WASHINGTON— U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), along with Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), introduced the Health Care Staffing Improvement Act, bipartisan legislation to make common-sense changes in staffing policies at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and improve veterans’ care at VA health care facilities.
At many VA health centers around the country, veterans face wait times of weeks or even months for an appointment. These severe roadblocks to providing timely and quality health care to veterans stem in part from a shortfall of tens of thousands of medical staff. The Veterans Health Care Staffing Improvement Act would reduce bureaucratic obstacles to make it easier for the VA to boost staffing at VA health centers and reduce wait times.
“Our veterans face too many obstacles in accessing the world-class care they deserve,” said Sen. Warner. “Long wait times at VA medical facilities prevent our nation’s veterans from getting the care they should receive given the sacrifices they have made for this country. This bipartisan measure will help create a steady pipeline of qualified health care professionals who are instinctively familiar with the needs of our growing veteran population.”
“Our veterans have stood up for us, and we must stand up for them,” said Sen. Merkley. “Long wait times put our veterans’ health in jeopardy and are simply unacceptable. It’s common sense to eliminate unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles, and to create a ‘docs-to-doctors’ pipeline so that service members who have served in health care roles in the military can easily transition their service into the VA system.”
“For too long, the VA has struggled to recruit and retain frontline health care providers, further exacerbating the issues already plaguing the VA system,” said Sen. Tillis. “The Veterans Health Care Staffing Improvement Act directly addresses this problem by reducing bureaucratic barriers and by creating a streamlined process for transitioning service members to bring their invaluable training and experience to the VA, which will make it easier for VA facilities across the nation to provide our veterans with the high quality care they need and deserve.”
“Our veterans deserve the highest quality of care,” said Sen. Brown. “This bill will remove red tape so we can put veterans’ needs first, increase the quality of care provided to those who served our country, and empower VA to hire enough staff to improve the overall veteran experience at different facilities.”
The legislation would make it easier for service members who have served in medical roles to transfer directly into the VA system and make it easier to transfer or share medical staff and services across VA facilities.
To provide VA with a large pool of trained medical staff who are already serving their country, the “Docs-to-Doctors” program improves the ability of the VA to recruit veterans who served as health care providers while in the military by:
• Requiring that VA receive a list of service members who served in a health care capacity while in the military or as part of the Coast Guard and have filed for separation in the previous 12 months; and
• Treating these veterans as applicants from within the VA to allow for a more expeditious hiring process.
Currently, certain VA medical professionals have to “recredential” every time they change hospitals or provide services at a hospital outside of their VA regional healthcare system. VA health care providers report that his can take from six weeks to three months, or even longer. In a unified health care system like the VA, it needlessly limits the VA’s flexibility to have medical professionals provide services where they are most needed. The Veterans Health Care Staffing Improvement Act would require the VA Secretary to create uniform credentialing rules for medical professionals across the Veterans Health Administration.
The Veterans Health Care Staffing Improvement Act is supported by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), and The American Legion.
“DAV has long advocated for Congress and federal departments to work with state and local governments, employers, trade unions, and licensure and credentialing entities, to establish a clear process so that military training meets civilian certification and licensure requirements and allows veterans to take their vocational certifications and training directly into the civilian sector once they leave military service,” said Garry J. Augustine, DAV Washington Headquarters Executive Director. “If passed and signed into law, the Veterans Health Care Staffing Improvement Act will eliminate employment barriers for military healthcare workers, allowing them to continue serving their fellow citizens by utilizing their top-notch vocational training without delay.”
“Veterans from medical occupational fields should be able to count their military service and experience when transitioning to the civilian healthcare workforce,” said Brett Reistad, National Commander, The American Legion. “The Veterans Health Care Staffing Improvement Act would streamline the process for separating veterans and help address the staffing shortage at VA medical facilities across the country. This bill, as currently written, is good for our veterans and good for America.”
The Health Care Staffing Improvement Act has also been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR).
Congressman Ben Cline named to Education and Labor, Judiciary Committees
WASHINGTON – (VA-06) announced today (January 17) that he has been named to the House Committee on Education and Labor and the for the 116th Congress. The House Committee on Education and Labor oversees federal education policy for higher and secondary education, as well as federal labor laws and workforce training. The House Judiciary Committee oversees the federal courts and intellectual property policy, law enforcement, the Constitution, and immigration policy.
“Appointment to the House Committee on Education and Labor and the Committee on Judiciary will enable me to provide strong representation for the people of Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District,” Cline said. “The Sixth is home to more than 20 colleges and universities, more than almost any other district in Congress. My work on Education and Labor will be informed by our district’s thriving higher education sector and close relationships with educators and administrators across the region. I am also honored to join the House Judiciary Committee, where I will bring my experience as a prosecutor, a private attorney with experience in criminal and estate law, and as a fighter for justice in the Virginia House of Delegates.”
Cline was an Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney for Harrisonburg and Rockingham County from 2007 to 2013, then opened his own law practice. He was previously Chair of the Militia, Police, and Public Safety Committee in the Virginia House of Delegates, where he also served on the Courts of Justice, Finance, and Commerce and Labor Committees.
Cline became the 35th Congressman to represent the Sixth District of Virginia in 2019. He served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 2002 to 2018. Cline lives in Rockbridge County with his wife and twin daughters.
Warner and Kaine introduce bill to pay back federal contract workers after shutdown
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine on Wednesday joined Senators Tina Smith (D-MN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Ben Cardin (D-MD) in introducing legislation to secure back pay for the federal contractor service employees who continue to go without pay during the government shutdown.
The bill—the Fair Compensation for Low-Wage Contractor Employees Act—aims to help low-wage federal contractor employees—including janitorial, food, and security services workers—who have been furloughed or forced to accept reduced work hours as a result of the government shutdown.
“Thousands of people across the Commonwealth are out of a job right now because of President Trump’s unnecessary, destructive shutdown. Right now many low- and middle-wage federal contractors – whose paychecks often depend on the number of hours they work – are worrying about how they’ll afford to keep the lights on or pay their rent. Congress has already passed legislation to secure back pay for federal workers. Federal contractors – especially those who are already working paycheck to paycheck – deserve some peace of mind too. This important bill will ensure that federal service contractors, who work side-by-side with federal employees, get the pay they missed out on because of President Trump’s reckless shutdown,” Warner said.
“Just like federal employees, federal contractors work hard to keep our government running. So many of these workers live paycheck-to-paycheck and this painful shutdown has meant that many of them can’t afford to pay their bills. This legislation is an effort to ensure that these contractors who have been denied pay during a shutdown they had no role in causing receive the pay they deserve,” Kaine said.
The Fair Compensation for Low-Wage Contractor Employees Act would provide financial relief for eligible federal service contractors missing pay during the shutdown by:
· Completely replacing missed wages for workers making less than $50,200 per year (twice the poverty level for a family of four.)
· Compensating workers earning more than $50,200 per year up to the $50,200 threshold ($965 per week.)
· Restoring paid leave for workers who were required by the contractor to use it.
The bill appropriates funding for federal agencies to adjust the price accordingly of any contracts impacted by the shutdown. By building on existing contract review and approval processes, the bill provides financial relief for lower-wage workers without creating new administrative or financial burdens for contractors.
Eligible employees include those covered under the Service Contract Act (which governs federal service contracts) and the Davis-Bacon Act (which governs federally-funded construction projects). Although the Service Contract Act does not apply to “executive, administrative, or professional” employees, they would be eligible for back pay under the bill.
The bill is also supported by Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Doug Jones (D-AL), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Tom Udall (D-NM), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Angus King (I-ME), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).
Read a summary of the bill HERE.
Rep. Ben Cline applauds re-opening of Farm Service Agency offices in Virginia
WASHINGTON – Congressman Ben Cline (VA-06) applauded U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue’s announcement today (January 16) that 40 Farm Service Agency offices in Virginia, including several serving the Sixth District, will temporarily re-open to provide essential services.
“Agri-businesses in the Sixth Congressional District depend on access to capital to manage their operations and keep their businesses running without disruption,” Cline said. “Secretary Perdue and the Trump Administration have made the right decision to provide essential services that will minimize the impact on our producers with existing farm loans. FSA offices will be open for three days to assist farmers with processing certain payments, servicing loans, and to provide other specific services.”
USDA announced today that FSA offices will re-open on January 17, 18, and 22 to provide certain services. Offices that will be open serving the Sixth District include:
• Augusta Service Center, 70 Dick Huff Lane, Verona, VA 24482 (540) 248-6218
• Bonsack Service Center, 36 Executive Circle, Roanoke, VA 24012 (540) 977-2698
• Harrisonburg Service Center, 1934 Deyerle Ave., Harrisonburg, VA 22801 (540) 433-9126
• Lexington Service Center, 40 Magnolia Sq., Ste 5, Lexington, VA 24450 (540) 463-7124
• Rockingham Service Center, 1934 Dyerle Ave. Suite C, Harrisonburg, VA 22801 (540) 433-9126
• Shenandoah Service Center, 722-A East Queen St., Strasburg, VA 22657 (540) 465-2424
Cline Announces Completion of Staff Hires on Day One
WASHINGTON – Congressman Ben Cline (VA-06) announced that as of his official swearing-in on January 3, he has completed the hiring of staff for his Washington and District offices.
Cline, who was sworn in on January 3, had previously announced the hiring of his top staff on December 7 with Matt Miller named as Chief of Staff, Debbie Garrett as District Director, Nicole Manley as Legislative Director, and Ryan Saylor as Communications Director. The hiring of all staff prior to his swearing-in is in keeping with his commitment to hit the ground running and ensure continuity of services for the constituents of the 6th District.
“The men and women who have signed up to serve Virginia’s 6th District as members of my team are all extremely well-qualified individuals,” the Congressman said. “Their experience and commitment to service will benefit all citizens of our part of Virginia.”
• Field Representative Tyler Adams is a native of Louisa County and is based in the Harrisonburg office. A 2015 graduate of James Madison University, Adams has worked for Cline’s legislative and campaign offices in varying roles, most recently as Northern Political Director for Cline’s congressional campaign.
• Field Representative Christine Broughton is a naturalized U.S. citizen who previously worked as former Congressman Bob Goodlatte’s Political Administrator in 2011. Later, she began serving on his Congressional staff as a District Representative. Broughton is based in Cline’s Roanoke office.
• District Representative Kjersten Croke moved to Salem, Virginia, in 2004 with her husband and four children. She served in former Congressman Bob Goodlatte’s Roanoke office for the last five years in a similar role. Croke also worked for Delegate Greg Habeeb as a Community Outreach Representative and Legislative Assistant. She is based in Cline’s Roanoke office.
• District Scheduler Jennifer Faulkner is a graduate of William Byrd High School in Vinton, Virginia, and a 1996 Graduate of Virginia Tech with Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies and Political Science. Faulkner previously worked for former Congressman Bob Goodlatte in his Roanoke District Office for just over 22 years. She is based in Cline’s Roanoke office.
• Field Representative Kathy Hayden was previously a political consultant prior to working in the Roanoke Office of the Attorney General. She served as the Office Manager/Community Outreach Coordinator under four different attorneys general. Hayden left the OAG to serve in Governor Bob McDonald’s Administration in Richmond as his Director of Community Relations. After retiring from the Governor’s administration, she served in the Virginia General Assembly during two sessions as Delegate Ben Cline’s legislative assistant. More recently, she worked on the political campaigns of John Adams for Attorney General and Ben Cline for Congress. Hayden is based in Cline’s Roanoke office.
• District Representative Emilee Loope is from Roanoke, Virginia. She went to James Madison University, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Sports Communication. She also completed a master’s degree in Strategic Communications at Liberty University. Emilee began serving in Virginia’s 6th District on the staff of former Congressman Bob Goodlatte in July 2016. She has also worked for the Boston Red Sox Class A Advanced Affiliate, the Salem Red Sox, and interned for the Washington Redskins for three years. Loope is based in Cline’s Harrisonburg office.
• District Representative Aaron Van Allen is originally from Danville, Virginia. He graduated from Hampden-Sydney College in 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts in Government and from Liberty University in 2013 with a Master of Arts in Public Policy. Van Allen worked for former Congressman Bob Goodlatte from June 2013 – January 2019. He is based in Cline’s Lynchburg office.
• Emily Wicht is a District Representative in Cline’s Harrisonburg office. She graduated from Emory & Henry College in 2008. After graduation, Wicht served two years in AmeriCorps. She has worked for nonprofits and different levels of government, including Habitat for Humanity, a local homeless shelter called Open Doors, the federal Workforce Investment Act, and the Virginia Comprehensive Services Act. She worked for former Congressman Bob Goodlatte before joining Cline’s staff.
• Eric Bagwell of Forest, Virginia, joins Cline’s office as a Senior Legislative Assistant. Bagwell previously served as Legislative Director for former Congressman Bob Goodlatte. Prior to joining his personal office, Bagwell worked for Goodlatte on the House Judiciary Committee and in his Harrisonburg district office. He is a graduate of Jefferson Forest High School and James Madison University.
• Melanie Davis is Systems Administrator. She previously served in a similar role for former Congressman Bob Goodlatte.
• Matthew Hanrahan serves as Legislative Correspondent for Cline’s office. Following his graduation from The Catholic University of America, Hanrahan served as the Political Director for U.S. Senate candidate Dan Carter in 2016. Hanrahan worked as a Staff Assistant and then Legislative Correspondent for Congressman Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania. Most recently, he served Congressman Tom Garrett of Virginia as a Legislative Correspondent and Legislative Assistant.
• Tyler Hook serves as Staff Assistant. A 2017 graduate of Newberry College, he has previously worked on numerous campaigns in Virginia and South Carolina. Hook moved to Lexington, Virginia, upon graduation where he worked as grassroots director for the Republican Party of Virginia. In 2018, he worked as State Field Director for South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson before joining Cline’s campaign for Congress.
• Beth Kaczmarek is Congressman Cline’s Washington Scheduler and Office Manager. She has served the Virginia delegation for the past eight years. A shared employee, Kaczmarek also handles office finances for Rep. Jack Bergman of Michigan and Vicky Hartzler of Missouri.
• Hallie Pence grew up on a farm in Rockingham County, Virginia, and joins Cline’s office as a Senior Legislative Assistant. She served as former Congressman Tom Garrett’s Legislative Director during the 115th Congress. Prior to working for him, Pence worked for former Congressman Robert Hurt as his Scheduler and Office Administrator. Hallie is a graduate of the University of Virginia and double majored in Philosophy and Political Theory.
Congressman Ben Cline sworn in today
WASHINGTON – Ben Cline was sworn in Thursday (January 3) as the 35th Congressman to represent the 6th Congressional District of Virginia.
A resident of Rockbridge County, Cline was elected in November 2018 to fill the seat of retiring Congressman Bob Goodlatte, who had held the seat since 1993. Cline previously served the 24th District in the Virginia House of Delegates from 2002-2018, where he chaired the Conservative Caucus and the Committee on Militia, Police, and Public Safety.
“I am humbled to go to work today as the new representative for the people of the 6th Congressional District of Virginia,” Cline said. “My constituents sent me to Washington to be their voice on issues important to the Blue Ridge and Shenandoah Valley. As congressman, I will stand up for the middle class, the Constitution, and our rights and liberties that we are responsible for defending.”
Goodlatte and Gowdy release transcript of interview with former Director Comey
WASHINGTON, DC – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) today released the transcript of the second day of former FBI Director James Comey’s interview before the Committees.
The transcript of Mr. Comey’s interview can be found HERE.
Background: In October 2017, the House Judiciary Committee and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee opened a joint investigation into decisions made by the Justice Department in 2016 and 2017. To date, the Committees have interviewed many key witnesses and have reviewed thousands of pages of documents.
Editors note: Royal Examiner thought this may be on interest to our readers.