Dr. Boozman's Check-up
Mar 28 2014
Telephone townhall announced, Senate-passage of Ukraine assistance package, IRS free file and much more in this edition of the “Week in Review.”
- Telephone Townhall Announced: Our next telephone town hall is this coming Monday, March 31st. Sign-up here.
- Senate Approves Ukraine Assistance: While President Obama signed an executive order that authorizes limited sanctions against those responsible, we must continue to seek ways to assist the Ukrainians and our allies in the region, including the additional sanctions outlined in this bill.
- Supporting the Three Rivers Study: The Arkansas and Oklahoma Congressional delegations sent a joint letter to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works in support of a study that would "help ensure the continued viability of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System."
- Turning up the Heat on Joseph Kony: President Obama has ordered the deployment of additional aircraft and U.S. military personnel to assist African forces in the efforts to hunt down warlord Joseph Kony. This is an effort we should support.
- Take Advantage of IRS Free File: Tax day is drawing near and there’s easy, convenient and free way to file federal tax returns that doesn’t involve spending countless hours with a pencil, calculator and eraser.
- Red Cross Month: If there is anything that can be learned for our circumstances this winter, it is the need to be prepared. Now that spring is upon us, we have a different form of extreme weather to deal with—tornadoes. It’s the perfect reminder to be prepared.
Mar 27 2014
Tax day is drawing near and there’s easy, convenient and free way to file federal tax returns that doesn’t involve spending countless hours with a pencil, calculator and eraser.
The Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Free File program offers taxpayers with a 2013 Adjusted Gross Income of $58,000 the opportunity to prepare, complete and e-file their federal tax returns at no cost. Free File also offers basic federal e-filing services regardless of income.
Free File takes the taxing out of taxes and provides eligible taxpayers with free online individual income tax preparation and electronic filing services. This is an easy and convenient way to file a tax return or submit an extension.
Since 2003, 40 million taxpayers have taken advantage of the Free File program, saving about $1.2 billion a year.
“Free File makes tax time simple, fast and free for 70 percent of Americans,” Tim Hugo, executive director of the Free File Alliance said. “Since 2003, the Free File Alliance has partnered with the IRS to give taxpayers access to leading online tax preparation software and critical step-by-step support. This year, we invite every taxpayer making $58,000 or less to join the 40 million Americans who have already saved time and money by using Free File.”
Free File is made possible through a public-private partnership between the IRS and the Free File Alliance, a non-profit coalition of leading tax software companies. IRS Free File is available at www.IRS.gov/freefile, which provides a list of Free File Alliance member companies and their free tax software offerings.
This is an important program. That’s why I cosponsored S. 669, the Free File Program Act. This bill would authorize and direct the Treasury Secretary to continue to operate the IRS Free File Program that provides all taxpayers with the opportunity to complete and file electronically their federal tax returns at no cost to the taxpayer.
Mar 25 2014
As the Washington Post first reported, President Obama has ordered the deployment of additional aircraft and U.S. military personnel to assist African forces in the efforts to hunt down warlord Joseph Kony.
This is an effort we should support. Kony is a madman who must be stopped.
For over 25 years, his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has caused untold pain to children and families in countries across central Africa. The rebel group is responsible for a litany of human rights violations including abduction, rape, torture and murder. Under direct orders from Kony, the LRA has abducted children, turning the girls into concubines and the boys into child soldiers forcing them back into their villages to torture and kill their relatives.
This effort builds upon the original mission announced in 2011. Approximately 100 U.S. forces were deployed to central Africa in an advisory capacity to provide technical assistance to regional forces working toward the removal of Kony and senior LRA commanders from the battlefield. The additional personnel will supplement the forces already in the region.
In addition to the humanitarian reasons, it is important to note the limitations placed on this mission which include:
- U.S. military personnel deployed on this mission are only authorized to “provide information, advice and assistance” to African troops tracking Kony and his organization across Uganda, the Central African Republic (CAR), South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC);
- They are prohibited from engaging Kony’s forces unless in self-defense;
- The additional aircraft will only be used for troop transport.
Despite the coordinated efforts of the United Nations, African Union and our own military advisors, Kony’s exact whereabouts remain a mystery. The President’s announcement this week hopefully will increase our chances of solving that mystery.
I have worked with my colleagues in Congress to give the Obama Administration the tools it needs to help hunt Kony down. In an effort to increase the chances of pinpointing an exact location of Kony, then-Senator John Kerry (D-MA) and I worked to expand the State Department’s Rewards for Justice program to make it applicable to anyone who offers information that leads to his arrest or conviction. We continue to seek other ways to help track this elusive war criminal down.
The key to capturing Kony is not superior firepower. Nor is it more troops. It is going to come down to human intelligence. This is where the U.S. truly can play a role and provide strong support. I am pleased to see that the Obama Administration expanding those efforts. Hopefully this will lead to Kony’s apprehension and the restoration of peace and security to the region.
Mar 19 2014
This past winter brought a great deal of snow, sleet and ice to Arkansas and along with it, all the dangers that come along with these types of severe weather. Now that spring is upon us, we have a different form of extreme weather to deal with—tornadoes.
Tornadoes are among the most violent weather conditions we face. While weather patterns that may produce tornadoes are unpredictable, there are still steps we can take to protect our families and help our communities before the sirens sound.
The Red Cross provides a good resource. As one of the nation’s best known humanitarian organizations, the Red Cross has been helping families and communities recover from disasters for over 130 years. The organization has an excellent online education program dubbed “Red Cross Ready.”
There are three keys to being “Red Cross Ready”—get a kit, make a plan and be informed.
- Get a Kit: At a minimum, have basic supplies together and at hand to evacuate and survive. These include water, non-perishable food, first aid kit, flashlights, battery-charged radio, extra batteries, cell phone charger and cash, among other items. Ensure everyone in your household knows where to find this kit in the event of an emergency.
- Make a Plan: In the event you need to evacuate immediately, the Red Cross encourages you to identify two ways to escape from every room in the home, practice your escape plan at least twice a year and select a safe location away from the home where your family can meet after escaping.
- Be Informed: Know what actions to take to protect yourself and your family from the various disasters that could strike your community. Identify how local authorities will notify you and know the differences between various weather alerts.
Along with helping you and your family prepare, the Red Cross has opportunities to help your community in advance of a disaster as well.
The organization’s #BeAHero campaign recognizes “Everyday Heroes” who in some way help their individual community by giving of themselves and encourages others to #BeAHero too.
Here’s how the Red Cross says you can #BeAHero too:
- Give Blood: One pint of blood can save up to three lives. Learn about the donation process, eligibility requirements and where to give blood.
- Take a Red Cross Class on First Aid and CPR: Each year, an average of more than 9 million people gain the skills they need to prepare for and respond to emergencies through American Red Cross training classes. This includes First Aid and CPR training. You can join their ranks by getting certified through Red Cross.
- Download Free Red Cross Preparedness Apps: When disaster strikes, there is an app to help you locate Red Cross shelters. There are emergency-specific apps including one to get your family and home ready in the event of a flood and another to teach everything you need to know prepare for a tornado. There’s even an app to help protect your family pet.
Since 1943, the President of the United States has proclaimed March as “Red Cross Month.” It is still as necessary today. Being prepared and helping our neighbors in a time of crisis are everlasting needs. I encourage you to take the time now to be prepared should disaster strike your community.
Mar 14 2014
President Obama has made a habit of picking and choosing which laws he wishes to enforce and abide by, hiding behind the power of executive order authority. This willingness to circumvent the law and Congressional authority is apparent when he gives waivers during the troubled rollout of his signature health care law, his decisions not to deport enforcement of immigration laws and a whole host of other areas.
For example, in the past year, the Obama Administration has delayed or modified Obamacare twenty times. Last week, the Administration announced it would yet again delay Obamacare’s minimum coverage requirements for health plans offered by insurance companies to avoid another wave of cancellations this fall.
The President’s role is to faithfully execute the law as written. Faithful execution of a law does not mean picking winners and losers.
It is not up to the President to selectively decide which portions of a law to enforce and which to ignore. Commonsense suggests that the President may enjoy some discretion while implementing a law, but willfully ignoring entire portions of a law far exceeds that leeway.
This week, the House of Representatives took a step toward reining in these abuses of power by passing the ENFORCE the Law Act of 2014, which makes it easier for Congress, as part of its oversight powers, to sue the executive branch for failing to enforce the law. Read the bill below.
While the House was considering this very bill, I joined with Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) and twenty-two of our colleagues to introduce a companion bill in the Senate. It aims to eliminate the procedural hurdles put in front of previous attempts by Members of Congress, and ad hoc groups of Members, to seek judicial review of alleged failures by the president to faithfully execute the law.
This is not the President’s prerogative; it is the President’s responsibility. This bill will restore much-needed accountability back to the executive branch and put some teeth into Congressional oversight.
Mar 14 2014
We had a busy week in Washington that included fairness and relief for all Americans suffering under Obamacare, fighting for military families, recognition for supporting free market efforts to improve our economy and much more in this edition of the “Week in Review.”
- Obamacare Delay: I remain committed to repealing and replacing Obamacare but until then Americans deserve to be treated fairly under this law. That means delaying the individual mandate penalty as long as the employer mandate is waived.
- The ENFORCE Act: The House of Representatives took a step toward reining in Presidential abuses of power by passing the ENFORCE the Law Act of 2014, which makes it easier for Congress, as part of its oversight powers, to sue the executive branch for failing to enforce the law. We have a companion bill in the Senate and I am working to help get it passed.
- Uphold the Religious Freedom Restoration Act: Congressman Randy Forbes (R-VA) and I authored a piece for National Review on the opportunity the Supreme Court has later this month to reconsider the Obamacare mandate that forces employers to offer contraceptive and sterilization services that violate their religious beliefs. Read it here.
- Fighting for Military Families: The defense budget proposes to slash even more benefits our military families need. On Thursday I delivered a speech on the Senate floor saying "cuts on our military families are unacceptable and I will fight to preserve the benefits our military families were promised."
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce Recognition: I was honored to receive the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s prestigious “Spirit of Enterprise” award for supporting free market efforts to improve our economy during the first session of the 113th Congress.
- ICD-10: The healthcare community is forced to comply with a government mandate to update a new generation of diagnosis codes. This includes codes for such strange injuries like spending too much time in a deep-freeze refrigerator or a large toe that has gone unexpectedly missing. This sounds crazy, but it’s true. Read more about our efforts to stop the adoption of these codes.
- Supporting Small Aircraft Pilots: We are leading efforts to exempt pilots flying a broader range of aircraft eligible for third class medical exemption which expands sport pilot medical standards with the introduction of the General Aviation Pilot Protection, Act.
- Arkansas U.S. Senate Youth Program Delegates: We were pleased to welcome Abhilasha Gokulan of Little Rock and Adam Williams of Jonesboro to Washington. The students are Arkansas’s delegates to the United States Senate Youth Program and participating in the program’s 52nd annual Washington Week.
Mar 11 2014
Before serving in Congress I worked as an optometrist in an eye clinic that my brother and I started in Rogers, Arkansas which helps me understand the challenges small business and health care providers face when having to comply with a new regulation. It’s about to get a lot worse. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recently announced that hospitals and physicians have to adopt a new generation of diagnosis codes.
The Weekly Standard recently published “Code Chaos” that discusses the new process called ICD-10 and the problems that health experts are expecting.
“Virtually everyone agrees that the transition will mean decreased productivity and lost revenue, at least for a time. Some experts, dismissed as alarmists by ICD-10 enthusiasts, are predicting widespread chaos in a sector of the economy that can little afford it,” the article reads.
ICD-10 is a very convoluted process that increases the number of codes by more than 120,000. This includes codes for some bizarre and rare injuries like this Washington Post story points to which includes spending too much time in a deep-freeze refrigerator or a large toe that has gone unexpectedly missing. This sounds made-up. Unfortunately, it’s all too true. This is why I joined with senate doctors to introduce the Cutting Costly Codes Act, S. 972, which would stop the adoption of ICD-10 codes.
The sponsors of the legislation recently sent the letter attached below to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner questioning CMS’ plan to perform front-end testing of the ICD-10 billing code system during the first week of March.
“Given the size and scope of the potential transition to ICD-10, the brevity and limited scope of this test is worrisome. This change will impact millions of physicians and patients, and hundreds of billions of dollars in payments that flow through Medicare and Medicaid. Other major federal IT projects--such as the implementation of Healthcare.gov--have demonstrated the importance of thorough pre-testing every aspect of new systems, both the front-end and back-end components. System-wide errors and delay could adversely impact both patients’ own pocketbooks and provider cash flows,” we wrote in the letter.
Mar 07 2014
We’re bringing our office to you, the President submits his budget to Congress, the Senate confirms a new federal judge for Arkansas and much more in this edition of the “Week in Review.”
- Mobile Offices: We’re making it easier to reach our office by bringing it to you. We hosted two Mobile Office events this week and there are many other opportunities to meet with my staff. Find out where we’ll be during March.
- Budget: President Obama submitted his fiscal year 2015 budget to Congress. Unfortunately, it’s more of the same. This reckless plan would increase total spending by 63 percent from today’s levels and add $8.3 trillion to the debt over the next 10 years.
- Crisis in Ukraine: Thursday was the five-year anniversary of the Obama administration’s declaration of a “reset” with Russia. Unfortunately, that fresh start doesn’t look very good today. I joined a bipartisan group of Senators to introduce a resolution that condemns the Russian military siege of Crimea, calling for a withdrawal of those troops, and a negotiated settlement to any concerns regarding the Crimea. It also urges the administration and European Union to use a range of economic and diplomatic leverage against Russia should it fail to abide by these basic international norms. Watch this for more on my thoughts on the Ukraine crisis.
- Veterans’ Affairs Committee Hearings: We were pleased to welcome Arkansas veterans who were in Washington representing Veterans Service Organizations (VSO). These leading veteran’s advocates share their priorities with the Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs Committees. We talked with the VFW commander and served as the Ranking Member during a hearing on Thursday with other VSOs where we discussed the best ways we can help veterans receive the benefits they earned.
- Judicial Confirmation: The Senate confirmed Timothy Brooks to serve as United States District Court Judge for the Western District of Arkansas. His nomination was unanimously approved. I spoke in support of his nomination on the Senate floor.
- Merchant Marine Academy: During the 112th Congress, Vice President Joe Biden appointed me to serve on the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Board of Visitors, the academy’s official oversight board. Current law creates a Board for the USMMA, but the law does adequately structure the Board to carry out its oversight duties so I introduced the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Board of Visitors Enhancement. This bill would improve the ability of the Board to perform critical oversight responsibilities and continue to train merchant mariners/military officers to meet critical national sealift needs.
Mar 06 2014
This week KFFB has been airing our discussion with station General Manager and owner Bob Connell. We were happy to meet with Bob in our Washington office last week as a representative of the Arkansas Broadcasters Association. We talked about issues important to the industry and later we talked about some other issues important to Arkansans. If you missed it you can listen to our interview on the following topics: Obamacare, proposed cuts to the military, the Farm Bill and energy including the propane shortage.