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Senator Mark Warner visits Valley Health, Warren Memorial Hospital for medical services discussion



Friday morning, February 7, U.S. Senator Mark Warner, D-Va., began a series of meetings with medical professionals, business and community representatives in Warren and Fauquier Counties.

Only slightly after the scheduled starting time of 10:45 a.m. did Valley Health President and CEO Mark Merrill introduce the former Virginia governor and incumbent senator to those gathered in a third-floor conference room to discuss a series of statewide health care issues and what Congress can do to both coordinate with state governments and the health care sector to improve and protect medical services across the commonwealth.

Senator Warner, seated left, Valley Health CEO Mark Merrill, standing, and others share some lighter moments prior to convening Friday morning’s health care discussion at Warren Memorial Hospital in Front Royal. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini. Video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

Topics included the Rural Hospital Closure Relief Act; challenges facing new medical school graduates seeking Residencies in a tightening work force; how to offer new nursing school graduates similar training opportunities to those offered medical school graduates; the positive impacts on health care coverage of Virginia finally adopting Medicaid Expansion; prescription drug costs and how to bring them down; the drug and opioid crises and assuring that governmental initiatives are not too narrowly focused on one aspect of that crisis; surprise medical bill’s impacts on middle and lower class American families’ ability to maintain financial solvency; and even the role of private sector greed in traversing the health care service landscape.

During the discussion Warner identified some related issues including what he called “skinny plans” misrepresented as parts of so-called “Obamacare” or the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed into law during the Obama presidency in an effort to make more affordable health insurance available to more Americans.

“There is nothing in some of these plans,” Warner observed of private sector misrepresentations, calling for more legal teeth to assure some standards of “truth in advertising”.

Let’s get down to business – and it was a wide-ranging discussion of many variables facing the medical industry, including efforts to protect hospital survivals in rural areas of Virginia.

One participant observed that however they were represented, the so-called “skinny plans” generally covered only catastrophic medical events, leaving people uninsured for more routine and frequent family medical needs.

The general consensus concerning Medicaid Expansion and the ACA seemed to be expressed by the comment from the table, “the idea to flush all of it is not working – we should be in a fix-it mode”.

Warner also took several shots at what he called abuses of the “PE guys” (Private Equity) – “I think they have not been straight shooters,” he observed.

In response, another participant said his organization was “one thousand percent in support of ending surprise medical bills and getting patients out of the middle” and had sponsored legislation the last two years trying to improve that situation. That participant noted that one such bill had passed two years ago in Virginia, adding, “But some of the commercial insurers had some issues with it and used their power with the state employee health plan to squash it.”

Senator Warner may be illustrating that there are many tiers to solving cost, service, legislative and financial aspects to providing health care at a reasonable cost as the second decade of the 21st century nears an end. There seemed to be a consensus that Medicaid Expansion’s belated adoption is a positive for Virginia’s citizens’ health care and costs.

“You hit the nail on the head, the issue we face here is egregious that you have certain doctors out there charging , 300-, 400-, 500-, 600-percent with Medicare; and it often reflects poorly on the hospitals when we’re kind of stuck in the middle of it,” another participant responded, leading to the observation:

“But if you go the route of Murray-Alexander and you allow the insurers to have this median in-network benchmark rate as a backstop, they’re going to go to every hospital in Virginia where their rate is, say 110% or 120% or whatever of that benchmark; and they’re going to say ‘We’re going to set your rate at 60% of that benchmark and you’re going to take it – because I know if you don’t

I’m going to still be paying you less. And that’s our fear, not what the doctors and the PE-funded groups are getting paid, that’s not our issue. Our issue is giving these large insurers that in some cases have 60%, 70% market-share throughout rural Virginia, even more power to dictate what their rates are.”

Warner responded that he believed when Murray-Alexander was presented “there was a recognition there was potential for abuse,” adding he thought a middle ground solution was achievable.

“I think there is an interesting bipartisan coalition of people who got offended at some of the PE activity. So, you guys are smarter than me here – figure out something … This is front and center – and you guys are all saying take the patient out of the middle,” Warner replied of the dilemma facing legislators and the medical establishment in reacting to private sector abuses within that establishment and the health insurance and investment sectors.

You guys will let me know when you have all the on-the-ground dynamics figured out so we can write comprehensive legislation to fit all needs, right? – Senator Warner may have been thinking as meeting passed the one-hour mark.


“How it all comes together in the end, I think, remains to be seen. But I do agree with you that I think there are ways we can narrow the proposal that gets at your concerns, but also protects hospitals,” came the reply from the table, adding, “And some of that might be included with the network adequacy requirements for insurers; and some of these other pieces that have not been part of the conversation because of a lot of what’s been put on paper has been anti-provider, but ignored the role the commercial insurers of the world play.”

Noting he had family experience with the impact of surprise medical bills, Warner added, “This may be a case where these firms were so damn greedy – ‘darn’ greedy for the press,” Warner self-edited with a glance toward media present drawing laughter, adding, “you know, that they took it in the shorts.”

A post-meeting pose after a lively hour-plus discussion of medical service and cost variables.


See this and other exchanges on challenges facing hospitals, the medical industry and legislators in trying to traverse a complex landscape surrounding a basic human need – health care – its costs, the role of greed in the financial and health insurance sectors, as well as other variables impacting rural areas in support of the availability of medical services, in this exclusive Royal Examiner video:

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Top 10 tips to avoid tax season fraud



Each year, taxpayers’ personal information is compromised through phishing scams or by unscrupulous tax preparers. With tax season kicking off on January 24, IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) wants taxpayers to be aware of tax-related fraud.

“As the investigative arm of the IRS, we see the impact that fraudsters have on taxpayers,” said Darrell Waldon, Special Agent in Charge of the Washington D.C. Field Office. “This tax season, we want to remind U.S. taxpayers about ways they can protect their wallets and personal information.”

Tips to avoid tax season fraud include:

  1. Choose a tax preparer wisely. Look for a preparer who is available year-round.
  2. Ask your tax preparer for their IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). All paid preparers are required to have one.
  3. Don’t use a ghost preparer. They won’t sign a tax return they prepare for you.
  4. Don’t fall victim to tax preparers’ promises of large refunds. Taxpayers must pay their fair share of taxes.
  5. Don’t sign a blank tax return. Taxpayers are ultimately responsible for what appears on tax returns filed with the IRS.
  6. Make sure you receive your refund. Your refund should be deposited into your bank account, not your tax preparer.
  7. The IRS will not call you threatening legal action. If you receive a call like this, hang up.
  8. Don’t respond to text messages, emails or social media posts claiming to be the IRS. They may contain malware that could compromise your personal information.
  9. Don’t click links or open attachments in unsolicited emails or text messages about your tax return. These messages are fraudulent.
  10. Protect your personal and financial information. Never provide this information in response to unsolicited text messages, emails, or social media posts claiming to be the IRS.

Recent cases of tax preparer fraud:

  • D.C. tax return preparer sentenced to 14 months in prison for carrying out a tax scheme
    Yohanness Ayechew of Washington, D.C., was sentenced to 14 months in prison last November for filing false tax returns and causing at least $250,000 of loss to the Internal Revenue Service. He and his business partner operated Endalk and Yohannes Associated, L.P. in D.C. since 2011, where he prepared false income tax returns for clients that overstated business expenses and claimed exemptions to give them bigger tax returns than they were entitled to receive.
  • Former Maryland tax preparer sentenced to more than two years in federal prison for a tax fraud conspiracy
    Anita Fortune, of Alexandria, Virginia, was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison last summer, followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution for filing false tax returns using a false ID provided by her co-conspirators. She and her co-conspirators also fabricated, inflated, and improperly claimed deductions on their clients’ returns to inflate their refunds.

For more tips on choosing a tax professional or how to file a complaint against one, visit Taxpayers who suspect tax violations by a person or business may report it to the IRS using Form 3949A, Information Referral. Taxpayers can report phishing emails to or IRS impersonation scams to

This year’s tax season began Monday, January 24, and continues through Monday, April 18 for most taxpayers. U.S. taxpayers are subject to tax on worldwide income from all sources and must report all taxable income and pay taxes according to the Internal Revenue Code. Taxpayers found to be committing fraud may be subject to penalties including payment of taxes owed plus interest, fines, and jail time.

IRS-CI is the criminal investigative arm of the IRS, responsible for conducting financial crime investigations, including tax fraud, narcotics trafficking, money laundering, public corruption, healthcare fraud, identity theft, and more. IRS-CI special agents are the only federal law enforcement agents with investigative jurisdiction over violations of the Internal Revenue Code, boasting a nearly 90 percent federal conviction rate. The agency has 20 field offices located across the U.S. and 11 attaché posts abroad.

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Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: Red-tailed Hawk



Sometimes, it takes a village!

This adult Red-tailed Hawk was spotted hanging from its leg in a tree. It’s possible this bird got stuck when it tried to get at a squirrel’s nest that was also found in the tree.

Photos / Blue Ridge Wildlife Center

Thankfully, the finder was able to get assistance from an arborist and the Boyce Volunteer Fire Company to climb up the tree and free the bird.

You can view the video of the rescue on the Boyce Volunteer Fire Company’s Facebook page. The rescue went well, and the hawk was brought to us for evaluation.

Upon admission, we noticed the patient had a degloving injury (top layers of skin and tissue were torn away) on the leg that was stuck, and had weak use of the foot below the injury. The wound was cleaned and bandaged, and the bird was started on pain medications and antibiotics. This patient has already started to eat on its own, but it is not yet using the weak leg fully.

Sometimes, it takes a village to save an animal! We are so thankful to the many people who were involved in this bird’s rescue, and to the photos that the Boyce Volunteer Fire Company shared with us of its rescue.

We’ll be monitoring this bird’s progress closely, and hope to get it back out to the wild soon!

Looking for an easy way to help native wildlife? Become a monthly BRWC donor! For as little as $5/month, you can provide year-round, sustainable support that helps us fulfill our mission.

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Front Royal based substance abuse recovery program receives grant



Harvest Missions Outreach Center’s Exodus program has been awarded the Rappahannock Electric Power of Change grant. Each month Rappahannock Electric members give to The Power of Change. These donations are invested back into Rappahannock Electric communities through grants to organizations that work towards improving REC communities.

Harvest Missions Outreach Center’s Exodus program is a faith-based intensive outpatient substance abuse recovery program. The program utilizes evidence-based curriculum in a faith-based setting to provide a comprehensive recovery program. The grant made it possible to expand their curriculum to include the Matrix Model for Criminal Justice Settings. The Matrix program, which is used by drug court programs across the country, is designed to meet the needs of law-involved clients who struggle with addiction to alcohol and other drugs. The program focuses on overcoming criminal thinking and strategies for successful recovery skills. With the implementation of the Matrix curriculum, the Exodus program will be able to provide services to those who are in the criminal justices system in Warren County.

To assure that finances are not a barrier to treatment, there is no fee for the Exodus program. The program is supported by grants, contributions from local churches and individual donations (Clients are asked to make a contribution of whatever they can afford, even if it is only $1.00).

Harvest Missions Outreach Center is located at the former United Methodist Church in Happy Creek (1652 Happy Creek Rd). To find out more about the program, visit or call (540) 645-6450.

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Element Risk Management acquires new agency, expands local footprint



Element Risk Management has acquired Stoneburner-Carter Insurance, located in Front Royal, Virginia.

Stoneburner-Carter Insurance

Stoneburner-Carter Insurance was established in 1985 and is a three-generation family firm based in Warren County, Virginia, formerly at 11 Water Street, Front Royal, VA 22630. Stoneburner-Carter has served their clients well by putting them first and delivering first-rate customer service. For over 35 years, they have taken pride in knowing that the insurance they offer is the best for their clients’ families and businesses. Stoneburner-Carter has been committed to working with and protecting their community.

“Stoneburner-Carter has always treated their clients as friends and neighbors. That is a core value of Element Risk Management and we will continue to provide the personalized service that their clients are accustomed to. We look forward to them joining us at Element Risk Management,” said Dave Rivell, Partner at Element Risk.

Element Risk Management is an independent insurance agency based out of West Chester, Pennsylvania. Element provides personal, commercial, and specialty insurance, as well as risk management solutions. For more information, visit

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Kindness is contagious at LFK Elementary School



On Monday, January 24, 2022, Leslie Fox Keyser Elementary School kicked off The Great Kindness Challenge week. LFK joins other schools and millions of students around the world in the Great Kindness Challenge 2022. Students and staff are creating a kinder and more compassionate community by practicing how easy it is to be kind to others during this week-long event.

The GKC initiative, presented by Kids for Peace, is a global campaign that promotes kindness in kindergarten through grade twelve schools. It is a positive, action-based bullying-prevention initiative that creates a school culture of kindness, compassion, unity, and respect.

Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind. – Henry James

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Update: Bentonville teen dies off Chincoteague Bay after boat capsizes, boy, 17, missing



Update January 22, 2022 – The Virginia Marine Police are investigating a boating incident that left one dead and one missing.

At approximately 9:22 am on January 22, 2022, the Virginia Marine Police received a call regarding a capsized vessel in the Chincoteague Bay near Curtis Merritt Harbor. Witnesses reported that a 16-foot John Boat carrying four people was struck by a wave causing the vessel to capsize. All four people went into the water. A Good Samaritan was able to rescue two people who remained with the vessel. The United States Coast Guard (USCG) recovered one deceased adult male, identified as Corey Alles of Bentonville Virginia. A 17-year-old male remains missing.

The Virginia Marine Police will resume the search for a missing 17-year-old male in the morning. The other adult male and a 17-year-old male were transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The United States Coast Guard, Virginia Marine Police, Virginia State Police, Maryland State Police, and the Chincoteague Police Department are assisting with the investigation.

The Virginia Marine Police and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission offers its deepest condolences to the families during this time.”

More information to follow as it becomes available.

A Bentonville teen died, and another teen is missing after their Jon boat capsized it Saturday morning in the Chincoteague Bay, according to a media release from the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.

The incident occurred around 9:20 a.m. near Curtis Merritt Harbor at the southern end of the island. A wave apparently hit the 16-foot boat, according to Marine Police and all four people went into the water.

Cory Alles, in a social media post from August 2021.

Marine police stated that on board were two 17-year-olds, a 19-year-old and 18-year-old Corey Alles of Bentonville, VA.

A good Samaritan rescued two of the passengers near the boat, while the U.S. Coast Guard recovered the body of Alles. Officials say the 19-year-old man and one of the 17-year-olds were taken to the hospital with injuries considered non-life-threatening.

The release said that a 17-year-old male is still missing, and marine police will continue their search for him in the morning.

The U.S. Coast Guard, Virginia Marine Police, Virginia State Police, Maryland State Police, and the Chincoteague Police Department are all jointly

conducting the investigation. The families and the next of kin have been notified.

Officials declined to comment if the missing teen was from the Front Royal/Warren County area. This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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