VA’s for Heroes - Not Profits!
VA’s Mission Must Serve Our Heroes – Not Corporate Profits
Like those who attended our 8th District military Veterans roundtables, these Veterans want nothing to do with Republican plans to undermine their health care by privatizing the Department of Veterans Affairs.
President Trump and Republicans are trying to destroy the VA so they can privatize it.
By most accounts, now former Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David Shulkin was fired last week because he (Shulkin) understands something the President does not: the mission of the VA is to serve our heroes – not the agendas of political appointees out to privatize the VA and turn it into a profit center that rewards big corporations and wealthy individuals.
The fact of the matter is, the VA has trained more doctors and – in cooperation with the National Institutes of Health – accomplished more lifesaving medical research than any other institution in America. Now the President should be prioritizing the filling of some 30,000 open jobs and hiring the 1,400 physicians VA health care facilities need to complete their staffs. Serving those who have put themselves in harm’s way to protect our freedom is an obligation shared by our government and our people – not corporate America.
Here’s how Shulkin, a physician and hospital executive by trade, put it in a commentary published in last Friday’s New York Times: “Unfortunately, the department has become entangled in a brutal power struggle, with some political appointees choosing to promote their agendas instead of what’s best for veterans. These individuals, who seek to privatize veteran health care as an alternative to government-run V.A. care, unfortunately fail to engage in realistic plans regarding who will care for the more than 9 million veterans who rely on the department for life-sustaining care.”
Those views on privatization track closely with the military Veterans who have attended our Veterans Roundtables across Minnesota’s 8th District. They agreed that the Veterans Choice program to provide rural military Veterans with top quality local medical care – without having to travel long distances to VA health care facilities – is a good idea that needs to be reformed and improved to work as intended. But they also said that they are generally satisfied with the health care they receive at VA facilities with expertise and experience in dealing with the unique health issues Veterans experience.
In his editorial, Shulkin went on to point out that “working with (private) community providers to adequately ensure that veterans’ needs are met is a good practice. But privatization leading to the dismantling of the department’s extensive health care system is a terrible idea.” He’s right, and make no mistake – I will continue to join colleagues on both sides of the aisle in championing efforts both to reform Veterans Choice and to keep the VA’s focus where it belongs: on our heroes – not corporate profits.
We will keep you posted as events proceed. Meanwhile, I want to hear your thoughts. Feel free to contact any of our offices listed below or send me an email.
Pence Should Have Touted GOP Tax Bill to Billionaires on Wall Street – Not Minnesotans
The Republican tax bill provides most of its tax relief to the richest one percent of Americans.
Middle class taxpayers who got a break from the Republican tax bill need it and deserve it. But the fact is, most middle class families will end with a tax increase. Call it what you will, those modest middle class tax breaks are a really a smokescreen for the real purpose of the bill - which is to hand multinational corporations and the richest one percent of Americans - who don’t need a tax break - the biggest tax cut they’ve ever had in their lives. Or to put it another way, the wealthy are getting enough to buy a Mercedes - or a whole fleet of Mercedes - while the middle class might see enough to buy the hubcaps.
So instead of coming to Minnesota in a futile attempt to fool American taxpayers, Vice President Pence probably should have gone to Wall Street and delivered his speech to the primary beneficiaries of the bill - billionaire hedge fund managers and investment bankers - part of the super wealthy crowd who will reap most of the benefits from the $1.5 trillion GOP tax cut. Make no mistake - these are tax cuts middle class working families and their children and grandchildren will pay for.
In fact, Pence neglected to mention that the Republican tax bill will actually raise taxes on nearly half of all middle class families by 2026 according to a detailed analysis by the New York Times, with about a third of middle class families paying higher taxes beginning this year.
Furthermore, the bipartisan Joint Economic Committee reports that some 73 million taxpayers with incomes between $10,000 and $50,000 will collectively pay $2.9 billion more in individual income taxes beginning in 2027.
Apparently Pence also forgot to mention that this Republican boondoggle sets the stage for massive cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to pay for a plan that gives 80% of tax relief to the richest one-percent of Americans and multi-national corporations that send good-paying jobs overseas. That’s one big reason why AARP and the National Committee to Preserve and Protect Social Security and Medicare – two of the Nation’s strongest advocates for seniors – strongly opposed this Republican measure.
Make no mistake – the battle for real tax reform will continue. And by “real,” I mean tax reform that benefits the middle class, forces the rich and big corporations to pay their fair share, and prevents a massive increase in the deficit that our children and grandchildren would be forced to pay.
Nolan Bill Would Aid Physicians and Patients in Battle for Opioid Recovery
Our bipartisan bill - the Ensuring Patient Access to Substance Use Disorder Treatments Act - would change current law to allow pharmacists and doctors to more safely administer lifesaving injectable drugs to people struggling to recover from opioid addiction and other substance abuse problems.
In the battle to save lives and stop opioid abuse that’s killing some 33,000 Americans every year, doctors and patients alike need laws and policies that keep up with the latest developments in prevention and treatment. With that in mind, Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Ryan Costello and I have introduced legislation to allow pharmacists and physicians to team up and ensure that patients can safely receive new, long-lasting injectable forms of medication to help with their recovery.
By way of background, current law stipulates that pharmacists can only dispense these medications directly to patients –not physicians. Our bill would change the Controlled Substances Act to allow pharmacists to dispense these treatments directly to doctors, who can then administer the treatment to the patient in an office setting coupled with behavioral counseling and therapy. That way, patients can be assured a safe, steady dosage of medicine. It’s a common sense fix that could help save thousands of lives, and we will be working hard to pass this bipartisan measure and get it on the President’s desk as soon as possible.
Paying for Trump’s Wall. What Next, a “Go Fund Me” Page?
Dave Simonds, cartoonist for The Economist, imagines what it would really look like to spend $25 billion on a wall with Mexico.
"I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will have Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.” (President Donald Trump)
First the President promised Mexico would pay for his $25 billion border wall. Then he tried to enlist U.S. taxpayers. And now he’s reportedly trying to hand the bill to the Pentagon on the grounds that building the wall is a “national security” requirement. What next – a Go Fund Me page?
The Pentagon is flush with cash after getting its biggest raise in 15 years – a grand total of nearly $660 billon in the omnibus spending bill I voted against. But even Republican leaders in Congress aren’t buying the notion that Trump’s campaign promise to wall off Mexico has much of anything to do with protecting our national security.
(On a side note, I have some experience with walls and their fragility. In Berlin on business as the Berlin Wall was being torn down, I rented a hammer and chisel for 10 dollars from a newly liberated East Berliner and went to work on the wall myself. On other business trips, I saw firsthand how the Great Wall of China and the Great Walls of Jericho have crumbled over time.)
Meanwhile, national polls taken over the past few months conclude the most Americans don’t support the wall and don’t believe Mexico can ever be made to pay for the wall. A CBS poll taken last summer asked Americans who would pay for the wall if it were built – and 80% responded that U.S. taxpayers would likely get stuck with the bill.
Instead of building a wall with Mexico, $25 billion U.S. taxpayer dollars could fund at least 6 or 7 months of medical research at the National Institutes of Health, pay for two years of Head Start for every young child in America, sustain the Environmental Protection Agency for two years, or provide 3 million Pell grants for needy college students. In short, there are hundreds of good places to invest $25 billion in America and our people. Trump’s wall just isn’t one of them.
Our Week in Duluth
On Monday Duluth Mayor Emily Larson addressed the public on the status of the proposed Northern Lights Express passenger rail service between Minneapolis and Duluth. The event allowed community members from along the route of the proposed railway to share what the service would mean for them and their community. They also discussed ways to move the project into construction. Special guest, MnDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle, also addressed the crowd and mentioned all planning is done for the long-term project; his hope is to see it constructed within the next few years. Congressional Field Representative Hannah Alstead attended on my behalf.
Our Week in Saint Paul
Meeting with State Representative John Poston and discussing the need to widen Highway 10 through Wadena. I promised the Representative that I would look for additional federal funds that could be used for this very important safety project.
Had the opportunity to sit down with State Representative Rob Ecklund to discuss how we can collaborate and secure federal funds for important projects in Koochiching County.
Able to visit with my State Representative, Josh Heintzeman, at his office in St. Paul. We discussed exciting possibilities in his district, including a proposed National Loon Center in Crosslake.
It was great to sit down with State Senator Tom Bakk and State Senator David Tomassoni to discuss upcoming legislation in the Minnesota Senate that will impact constituents throughout the Eighth Congressional District. We also discussed the PolyMet land exchange bill I passed earlier this year in the U.S. House and its economic benefits for the region.
Our Week in Pine City
My District Director Jeff Anderson snapped this picture during the monthly Northern Lights Express Meeting in Pine City. The NLX project is at an exciting point in its development and is one step closer to reality. Last month, the Federal Rail Administration approved the NLX plan and issued a finding of "No Significant Impact". We are ready to build and to get trains and people on the tracks!
Our Week in Virginia
Last week, the monthly St. Louis County Drug Task Force Meeting was held at the Northland Building in Virginia. My Congressional Field Representative Jordan Metsa met with about 15 regional healthcare providers and first responders to give them an update on my efforts in Washington to battle the opioid epidemic that has plagued an entire generation with addiction. Congress must do more to provide the life saving resources needed to help put an end to this tragic issue and give people a real chance for recovery.
Our Week in Golden Valley
Last week, the 'NAFTA Works - Impacts on US Agricultural Forum' was held in Golden Valley. The event was put on by AgriGrowth with Mexican Consul Gerardo Guerrero and Canada’s Consul General Paul Connors to discuss U.S. trade with these countries. My Congressional Field Representative Rick Olseen attended the event on my behalf.
Our Week in Chisholm
Over 50 community civic leaders, agency representatives, and regional residents gathered for the Annual Iron Range Cool and Creative Get Together held at the Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm. The event was sponsored by the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB). The meetings focused on the arts and expanding artistic work and projects across the Iron Range. My Congressional Field Representative Jordan Metsa attended the event on my behalf.
Our Week in Big Falls
This photo captures one of the many giant timber piles stacked just off the side of the road throughout Koochiching County. Big timber piles like this are a familiar site for many northern Minnesotans, especially as the timber harvesting season comes to a close.
A Minnesota Hidden Gem...Koochiching State Forest
Nolan Congressional Field Representative Jordan Metsa captured the beauty of one of Minnesota's almost 60 state forests on his drive through Koochiching one evening. At just under 568,000 acres, it is one of the largest forests in the state. Koochiching State Forest borders Rainy Lake at Minnesota's northern border and encompasses the city of International Falls.