District Connection - 3/25/19
On Sunday, the Justice Department confirmed what the American people had known all along: President Trump did not collude with Russia to win the 2016 presidential election. In fact, Special Counsel Robert Mueller specifically stated in his report that “the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference.” As such, though the Special Counsel did not make any final recommendation regarding whether the President did or did not engage in obstruction of justice, Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded that the evidence developed during the investigation was insufficient to prove that the President obstructed justice.
I am glad that the Special Counsel’s investigation has finally drawn to a close and we are well on our way to putting this chapter behind us. Rather than focus on the issues that affect the lives of everyday Americans, like jobs, health care, and border security, Democrats and their allies in the media have chosen to spend the last two years perpetuating conspiracy theories and lies in a shameless effort to discredit a President whose election they still are trying to overturn. I have consistently said that I would reserve my conclusions about this investigation until the Mueller Report was complete. And now that it has been completed and has exonerated the President of any wrong-doing related to election interference, I hope that Democrats can put aside their partisan agenda and instead focus on policy solutions that help the American people.
- Associated Press. Trump didn’t coordinate with Russia in 2016, report declares
- Fox News. Mueller report summary released, showing no proof Trump team conspired with Russia
I was on campus at two great schools this past week: the University of Georgia and Ferguson Elementary. While the conversation was certainly different at each; they both shared a theme of optimism about America’s future that I wish controlled the 24/7 political news cycle. At UGA, we talked about how we can get more young people involved in service and how we can make Congress more responsive to the needs of the American people. We talked about the opportunities to legislate from Washington but also about the unintended consequences of trampling on local control and individual liberties. Truly, the ask of these young people was to create, protect, and preserve an environment that empowers each of us to pursue our version of the American Dream. For the ROTC Cadets I met, it’s a plan to serve their country after they graduate from college. For the first-generation college students I met, it’s a desire to use education as a tool to lift their communities and their families. For those who were politically active, it was to protect free speech and push back against the new waves of socialism. No matter what obstacles our country currently faces, if we roll up our sleeves, and tackle problems together, there is nothing we cannot overcome.
While college students offer the best understanding of new voters, if you really want to see unencumbered optimism, our elementary schools are the place to spend your time. I’ve often said that the best way to start a workday is to meet with students, because they always remind me why we are so lucky to live in this community and this nation and why we must work hard every day to preserve and protect our freedoms and independence. With these young people, we talked about purpose-filled lives, trying your best even if you don’t succeed, speaking out against bullies, and supporting our friends in need. The very same conversations that you might have at the office or at church, our elementary school students are having across the county. I don’t have the talent or skill that our local teachers have, and I am awed and humbled by it every time I see it in action. One such occasion this past week was a visit to Ferguson Elementary and Principal Mitchell’s Fifth Grade Leadership group. This school and these young people are always inspiring, and I want to thank Principal Mitchell and her team both for all of the amazing work that they do and for inviting me to see it in a first-hand visit. What I learn from you will impact the discussion and votes in Congress, and I am grateful for your service and your leadership.
I often talk about my visits to local businesses or with local leaders and how that relates to achieving a local goal or benefit. As you would expect, however, our local leadership doesn’t stop at any border. From advocacy for peace in the Middle East to election transition in Venezuela to NATO membership applications and more, I frequently gather with local leaders to seek solutions around the globe.
Rep. Woodall listens to strategies for combatting AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria
I believe the world is a safer and better place when America leads, and even though we have many challenges here at home, we still make an effort to serve the world. Finding ways to serve others is the way we should operate within our families and communities, and it is the way that our nation operates, as well. While we intuitively know this to be true, I saw it best in real life during a breakfast meeting I had with President George W. Bush after he had left office. We talked about his leadership after 9/11, we talked about his service to the nation—both before the White House and after -- and we talked about all of those opportunities that history might record as turning points during his long career. President Bush shared that of all the nation-changing, peace-bringing, life-altering efforts that he had led, his efforts to pass PEPFAR—the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief—was one of his proudest. PEPFAR is a global effort to use U.S. leadership to end suffering globally. A Republican President and a Republican Congress created PEPFAR, but as should be true more often, support for the program knows no partisan bounds. Doing the right thing for the right reason is far more common in public policy than is reported, and you will not be surprised to learn that it is near omni-present in your neighbors who visit with me to encourage and to lobby for solutions important to us all.
Last Congress was an important one for our veterans. We passed into law much needed reforms for the VA. Perhaps the most significant of them was the VA MISSION Act. The VA MISSION Act will consolidate the various VA community care programs into a single more reliable and efficient entity to allow veterans to receive care outside of the VA in a timely manner, thereby avoiding long wait times. Although the law was signed last June, the VA has been busy writing the rules and regulations to implement the law since. Earlier this year, the VA released a draft rule for the new program, but many veterans have expressed their concerns about the VA's implementation of the law:
James from Buford:
As your constituent, I write to urge you and your colleagues to ensure the thorough implementation of the VA MISSION Act 2018, which authorized significant improvements to the care the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides those who have worn our nation's uniform.
Congress must take aggressive measures to hold VA accountable. America’s veterans deserve the highest quality health care available and nothing less.
Please show your support for the service of our country’s veterans who urgently need expanded and more timely access to care.
Roy from Peachtree Corners:
As your constituent, I encourage you to support the recently proposed rule, 'Veterans Community Care Program,'' (Docket # VA-2019-VHA-0008), and urge you publicly endorse it as well. This proposed rule, as required by last year’s MISSION Act, and which was passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority, will provide Veterans the access to non-VA care they desperately need when VA medical facilities are unable to meet basic access and quality standards. While some of your colleagues in Congress raised concerns the access standards proposed in this rule go far beyond the original intent of the MISSION Act (which itself required these new regulations to provide greater access to non-VA care), I believe the opposite is true; these regulations don't go far enough in providing veterans timely access to health care. 20 days for access to primary or behavioral health care is already inadequate given the proposed rule reduces that access standard to 14 days in 2020.
However, an important protection to these access standard inadequacies is what is known as the 'best medical interest' standard. This provision is crucial to the proper operation of the VA’s health care program and provides a 'safety valve' for those inadequate access standards. The 'best medical interest' decision to access non-VA care MUST be left to the clinician and veteran alone, and not subject to further VA medical administrator review. Too often under the current system, VA doctors and clinicians prescribe non-VA care, only to be overruled by VA medical administrators who have no contact with the patient! This must stop. I request you comment in support of the proposed rule and that you specifically comment to protect the 'best medical interest' determinations from unwarranted interference by VA medical administrators. This determination must remain with the health care provider and the veteran alone.
About a third of veterans in the VA health system have been using the Choice program to seek outside care, but it left veterans confused about what care they could receive, and it has failed to properly compensate outside doctors for the care they provided to our veterans. It is critically important that the VA implements its new community care program under the VA MISSION Act correctly from the onset. For too long we have failed to completely live up to our promise to provide our veterans the health care and benefits they have earned, and it doesn’t benefit anyone for the VA to have to go back to the drawing board a couple years from now to fix mistakes or for Congress to pass another law demanding changes.
I agree with James and Roy, the VA needs to be transparent and provide clear rules for implementing the new consolidated community care program, and the leaders of our Veterans Committees in both the House and the Senate must be transparent with their intentions as well. The Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Committees on Veterans Affairs and Appropriations Subcommittees on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies, including Georgia’s own Senator Johnny Isakson, sent a letter to the Secretary of the VA asking and encouraging the VA to collaborate transparently with Congress as it crafts and implements the major changes the VA MISSION Act prescribed. We can’t settle for vague rules that could leave a single veteran with uncertainty about his or her benefits or healthcare. I hope the VA will move forward in an open and collaborative way, and I know this will be the focus of the VA committees in this Congress.
For the seventh consecutive year, Forsyth County has been named as the healthiest county in our state, and Gwinnett County came in fifth place. The County Health Rankings Report examines a number of factors when making its determination, including life expectancy, health outcomes and behaviors, access to healthy foods, and socio-economic considerations. You can read more about those areas in which Forsyth excelled below, and while this is certainly good news, there are, of course, areas in which our state can improve. I know that we can better ensure our friends and neighbors lead healthy lives. We are up for that challenge!
- Forsyth County News. Forsyth County named healthiest in Georgia for seventh straight year
- 11 Alive. Forsyth County named healthiest in Georgia for 7th year
- AJC. Report: Gwinnett is one of Georgia’s healthiest counties
There are so many individuals in our community who serve with honor and distinction, and Suwanee Police Chief Mike Jones was recently recognized at the Georgia State Capitol for exactly this reason, having been named our state’s Chief of the Year for 2018-2019. Of the many accolades attributed to Chief Jones, his more than 45 years in public service is perhaps the most inspiring, and I know we are proud of his nearly two decades of work leading our brave men and women with the Suwanee Police Department. I hope you all will join me in congratulating Chief Jones and his team!
This week, the House will consider H.R. 7, H.R. 920, and H.J. Res 124. In addition, the House Budget Committee will be holding a hearing about the Department of Defense’s Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2020. You can CLICK HERE to watch the Budget Committee hearing Wednesday morning.
Member of Congress