Kansas Common Sense

Dear Friend,

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.

Veterans Benefits and Military Retirement Pay
Last week, I voted in support of continued debate and deliberation on the Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014 sponsored by the Senate Veteran Affairs Committee Chairman, Senator Sanders. The Ranking Member of the Senate Veteran Affairs Committee, Senator Burr, offered an alternative bill that included all but a few of the provisions offered by the Chairman and incorporated a pay-for plan as well. I had hoped there would be further debate on both bills. We must keep our promise to those who served, and provide health care, education and job-training benefits for the nation’s veterans.

VA Claims Backlog
I recently joined the Senate VA Backlog Working Group – a group of Senators dedicated to addressing the VA claims process and backlog that plagues so many of our nations veterans. This week, several of my colleagues and I released the VA Backlog Working Group March 2014 Report that analyzes the many factors that contribute to the claims backlog and offers recommendations to reform the claims process. We also introduced the 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act – comprehensive legislation based on the findings of the report that are designed to reduce the backlog of veterans’ disability claims.

I’ve heard stories from Kansans and Veteran Service Organizations about the VA claims process – from systemic issues with the back-and-forth of how claims are handled, to the absurd 9-to-18 month waiting period. Our veterans deserve better; they deserve the best our nation has to offer. The common-sense solutions we offer in the 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act are overwhelmingly supported by the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), who know this issue inside and out. The Senate now has a set of concrete solutions that deserves a vote and that the VA should adopt to make real and meaningful change. To learn more about the 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act, click here.

Sexual Assaults in the Military
According to the Department of Defense, an estimated 26,000 instances of unwanted sexual contact occurred in the military in 2012, but only 3,374 sexual assaults were reported. Equally concerning is that many sexual assault victims who do report these crimes drop out of the process before their cases even make it to trial. On Thursday, I voted in support of legislation to prevent military sexual assaults. Protecting those who protect us is of the utmost importance. I voted for Senator Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act and Senator McCaskill’s Victims Protection Act of 2014 — both measures address protecting individuals from sexual assault and make certain perpetrators are prosecuted. While there are several important differences between the legislation, I am committed to addressing sexual assault in the military and protecting our men and women in uniform.

American Israel Public Affairs Committee Conference
This week the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) held its annual policy conference in Washington, D.C. Nearly 14,000 people attended this event to participate in educational sessions and hear both policy experts and lawmakers speak about issues related to the United States’ relationship with Israel. Topics range from economics, trade, research, security and diplomacy. This year, Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu were two of the featured speakers. The conference also encourages attendees to meet with their members of Congress and advocate various legislative actions related to the U.S.-Israel relationship. I had the pleasure of meeting with most of the 80+ people who attended from Kansas. Thanks to all who attended and spoke up to make their voices heard on these important issues. Click here to see a photo.

Yet Another Obamacare Change
On Wednesday, the Obama Administration announced yet another change to the Affordable Care Act. This time, the Administration, again without seeking any congressional authorization, will allow insurers to sell health plans that do not meet Obamacare’s requirements into 2017. This change is a two-year extension of an earlier decision by the Administration to allow individuals to keep their noncompliant health plans through 2014.

It is not surprising that President Obama and congressional Democrats continue to go to great lengths to try to hide the devastating consequences of Obamacare on families and workers. When promoting the Affordable Care Act to the country, they made repeated promises they knew they could not keep. They promised “If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep it.” Now, as this law is fully implemented, reality is bringing these broken promises to light. It is time to stop pursuing political damage control over policy solutions while millions of Americans have lost their preferred health insurance due to Obamacare. Despite his political objectives, the President cannot snap his fingers and make all the problems with this law go away.

Joining Kansas Entrepreneurs at SXSW Interactive
On Sunday, I attended the South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) Festival to visit with entrepreneurs and technologists so they could share with me how we can positively influence policy decisions in Washington D.C., to promote innovation and entrepreneurship. I participated in a panel discussion hosted by the Economist Magazine regarding local technology economies. I shared my experience visiting the Kansas City Startup Village and also about the growth in entrepreneurial activity occurring across Kansas. We also discussed the need for Congress to pass targeted reforms, such as Startup Act 3.0, to help create an environment for greater entrepreneurial growth. Thanks to Grover Bynum from the Austin Technology Council for invited me to participate.

I was also able to join a group of nearly 30 entrepreneurs from the Kansas City area at Facebook Austin to learn about startup activities in Kansas City. This is the second time I have had the chance to meet the group at SXSW, many of whom participated in the Startup Bus, which drove from Kansas City through Saint Louis and Nashville before ending up Austin. Thank you to Melissa Roberts of 1 Million Cups and Ryan Weber from KCNext for helping to organize the event.

While at SXSWi, I also visited the LIVESTRONG Foundation to discuss their work in the fight against cancer. LIVESTRONG Foundation President and CEO Doug Ulman offered an overview of the Foundation's work and guided a tour of their facility. During the tour, I visited their navigation center, which is often the first resource for those who are diagnosed with cancer. I also learned about the LIVESTRONG Foundation's recently announced competition called The Big C, which asks entrepreneurs to build tools and platforms to better serve those battling cancer and their families. Later this year they will announce finalists who will be eligible for cash prizes. For more information, click here. LIVESTRONG Foundation has served over 2.5 million people affected by the disease and has raised more than $500 million to support cancer survivors.

Discussing General Aviation with Small Business Owners
On Wednesday, I spoke to members of the National Air Transportation Association (NATA), small business owners visiting Washington to promote general aviation. The largest industry in Kansas, general aviation generates nearly $3 billion in annual exports. In fact, Kansas aviation workers have supplied 75 percent of all general aviation aircraft since the Wright Brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk. With education and training facilities like the National Center for Aviation Training (NCAT) and National Institute of Aviation Research (NIAR) connecting young, talented students to this important industry, Wichita will no doubt remain the “Air Capital of the World” for generations to come.

Because only 10 percent of our nation’s airports have commercial service, general aviation is essential for connecting millions of Americans in rural communities to the rest of the world. Unfortunately, it is a constant battle to correct Washington’s misconceptions and stereotypes about what general aviation is and means to communities across the country. As Kansans know full well, general aviation is integral not only to agriculture and small business, but for emergency medical flights and rescue operations, firefighting, forestry, disaster relief, and numerous other endeavors. I will continue to fight Washington’s habit of singling out general aviation businesses and consumers for cuts or increased fees as a means to justify more wasteful spending.

National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility
On Tuesday, the administration sent President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget proposal to Capitol Hill. His budget requests $300 million to further advance construction on the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan, Kan. The move signals clear support from the administration and the Department of Homeland Security for completion of the NBAF project as a national security priority. This gives Congress a blueprint to provide the final portion of funding to advance construction of the modern, world-class NBAF facility so it can protect the National Security of the United States. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I will continue to work to make certain NBAF remains a top priority for Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle as we work to secure the final portion of funding for construction of NBAF. Click here to read the full text of the resolution.

Visiting Ellsworth County Medical Center
On my weekend return to Kansas, I visited Ellsworth County Medical Center (ECMC), a Critical Access Hospital that operates four rural health clinics in Ellsworth, Holyrood, Lucas and Wilson. ECMC provides general medical and surgical care for inpatient, outpatient and emergency room patients. During my tour, I visited with hospital CEO Roger Masse and members of his team about the challenges rural hospitals face providing care to patients across a wide areas. We discussed how these hospitals implement new technology to improve patient care and how they work to address federal regulatory burdens and workforce shortages, and Medicare reimbursement challenges. I also learned more about how ECMC coordinates with other local health care providers, such as community pharmacies, to provide prescription medication and health services to Kansans. Visiting hospitals in our state and listening to health care providers is important to helping me learn more about the ways federal policies affect how health care is provided in Kansas. Thank you to Roger for inviting me to visit ECMC. Click here to see a photo.

Kansans in the Office
Mark Humphrey of Overland Park      
Sheila McGeevy of Kansas City    
Jacque Amspacker of Lawrence    

Kansas VFW
Lynn Rolf of Leavenworth
Herb Schwartzkopf of Ransom
JT Plummer of Logan
Charley Shoemaker of Leavenworth                                 

School Nutrition Association
Cindy Jones of Olathe    
Kaye Kabus of Topeka    
Claine Harris of Paola                                                          

Kansas Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee
Marieta Hauser of Johnson                                                                   

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Melissa Hague of Wichita                                                                                     

Coffey County Commissioner
Kimberly Skillman-Robrahn of Burlington                                                                 

University of Kansas Student Senate
Eric Hurtt of Leawood    
Michael Graham of Overland Park      
Emma Halling of Lawrence      
Marquise Paige of Wichita      
Marcus Tetwiler of Paola      
Morgan Said of Shawnee Mission                                                                            

Kansas National Science Foundation EPSCoR program
Kristin Bowman-James of Lawrence    
Vicki Sciolaro of Leawood        
Betsy Yanik of Emporia                                                         

National Court Reporters Association
Darcie Cruz of Chanute    
Cindy Isaacsen of Shawnee                                                                        

National Kidney Foundation
Nicole Haar of Overland Park    
Mark Greene of Shawnee                                               

Johnson County Commission
Ed Eilert of Overland Park
Hannes Zacharias of Lenexa
Jim Allen of Shawnee
Steve Klika of Overland Park
Penny Postoak Ferguson of Lenexa
Robert Boyd of Riley County                                                                              

Jill Viso of Lenexa        
Ernie Minton of Manhattan      
Steve Irsik of Garden City                                                             

Marmaton Valley FFA
Russell Plaschka of Moran      
Joe Curran of Girard    
Larry Lyder of Hill City      
Cody Morris of Arkansas City    
John Bergin of Assaria                                                                                     

National Fragile X Foundation
Becky Dunster of Lenexa      
Sarah Dunster of Lenexa      
Mike Hanna of Vassar    
James Stack of Olathe    
Brook Stack of Olathe    
Donna Beauchamp of Overland Park                      

Pizza Hut Franchisees
Jim McNerney of Wichita                                               

Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities
Lynelle Lynch of Manhattan                                                                                  

Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
Mark Weiss of Manhattan                                                  

Oxfam America
Laura Fortmeyer of Fairview
Jim French of Partridge
Sophia Fortmeyer of Lawrence    
Louise Ehinke of Healy                                 

National Bike Summit
Alan Apel of Topeka    
Sarah Shipley of Kansas City
Eric Bunch of Kansas City  
Jeff Koenig of Manhattan
Eric Rogers of Kansas City
Gina Poertner of Shawnee                       

Kansas Funeral Directors Association
Justin Smith of Derby      
Pam Scott of Topeka    
Darin Bradstreet of Garden City                                                                             

Westar Energy
Mark Ruelle of Tecumseh  
Michel Cole of Topeka
Mark Schreiber of Emporia      
Greg Greenwood of Topeka                                           

Kansas Humanities Council
Julie L. Mulvihill of Perry
Will Ramsey of Leawood
Gene Merry of Burlington                                                                       

Kansas Medical Society
Mark Humphrey of Stilwell      
John Eplee of Atchison    
Rachelle Colombo of Topeka    
Nancy Sullivan of Holton      
Donna Sweet of Wichita      
Gretchen Dickson of Wichita    
Jon Rosell of Wichita    
Lee Starkel of Wichita 

Coleen Jennison of Topeka                                                            

CARE Action Now
Elysia Chao of Overland Park                                                                            

Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory
Gary Anderson of Manhattan                                                                                 

American Osteopathic Association
Jeane Choi of Overland Park    
Alexandria Larson of Overland Park      
Alison Scharber of Overland Park                                                            

Kansas Board of Regents
Susan Fish of Topeka                                                                                  

Larry Hopkins of Topeka      
JoAnn Sutton of Manhattan    
Roxanne Mason of Leavenworth      
Sheryl Swendson of Atchison                                               

Kansas Consumer Advisory Council for Adult Mental Health
Gary Parker of Colby

Capitol Tour
Tim Constance of Shawnee      
Lindsey Constance of Shawnee    
Matt Wilber of Wamego      
Cathy Wilber of Wamego        
Tim Crippen of Basehor
Anthony Ferris of Overland Park      
Haley Ferris of Overland Park
Shawn Dickinson of Ottawa
Megan Dickinson of Ottawa
Liam Dickinson of Ottawa                     

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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