Dr. Boozman's Check-up

This week the Senate is debating amendments to the Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). I introduced several amendments including one based on the Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act (S.2712), legislation I introduced earlier this year to prevent taxing the severance pay of combat-injured veterans.

The Pentagon has been withholding combat-related disability severance payments because of an automated payment system error, which has potentially impacted nearly 14,000 veterans.

Watch this news report about the impact to one Arkansas veteran.

Here’s what they’re saying in support of the Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act:

Legislation is Key to Fixing This Problem

“Those who serve this nation and are impacted by that arduous service, deserve no less,said Michael Angelo Coon, member of the Air Force Sergeants Association, which represents current and former members of the Air Force.

“I see this as a priority for Congress to take action on”

“Please do all you can to pass this legislation,” Coon pleads. (Grand Forks Herald, “LETTERS: Combat-injured Veterans Deserve Tax Fairness,” 4/7/16) 

Veterans are Grateful the Issue is Finally Being Addressed

Army Staff Sergeant Brandon Davis told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette that he didn’t think he would ever see the money again. Davis was relieved when he got a call from our office saying that we are working to help him and others get their money back.

Davis said that the money “may be a life changer” to some veterans that were affected. (Arkansas Democrat Gazette, “Boozman Bill Aims to Get Vets Refunds,” 5/16/16)

Supported by the American Legion

“The American Legion ... has worked with veterans in the past to recover these funds.”

The group has specialists who regularly advise transitioning service members on the tax and have them sign paperwork to prevent the tax from being taken out. (Military.com, “Bill Would Reimburse Combat-Injured Vets for Taxed Severance Pay,” 3/17/16)

We Need to Take Better Care of Those Who Fought for Us

“They fought for their country and so deserve every penny of that settlement, in order to make the transition to daily life again” says Brian Carlton of The News Virginian.

Carlton understands that taking care of our veterans is of the utmost importance. All four of his grandparents, as well as three cousins and several childhood friends, have served in our nation’s military. (The News Virginian, “We Can’t Lose Focus On What’s Important,” 4/30/16)

Col. Tamhra Hutchins-Frye recently received a promotion to Brigadier General in the Arkansas Air National Guard, the first woman to obtain this rank in the Arkansas Air National Guard.

Read the story published in the Times Record.

I was proud to recognize her accomplishment in the Congressional Record, the official proceedings of Congress, with the following statement: 

Mr. President, I rise today to congratulate Tamhra Hutchins-Frye on her recent promotion to Brigadier General in the Arkansas Air National Guard.

Brigadier General Hutchins-Frye was born in Bakersfield, California and entered the Air National Guard in November 1984 as an Airman First Class. She received her commission in August 1989 through the Academy of Military Science in Knoxville, Tennessee and has held various assignments in the 188th Fighter Wing in Fort Smith, Arkansas, the 189th Airlift Wing at the Little Rock Air Force Base, and Arkansas Air National Guard and Joint Force Headquarters at Camp Robinson in North Little Rock.

She was deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom as the Chief of Staff of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s Afghanistan Transformation Task Force and then the Headquarters International Security Assistance Force where she helped lead the transformation of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan as it transitioned to self-rule.

Tamhra earned a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Arkansas Tech University in 1983 and a Master of Arts in Human Resource Management from Webster University in 2012.  She has also completed numerous trainings and programs during her time in the Air National Guard. 

As a dedicated member of the Air National Guard, Hutchins-Frye has been awarded the Legion of Merit and a Bronze Star. She is also an active member of her community and takes a proactive role in giving back and investing in the lives of others as displayed by her roles as Co-Chairman of the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas’s Girls of Promise and as a member of the Board of Directors of Heart of Arkansas United Way, among other types of service.

Mr. President, it is also important to note that Brigadier General Hutchins-Frye is the first woman to obtain this rank in the Arkansas Air National Guard. By virtue of this latest achievement in her impressive and distinguished career, she serves as role model for many, including the young women in our Armed Forces, of how hard work and professionalism can lead to historic and ground-breaking achievements.

I offer my sincere congratulations to Brigadier General Tamhra Hutchins-Frye on this momentous occasion and I applaud her continued commitment and dedication to our nation’s readiness. I know she will continue to make Arkansas proud in this new chapter of her career.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) needs to address the vulnerability of airport security and potential risks of insider threats according to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

The report recommends that TSA update its operational assessment “to reflect changes in the airport security risk environment, such as TSA’s subsequent determination of risk from the insider threat—the potential of rogue aviation workers exploiting their credentials, access, and knowledge of security procedures throughout the airport for personal gain or to inflict damage.”

As The Hill reports, insider threats are to blame for breaches at airports around the world.

In April, I joined my colleagues in the Senate to improve airport security by passing a comprehensive Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill that strengthens air traveler security.

The bill enhances requirements and vetting for airport employees with access to secure areas, reduces crowds at security checkpoints by screening passengers in advance and providing unneeded TSA security equipment to international airports with direct flights to the United States to improve inspection of passengers and their luggage.

These safety reforms are important to preventing terror attacks at our airports. The recent attack on the Belgium airport serves as a reminder that terrorists remain committed to attacking our airlines and infrastructure. I’m committed to taking the necessary action to protect air travelers. I urge my colleagues in the House to pass this legislation to improve safety at our airports.

Here’s rundown of the bills I have signed on to support in recent weeks:

Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability Act of 2015 (S. 1082): I co-sponsored Sen. Marco Rubio’s bill that would empower the Veterans Administration (VA) to remove or demote an employee based on performance or misconduct

FUELS Act (S. 2993): I’ve co-sponsored Sen. Deb Fischer’s bill, the Farmers Undertake Environmental Land Stewardship Act (FUELS Act), which would modify costly and burdensome EPA regulations related to on-farm fuel storage. Our farmers and ranchers needs relief from onerous regulations, not further intervention from federal agencies like the EPA. Cutting costs and red-tape will benefit America’s farmers and ranchers. Treating small farmers the same way as large oil refineries makes no sense and I’m proud to support this legislation.

Expressing the sense of the Senate that a carbon tax would be detrimental to the economy of the United States (S. Res. 472): This resolution, introduced by Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), expresses the sense of the Senate that a carbon tax would be detrimental to the U.S. economy.

Expressing support of the goal of ensuring that all Holocaust victims live with dignity, comfort and security in their remaining years (S. Con. Res. 36): I joined Senator Bill Nelson’s resolution which urges a working group in the Federal Republic of Germany to recognize the importance of immediately funding the medical, mental health and long-term care needs of survivors of the Holocaust, particularly any home care and other medically prescribed needs.

Designating May 15-21, 2016 as National Police Week (S. Res. 468): This resolution, which passed the Senate, expresses support for law enforcement officers across the country for their efforts to build safer and more secure communities and recognizes their selfless acts of bravery

You can find a full list of the bills I am cosponsoring in the 114th Congress here and the legislation I have authored here.

I joined KFFB’s ‘Open Mic’ to talk about threats to our national security including ISIS and President Obama’s efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility (Gitmo). I also discussed a provision that I included in the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill to pave the way for Interstate status of a portion of U.S. 67 and my commitment to providing our veterans with the care they earned through legislation introduced this week in the Senate.

Here’s rundown of the bills I have signed on to support in recent weeks:

Veterans First Act (S. 2921): I joined Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, on his bill which seeks to provide further accountability within the VA. Changing the culture with the department is of paramount importance and this bill seeks to continue this push by allowing the secretary to remove VA employees who fail to provide adequate care or service. It also expands and enhances programs to improve outcomes for the men and women who receive services from VA. It also includes two provisions that I authored. The bill is supported by several veteran service organizations, including the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).

Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act (S. 2659): I’ve heard from many Arkansans who are concerned about a proposed rule from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that would crack down on amateur motorsports. I cosponsored legislation introduced by Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) to push back against this executive overreach and reaffirm Congressional intent that EPA regulations do not apply to vehicles used only for competitive purposes.

Protecting Workplace Advancement and Opportunity Act (S. 2707): I signed on as a co-sponsor of Sen. Tim Scott’s (R-SC) bill to ensure that the Department of Labor’s approach to update federal overtime rules is sensible and balanced. The Obama Administration released a proposal that would more than double the salary threshold under which employees qualify for overtime pay, sparking concerns that this will have adverse and negative impacts on employees and employers. S. 2707 seeks to require the Department of Labor to recognize and evaluate the economic impacts of any proposed rule change related to the threshold for wages and overtime.

POLICE Act (S. 2840): I’m supporting Sen. John Cornyn’s (R-TX) legislation, Protecting Our Lives by Initiating COPS Expansion Act, which will allow law enforcement and medical personnel to use federal grant funds in their training to better prepare for active shooter events. This will also allow law enforcement to train civilians to respond to active shooter situations and is supported by the National Fraternal Order of Police.

Recognizing Charter Schools during National Charter Schools Week (S. Res. 449): I support the innovative approach to education embodied in many charter schools across the country. As such, I cosponsored this resolution which congratulates the students, parents, teachers and leaders of charter schools. It also supports the ideals and goals of the 17th annual National Charter Schools Week. 

You can find a full list of the bills I am cosponsoring in the 114th Congress here and the legislation I have authored here.

Iran continues to threaten stability in the Middle East as it amasses a collection of intimidating weapons. The Washington Post reports that earlier this week Russia delivered a S-300 air-defense missile system to Iran, a deal arranged nearly a decade ago.

These countries are following through with a $800 million deal signed in 2007, but was voluntarily put on hold because of a 2010 United Nations Security Council resolution.

President Obama’s weak Iran nuclear deal signaled to Russia that it’s acceptable to sell weapons to Iran, so it’s fulfilling the arms deal.

This is extremely dangerous.

This missile defense system has the capability to strike aircraft 120 miles away. As noted by defense analysts Patrick Megahan and Behnam Ben Taleblu, this system has the potential to target our defenses. “Should an S-300 battery be placed on Iran’s southern coast, Tehran could quickly detect American or allied aircraft taking off from local bases,” they wrote in a posting on The Hill’s Congress blog. 

In recent months we’ve learned that Iran test fired ballistic missiles, violating a UN Security Council resolution. We cannot trust Iran to follow the rules. That’s why I’m very concerned with this purchase.

As we work to protect our national security we need to keep Iran in check in order to deter violence. The President’s flawed Iran nuclear deal makes this more difficult.

Sanctions imposed on Iran restricted what countries it was able to conduct business with. Those have now been removed and now an influx of money is coming into the country.

Last month, the Obama administration agreed to buy heavy water, a component in creating nuclear weapons, from Iran. Today I voted to block the United States from making this purchase. Unfortunately, there was not enough support from my Senate colleagues.

I’m committed to strict scrutiny of Iran and to restoring sanctions immediately.

Did the Obama administration lie to the American people about the controversial Iran nuclear deal? According to an interview with one of the President’s top national security advisors published last week in The New York Times Magazine, the answer is yes.

Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications at the White House, gloated about how the foreign policy team built an ‘echo chamber’ of experts to feed information to inexperienced reporters and sway the American public.

This is very troubling. As an opponent of the Iran nuclear deal, I supported the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, which could have stopped this deal from being implemented. Unfortunately, Senate Democrats blocked the vote required to do so. 

As a result, we are left with the President’s failed strategy to contain Iran, which puts our national security in jeopardy.

USA Today reported earlier today that Iran test fired a ballistic missile two weeks ago. This comes two months after it fired two ballistic missiles with the words “Israel must be wiped out” written on them. This is in clear violation of a United Nations Security Council resolution.

The regime in Tehran hasn’t proven to be trustworthy. Iran actively supports terrorism and aggressively works to destabilize the region. Based on its past actions, I’m convinced that we cannot depend on Iran to live up to its end of the nuclear deal. It must be abandoned and sanctions must be restored.

 

This week Agri-Pulse, a leading resource for federal farm and rural policy, featured an interview with me on it's "Open Mic" segment. 

I discussed legislative efforts to improve federal child nutrition programs with my legislation to reform the summer meal program, the appropriations process, the progress of biotech labeling and my efforts to open up trade with Cuba.

To listen to the ‘Open Mic’ interview click here.

The Hill reported yesterday that the Obama administration is quietly working to decrease the number of prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility (Gitmo).

This comes as no surprise. No new detainee has been transferred to this detention center since President Obama took office because closing Gitmo is one of his unfulfilled campaign promises.

The problem is the president’s actions threaten our national security. We’re fighting global terrorism. That’s why we need to use this state-of-the-art facility and keep dangerous terrorists from plotting attacks against our country. Maintaining this facility and housing terrorists there is the best way to protect American citizens.

With my support, Congress passed, and the president signed legislation prohibiting the transfer of these dangerous terrorists to the United States. Unfortunately this isn’t stopping the president from transferring these vile detainees intent on destroying our way of life, to other countries.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter told CNN in January that there “are people in Gitmo who are so dangerous that we cannot transfer them.” Then why is the president putting our national security at risk?

Removing these terrorists from Gitmo makes us less safe. These terrorists have shown their willingness to continuing fighting against America. In February, the same day the President submitted to Congress his vague “plan” to close Gitmo, Spanish authorities announced they arrested a former Gitmo detainee for recruiting ISIS fighters.

This is not an isolated incident. Obama administration officials have admitted that transferred detainees have reengaged in terrorist activities.

That’s why I’m fighting against the transfer of Gitmo prisoners legislatively by cosponsoring:

  • The Detainee Transfer Transparency Act, legislation to require the Secretary of Defense make available to the public the intended transfer or release of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba at least 21 days in advance.
  • The Protections Against Terrorist Transfer Act, legislation to prohibit the transfer or release of any individual detained at Gitmo to the custody of any foreign country unless the Secretary of Defense certifies to Congress that the individual no longer poses a continuing threat to the security of the United States, its citizens and its interests.

I’m committed to protecting American citizens and that means ensuring Gitmo stays open.