affairs emergency safety net to all VA-enrolled veterans who rely solely on the VA for their medical care. This bill cuts through red tape and eliminates the 24-month rule that prevents veterans from receiving reimbursements for their emergency medical expenses. Veterans should not be forced to bear the burden of emergency health care costs because of an arbitrary rule that the Department of Defense has previously amended as well. Those who have served our nation with duty and honor deserve quality health care when they need it. Click here to learn more. 

This week, in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, I urged the Department of Justice to join efforts with the Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General’s investigation into the misconduct at VA facilities. The Senate Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee Fiscal Year 2015 appropriations bill includes the necessary resources to conduct investigations to make certain whether any current or former VA officials violated the law, with a report issued 30 days after enactment. Click here to learn more and read my full letter to AG Eric Holder. 

Several Senate colleagues and I called on Department of Veterans Affairs Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson this week urging him to extend the program Access Received Closer to Home (ARCH) and the contracted medical services that currently benefit rural veterans. The ARCH pilot program has been operating since 2011 at five rural pilot sites, one of which is Pratt, Kansas. This program allows veterans to access health care services from community providers if they reside at least one hour from a VA medical center or Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC). Despite the overwhelming satisfaction of veterans who utilize ARCH, the VHA has begun shutting down the program, restricting veterans from the services they have come to rely upon and directing them back to VA facilities. I believe the VHA intentionally misled my colleagues and I who have sought answers from the VA for months regarding the potential extension of the program. On May 22, 2014, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved legislation directing the VA to continue providing medical care through ARCH in fiscal year 2015 using existing authorities. In light of this legislative action and the Senate passage of the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 last week, I am seeking Secretary Gibson’s leadership to stop VHA’s plans to dismantle ARCH and make certain that veterans who are currently receiving medical services through ARCH will continue to receive that care. Click here to learn more.

Visiting Colmery-O’Neil VA Medical Center in Topeka
On Friday, I joined Rep. Lynn Jenkins at the Topeka Colmery-O'Neil VA Medical Center to visit with patients and learn more about their experiences. I will continue to work to address the challenges and problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs so our nation’s heroes have a VA worthy of their service. Click here for a write-up on our visit by the The Wichita Eagle.

Bryan Lowry/ The Wichita Eagle
U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins and U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran visit with World War II veteran Bob Brown at the Colmery-O’Neil VA Medical Center in Topeka on Friday.

Disappointing Appropriations Postponement
I was expecting to participate in the Senate Appropriations Committee markup of the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill for fiscal year 2015 this week. I serve as Ranking Member of the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over funding for all accounts at the Departments of Labor and Education and for most agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services. However, I was disappointed that this markup was postponed indefinitely. According to news reports, the markup was canceled because some Senate Democrats did not want to vote on Obamacare and other politically sensitive amendments. It is the duty of this Committee to make tough choices and take tough votes to reign in federal spending and prioritize initiatives that are important to our nation, and Democrats must not shirk this responsibility. I will continue to press for consideration of the Labor-HHS-Educations Appropriations bill. Click here to learn more.

Visiting Olathe Medical Center
During my time in Kansas, I visited with administrators and staff at Olathe Medical Center (OMC) to learn more about how they utilize resources to care for their communities. OMC is the centerpiece of the Olathe Health System, which includes Miami County Medical Center, 35 family care and specialty clinics of Olathe Medical Services, and more than 300 physicians and 2,500 employees. The Olathe Health System provides patients a comprehensive range of health services from prenatal to hospice care. My discussions with Kansas hospital administrators and staff cover a variety of topics. Almost every visit involves discussions about the ever-increasing federal regulatory burdens hospitals face as they work to provide quality health care services to their patients.

During this visit, we discussed unnecessarily burdensome and flawed Medicare audit regulations. Many Kansas hospitals have been forced to divert significant resources away from caring for patients to appeal incorrect audit decisions that are ultimately overturned through the appeal process. This broken Medicare audit program places an unreasonable burden on providers, and has created a two-year appeals backlog within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). I continue working to require HHS to address this problem. In April, I met with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner to discuss these concerns. CMS is the division of HHS responsible for administering Medicare and Medicaid. Also, I included language in the Senate Fiscal Year 2015 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill requiring HHS to account for improving the Medicare audit appeals process and addressing the current backlog. Thank you to OMC Senior Vice President of Operations John Staton for hosting my visit, and to Olathe Mayor Mike Copeland for joining me on my tour.

Leavenworth Lions Club
I also attended Leavenworth’s Lions Club to discuss the bipartisan passage of legislation designed to address concerns at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Thanks to the Leavenworth Lions Club and host Caroline Arter for the warm welcome, club president Kimberley Pearl for the invitation to speak, and to Lieutenant Colonel Richard Wright for the wonderful program on the history of Fort Leavenworth. It was also great to see Leavenworth Mayor Mark Preisinger in attendance. Here’s a write-up in the Leavenworth Times about my visit. 

John Richmeier/Leavenworth Times
Sen. Jerry Moran speaks Thursday in Leavenworth. He talked to the Leavenworth Lions Club about legislation to address concerns about Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals.

Kansans in the Office
Last week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office, including the Kansans listed below:

LTG Robert Brown of Ft. Leavenworth
Steven Tritsch
Jim Maher of Overland Park

McPherson College
Shane Kirchner of McPherson

Future Farmers of America
Alli Woods of Hodgeman County
Lissa Setzkorn of Hodgeman County
Karlee Eckhoff of Hodgeman County
Carina Zogg of Montgomery County of
Nick Baxa of Republic County
Micayla Pachta of Republic County
Joni Sheets of Republic County
Waylon Sheetz of Republic County
Madison Waite of Republic County
Nick Wesleruett of Montgomery County

American Nurses Association
Laura Sidlinger of Topeka
Carla Lee of Wichita

United Nations Association of Greater Kansas City
Dr. Brian Wright of Kansas City

Selex Systems
Ariel Scheirer of Overland Park

National Association of Surety Bond Producers
Monica Donatelli of Overland Park
Patrick Pribyl of Kansas City

University of Kansas School of Education
Rick Ginsberg of Lawrence

National Association of Fixed Annuities
Charles Anderson of Overland Park
Paul McGillivray of Overland Park
Anna Ladd of Overland Park
Lee Stiegemeier of Overland Park
Chris Conroy of Leawood

American Health Care Association
Misty Polley of Osawatomie

Franklin and Osage Counties 4-Hers
Ken Wilk of Osage City
Seth French of Ottawa
Brandon Stahel of Overbrook
Samantha Lee of Ottawa
Madison Blevins of Greeley
Jacob Messinger of Ottawa
Cade Hibdon of Princeton
Seth Rossman of Ottawa
Makenna Ferguson of Ottawa
Chloe Brown of Ottawa
Emma Rossman of Williamsburg
Caleb Short of Williamsburg
Paige Pearson of Osage City
Tracy Wilk of Osage City
Alexandra Sluder of Quenemo
Allison Railsback of Osage City
Amanda Raby of Richmond
Colin Koger of Overbrook
Candie Campbell of Ottawa
Kyle Dicket of Ottawa
Rebecca Nibas of Ottawa

Kansas Contractors Assocation
David Harwood of Leawood
McKinley Harwood of Leawood
Bob Totten of Topeka
Kip Spray of Great Bend
Chad Girard of Wichita
Rob Lauen of Marysville
Randy Hattesohl of Hays
Brian Hansen of Towanda
Woody Wicres of Topeka
Vern Hopkins of Salina
Kirk Randolph of Overland Park

Cerner Corporation
Doug Ervin of Kansas City
Lindsay Vogtsberger of Kansas City

American Public Health Association
Mark Thompson of Lawrence
Erica Anderson of Baldwin

Associated Builders and Contractors
Jerry Starkey of Olathe

National Grain and Feed Association
Glen Hofbauer of Overland Park
Todd Kemp of Pretty Prairie

Kansas Bankers Association
Chris Baker of Salina
John Boyer of Kingman
Chris Bualle of Girard
James Campbell of Wellington
Frank Carson of Mulvane
Lloyd Culbertson of Phillipsburg
Chris Gilbert of Wichita
Eric Haar of Topeka
Shan Hanes of Elkhart
Barnabas Horton of Atwood
Keith Hughes of Hutchinson
Sharon Iverson of Topeka
David King of Wichita
Mark Larrabee of Shawnee Mission
Bobbi LaViolette of Great Bend
Robert Leftwich of Wellington
Ryan Leiss of El Dorado
Kelly Mason of Pratt
Leslie Needham of Overbrook
Susan Otterstein of Dodge City
Brent Padgett of Greenleaf
Tom Page of Wichita
Mark Schiefferdecker of Girard
Bruce Schriefer of Wichita
Kent Schwerdt of Topeka
Kathleen Taylor of Topeka
John Thaemert of Ellsworth
Terry Thomas of Topeka
Kristy Umscheid of Westmoreland
Brenda Unruh of Topeka
Douglas Wareham of Topeka
Lyndon Wells of Wichita
Alex Williams of Halstead
Leonard Wolfe of Marysville
Gary Yager of Topeka 

Quality Technology Services (QTS)
Shirley Goza of Leawood

Wichita Metro Chamber
Bill West of Wichita
Chadd Currier of Wichita
Dave Mosby of Wichita
Kathy Sexton of Derby
Michael Monteferrante of Wichita
Dixie Larson of Wichita
Bab Schuster of Wichita
John Sander of Wichita
Les Eck of Wichita
Sam Williams of Wichita
Debbie Gann of Wichita
Dob Sherman of Wichita
Tim Chance of Wichita
Pat Gallagher of Wichita
Jaime Dupy of Wichita
Barby Jobe of Wichita
Gary Plummer of Wichita

Kansas Craft Brewers Guild
Philip Bradley of Lawrence

Upward Bound
Marcus Munoz of Kansas City
Kayla Haase of Wichita

National Limousine Association
Diane Forgy of Kansas City
Denise Bock of Cornerstone

Kansas Cooperative Council
Leslie Kaufman of Topeka
Dave Spears of Valley Center

American Agri-Women
Lynn Woolf of Milton
Lesley Schmidt of Park City
Carolyn Kleiber of Hillsboro

Mobile Reasoning in Lenexa
Dr. Scott Bublin of Lenexa
Bob Ulin of Leavenworth

Joan Kelley of Gardner

Capitol Tours
Harmon Bliss of Jetmore
Diane Bliss of Jetmore
Gary Pendergrass of Topeka
Labeth Pendergrass of Topeka
Elyse Pendergrass of Topeka
Eliana Pendergrass of Topeka
Elizabeth Pendergrass of Topeka
Jason Schmitt of Beloit
Kelly Schmitt of Beloit
James Jones II of Kinsley
Sierra Kuhn of Smith Center
Wade Jones of St. Francis
George Schmidt of McPherson
Kristin Schmidt of McPherson
Alexandria Schmidt of McPherson
Anastasia Schmidt of McPherson
Angi Brown of Lawrence
Kathryn Franklin of Topeka
Mary Franklin of Topeka
Sarah Franklin of Topeka
Kent Hildebrand of Salina
Gay Carlson of Falun
Same Reed of Lindsborg
Brock Sauvage of Lindsborg
Gregg Elvin of Marquette
Megan Berstrom of Marquette
Jonathan Dahlsten of Marquette
Anneliese Reinert of Lindsborg
Larry Lyder of Hill City
Adam VanLoenen of Hill City
Kimberly Bradshaw of Hill City
Annalise Albrecht of Hill City
Madalyn Nelson of Edmond
Steven Hamel of Damar
Alexis Wingerson of Smith Center
Autumn Cox of Hill City
Mark Meyer of Leawood
Cynthia Meyer of Leawood
Alexander Meyer of Leawood
Christian Meyer of Leawood
Margaret Robben of Leawood
Jillian Robben of Leawood
Terry Thomas of Basehor
Donna Thomas of Basehor

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,

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