Kansas Common Sense
Sep 15 2014
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.
On Thursday, we observed thirteenth anniversary of September 11, a day that will never escape from our personal and collective memories. On this anniversary, we remembered those who perished on 9/11 and honored all who have since stepped forth to defend America, seek justice, and help our country recover and rebuild even after this most terrible of tragedies. It is clear the threat of violence by extremists remains very real, and good people around the world remain at risk. The United States must stay vigilant and uphold the American values of freedom, equality and tolerance on which this country was founded.
Pictured is a steel beam from the World Trade Center, part of the 9/11 Memorial completed this year in Overland Park.
Discussing West African Ebola Crisis with CDC Director
On Thursday, I received an update from Dr. Tom Frieden, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on the Ebola outbreak and Dr. Frieden’s recent visit to West Africa. This outbreak is a health crisis of massive proportions. Ebola is a type of virus that causes fever, severe headache, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach and muscle pain, and unexplained bruising and bleeding. It often proves fatal for humans. Transmitted between humans through direct contact with bodily fluids, the total number of probable, confirmed, and suspected Ebola cases in the current outbreak was nearly 4,300, including almost 2,300 deaths, as of early this month. With no proven vaccine or treatment currently available and with the outbreak continuing to escalate, fear and concern have risen across the globe.
The international community has not effectively addressed this problem. I was grateful for the opportunity to speak with Dr. Frieden personally about the Administration’s strategy to respond to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and I appreciate his commitment to this issue. The CDC is working with other U.S. agencies, the World Health Organization, and other domestic and international partners to coordinate assistance and disease control activities in the region. While Ebola is deadly and this outbreak is historic, fortunately the risk of it spreading to the United States is small. We have an advanced public health infrastructure that could quickly screen for the virus and safely manage patients with Ebola. Also, our health care providers have the training and equipment to control infections and protect themselves and others when caring for Ebola patients. However, the single most important thing we can do to protect ourselves is to stop the Ebola outbreak in West Africa before it can spread to other parts of the world.
Tomorrow I plan to participate in a joint hearing with the Senate Health Appropriations Subcommittee and the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on the response to this health crisis. One of the witnesses at this hearing will be Dr. Kent Brantly, the first American missionary doctor to be treated for Ebola in the U.S. Ebola can be stopped, but to do so requires coordination of effective containment action and basic medical care.
Stop Wasteful Bonuses Act
This week I sponsored the Stop Wasteful Bonuses Act, which would force VA employees who were involved in manipulating electronic waitlists to reimburse their bonus and give the funds back to Department of Veterans Affairs. Because the VA used compliance with wait-time metrics as a factor in determining employee bonuses, some VA employees were incentivized to use secret waitlists to artificially inflate compliance data in order to maximize their bonus payments. According to IG reports, employees at the Phoenix VA hospital received approximately $10M in bonuses since 2011.
The use of secret waitlists to artificially inflate compliance data in order to maximize a bonus is reprehensible. Bonuses do not make sense for a federal employee who is simply doing the job they were hired to do, let alone rewarding someone for reaching phony goals on the back of veterans who are waiting months to be seen and treated. This legislation will help make certain that those who violated the trust of so many veterans and chose to manipulate a system that affected the quality of health care for veterans will be held responsible for their deceit and misconduct. VA personnel should be accountable for their actions, otherwise the current system and culture of mediocrity will continue to fail veterans. Click here to learn more.
Meeting with LTG Brown
On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to meet with Lieutenant General Robert Brown, Commanding General of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth. As the intellectual center of the Army, it was a pleasure to hear about all of the innovative methods that Fort Leavenworth is leading in the education and training of our soldiers. For example, we discussed the Army’s initiative to combine its 86 training schools nationwide into an “Army University” that now falls under the responsibility of the Command and General Staff College on the Fort. I also appreciated the Lieutenant General’s update on the transition assistance program, Solider For Life, which is designed to support soldiers and their families during the initial transition to civilian life and in the years to follow. The health and well-being of Army soldiers and their families during and after their service to our country is paramount to upholding our commitment to their sacrifice for our freedom. I appreciated the time spent with Lieutenant General Brown and I look forward to visiting with him again.
Increasing Rural Veterans’ Choice in Health Care
On Tuesday in the U.S. Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I questioned the new VA Secretary Robert McDonald about the state of VA health care. I used the opportunity to share the stories of two Kansas veterans with differing experiences when it comes to access to health care in the transitioning VA system: Lee Mahin of Smith Center and Larry McIntire of Plainville. Lee recently got a call from the VA to tell him that he no longer needed to drive four hours to Omaha, Nebraska, from Smith Center, Kansas, to have a colonoscopy. The procedure has already been rescheduled and confirmed at Smith County Memorial Hospital. This is the way the VA health care system should work – it is good news and suggests that change is afoot.
Unfortunately, down the road about an hour in Plainville, Larry MacIntire tells me that last week he drove three hours to Wichita to get a cortisone shot in his shoulder. He goes to Wichita several times a month for other minor procedures. Although there is a Community-Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) in Plainville, my understanding is the local CBOC doesn’t have the capability of providing cortisone shots. The local hospital, Rooks County Medical Center, does have the ability to provide a cortisone shot and is certainly closer than the three-hour drive to Wichita. Veterans should be able to access timely, quality care regardless of where they call home.
I asked Sec. McDonald to clarify how the VA will handle choice-in-care for rural veterans like Larry MacIntire with implementation of the Veterans Choice Act of 2014. I was pleased to receive assurances from Sec. McDonald during the hearing that the VA will make certain veterans like Larry MacIntire receive the care they need through the Choice Act and will not experience the burden of travel to access that care. This is particularly important if a VA facility within 40 miles of where a veteran resides does not offer the care and treatment the veteran is seeking. Click here to watch my questioning of the VA Secretary.
Speaking at the 2014 National Automobile Dealers Association Washington Conference
This week, I spoke at the National Automobile Dealers Association’s (NADA) Washington Conference. This event brought together more than 400 auto dealers from around the country to discuss the role the federal government plays in their industry. My remarks were focused on my role as a member of the Senate Banking Committee, which holds jurisdiction over much of the auto lending financing industry. The concerns I heard on Wednesday included the need for greater Congressional oversight of the powerful Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). I have introduced legislation to restructure the CFPB and improve its transparency and accountability. Thanks to Kansas Automobile Dealers Association (KADA) Director Dave Shepherd of Fort Scott for introducing me at the event as well as KADA leadership team for their participation: KADA President Don McNeely of Topeka, Chairman Tim Lang of Paola, Vice-Chairman Tuffy Taylor of Colby and Larry Carl of Overland Park.
Kansas Principals of the Year
This week, I met with the Kansas Association of Secondary School Principals (KASSP) 2014 Kansas Principals of the Year, Cara Ledy of Wichita South High School and Mark Bloustine of Paola Middle School. Each year, KASSP recognizes middle school and secondary school principals for outstanding and exemplary leadership. I’m pleased they are being commended for their contributions to Kansas students. During our visit, we discussed the need for more flexibility in federal education policy to enable schools to raise the bar and focus on preparing students for careers and higher education. I appreciated the opportunity to visit with them and learn more about how they work each to prepare students for the challenges of life. Thanks to Cara and Mark, and all Kansas education professionals, for their commitment to helping Kansas students reach their full potentials in the classroom and beyond.
Deadline for Livestock Forage Disaster Program
Producers who are eligible for Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) payments are encouraged to contact their local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office by September 30, before the disaster payments are reduced due to sequestration. The 2014 Farm Bill included assistance for livestock producers who have experienced grazing losses since October 2011. However, the Budget Control Act requires USDA to implement reductions to LFP in the new fiscal year, which begins October 1. Eligible producers who have scheduled appointments with their local FSA office before October 1, even if the appointment occurs after that date, will not see reductions in the amount of disaster relief they receive. Your local FSA office can help you determine if you are eligible for disaster payments. I remain committed to monitoring the implementation of all of the farm bill provisions. If you need assistance or if any issues arise, please do not hesitate to contact my office.
Now Accepting Spring 2015 Internship Applications
I am now accepting applications for paid congressional internships in my Washington, D.C., and Kansas offices for spring 2015. An internship in my office – either legislative or communications – provides a unique opportunity to work closely with Senate staff on behalf of the state of Kansas. Legislative interns will gain a better understanding of the legislative process in the U.S. Congress, and develop knowledge and professional skills valuable to future career pursuits. Communications internships offer an intern the chance to learn about how political communications and the legislative process intersect, and gain practical knowledge about the inner workings of a fast-paced press office.
The application deadline for spring 2015 is November 1, 2014. Applications may be obtained and completed under the “Services” section of my website at www.moran.senate.gov. Applicants should submit a completed application form, resume, academic transcript, two letters of recommendation, and a cover letter explaining their interest in public service and addressing a policy issue of personal importance and a suggested recommendation to resolve that issue. Please submit required materials to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kansas in the Office
Liz Icenogle of Overland Park
Todd Kavoures of Lindsborg
Mike Rooney of Derby
Penny Janivold of Rossville
Hana Johnson of Wichita
American Academy of Dermatology
Robert Durst of Topeka
Frank Koranda of Prairie Village
American Association of Christian Schools
Joe Hansen of Atchison
R.J. Krystowiak of Newton
American Physiological Society
Mark Weiss of Manhattan
American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Michael Cooper of Merriam
Case Management Society of America
Nancy Rafferty of Overland Park
Jeri Murphy of Lenexa
Direct Sellers Associations
Kris Madden of Atchison
Ellinwood Chamber of Commerce
Basil Dannebohm of Ellinwood
Gayle Christie of Ellinwood
Ruth Peters of Ellinwood
LTG Brown of Fort Leavenworth
Heartland Homecare Services
Edward Johnson of Lawrence
Beth Simpson of Lawrence
Jeff Tamasi of Kansas City
Gina Prieto of Kansas City
Kansas Automobile Dealers Associations
Don McNeely of Topeka
Tim Lang of Paola
David Sheperd of Ft. Scott
Tuffy Taylor of Colby
Larry Carl of Overland Park
Kansas Farmers Union
Leah Chamley of Wheaton
Matthew Ubel of Wheaton
Nick Levendofsky of Courtland
Matt Dowell of Belleville
Kevin Dubbert of McPherson
Richard Boxum of Downs
Kansas Middle and High School Principals of the Year
Cara Ledy of Wichita
Mark Bloustine of Paola
Lyman Adams of Hillsboro
Lymphedema Advocacy Group
Gary Keytel of Topeka
National Grocers Association
Jimmy Holland of Kansas City
National Association of Electrical Distributors
Kaylin Crain of Lenexa
Kansas Association of Senior Corps Directors
Melody Gault of Augusta
Lori Bishop of Manhattan
Wichita Public Schools
Diane Gjerstad of Wichita
Sarah Chandler of Manhattan
Mick Tener of Manhattan
Chella Bradley of Manhattan
Janie Bock of Leawood
William Wiese of Haven
Angeline Wiese of Haven
Leon Amey of Bel Aire
Bretty Amey of Wichita
Ron Williams of Hutchison
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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