Kansas Common Sense
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Honoring All Those Who Served
Each year on November 11, Americans celebrate and honor our nation’s veterans – the generations of men and women who have served our country with valor. I hope this Veterans Day, you take the time to honor and celebrate the veterans in your life. Whether it’s your sister, dad, grandpa or neighbor, take a moment to thank them for their courage and sacrifice, which has preserved the freedoms we all enjoy today.
I am visiting Gardner on Veterans Day where I will have the opportunity to say thank you to veterans and their families as part of the Gardner Veterans Day ceremony. This is the 28th Annual Johnson County Veterans Day Observance and I am honored to be included. This is just one of the many events and parades across Kansas that will bring families and communities together to honor all those who served. On Saturday, I rode in the Topeka Veterans Parade. Thanks to former Kansas Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting for joining me in the WWII Jeep as together we honored the generations of men and women who have served our country with valor. God bless you, and God bless America.
While our society has such great respect for those who have served, the organization charged with providing their care has fallen short, failing to uphold its commitments to our veterans. Like many Americans, I was disturbed by the dysfunction and disservice to veterans under the care of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), an agency created to serve them. For years, the VA has struggled to provide quality health care for millions of veterans, particularly rural veterans in Kansas. In August, Congress passed the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 to give veterans access to non-VA care if they wait more than 30 days for an appointment or they live more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility. By law, the VA began implementing increased choice in access to care on November 5, 2014. If you are veteran, you can call 866-606-8198 to verify your eligibility.
Despite some positive steps, there is more to be done to correct the bad policies of the past and improve the quality of life for our nation’s veterans. Whatever the mission, the men and women we honor on Veterans Day were ready to answer the call. They deserve a VA that is ready to serve them. Our nation would not be what it is today without your strength, sacrifice and bravery. We are forever grateful for your service.
Words are Right, We Will See About Actions
On Friday, I spoke with the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Bob McDonald, about the implementation of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014. Secretary McDonald assured me that the law will be implemented to serve any veteran who needs access to care, as it was intended. While I am encouraged by the VA Secretary’s personal conviction and motivation to provide quality and timely healthcare to our nation’s veterans, I am deeply concerned that the implementation of this law will fall short of its duty to serve the most vulnerable veterans who struggle to access healthcare – something rural Kansans understand all too well. I’m afraid VA bureaucracy is still in control and veterans will find that this new law is being implemented in a very typical, bureaucratic fashion. I keep pushing for common sense to prevail and have shared my concerns with Secretary McDonald personally. His pledge sends the right message but we will have to wait and see if actions can live up to his words.
A New Congress
After Tuesday’s elections, it’s clear that Washington, D.C., will look different in January. For the first time in 8 years, Republicans will have a majority in the U.S. Senate. With new leadership, I expect the Senate will seek results, not play divisive political games. I look at elections like the beginning of a new year, with hope and promise.
The challenges America faces are significant, and the consequences of failing to address them are profound. The President indicated his policies were up for review by the electorate this November and the response from voters was clear: the President's agenda has fallen short. With so much at stake, we’re in need of real solutions that do more than just increase the size and cost of the federal government.
This new Congress has an opportunity to move the country in a positive direction and approach the difficult decisions ahead with the well-being of all Americans in mind. This week voters requested a different plan, respect among elected officials, and an end to the "do nothing" Senate. I am eager to begin this new chapter and am hopeful for a better future ahead.
Olathe East High School
On Monday morning I spoke to a government class at Olathe East High School. We discussed the upcoming elections and the national attention on Kansas politics this year. They asked about which Senate committees I sit on and how our work impacts Kansas. I also had the opportunity to visit with Thomas Williams, a student at Olathe East who recently received my principal nomination to the U.S. Naval Academy. I particularly enjoy visiting with high school students because that was the time when I discovered my own interest in government and history. Thanks to Olathe East teacher Breanna Francis for the invitation to meet with her students.
Touring Pittsburg State University
Monday afternoon I had the opportunity to tour the construction site for Pittsburg State University’s Bicknell Family Center for the Arts. Upon completion, the $33 million facility will serve as one of the Midwest’s premiere venues for music, theater, art exhibits and lectures. The generosity of lead donor Gene Bicknell, his wife, Rita, and their family is making a permanent mark on PSU and will help transform the future of the region. The Bicknell family long wished to remain anonymous in order to keep the focus on the true purpose of the project: academics, community and culture. Thank you to the Bicknell family and the more than 600 donors who have joined them in supporting the future of PSU. After 30 years on the drawing board, you have helped the new Center for the Arts at Pittsburg State become a reality. The ribbon cutting is scheduled for December 7.
It is an amazingly impressive performing arts center. I said "Wow!" as I drove down the street and saw it for the first time. Thanks to President Steve Scott for showing the new Arts Center to me and more importantly for his tremendous leadership on this accomplishment.
Kansas Listening Tour Stops Continue
On Monday, I continued my Kansas Listening Tour with a stop in Crawford County. Residents turned out to the Frontenac community hall to share feedback and concerns on a wide array of topics including transportation funding, burdensome federal regulations, immigration reform, the importance of supporting independent living, and the need to keep our Critical Access Hospitals open. Thanks to Frontenac City Clerk Doug Sellars for making the facility available. Thanks again to all the Kansans who attended including State Representative Adam Lusker, former Senator Jim Barone, and former Reps. Bob Grant and Ed McKechnie.
Thanks to the Linn County residents who came out to my Listening Tour Stop at City Hall in Mound City on Monday to share the issues they consider important to Kansas and the nation. We discussed a number of issues including fixing the dysfunction at the Department of Veterans Affairs. I appreciate veteran Les Heflin for taking the time to share with me his experience dealing with problems at the VA – his story will be helpful as we continue to work toward improving this system. We discussed equal pay for women in the workplace, country-of-origin labeling, and accelerated depreciation of equipment that affects purchase of farm equipment. Our visit also covered the farm bill, the ISIS threat and the Affordable Care Act. Thanks to all who attended, including Senator Caryn Tyson and her father-in-law, former state Sen. Robert Tyson.
I started Tuesday morning with a Labette County town hall in the community building in Altamont. Our discussion included how changes to the Senate rules are harmful to Kansans and rural America at large. Residents shared their concerns about regulations by the FCC, EPA and FEMA, and how the government needs to work to create an environment where our economy can grow. Thanks to all the residents who turned out on Election Day to share your thoughts, ideas and concerns about the direction of our country. Special thanks to Altamont city clerk Liz Finley for helping arrange my visit and to Mayor Herb Bath for his attendance.
On Tuesday afternoon, I was the keynote speaker at the Neodesha Rotary Club meeting. About 40 folks attended and the conversation focused on the importance of ending the gridlock in the Senate and passing bills, over-regulation by federal agencies including the EPA, and the need to produce our own domestic energy. These are all issues the new Republican-led Senate will work to address by focusing on pro-growth, pro-jobs policies. Thanks again to Mojo's for hosting the meeting, as well as Karen Porter for arranging my visit. It was good to see everyone who attended, including Wilson County Commissioners Casey Lair, Jim Richardson and Russ Walker.
I finished my Listening Tour stops this week at Neosho County Community College in Chanute. More than 20 area residents attended and shared their thoughts. The discussion focused on a number of issues facing Kansas and the nation including ensuring access to quality healthcare for rural veterans, the promise of medical research, the threat of terrorism, and disability issues. Thanks to the folks who came out on Tuesday and thanks to President Dr. Brian Inbody for allowing me to host my town hall at Neosho County Community College.
On Friday, I visited my hometown of Plainville and visited with folks at the Rooks County Health Clinic, Rooks County Medical Center City Hall, the Plainville Times and the Post Office. I also stopped by Midwest Community Bank. The residents I saw shared lots of concerns with me and I appreciate the conversations.
This year is the 60th anniversary of LeadingAge Kansas, a coalition of 160 nursing home, assisted living, housing and other aging services providers dedicated to serving the needs of Kansas seniors, and providing services and supports to aging Kansans in their own communities. The availability of quality health care and other community services determines whether Kansas seniors can remain in their communities. The special way of life we live in our cities and towns would not be possible without access to the types of care and support provided by LeadingAge Kansas members and other providers throughout our state.
Johnson County Community College Some Enchanted Evening
On Saturday evening my wife Robba and I attended Some Enchanted Evening, which raises money for scholarships for students attending Johnson County Community College. I enjoyed hearing from students on how their scholarship has impacted their life and provided an opportunity to further their education. I extended my congratulations to Dr. Gary Morsch, founder of the Heart to Heart Foundation who was honored as Johnson Countian of the Year. Thanks to Mary Birch for chairing the event and to Dr. Joe Sopcich and his wife, Stacy for hosting Robba and me at their table.
Kansans in the Office
Allie Crome of Topeka
Kira Sellens of Topeka
Matt Guerrero of Topeka
Lauren Everts of Topeka
Victoria Sparkman of Topeka
Kendall Leatherman of Topeka
Jacob Meyer of Topeka
Randy Crome of Topeka
Duane Knapp of Chanute
Sallie Knapp of Chanute
Johnny Feeback of Kansas City
Donna Feeback of Kansas City
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.
Very truly yours,
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