Dr. Boozman's Check-up

Sep 24 2013

Tele-Town Hall

We hosted a tele-town hall last night. Don’t worry if you missed it, you can listen to the conversation here. If you are interested in participating in our next event sign-up here. We had a great conversation about some of the issues Washington is debating and working to solve.  We appreciate the involvement and taking the time to talk with us.

Sep 19 2013

It's Been Five Years

Today marks the five-year anniversary of the State Department receiving TransCanada’s application to build the Keystone XL pipeline. After four environmental studies that all concluded that there would be no significant impact along the proposed route to refineries in Texas, we are still waiting for the President to sign off on this important project that will jumpstart job creation and help reduce our dependence on oil from unstable regimes. 

If the President is serious about job creation, he needs to give Keystone XL the green light. This would support more than 40,000 jobs nationwide during construction including in Arkansas. Natural State businesses and workers would benefit from this project. Keystone XL would have a big economic impact, with the investment of $5.3 billion in the U.S. economy. 

While governors in the states in which the pipeline will travel through support the project, the ultimate decision rests with the State Department and the President. The State Department has conducted the studies, and each time, the results show it is environmentally safe. It’s time to stop talking and analyzing and finally begin construction.

Earlier this month, I joined Senator John Thune (R-SD) to introduce the Union Bailout Prevention Act. This bill would prevent the Obama administration from granting unions a special exemption from Obamacare.

While we work to bring this bill up for a vote, we have to remain vigilant as this Administration makes it a practice to impose its will through the regulatory process when legislative success is unachievable. 

That’s why I joined twenty of my colleagues to urge the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Sylvia Burwell to prohibit union health plans from receiving a carve-out in Obamacare, specifically premium assistance tax credits that are intended for the uninsured to purchase health insurance – a benefit no non-union member in America would receive.

Our letter reads in part, “The new health care law is clear that taxpayer-funded premium assistance credits are intended for low-to-middle income Americans without access to affordable insurance through an employer and who purchase health insurance through the new state-based exchanges. The fact is that Taft-Hartley union health plans are not exchange-based plans—rather, they are employer-sponsored health plans. Providing union members with a benefit not afforded to non-union employees is grossly unfair to every non-union worker in America who would receive no such special carve out from the health care law.”

Click on the attachment below to read the letter in its entirety. 

In 2013, more than 22,000 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer. It is considered the deadliest gynecologic cancer and is the fifth leading cause of death in women who have been diagnosed with some form of cancer. This year, it is projected that just over 14,000 women will die due to advanced stage ovarian cancer.

All women are at risk for ovarian cancer, with 1 in 72 at risk for being diagnosed with an invasive form of the cancer. There is currently no reliable form of early detection when it comes to ovarian cancer. The symptoms often times are confused with the symptoms of other diseases, and in 75 percent of known cases, the cancer has time to progress into late to advanced stages before being diagnosed. Because of this, the overall five year survival rate is only 46 percent. This hasn’t decreased much in the 40 years since the “War on Cancer” began.

This is why I joined a group of my colleagues to introduce a Senate-passed resolution that designates September as National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Our resolution expresses the Senate’s support for increasing awareness of the symptoms and preventative measures to the national stage in hopes that a quicker diagnoses can be made and give women a greater chance of survival. 

We wrote this for The Hill to highlight our continued efforts to develop new ways to improve  health care for our military personnel and veterans.

Veterans deserve innovative care

By Sen. John Boozman 

Our United States Armed Forces always answer when called on to defend our nation and the American people. With every new assignment, our men and women in uniform face unique challenges; as does our nation in caring for their needs.

During a visit to Landstuhl Air Base in Germany, I spoke with one soldier who had just sustained life-altering injuries. His first question was “Will I ever walk again?” Because of the advances in medicine and technology, I was able to answer with a confident “yes.” 

Service members are returning home today from combat having survived catastrophic attacks that would have claimed their lives in previous conflicts. While this is great news, it also means that more men and women are returning with unprecedented injuries and we are diligently treating all types of wounds.

This requires a collective effort between patients, doctors, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and Congress. This unified goal has produced results. 

It became apparent to service members and physicians that we needed to improve eye care when military personnel were showing similar symptoms. As an eye care provider, I joined ophthalmologists and optometrists to solve this problem and introduced the Military Eye Trauma Treatment Act. This legislation created the Vision Center of Excellence (VCE) — a Department of Defense and VA partnership to ensure that our troops who have sustained eye-related injuries receive the best practices and treatment possible.

Impaired vision can be an overlooked side effect of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Since 2000 more than 273,000 service members have suffered from some form of TBI. Some require rehabilitative services while those with the most severe cases need help caring for their basic needs. As we continue to enhance and upgrade care, we can see where there is room for improvement. 

Last Congress I introduced legislation to advance rehabilitation for TBI to encompass comprehensive care that includes physical and mental health needs as well as striving for long-term recovery and improving the quality of life. Fortunately, this legislation was passed as part of a broader veterans’ benefits bill. 

More than 80 percent of TBI is classified as mild, but we have a responsibility to provide services for these invisible injuries. New and innovative methods are empowering our wounded warriors, and organizations are joining in the fight to help veterans live fulfilling lives despite the challenges of TBI, post-traumatic stress disorder and other catastrophic injuries. 

Outdoor and recreational based therapy, like Rivers of Recovery, has proven successful at helping veterans who have been physically and psychologically injured during military service. This unique program takes advantage of self-awareness, meditation and other techniques through the medium of fishing. Anything that we can do to speed-up their recovery is a step worth taking. 

We are blessed to have great partners who provide their expertise on this road to recovery as we find alternative approaches to medicine and rehabilitation. The United States Olympic Committee Paralympic Military and Veteran Programs make a big impact on the quality of life for thousands of injured military personnel and veterans with its adaptive sports program. I encourage my colleagues to continue this program that has made a dramatic impact on the health of our wounded warriors. Congress should reauthorize this program so it can continue to provide our service members and veterans with this rehabilitation opportunity and improve their quality of life. 

American citizens have been inspired and united by the courage of the men and women fighting the War on Terror. The challenges of the landscape and fighting by insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq forced us to devise innovative methods of combat. We must be equally innovative while seeking ways to assist and empower service members during their recovery from the injuries and challenges they face once they leave the battlefield. 

As the son of a master sergeant in the Air Force, I am familiar with the sacrifices of troops and their families that don’t end when these brave men and women return home. Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, our men and women in uniform have faced new and unique injuries and we, in turn, are constantly updating and revising the ways we address healthcare for our active duty military and the needs of our veterans. We have made remarkable progress but we can’t forget the fundamentals. The VA and Congress need to continue to address the claims backlog and improve access to services so we can honor our commitment to help heal the wounds of war and fully integrate these warriors back into the community.

Boozman is the junior senator from Arkansas, elected in 2010. He sits on the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, as well as the Appropriations, the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and the Environment and Public Works committees.

While much of the international community’s attention was turned toward the atrocities in Syria, human rights violations were occurring elsewhere in the world.  

Take for instance the horrific attack that recently took place at Camp Ashraf in Iraq's Diyala province.

Camp Ashraf has long been home to Iranian exiles who now find themselves on the losing end of a closer Iraqi-Iranian relationship. Earlier this month, 52 of the approximately 100 remaining Camp Ashraf residents were shot dead and seven have gone missing, presumed to have been taken hostage by the attackers.

I strongly condemn the mass executions of innocent residents of Camp Ashraf and call for the immediate release of any hostages taken during that event.

It is highly likely that Iraqi security forces loyal to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki are responsible for the killings. Iraqi officials deny involvement and say an internal dispute is to blame.

An investigation into this terrible event is underway. It must be allowed to move forward with interference from the Iraqi government. Outside groups such as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which has already issued a disturbing statement “praising” the brutal murder of these exiles, need to stay out of this and let the UN investigation transpire.

Both the Iraqi and Iranian governments should be using whatever influence they may have with groups that may be holding missing persons from the camp to secure their immediate release.

It is also vital that all parties cooperate with the proposed plan to relocate the survivors at Camp Hurriya while the UN works to secure commitments from host countries to allow permanent relocation for them.

This tragic event is a perfect of example of how our responsibilities do not end even long after the military intervention is over. The US and the rest of the international community have an obligation to ensure that whoever is responsible for these murders are held accountable and that any and all hostages are immediately released.

Most of the attention in the Senate’s first week back was focused on Syria. Read my thoughts on the President’s proposed military strike and more in this “Week in Review.”

  • Why I oppose U.S. military involvement in Syria: The American people are weary of becoming involved in another U.S. military engagement. In the weeks since the President first proposed a military strike against Bashar Assad’s regime, the majority of Americans have become more convinced that the President lacks a plan to accomplish his goals. Many have become more concerned in that time that these goals aren't even well defined. Without a clear path forward, I agree with them and continue to oppose the use of military force in Syria.
     
  • Obamacare waivers for all, not some: This week, President Obama was told by the head of the AFL-CIO that unless he offers a special Obamacare deal for union members, he faces a revolt from one of his staunchest allies. While this should not be allowed to move forward, and we are working to prevent it from happening, the demand raises a bigger concern than just whether union members should get special treatment. There is a simple solution to this problem. Let’s exempt EVERYONE from the law.

  • Visiting with KASU: I was on KASU’s morning program earlier this week to discuss the situation in Syria, Obamacare and the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Listen to the entire interview at KASU’s website.

  • Hunger Action Month: September is Hunger Action Month and we're highlighting how community involvement is essential to this fight. Here we are at the Arkansas Rice Depot. We followed this with a visit to the Arkansas Food Bank. I also wrote about this important topic in my weekly column which you can read here

Today, President Obama was told by the head of the AFL-CIO that unless he offers a special Obamacare deal for union members, he faces a revolt from one of his staunchest allies.

While this should not be allowed to move forward, and we are working to prevent it from happening, the demand raises a bigger concern than just whether union members should get special treatment. 

Americans are seeing just how bad Obamacare is by the amount of delays and waivers being issued to various constituencies. The President’s allies literally are scrambling to get special exemptions.

Which leaves the rest of America asking, “Where’s my exemption?” They rightfully want to know why they have to follow a law that the President’s allies aren’t following.

Here’s a novel solution to this problem. Let’s exempt EVERYONE from the law.

That’s exactly what a group of us in the U.S. Senate have proposed. My colleague Senator Dan Coats (R-IN) and I have introduced a bill to delay the individual and employer mandates included in Obamacare until 2015.

Not only is this a matter of fairness, but it will save money. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that delaying the individual mandate would reduce the federal deficit by $35 billion over the next decade.

The steady flow of implementation problems is proof-positive that Obamacare is bad policy, and exemptions from bad policy shouldn’t be given only to a chosen few, but to all. That’s why Congress needs to pass our bill. Let’s give everyone the benefits that the President is seeking for his allies. 

Amid a flurry of Obamacare waivers and delays, lies one carve-out-in-waiting for one of the President’s staunchest allies—the unions.

President Obama has already delayed several key provisions of his signature health care reform law. Now it appears that the administration is seriously considering moving forward, once again, with another special exemption from the law.

To prevent the President from violating his own law, I joined Senator John Thune (R-SD) to introduce the Union Bailout Prevention Act. This bill would prevent the Obama administration from granting union requests for special subsidies.

Unions' healthcare plans are currently treated like employer-based insurance. The President’s law will provide subsidies to individuals who cannot afford health insurance if they do not receive coverage through an employer. Union bosses are asking for subsidies for their members on top of the generous health plans they already get, for which their employers receive tax credits. If they get this exemption, taxpayers will be double-subsidizing union members’ health plans. This money, intended for the uninsured, should not be directed to union members who already have healthcare subsidies from their employers.

The implementation of this bad law has been nothing short of disastrous. The carve-outs and delays are all the more reason why we need to repeal and replace Obamacare—not for one special interest, but  for all. 

Sep 11 2013

Update on Syria

*This post was originally published in the latest edition of our newsletter which went out today. If you are not already a subscriber, be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay apprised of the latest happenings in the Senate.* 

There is no doubt that the suffering inflicted upon the Syrian people who are caught in a civil war to free their country from a brutal, authoritarian regime calls for a response from the international community. Confirmation that Bashar Assad’s regime used a nerve agent against civilians, killing over a thousand in the process, defines the gravity of the situation. The use of chemical weapons, banned by international law for nearly 100 years, is a crime against humanity. There certainly is a need for world powers to intervene.

But what level of U.S. response is appropriate?

For weeks, President Obama has been making the case that the only way to assert U.S. power is to send the regime a message with a unilateral, punitive response. He still appears to be keeping that option on the table regardless of what our allies, Congress and the American people think.

However, there may still be a diplomatic answer. A plan for Syria to relinquish its chemical weapons, initiated by Russia and agreed to by Syria, has the potential to take these weapons of mass destruction out of Assad’s hands. While we should be skeptical of any deal between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Assad, a deal Putin now appears to be hedging, the U.S. needs to pursue every diplomatic avenue. 

It is important to see if we can resolve this issue through diplomatic efforts.

The people of Arkansas have spoken loudly, and almost universally, in opposition to President Obama’s request to authorize a U.S. military strike against Syria. They remain unconvinced that military force is the only way to resolve this issue or that it would successfully prevent Assad from further brutal attacks on civilians. It only takes one look at Libya, which is in complete chaos, to see that it’s very difficult to get untangled once you are involved in this type of conflict.

The American people are weary of becoming involved in another U.S. military engagement. In the weeks since the President first proposed a military strike against Assad’s regime, the majority of Americans have become more convinced that the President lacks a plan to accomplish his goals. Many have become more concerned in that time that these goals aren't even well defined.

Without a clear path forward, I agree with them and continue to oppose the use of military force in Syria.

Watch and read some of the interviews we’ve done about Syria.

KASU - Boozman discusses Syria, and reflects on 9/11
40/29 - Why Sen. Boozman says he'll vote no on Syria
Magnolia Reporter - Sen. Boozman thinks this is the wrong time to strike Syria
Hot Springs Sentinel-Record Boozman skeptical on action in Syria (subscription required)
Arkansas Democrat Gazette - Hoping Obama listens, say 5 Arkansans in Congress (subscription required)

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Boozman Office, Mercy Hospital Share Update on Senator's Progress Toward Recovery

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