Kansas Common Sense
Introducing VA Housing Legislation Named After Kansas Veteran
Our nation’s servicemembers put their lives in danger each and every day to protect the American way of life. Colonel (Ret.) Paul Benne, of Spring Hill, Kansas, is no different. In 2013, Col. Benne developed a medical condition that led to his retirement from the U.S. Army after 23 years of service. Col. Benne was rated 100 percent disabled at the time of his retirement. In 2016, Col. Benne was fitted by the VA for a wheelchair and applied for an SAH grant, as neither the Benne’s home nor vehicle could accommodate his new wheelchair.
After more than a year of navigating the VA, Col. Benne and his wife, Christine, contacted my office for assistance, and within three months of my office working with Col. Benne to engage the VA, Col. Benne was given a favorable decision on his adaptive housing claim and provided SAH grants.
The Paul Benne Specially Adaptive Housing Improvement Act of 2019, which I introduced this week, will help veterans like Col. Benne who have suffered severe injury or illness as a result of their service. This bill will expand the SAH program and allow veterans to use this vital grant in a way that best fits their needs. Giving veterans greater access to the SAH program and granting them increased flexibility in how they use it will improve their quality of life, assist their family members and caregivers, and provide them with the independence they enjoyed before their injury.
Thank you to Col. Benne and his wife, Christine, for their decades of selfless service to our nation and for their advocacy, resiliency and willingness to share their story, which will undoubtedly help many veterans in the future. Read more on this legislation here.
Working to Prevent Scams and Fraud on Senior Citizens
On Wednesday, the Senate Commerce Committee unanimously voted to advance my bipartisan Stop Senior Scams Act to the full Senate for consideration. This legislation would make certain that retailers, financial institutions and wire transfer companies have the resources necessary to train employees on how to prevent financial fraud and scams targeting seniors, and would create a federal advisory council to educate stakeholders on ways to train their employees to spot and stop financial scams.
As chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, I will continue working to bring industry and advocacy leaders together to help educate the public, specifically senior citizens, on how to identify and avoid these harmful scams.
Promoting Organ Donation
This week, President Trump signed an executive order that will help increase organ donations and advance kidney health – a positive step forward that will ultimately save lives by introducing accountability for deficient Organ Procurement Organizations that does not currently exist, as these organizations self-report data and are rarely punished for poor performance.
Still, I have not forgotten the work left to be done as it pertains to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network’s (OPTN) liver allocation policy changes earlier this year. We still must address OPTN’s and the United Network for Organ Sharing’s reckless changes to the national liver distribution policy that could adversely impact many Americans seeking liver transplants. These organizations need greater accountability due to their misguided actions that could carry the heavy cost of losing human lives if remedial action isn’t swiftly taken.
These recent changes made by OPTN and UNOS will punish patients waiting for transplants in Midwestern states with higher rates of organ donation – like Kansas – and reward our lowest performing ones, unfortunately moving in the opposite direction of the President’s executive order today.
I will work to protect our hospitals and patients from dangerous decisions made at the federal level in our nation’s organ allocation policy and will continue to work with my colleagues and the administration on this issue.
Working to Improve Accuracy of Broadband Coverage Maps
This week, I joined a bipartisan group of senators in urging the Federal Communications Commission to take specific, concrete steps to improve the accuracy of broadband coverage maps and to look at legislative proposals introduced recently in Congress to help guide the Commission’s work.
One example is the Broadband Data Improvement Act of 2019 that our bipartisan coalition introduced in May. The legislation would require broadband providers to report data to create an improved National Broadband Map that is significantly more accurate and granular to help determine what areas most lack broadband.
Separately, I am a cosponsor of the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act, which also aims to improve the accuracy of the broadband availability maps by strengthening the process by which data is collected. I will continue working to improve broadband data collection and reporting to close the digital divide.
Supporting Critical Diabetes Research Efforts
This week, I met with two Kansas youth advocates from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in my D.C. office to discuss reauthorization of the Special Diabetes Program for Type 1 Diabetes and Special Diabetes Program for Indians, which will allow the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to continue their diabetes research uninterrupted and to further develop innovative new devices and treatments. As a member of the Appropriations subcommittee with funding jurisdiction over NIH, and as co-chair of the Senate NIH Caucus, I am committed to making certain that NIH has the necessary resources to continue their life-saving research.
We also discussed the rising cost of insulin, and the position many diabetics find themselves in – having to choose between paying for their expensive life-saving insulin, or putting that money toward other life necessities. Reports of tragic deaths of diabetics who rationed their insulin because of the high cost of the drug are heartbreaking – and require a real, and urgent, solution. The Senate is working toward a bipartisan solution to help curb the rising cost of prescription medication, and addressing insulin costs ought to be included as part of this final package.
Condemning Chinese Government Mistreatment of Falun Gong
This week, Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and I led a large bipartisan coalition of senators in condemning the Chinese government’s mistreatment of Falun Gong practitioners and the use of illegally harvesting their organs.
Supporting religious freedom is fundamental to who we are as a nation, and matters relating to Falun Gong’s persecution in China are urgent and deserve scrutiny from the United States and the world. Through this resolution, the Senate recognizes and highlights the findings of the State Department, United Nations and the Independent Tribunal into Forced Organ Harvesting and calls on the People’s Republic of China to cease its oppression and torture of Falun Gong members. Click here to read our full resolution.
Advancing our Space Partnership with Australia
On Tuesday evening, I joined NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine at an event hosted by Australian Ambassador Hon. Joe Hockey in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Australia’s facilities supported the Apollo 11 landing and their resources remain an asset to the mission of space exploration today.
For more than 100 years, the United States and Australia have shared a strong partnership, and I enjoyed highlighting past space exploration achievements and looking ahead to future goals and accomplishments. As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee with funding jurisdiction over NASA, I will continue engaging Administrator Bridenstine and Ambassador Hockey to advance our friendship with Australia – particularly as it pertains to space exploration.
Meeting with Kansans in Dickinson, Republic Counties
This weekend, I continued my Kansas Listening tour with stops in Dickinson and Republic counties. In Abilene, we discussed recent flooding that has devastated farmers and caused significant damage to infrastructure around the county. We also discussed immigration and border security, career and technical education, veterans’ healthcare, tariffs and the Senate’s recent passage of the NDAA.
On Saturday, I joined Kansans in Belleville for a Listening Tour stop where we discussed a number of issues, including my work to increase veterans’ access to healthcare through the VA MISSION Act. We also discussed tariffs and trade, immigration and border security, career and technical education, and the Senate’s recent passage of the NDAA, as well as community mental health resources, the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program, social security and Medicare.
Special thanks to Wood Shop Pizza & Coffee for hosting this townhall meeting and for sharing their story with us. The building that the pizza shop is located in was previously a wood shop, and the Wood Shop Pizza & Coffee owners, Josh and Kelly Collard, did all the woodworking for the restaurant themselves, which opened just last week. Thank you for opening up the restaurant for our meeting and for their great hospitality.
Strengthening Kansas’ Export Markets Through the USMCA Agreement
Canada and Mexico are the two top export markets for Kansas. In 2018, over $4 billion worth of goods were exported to those two markets, making up 35 percent of our state’s exports. Kansans depend on strong partnerships with Canada and Mexico for a robust economy, meaning it is critical that Congress pass the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) in order to continue selling our goods to these crucial markets.
Because USMCA was negotiated under the Trade Promotion Authority, the agreement must first pass the House of Representatives before it can proceed to the Senate. I urge my colleagues in the House to quickly pass this agreement once the implementing legislation is submitted to the House by the administration.
Kansans in the Office
Tom Schwarzenberger of Olathe
Quinta Schwarzenberger of Olathe
Bill of Rights Institute
Billie Casebeer of Louisberg
Grace Stouts Gibson of Hugoton
Mary Morrison of Topeka
Ellyssa Robertson Wichita
Anna Scott of Topeka
Scott Abel of Dodge City
Karen Cook of WaKeeney
Angie DalBello of Prairie Village
Irene Dirks of WaKeeney
Denise Ellenburg of Overland Park
Nicholas Fawcett of Saint Francis
Kristin Fimple of Wichita
Heather Frank of Turon
Vickie Frank of Turon
Emily Hamm of Burlington
Don Herron of Wichita
Jennifer Herron of Wichita
Lauren Herron of Wichita
Noah Herron of Wichita
Robyn Johnson of Bendena
Paige Lambert of Kiowa
Arielle Li of Overland Park
Daqi Li of Overland Park
Garrett Li of Overland Park
Isabel Li of Overland Park
Jiayun Li of Overland Park
Aaron Lindsay of Haysville
Gita Noble of Topeka
Dr. Steve Noble of Topeka
Michelle Ohlde of Overland Park
Todd Ohlde of Overland Park
Zack Ohlde of Overland Park
Representative Fred Patton
Donna Raile of Palco
Mike Raile of Palco
Caleb Silva of Wichita
Jacob Silva of Wichita
Javier Silva of Wichita
Javier Silva Jr of Wichita
Rachael Silva of Wichita
Claire Snyder of Leavenworth
Damian Snyder of Leavenworth
Emily Snyder of Leavenworth
Hannah Snyder of Leavenworth
Jonathan Sossoman of Topeka
Landon Stucky of Inman
Candace Wright of Marysville
Ross Wright of Marysville
Tyler Wright of Kansas City
Christians United for Israel
Carolyn Clink of Olathe
Ethan Finberg of Lawrence
Donna M’Ginty of Topeka
Cheryl Steele of Lenexa
Kansas Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Breta Alstrom of Halstead
Gerit Wagner of Manhattan
Kansas Home Care & Hospice Association
Jane Kelly of Topeka
Rhonda Goddard of Lenexa
Jill Kuehny of Caldwell
Catherine Moyer of Ulysses
Carla Shearer of Medicine Lodge
Candace Wright of Home
Neosho Memorial Regional Medical Center
Denis Franks of Chanute
Anna Methvin of Chanute
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 letter, a Facebook comment, or a phone call, who wish to make their voice heard.
Very truly yours,
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