Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act

Medicare Medicaid 50th

December 28, 2015

Statement by the Press Secretary on H.R. 1321, S. 2425

On Monday, December 28, 2015, the President Obama signed into law:

S. 2425, the “Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act,” which makes changes to Medicare payments for certain complex rehabilitation technology and radiation therapy services, provide flexibility in applying a hardship exception from meaningful use of electronic health records, and improve Medicare and Medicaid program integrity.

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Radiation Therapy Alliance Commends Congress for Passing Legislation to Ensure Access to Radiation Therapy Care for Nation’s Cancer Patients

Legislation is essential step to achieving lasting payment stability for needed cancer care services

WASHINGTON, Dec. 18, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Radiation Therapy Alliance (RTA) – a non-profit organization representing freestanding radiation therapy centers that is dedicated to working with policymakers to advance logical, predictable payment reform to ensure patient access to quality cancer care – today commended lawmakers in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives for passing the Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act (S. 2425).

The legislation provides payment stability to freestanding radiation therapy centers by freezing Medicare payment rates for the sector in 2017 and 2018 as it transitions to a new, episodic alternative payment model in 2019.  The legislation also requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to submit to Congress a report on the development of an episodic alternative payment model for payment under the Medicare program within 18 months.

The RTA thanked Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Richard Burr (R-NC), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Dan Coats (R-IN), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Representatives Tom Price (R-GA), Vern Buchanan (R-FL), Kevin Brady (R-TX), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Paul Tonko (D-NY), James Clyburn (D-SC), Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Jim McDermott (D-WA) for their leadership in advancing this vital cancer care legislation.

“The RTA applauds Congress for passing this critical legislation which will ensure patient access to freestanding radiation therapy services across the country,” said Christopher M. Rose, MD, FASTRO, RTA Policy Chair. “Consistent with the legislation, we look forward to working with CMS to craft an Alternative Payment Model for radiation oncology that will ensure access while improving the efficiency and quality of care to Medicare patients.”

Freestanding radiation therapy centers offer patients access to treatments for prostate, breast, lung and other cancers in a convenient and comfortable outpatient setting closer to home, removing the burden of traveling to distant hospitals or specialty centers.

For more: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/radiation-therapy-alliance-commends-congress-for-passing-legislation-to-ensure-access-to-radiation-therapy-care-for-nations-cancer-patients-300195540.html

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Congress Simplifies MU Hardship Exemption Process
AAFP Strongly Supported New Legislation

December 22, 2015 03:42 pm – AAFP

Congress provided a bit of end-of-the year cheer to America’s physicians on Dec. 18 when the U.S. House and Senate passed the Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act(www.congress.gov) with the AAFP’s strong support.

The bill includes a provision that gives CMS the authority — for the next few months — to expedite applications from physicians for a hardship exemption related to meaningful use stage two requirements for the 2015 calendar year.

The expedited “categorical authority” applies only to hardship exemption applications filed before March 15, 2016. Stay tuned for more information on the application process as it becomes available from CMS.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and is widely expected to be signed by the President.

“This heralds a reprieve to physician practices that are unable to successfully attest to meaningful use for 2015, through no fault of their own,” said AAFP President Wanda Filer, M.D., M.B.A., in a Dec. 21 statement about the legislation.

Passage of the bill is important to many family physicians because under current law, physicians participating in the Medicare and Medicaid electronic health record (EHR) incentive programs(www.federalregister.gov) must attest to meeting meaningful use stage two requirements for 90 consecutive days in 2015.

For more: http://www.aafp.org/news/government-medicine/20151222muexemption.html

Obamacare Sign-Ups Reach 8.3 Million in 2015

December 23, 2015 By Zachary Tracer – insurancejournal

About 8.3 million people have signed up for health coverage through Obamacare’s U.S.-run shopping markets this year, the U.S. said Tuesday, surpassing last year’s total and signaling good news for hospital and health insurance companies.

At about the same point in the enrollment period last year, 6.4 million people had signed up. The U.S. report counts enrollees for 2016 coverage as of Dec. 19 in 38 states that use the Affordable Care Act’s federal marketplace, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said. It’s the most comprehensive accounting since a Dec. 17 deadline for people to pick coverage that begins at the start of 2016.

Sign-ups this year are an important indication of how President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul is faring ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

For more: http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2015/12/23/392935.htm

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Medicare, Medicaid turns 50

As part of the 50th anniversary celebration for these programs, the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is collecting stories of how Medicare and Medicaid have made a difference for everyday Americans.

Please visit Medicare.gov/anniversary/share-your-story to share your Medicare or Medicaid story.

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#Medicare & #Medicaid

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Umpqua Community College Shooting

On October 1, 2015, a gun man fatally shot nine people and injured nine others on the campus of Umpqua Community College, near Roseburg, Oregon

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Excluding the gunman, nine people were killed in the shooting. They were identified as:

  • Lucero Alcaraz, 19
  • Treven Taylor Anspach, 20
  • Rebecka Ann Carnes, 18
  • Quinn Glen Cooper, 18
  • Kim Saltmarsh Dietz, 59
  • Lucas Eibel, 18
  • Jason Dale Johnson, 33
  • Lawrence Levine, 67 (professor)
  • Sarena Dawn Moore, 44

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umpqua_Community_College_shooting

Candle light

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James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

6:22 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  There’s been another mass shooting in America — this time, in a community college in Oregon.

That means there are more American families — moms, dads, children — whose lives have been changed forever.  That means there’s another community stunned with grief, and communities across the country forced to relieve their own anguish, and parents across the country who are scared because they know it might have been their families or their children.

I’ve been to Roseburg, Oregon.  There are really good people there.  I want to thank all the first responders whose bravery likely saved some lives today.  Federal law enforcement has been on the scene in a supporting role, and we’ve offered to stay and help as much as Roseburg needs, for as long as they need.

In the coming days, we’ll learn about the victims — young men and women who were studying and learning and working hard, their eyes set on the future, their dreams on what they could make of their lives.  And America will wrap everyone who’s grieving with our prayers and our love.

But as I said just a few months ago, and I said a few months before that, and I said each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough.  It’s not enough.  It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel.  And it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America — next week, or a couple of months from now.

We don’t yet know why this individual did what he did.  And it’s fair to say that anybody who does this has a sickness in their minds, regardless of what they think their motivations may be.  But we are not the only country on Earth that has people with mental illnesses or want to do harm to other people.  We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months.

Earlier this year, I answered a question in an interview by saying, “The United States of America is the one advanced nation on Earth in which we do not have sufficient common-sense gun-safety laws — even in the face of repeated mass killings.”  And later that day, there was a mass shooting at a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana.  That day!  Somehow this has become routine.  The reporting is routine.  My response here at this podium ends up being routine.  The conversation in the aftermath of it.  We’ve become numb to this.

We talked about this after Columbine and Blacksburg, after Tucson, after Newtown, after Aurora, after Charleston.  It cannot be this easy for somebody who wants to inflict harm on other people to get his or her hands on a gun.

And what’s become routine, of course, is the response of those who oppose any kind of common-sense gun legislation.  Right now, I can imagine the press releases being cranked out:  We need more guns, they’ll argue.  Fewer gun safety laws.

Does anybody really believe that?  There are scores of responsible gun owners in this country –they know that’s not true.  We know because of the polling that says the majority of Americans understand we should be changing these laws — including the majority of responsible, law-abiding gun owners.

There is a gun for roughly every man, woman, and child in America.  So how can you, with a straight face, make the argument that more guns will make us safer?  We know that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths.  So the notion that gun laws don’t work, or just will make it harder for law-abiding citizens and criminals will still get their guns is not borne out by the evidence.

We know that other countries, in response to one mass shooting, have been able to craft laws that almost eliminate mass shootings.  Friends of ours, allies of ours — Great Britain, Australia, countries like ours.  So we know there are ways to prevent it.

And, of course, what’s also routine is that somebody, somewhere will comment and say, Obama politicized this issue.  Well, this is something we should politicize.  It is relevant to our common life together, to the body politic.  I would ask news organizations — because I won’t put these facts forward — have news organizations tally up the number of Americans who’ve been killed through terrorist attacks over the last decade and the number of Americans who’ve been killed by gun violence, and post those side-by-side on your news reports.  This won’t be information coming from me; it will be coming from you.  We spend over a trillion dollars, and pass countless laws, and devote entire agencies to preventing terrorist attacks on our soil, and rightfully so.  And yet, we have a Congress that explicitly blocks us from even collecting data on how we could potentially reduce gun deaths.  How can that be?

This is a political choice that we make to allow this to happen every few months in America.  We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction.  When Americans are killed in mine disasters, we work to make mines safer.  When Americans are killed in floods and hurricanes, we make communities safer.  When roads are unsafe, we fix them to reduce auto fatalities.  We have seatbelt laws because we know it saves lives.  So the notion that gun violence is somehow different, that our freedom and our Constitution prohibits any modest regulation of how we use a deadly weapon, when there are law-abiding gun owners all across the country who could hunt and protect their families and do everything they do under such regulations doesn’t make sense.

So, tonight, as those of us who are lucky enough to hug our kids a little closer are thinking about the families who aren’t so fortunate, I’d ask the American people to think about how they can get our government to change these laws, and to save lives, and to let young people grow up.  And that will require a change of politics on this issue.  And it will require that the American people, individually, whether you are a Democrat or a Republican or an independent, when you decide to vote for somebody, are making a determination as to whether this cause of continuing death for innocent people should be a relevant factor in your decision.  If you think this is a problem, then you should expect your elected officials to reflect your views.

And I would particularly ask America’s gun owners — who are using those guns properly, safely, to hunt, for sport, for protecting their families — to think about whether your views are properly being represented by the organization that suggests it’s speaking for you.

And each time this happens I’m going to bring this up.  Each time this happens I am going to say that we can actually do something about it, but we’re going to have to change our laws.  And this is not something I can do by myself.  I’ve got to have a Congress and I’ve got to have state legislatures and governors who are willing to work with me on this.

I hope and pray that I don’t have to come out again during my tenure as President to offer my condolences to families in these circumstances.  But based on my experience as President, I can’t guarantee that.  And that’s terrible to say.  And it can change.

May God bless the memories of those who were killed today.  May He bring comfort to their families, and courage to the injured as they fight their way back.  And may He give us the strength to come together and find the courage to change.

Thank you.

END
6:35 P.M. EDT

List of US School Shootings

Deaths from gun violence vs. deaths from terrorism chart

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Now is the time to do something about gun violence….

Congress must urgently introduce legislation to:

  • Require background checks for all gun sales
  • Require background checks for all gun sales
  • Pass a new, stronger ban on assault weapons
  • Limit ammunition magazines to 10 rounds
  • Finish the job of getting armor-piercing bullets off the streets
  • Give law enforcement additional tools to prevent and prosecute gun crime
  • End the freeze on gun violence research
  • Make our schools safer with new resource officers and counselors, better emergency response plans, and more nurturing school climates
  • Ensure quality coverage of mental health treatment, particularly for young people

Learn more: https://www.barackobama.com/gun-violence-prevention/

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Contact your legislator Contact your Congress person to TELL THEM TO START WORKING with PRESIDENT OBAMA on FIREARM REFORM!!

U.S. Senators

U.S. Representatives

Tweet a Message to Your Representatives

Light a Candle

Please join me in lighting a candle for Oregon tonight

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Friday, October 9, 2015
President Obama meets with families of the Umpqua Community College shooting
Roseburg, Oregon

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GOP House Kicks Duties Down the Road & Skips Town for Early Vacation

GOP Congress Vacation

GOP Repeal ObamaCare cartoon

SCORE CARD: Republicans Vote to Repeal Obamacare for 57th Time
SCORE CARD: Republicans Vote to Repeal Obamacare for 57th 61st Time

GOP Congress Vote to Repeal Obamacare for 57th Time  – Is this good use of YOUR taxpayer dollars??

GOP Congress Vote to Repeal Obamacare for 58th Time 

6/18/15 GOP Congress Vote to Repeal Obamacare for 59th Time 

6/23/15 GOP Congress Vote to Repeal Obamacare for 60th Time 

9/25/15 GOP Congress Vote to Repeal Obamacare for 61st Time 

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7/30/15 Statement by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest:

“You’ve often heard me stand at this podium and express some frustration about the tendency of House Republicans to wait until the last minute before doing something.  We had these conversations when we were talking about funding for the Department of Homeland Security, when we talked about the need to confirm the President’s nominee to be Attorney General, or when it came to making sure our intelligence professionals have the tools they need to keep us safe.  Time and again, Republicans have waited until the last minute, and in some cases, even past the last minute, before acting. Well the good news is that last night they finally agreed to do something ahead of schedule. Unfortunately, the thing that they decided to do is start their August recess. Now, setting aside that the so called August recess is poorly named – it starts at the end of July and ends in September. There you go – “District Work Period”. The real problem is that House Republicans have skipped town and started their vacation even though they have a lot of import work to do.

First, they left town without reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank, this is actually work that they failed to do before their last vacation and it is the first time in history that the authorization for the bank has lapsed, even though it enjoys strong bi-partisan support. As a resort thousands of small and medium sized U.S. businesses will be spending the rest of the summer at a significant disadvantage as they try to do business overseas.

Second, House Republicans merely kicked the can down the road yet again on the Transportation Bill. These repeated short-term extensions, that they have used dozens of times, makes it very hard for officials to coordinate the planning for large, multi-year infrastructure projects when they are only being funded for one or two or three months at a time. That means that our economy and our workers are missing out.

Finally, despite having been in session since January, Republicans in congress will return in September without a path forward on a stalled budget process, even though the deadline to keep the government open will be a mere three weeks away. That’s right, Republican leaders who wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed [Paul Ryan and Ted Cruz] vowing to get congress moving again, and vowing to never shut down the government again, will be just a few weeks away from doing it for the second time in two years.

Meanwhile, Republican leaders steadfastly refuse to sit down to negotiate with Democrats who along with the President, have laid out a specific proposal and are ready to find common ground on these issues and most importantly make sure that we are focused on investing on our economy and national security. So I do hope that Republicans will do more than just relax during their 39-day vacation, because when they finally do show up again in September, there won’t be a whole lot of patience or sympathy for the claim that they don’t have time to do their job. “

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The Security and Privacy in Your Car (SPY Car) Act

Automobile wifi

Sens. Markey, Blumenthal Introduce Legislation to Protect Drivers from Auto Security, Privacy Risks with Standards & “Cyber Dashboard” Rating System

Tuesday, July 21, 2015 markey.senate.gov

Washington (July 21, 2015) – As both Congress and the federal government struggle to develop a strategy for the Internet of Things and responding to the increasing use of connected devices, including automobiles, Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), members of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, today introduced legislation that would direct the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to establish federal standards to secure our cars and protect drivers’ privacy. The Security and Privacy in Your Car (SPY Car) Act also establishes a rating system — or “cyber dashboard”— that informs consumers about how well the vehicle protects drivers’ security and privacy beyond those minimum standards.

Last year, Senator Markey released the report Tracking & Hacking: Security & Privacy Gaps Put American Drivers at Risk, which detailed major gaps in how auto companies are securing connected features in cars against hackers. For example, only two of the 16 car companies had developed any capability to detect and respond to a hacking attack in real time and, and most customers don’t even know that their information is being collected and sent to third parties.

“Drivers shouldn’t have to choose between being connected and being protected,” said Senator Markey. “We need clear rules of the road that protect cars from hackers and American families from data trackers. This legislation will set minimum standards and transparency rules to protect the data, security and privacy of drivers in the modern age of increasingly connected vehicles. I look forward to working with Senator Blumenthal to ensure auto safety and security in the 21st century.”

“Rushing to roll out the next big thing, automakers have left cars unlocked to hackers and data-trackers,” said Senator Blumenthal. “This common-sense legislation protects the public against cybercriminals who exploit exciting advances in technology like self-driving and wireless connected cars. Federal law must provide minimum standards and safeguards that keep hackers out of drivers’ private data lanes. Security and safety need not be sacrificed for the convenience and promise of wireless progress. I thank Senator Markey for his leadership and profoundly significant fact-finding in protecting consumers. The road to new auto technology is wide enough for both progress and privacy.”

For more: http://www.markey.senate.gov/news/press-releases/sens-markey-blumenthal-introduce-legislation-to-protect-drivers-from-auto-security-privacy-risks-with-standards-and-cyber-dashboard-rating-system

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The Ghost In The Car May Be A Hacker

JULY 21, 2015 1:49 PM ET npr

Andy Greenberg was minding his own business, driving a Jeep Cherokee on the highway in St. Louis when the SUV’s air vents suddenly started blasting cold air. Then the radio switched stations and began blaring hip-hop at full volume. Spinning the radio control knobs did nothing. Soon, the windshield wipers turned on and wiper fluid obscured Greenberg’s view.

Then things started getting really interesting.

Let’s stop the story for a moment. Greenberg is a senior writer for Wired and he knew he was taking part in a demonstration by Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek. For years, the two researchers have been hacking cars’ onboard computers to show that modern autos are vulnerable to various cyber exploits.

You may remember that NPR’s Steve Henn reported on their experiments in 2013. Back then, Miller and Valasek demonstrated that they could jerk the wheel of a Prius or kill the brakes of a Ford Escape — using laptops wired to the cars’ computer systems.

This time, though, they didn’t have to be in the car — or anywhere near it — to wreak havoc on the controls. From miles away, the researchers were able to use a cellular connection to access the Jeep with Greenberg behind the wheel.

Now, back to Greenberg’s 70 mph drive from hell:

“As the two hackers remotely toyed with the air-conditioning, radio, and windshield wipers, I mentally congratulated myself on my courage under pressure. That’s when they cut the transmission.

“Immediately my accelerator stopped working. As I frantically pressed the pedal and watched the RPMs climb, the Jeep lost half its speed, then slowed to a crawl. This occurred just as I reached a long overpass, with no shoulder to offer an escape. The experiment had ceased to be fun… .

“Cars lined up behind my bumper before passing me, honking. I could see an 18-wheeler approaching in my rearview mirror.

For entire article and audio interview: http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2015/07/21/424988397/the-ghost-in-the-car-may-be-a-hacker

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Cars Become Target for Identity Theft as Shopping Hits Dashboard

August 27, 2015 — 5:00 AM PDT   Keith Naughton  Olga Kharif – bloomberg
Hackers can already take control of a car. And as vehicles become rolling shopping malls, cybercriminals will have an opportunity to snatch your identity, too.
Eager for a cut of drivers’ purchases of fast food, gas and more, automakers have big plans to bring e-commerce to the dashboard. Ford Motor Co. already has an app that lets drivers dictate an order to Domino’s Pizza using voice controls and a smartphone. General Motors Co. this year began offering AtYourService, which alerts drivers to deals at Dunkin’ Donuts or lets them book a hotel room on Priceline.com using voice commands. By 2020, as many as 40 percent of new vehicles sold worldwide will let drivers shop from behind the wheel, predicts Thilo Koslowski, vice president of the auto practice at Gartner.
Connected cars present a rich target, akin to retailers or banks, where hackers can troll for credit card numbers, home addresses, e-mail information and all the other personal details required for identity theft.
“Today the motivation for hacking a car is mischief, with an objective of hurting people or car companies,” Koslowski said. Once drivers can shop with impunity as they roll down the highway, “the car will definitely be viewed as a vulnerable device.
Most cars sold today lack the technology for drivers to pay for items they purchase (unless they use a smartphone). But by 2022, 82.5 million autos worldwide will be connected to the Internet, more than triple the number now, according to researcher IHS Automotive. In the next two to five years, “buy buttons” connected to smartphone mobile wallets will start appearing on dashboards, according to Richard Crone, who runs payment adviser Crone Consulting LLC. That means motorists will soon be able to buy a pizza, fill up the tank or preorder a half caf skinny macchiato from Starbucks without pulling out their phone.

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Six Major Rulings from the Supreme Court

Seal_of_the_United_States_Supreme_Court

Here Are the Six Major Rulings We’ll Get From the Supreme Court This Week

Jun 24, 2015 12:14 PM PDT Greg Shohr – bloomberg

The U.S. Supreme Court is saving the best for last.

The nation’s top court will issue a series of major rulings over the next several days as it closes its nine-month term. In addition to landmark gay-marriage and Obamacare cases, the court will decide on potentially far-reaching disputes involving housing discrimination, redistricting, air pollution and lethal injection.

“Almost all of the remaining rulings have huge implications and promise to be closely divided,” said Tom Goldstein, a Washington appellate lawyer whose Scotusblog website tracks the court.

The first of seven rulings will come at 10 a.m. Washington time Thursday, with more scheduled for Friday and Monday. The court doesn’t say in advance which decisions are being released which day, but it almost always resolves all its pending cases by the end of June.

Before they pack up, the justices will also say whether they will supplement the session that starts in October with new cases on abortion, affirmative action and union fees.

Here’s what’s coming from the Supreme Court over the next week:

  • Gay Marriage

No case is bigger than the one that could legalize same-sex weddings nationwide. Only 11 years after Massachusetts became the first gay-marriage state, the court would be putting the capstone on the biggest civil rights transformation in a half-century.

 The cases are: Obergefell v. Hodges (Ohio), Tanco v. Haslam (Tennessee), DeBoer v. Snyder (Michigan), and Bourke v. Beshear (Kentucky).

  • Health Care

Three years after upholding President Barack Obama’s signature health-care [Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act] law against a broad constitutional challenge, the court will decide whether a four-word phrase will severely undercut the measure.

The case: King v. Burwell

  • Housing Discrimination

The biggest race case of the term may produce a long-sought legal victory for lenders and insurers, as well as social conservatives. The court is poised to say whether people suing under the U.S. Fair Housing Act can win their case without showing intentional discrimination.

The case:  Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project

  • Lethal Injection

The April 29 argument over lethal injection methods might have been the most heated of the term, with one justice accusing death penalty opponents of waging a “guerrilla war” and another saying she couldn’t trust a state lawyer.

The case: Glossip v. Gross

Supreme Court says Okla. lethal injection doesn’t violate Constitution

  • Clean Air

The utility industry and a group of states are trying to topple an Environmental Protection Agency rule that would cut mercury and other hazardous emissions from 460 coal-fired power plants.

The case: Michigan v. Environmental Protection

  • Redistricing

The court may deal a fresh blow to efforts to make federal elections more competitive by barring states from setting up independent commissions to draw congressional district boundaries. The issue is whether an Arizona commission strips state lawmakers of power reserved to them by the U.S. Constitution.

The case: Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission

For more: http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-06-24/marriage-obamacare-highlight-decision-week-at-u-s-high

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US Supreme Court www.supremecourt.gov

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Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014

President Barack Obama shakes hands and thanks Soldiers of 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division
President Barack Obama shakes hands and thanks Soldiers of 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division

The Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014 (H.R. 3230) is a bill that is intended to address the ongoing Veterans Health Administration scandal of 2014. The bill would expand the number of options veterans have for receiving care and grant the United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs more power to fire senior executives. The Veterans Health Administration scandal of 2014 began with the discovery that there was on-going systematic lying by the Veterans Health Administration about the wait times veterans experienced waiting to be seen by doctors. By June 5, 2014, Veterans Affairs internal investigations had identified a total of 35 veterans who had died while waiting for care in the Phoenix VHA system. Another audit determined that “more than 57,000 veterans waited at least 90 days to see a doctor, while another 63,000 over the last decade never received an initial appointment.”

For more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veterans%27_Access_to_Care_through_Choice,_Accountability,_and_Transparency_Act_of_2014

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CONGRESS PASSES EMERGENCY VA FUNDING BILL

EIGHT MEMBERS VOTE AGAINST VETERANS

August 01, 2014

The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is relieved that Congress finally did what they were elected to do and passed an emergency funding bill at the last minute to help the Department of Veterans Affairs overcome a nationwide crisis in care and confidence. The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed H.R. 3230, the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014, by a vote of 420-5, and on Thursday, the Senate did likewise, by a vote of 91-3. The bill now heads to the president for his signature.

“This legislation will help new VA Secretary Robert McDonald to fix what’s broken, hold people accountable, and restore the faith that veterans must have in their VA,” said VFW National Commander John W. Stroud, of Hawthorne, Nev. “The VFW salutes House VA Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), Senate VA Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), their staffs and supporters for making this happen.”

The $15 billion emergency funding bill expands access to non-VA health care facilities for veterans experiencing excessive appointment waiting times, or who reside 40 miles or more away from a VA medical facility; hires more doctors, nurses and other health care practitioners; adds 27 new or expanded VA outpatient clinics; enhances care for victims of Military Sexual Trauma and those suffering from Traumatic Brain Injuries; and provides instate tuition rates for all Post-9/11 GI Bill recipients, regardless of residency requirements. The legislation also gives the VA secretary far more latitude in firing senior executives who fail in their primary mission of taking care of America’s veterans.

“Holding people appropriately accountable is critical to mission accomplishment in both the public and private sector, which is why that same rule must also apply to the three senators and five congressmen who voted against H.R. 3230,” said Stroud.

Voting against the legislation were Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), and Reps. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), Walter Jones (R-N.C.), Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), and Steve Stockman (R-Texas). The hypocrisy of their “no” votes, according to the VFW national commander, is virtually all of them voted for hundreds of billions in supplemental war funding with little concern about corresponding offsets or oversight about how or where the money would be spent; and one was even the governor of a state that experienced tremendous active, Guard and Reserve deployments, as well as combat casualties.

For more: http://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/Articles/2014-Articles/CONGRESS-PASSES-EMERGENCY-VA-FUNDING-BILL/

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Thursday, August 7, 2014
President Obama signs
H.R. 3230 – Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014
Fort Belvoir, VA

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FINALLY: Some Sensibility & Responsibility in Congress – HR 2775 Passed

Shame on Congress

House Representatives finally took off the tin foil hats of the Tea Party Pirates and lo and behold they could finally think and see clearly.

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The sad thing is that President Obama asked Congress to pass a continuing resolution long ago but because of  Congress’ manufactured crisis  then waiting until the last minute to do their job properly the credibility of the USA has been scrutinized, which has cost the nation at least $24 billion,  the  people have had to suffer and President Obama had to cancel meetings with global leaders and thus lost opportunities to increase American trade with other countries .

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Now Congress needs to focus on:

* Passing  The “Continuing Appropriations Act 2014 ” HR 2775 which provides fiscal year 2014 appropriations for projects and activities of the Federal Government through Wednesday, January 15, 2014… to stop the shutdown of the US Government (UPDATE: 10/16/13 The Senate passes HR 2775, the House also passes the act and President Obama has signed into law the act). 

 . Highlights of HR 2775:

  • Shutdown: Workers return, agencies financed until Jan 15, 2014
  • Debt Ceiling: Authority to borrow money extended to Feb 7, 2014
  • Health Care Law: Dept of Health & Human Services must certify it can verify income eligibility of people seeking subsidies
  • Congress: No pay raise for members of Congress in 2014
  • Wildfires: Allocates $636 million for firefighting for the Interior Dept & the Forest Service
  • Kentucky: Increases to $2.9 billion the funding for dams on the Lower Ohio River.
  • Veterans: Sets aside $294 million for Veterans Affairs to reduce backlogs of benefit claims.
Source: AP & Washington Post

* Raise the debt ceiling (which simply means paying for debt already incurred)

* Pass bills to help the middle-class Americans

* Work on bills to invest funds in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) so that Americans can compete with the rest of the world 

 .Tea Party Extremest

Vote The Tea Party Pirates Out From Congress in Nov! 

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People's hopes and dreams are what matters

Because we’ve all got a lot of work to do on behalf of the American people – and that includes the hard work of regaining their trust.  Our system of self-government doesn’t function without it.  And now that the government is reopened, and this threat to our economy is removed, all of us need to stop focusing on the lobbyists, and the bloggers, and the talking heads on radio, and the professional activists who profit from conflict, and focus on what the majority of Americans sent us here to do – and that’s grow this economy, create good jobs, strengthen the middle class, lay the foundation for broad-based prosperity, and get our fiscal house in order for the long haul.

10/17/13 President Obama speaking on  reopening the Government 

President Obama’s plan to help rebuild America:

* Economy

* Education

* Energy & Environment

Health Care

Immigration

* Technology

* Veterans

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