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tv   U.S. House of Representatives Legislative Business  CSPAN  September 13, 2016 4:00pm-6:01pm EDT

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mr. tiberi: thank you, mr. speaker. today we are making this piece of legislation better. this thing called the affordable care act better. in fact, j.c.t. says that in 10 years nearly 10 million households in america will be paying this new tax, again, moderate and low income households, for them, those 10 million people, we are making it better. . i recognize the gentleman from illinois, suburban chicago, a member of the ways and means committee, who has been active in supporting this legislation and helping getting it passed out of committee, mr. bob dold, for three minutes. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman is recognized. mr. dold: i thank the chairman for yielding the time and i want to join him in saying to my colleague and good friend from oregon, i welcome the opportunity to make it better
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and i look at the legislation in froont of us as a step to be able to do some of those things. this is just one step. i don't believe it's cotton candy because as we look at premiums that are going through the roof and deductibles that have gone sky high, hardworking american taxpayers are saying what is going on. mr. speaker, the debate today, which i am pleased to join about h.r. 3590 to halt the tax increases on seniors and middle class act. this is a bipartisan piece of legislation that actually is talking about rolling back the tax. what is interesting for this tax enabled people to be able to deduct expenses that are over 7 1/2% of their adjusted gross income. that about that. that is a pretty sizeable amount of resources.
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as of 2013, mr. speaker, the affordable care act raised the loor of the 7 and-a-half%. hardworking taxpayers are out there trying to get by and make ends meet and provide a better live for their family. seniors aged 65 and older still are able to deduct those that are above 7 1/2% of the adjusted gross income. but that's not going to be for very long because beginning in 2017, they are going to lose that ability and that will go up to 10%. here is why that seemingly very small change is a big problem. individuals and families and seniors claim this deduction, are already spending a large amount of resources of their . rsonal income on
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counterproductive tax increase that has already imposed on individuals and families and it will protect seniors from facing the same tax increase by permanently allowing everyone to deduct the qualified medical expenses above the affordable care act level of 7 1/2%. this isn't cotton candy. i certainly hope this isn't cotton candy. this is a meaningful and important piece of legislation. as families all across our country are looking at health care costs that are going through the roof and they are saying wait a second, can i please get some relief. according to the joint committee on taxation, 40% of those who would receive immediate relief make between $40,000 and $75,000 a year. this isn't millionaires or billionaires. additionally, according to aarp,
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56% of all tax returns claiming this as an expense are seniors, have a senior in the household making that claim. repealing this counterproductive, fixing this counterproductive tax puts in place, i believe, the right message that we want people to be able to pay for their medical expenses. and ultimately what we are doing we are seeing the costs continue to rise. and talking to my colleagues frankly on both sides of the aisle, i know they hear it. the costs are going up. premiums, deductibles and ultimately we want to provide good quality coverage and health hardworking ies, families. this is a commonsense bipartisan piece of wledges. i urge my colleagues to step forward and support this
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legislation and i yield back. the speaker pro tempore: the time has expired. the gentleman from michigan is recognized. mr. levin: i yield two minutes to the gentlelady from arizona. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman is recognized for two minutes. ms. sinema: thank you for yielding and thank you for congresswoman mcsally on working with me to introduce this bipartisan legislation. i rise today in support of h.r. 3590, halt tax increases on the middle class and seniors act. nd make sure hardworking families can make ends meet. this bill provides relief. it lowers the adjusted gross income threshold for claiming the medical expense deduction back to 7.5% and prevents a looming tax hike. according to 2014 report, medical expenses are the second largest deduction for taxpayers
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with adjusted gross income of under $50,000. middle-income families who itemize are more able to claim this deduction than high-income earners and according to 2014 i.r.s. data, 98% of those claiming that deduction have less than $200,000 and 84% make less than $100,000 a year. more half of those earn less than $50,000. 94% of the dollars that go back to hardworking families. and went to filers under $200,000. wlile the annual growth in health care spending has soared, the out of pocket costs continues to rise. this legislation provides modest relief for middle-class families and seniors and it is strongly supported by the aarp. again, i thank my colleague from arizona for her bipartisan work on this bill and i urge my
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colleagues to support h.r. 3590. the speaker pro tempore: the gentlelady yields back. i yield two minutes to a leader on the ways and means committee, the gentlelady from tennessee, mrs. black. mrs. black: i rise today in strong support of the halt increases on middle class and seniors act and i thank the sponsor, ms. mcsally for her work on this important legislation. under obamacare, more americans have been pushed into high deductible plans to incur massive occupy costs before insurance kicks in. yet, just as americans are shelling out more for health costs, obamacare uped the amount of money you have to spend on medical expenses in order to qualify for a tax deduction. seniors initially got a reprieve from this obamacare tax hike.
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but that ends next year. and this means that on top of dealing with obamacare's cuts to medicare, the harmful medical device tax and the looming. and ipab, seniors will be forced to adjust to a new tax rule that hits them right in their pocket combook. this is yet another example of how the president's health care law hurts the very people that it present tends to help. mr. speaker, i have always said until we can repeal and replace obamacare all together, we must act to ease the damage of this law wherever possible. and that is why i'm supporting today's legislation. this bill repeals obamacare tax increase and reinstates the previous threshold of medical expenses as a portion of income that qualify for a tax deduction. it just makes sense that if
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americans are already paying more for their health expenses, washington shouldn't pile on with a tax hike to make matters worse. i urge a yes vote on this bill. and i yield back the balance of my time. the speaker pro tempore: the gentlelady yields back the balance of her time. the gentleman from michigan is recognized. mr. levin: i reserve. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman reserves the balance of his time. the gentleman from ohio. mr. tiberi: my privilege to introduce for one minute, our majority leader from california, kevin mccarthy. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from california, majority leader is recognized. mr. mccarthy: i thank the gentleman for his work in this house and for the american people. mr. speaker, many words have been said on this floor about obamacare. about losing doctors and insurance. about losing jobs and hours at work, about premium increases and deductibles so high it makes
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insurance nearly worthless. and you know what? it's all true. and obamacare only makes worse two of the biggest problems holding america back, jobs and cost of living. or america to succeed, we need good-paying jobs to make ends meet. and we need costs for services like health care to be low enough for people to afford it. i have spoken too many times, mr. speaker, on how obamacare is hurting job growth and keeping people from full employment. i wish i didn't have to keep talking about it, but as long as people continue to be hurt by this law, they need a voice. and with the insurance -- insurers dropping out of the marketplace in droves, insurance premiums are going up. some by as much as 50% more than
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the year before. and on top of that, before obamacare, the rule was that if you spent 7.50% of your income on medical expenses, you could start deducting however much you paid above that from your taxes. the idea was that if you are really sick, the last thing you need is having government making medical costs even more difficult. well, i'm sure you will be surprised, but obamacare wasn't happy with lowering your taxes. so they moved it up. president obama and the democrats in this congress that passed this terrible bill raised taxes on this sickest people in america. those who spend the most on medical expenses. i don't understand how they could accept it.
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i know they didn't read the bill before they passed it, but now they can try to do something about it. they could make one thing right. martha mcsally's bill today brings that threshold back down to where it was before, 7.5%. now it doesn't solve the problem, but at least it gives the american people a break. seniors, middle class, those facing the highest medical bills , they will all timely get some relief. frankly, mr. speaker, i don't see how anyone in this body can be against it. we all know obamacare is failing. we all know the american people and our country can't afford this law, so let's pass this bill and help those that need it the most. i yield back.
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the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman yields back the balance of his time. the gentleman from michigan is recognized. mr. levin: i reserve. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman reserves the balance of his time. the gentleman from ohio. mr. tiberi: it's an honor to yield to the tax policy chairman of the ways and means committee, but more importantly, an expert on health care policy due to his life's work as a physician. i would like to yield two minutes to dr. boustany from louisiana. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman is recognized for two minutes. mr. boustany: i thank chairman ti beary for yielding time. i rise in strong support of halt taxes on middle class and seniors act. this is a critical pieces of legislation and addresses one of many contradictory and damaging provisions of obamacare. obamacare was passed in 2009 in a very partisan way and we have seen steady increases in health insurance premium rates, double
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digit increases year upon year and occupy costs that americans must cover before the health insurance coverage kicks in. now, we have to do something about this. unfortunately, many american families had to forego the ability to deduct the majority of the total medical expenses since 2013 when this obamacare provision took effect for those under age 65. to make matters worse on january 1, 2017, america's cash strapped seniors will also be hit with this harmful provision. today, more than 5% of those claiming the medical expense deduction are aged 65 or older. this is punitive. this is damaging. it's destructive and unacceptable. and that's why i stand in support of representative mcsally's critical piece of legislation which will afford american families and seniors a small measure of financial
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relief that they desperately need right now. people on fixed income. this is difficult. we should be doing everything we can to help them and not hurt them. and especially protect them from the ravaging consequences of this horrible law that has devastated and really wrecked our health care system. i urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this important bill and i urge passage. i yield back. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman yields back the balance of his time. the gentleman from michigan is recognized. mr. levin: is the gentleman ready to close? mr. tiberi: i am if you are. mr. levin: i am, very much so. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman is recognized to close debate for the minority. . i should say bad measure. his is another effort to
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a.c.a., the health care reform bill. so let me just mention the latest information about a.c.a. that came out in today's census report. prior to the a.c.a., there were nearly 50 million uninsured in the united states. hat was disgraceful. and that number dropped to 29 million in 2015. he uninsured fell sharply in .015 from 10.4% to 9.1% four million fewer americans than re uninsured in 2015 in -- insured in 2015 than in
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2014, four million, and it was the fifth straight year that the uninsured rate has fallen since health reform's enactment in 2010. look, the bill in terms of this provision has been in effect for nonseniors for several years. to on't go into effect as seniors until next year. if there's a need to look at a.c.a., it can be done next year. why the rush here? it is because we're just a couple months away from an election. i want to say one thing about the balance here in terms of this provision. if you look at the information tax we received from joint
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effect, here's what it would look like in 2024. this bill will provide less than $100 million in tax relief for those earning less than $40,000 while providing over doctor 2.7 billion in tax -- $2.7 billion in tax relief for those earning over $100,000. that's shows another real problem with this bill. but i want to close by just talking about the lack of any kind of perspective, any kind of balance and any real sensitivity. essentially this house majority is saying this. pay for money for zika. pay for it. pay for money for the people of flint. pay for any money to carry out and implement opioid legislation.
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but don't pay for this tax bill. don't pay for it. $33 billion. all of this shows the bankruptcy of the house majority. bankrupt in terms of sensitivity to and action for the overwhelming needs of the people of this country, whether it's sdoig, whether it's the opioid epidemic, whether it's flint or other issues. and also in terms of bankruptcy, just spiraling this nation towards more and more debt, a party that once said it cared but once again just goes forth recklessly. so i urge very much that we vote no on this. we are going through the motions, but motions that are
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very ill-conceived and motions that will be reckless if ever carried out. that will not happen because the senate will not act and it will not happen because if the senate ever did, the president would veto and his veto would be sustained. i yield back the balance of my time. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from michigan yields back. the gentleman from ohio is recognized to close debate for the majority. mr.ty beery -- mr. tiberi: thank you, mr. speaker. i i yield myself such time as i may consume. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman is recognized. mr. tiberi: let's go through the latest a.c.a. i concur more insurance have insurance. many have it through medicaid. in my state we tried to do a medicaid waiver program that the administration today. that doesn't mean they have better health care. in fact, you could have insurance but not have access
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to your doctor. you can have insurance but not have access to the hospital where your doctor practices. that's an increasing problem throughout my district. you can have insurance but the deductible's too high. you can have insurance but the premiums are going up. in fact, the average proposed rate hike in the individual market is 24.3%. in the 17 states that approved final rates for next year, the average increase is 26%. you're paying more oftentimes and getting less. that's an update that i haven't heard from the other side. paying for it, picking away at it. last mber of 2015, just year, this congress voted in a bipartisan way to delay the medical device tax, to delay the excise tax on high cost
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employer health care plans known as the cadillac tax, delay the tax on health insurance, none of it paid for and oh, by the way, signed by president barack obama. ladies and gentlemen watching today, bob and betty buckeye in ohio, this must be a surreal debate that you're listening to. yes, this republican bill sponsored by martha mcsally was first introduced by a democrat last session of congress, a democrat from arizona. but yet today someone will make this partisan. that's unfortunate to the 3.8 million households, mr. speaker , who would be positively impacted by this bill if it became law this year. or the 10 million households, most of whom are middle class and low income. at's why the aarp supports
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this bill. ladies and gentlemen, this is about commonsense legislation. this is about helping regular people. this is about fixing a problem within the affordable care act, which has been bipartisan until today apparently. with health care costs continuing to rise, mr. speaker, congresswoman martha mcsally takes the step in the right direction with this bill by providing relief from obamacare taxes. among all the harmful policies included in the president's health care law, this one is really unsettling because it targets our sickest americans and our seniors, because the only way you benefit from this is if you have thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs.
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we could strive to make it easier for these people, most of whom are middle and low income, to afford their complex and expensive care, but instead, the affordable care act makes it more difficult. this is easy. this shouldn't be partisan. this is common sense. join me and congresswoman mcsally and groups like the aarp in supporting this commonsense legislation to help our most vulnerable. i yield back the remainder of my time. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from ohio yields back. all time for debate has expired. pursuant to house resolution 858, the previous question is ordered on the bill, as amended. the question is on engrossment and third reading of the bill. hose in favor say aye. those opposed, no. the ayes have it. third reading. the clerk: a bill to amend the internal revenue code of 1986 to repeal the increase in the
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income threshold used in determining the deduction for medical care. the speaker pro tempore: the question is on passage of the bill. those in favor say aye. those opposed, no. the ayes have it. mr. levin: i ask for a recorded vote. the speaker pro tempore: does the gentleman ask for the yeas and nays? mr. levin: i surely do. i ask for the yeas and nays. the speaker pro tempore: the yeas and nays are requested. those in favor -- those favoring a vote by the yeas and nays will rise. a sufficient number having arisen, the yeas and nays are ordered. members will record their votes y electronic device. pursuant to clause 8 of rule 20, this 15-minute vote on passage of the bill will be followed by five-minute votes on the motion to suspend the rules and pass h.r. 5587 and the motion to suspend the rules and agree to house resolution 729. this will be a 15-minute vote. [captioning made possible by the national captioning institute, inc., in cooperation with the united states house of representatives. any use of the closed-captioned coverage of the house proceedings for political or
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commercial purposes is expressly prohibited by the u.s. house of representatives.]
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the speaker pro tempore: on this vote the yeas are 260. and the nays are 144. the speaker pro tempore: on this vote the yeas are 261. he nays --
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the speaker pro tempore: on this vote the yeas are 261. the nays are 147. the bill is passed. without objection, the motion to reconsider is laid on the table. the unfinished business is the vote on the motion of the gentleman from pennsylvania, mr. thompson, to suspend the les and pass h.r. 5587, as anded, on which the yeas and nays are ordered. the clerk will report the title of the bill. the clerk: h.r. 5587, a bill to re-authorize the carl d. perkins career and technical education act of 2016. -- 2006. the speaker pro tempore: the question is will the house suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended. members will record their votes by electronic device. this is a five-minute vote. [captioning made possible by the national captioning institute, inc., in cooperation with the united states house of representatives. any use of the closed-captioned coverage of the house proceedings for political or commercial purposes is expressly prohibited by the u.s. house of representatives.]
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the speaker pro tempore: on this vote the yeas are 405. the nays are five. 2/3 having responded in the affirmative, the rules are suspended, the bill is passed, and without objection the motion to reconsider is laid on the table. the unfinished business is the vote on the motion of the gentleman from california, mr. royce, to suspend the rules and agree to house resolution 729 on which the yeas and nays were ordered. the clerk will report the title of the resolution. the clerk: house resolution 729, resolution expressing support for the expeditious consideration and finalization of a new robust and long-term memorandum of understanding on
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military assistance to israel between the united states government and the government of israel. the speaker pro tempore: the question is will the house suspend the rules and agree to the resolution. members will record their votes by electronic device. this is a five-minute vote. [captioning made possible by the national captioning institute, inc., in cooperation with the united states house of representatives. any use of the closed-captioned coverage of the house proceedings for political or commercial purposes is expressly prohibited by the u.s. house of representatives.]
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the speaker pro tempore: on this vote, the yeas are 405, the nays are 4. 2/3 being in the affirmative, the rules are suspended, the resolution is agreed to, and without objection the motion to reconsider is laid on the table. he house will be in order. he house will be in order. the house will be in order. members will please remove their conversations from the house floor.
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he house will be in order. for what purpose does the gentleman from alabama seek recognition? >> mr. speaker, i send to the desk a privilege red port from the committee on rules for filing under the rule. the speaker pro tempore: the clerk will report the title. the clerk: report to accompany house resolution 863, resolution providing for consideration of the bill h.r. 5351, to prohibit the transfer any individual detained at united states naval station guantanamo bay, cuba, and providing for consideration of the bill h.r. 5226, amend chapter 3 of title 5 of united states code to require the publication of information pending regulatory actions and for other purposes. the speaker pro tempore: referred to the house calendar and ordered printed.
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the house will be in order. for what purpose does the gentleman from florida seek recognition? >> mr. speaker, i ask unanimous consent that members have five legislative days -- i move to suspend the rules and pass h.r. 5985 as amended. the department of veterans' affairs expiring authorities act of 2016. the speaker pro tempore: the clerk will report the title of the bill. the clerk: h.r. 5985, a bill to amend title 38, united states code, to extend certain expiring provisions of law administered by the secretary of veterans affairs and for other purposes. the speaker pro tempore: pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from florida, mr. miller and the gentleman from california, mr. takano, each will control 20 minutes. the chair recognizes the gentleman from florida. mr. miller: i now ask unanimous consent that all members have five legislative days to revise and extend their remarks ar add
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-- or add extraneous material on h.r. 5985 as amended. the speaker pro tempore: without objection. the gentleman will suspend. the house will be in order. members please remove your conversation from the house floor. the house will be in order. the gentleman from florida is recognized. mr. miller: i yield myself such time as i might consume. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from florida is recognized. mr. miller: thank you, mr. speaker. h.r. 5985 as amended would extend a number of expiring authorities and critical programs at both the department of veterans' affairs and the department of labor. these include extensions for veterans health care and homeless programs, benefits for disabled veterans and their care givers, vocational rehabilitation for service members and veterans, home loan programs and a variety of advisory committees and pilot programs. absent passage of these, these
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noncontroversial authorizations and programs are set to expire at the end of this fiscal or this calendar year. these are not new programs and the costs associated with them have either been fully offset or have been assumed in the baseline budget for fiscal year 2017. furthermore, both the majority and minority of the house and senate committees on veterans affairs have worked on this language and agree on the need to extend all of these programs. h.r. 5985, as amended, includes an extension of authority which would allow v.a. to continue to approve schools for g.i. bill benefits for up to 18 months even if the school's accreditor loses formal recognition by the department of education. mr. speaker this changes -- this change is necessary to provide stuvente veterans with the same protections that students using title 4 funds would have and would ensure that our nation's
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veterans don't immediately have their g.i. bill benefits, including their housing allowances, halted by a d.o.e. decision to no longer recognize an accrediting body. this provision is a must-pass as there is possibly an imminent decision by the department of education to do just that and to withdraw the approval of the accrediting council for independent colleges and schools. i'm not going to comment today on the secretary of education's decision. we have been told it could come as early as this month. and it is this body's duty to protect an estimated 18,000 veterans from losing their benefits instantaneously through absolutely no fault of their own. the language in this bill would mirror language already included in the law governing nonveteran student aid and is supported by numerous veteran service organizations and other stake holders, including the american legion, veterans of foreign wars
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of the united states, student veterans of america and the national association of state approving agencies. mr. speaker, i encourage all members to support h.r. 5985 as amended and i reserve the balance of my time. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman reserves the balance of his time. the gentleman from california is recognized. >> thank you, mr. speaker. i yield myself as much time as i may consume. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman is recognized. mr. takano: i rise in support of h.r. 5985, a bill to extend certain expiring provisions related to care at the department of veterans' affairs. this bill makes sure that some of the vital programs we have in place to take care of veterans continue past the end of the fiscal year and continue to help our veterans. included in this bill are provisions related to health care, benefits, homeless veterans, and other related issues. i am pleased to support extending programs related to support services for care
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givers, child care for certain veterans receiving child care and a private program on counseling and retreat settings for women veterans newly separated from the service. it also has provisions to extend services about vocational benefits to members of the armed services with severe injuries, homeless veterans reintegration program, homeless women veterans and homeless veterans with children and providing housing assistance with homeless veteran. the final section of the bill deals with the g.i. bill and when an institution of higher education loses its accreditation this section aligns g.i. bill benefits in the law with all other higher education benefits such as pell and federal student loanings. now this provision is crucial because soon the department of education may withdraw recognition of the accrediting council for independent colleges and schools. i support this move by the
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department of education. it's a long time coming. but, without section 415, when this happens, g.i. bill benefits will be cut off for student veterans in schools accredited by this agency. it puts the 37,000 student veterans receiving g.i. bill benefits in schools acredited by this agency on the same footing as all other students receiving federal higher education benefits. it allows them the time they need to recoup. section 415 is strongly supported by veterans service organizations such as student veterans of america and is the result of bipartisan agreement. thank you, mr. speaker, and i reserve the balance of my time. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from california reserves. the gentleman from florida is recognized. mr. miller: i yield a minute and a half to the gentleman from the fifth district of colorado a very active member of the house veterans affairs committee, mr. lamb born. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman is recognized for one
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and a half minutes. mr. lamborn: i thank the chairman for the great work, we're going to miss his leadership next year when he follows other pursuits, he will be sorely missed and veterans will miss him. i rise to speak of a missed opportunity in h.r. 5985. at present the v.a. is pushing a rule that certifies nurse anesthetists to practice without the supervision of a physician this bill should extend a one-year period where the v.a. can't implement this room. opponents cited conditions in forward deployed locations as justification for implementing a change of this magnitude. be that as it may, just because certain practices are permitted in forward deployed locations due to military necessity does not mean that those risky practices should be forced upon our veterans at all other times and places. our veterans deserve the absolute best care possible. they should not be used as test
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subjects in the v. -- when the v.a. tries to change how it delivers services. it's not right for the v.a. to give our veterans unsafe and risky health care. thank you, mr. speaker, i yield back. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman yields back. the gentleman from florida reserves. the gentleman from california is recognized. mr. takano: i have no further speakers. i want to urge my colleagues to join me in passing h.r. 5985 as amended. i want to thank, sincerely, the work that we've done together, chairman miller, on this legislation. i'm so please we're passing this in the manner we are. i yield back the balance of my time. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman yields back the balance of his time. the gentleman from florida is recognized. mr. miller: i encourage all members to support h.r. 59 5 as amended and with that, i yield back the balance of my time. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman yields back. the question is, will the house suspend the rules and pass the bill h.r. 5985 as amended. those in favor say aye. those opposed, no. in the opinion of the chair, 2/3
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being in the affirmative, the rules are suspended, the bill is passed and without objection the motion to reconsider is laid on the table. the chair lays before the house the following enrolled bill. the clerk: h.r. 3969, an act to designate the department of veterans' affairs community based outpatient clinic in laughlin, nevada, as the master chief petty officer jesse aim v.a. clinic. the speaker pro tempore: for what purpose does the gentleman from florida rise? mr. miller: mr. speaker, i ask unanimous consent that all members may have five legislative days to revise and insert heir remarks and extraneous material into the record on h.r. 5620.
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the speaker pro tempore: without objection. -- iller: mr. speaker the speaker pro tempore: pursuant to house resolution 859 and rule 18, the chair declares the house in the committee of the whole house on the state of the union for consideration of h.r. 5620. the chair appoints the gentleman from illinois, mr. hultgren, to preside over the committee of the whole. the house is in the committee of the whole house on the state of the union for the consideration of h.r. 5620 which the clerk will report by title. the clerk: a bill to amend title 38, united states code, to provide for the removal or demotion of employees of the department of veterans affairs based on performance or misconduct, and for other urposes. the chair: pursuant to the
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rule, the bill is considered as read the first time. the gentleman from florida, mr. miller, and the gentleman from california, mr. takano, each will control 30 minutes. the chair recognizes the gentleman from florida. mr. miller: mr. speaker, i yield myself such time as i may consume. the chair: the gentleman from florida is recognized. mr. miller: thank you very much, mr. chairman. my bill, the v.a. accountability first and modernization act of 2016, would do two very important things for our nation's -- with more tools that he would need to enforce accountability at v.a. and second, it would help modernize v.a.'s current appeals process. which is not just broken but preventing v.a. from providing veterans with the benefits they deserve in a timely manner. i want to first take a moment to discuss the important and forward-thinking accountability measures that are included in the bill before us today. h.r. 5620 would allow the v.a. secretary to remove or demote
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any employee for poor performance or misconduct. it would allow the recruitment of a bonus given inappropriately to an employee, reduce a senior executive's pension if they are found guilty of a felony that influenced their job performance. it would make modifications to the secretary's authority to remove senior executives that was granted in the choice act and recoup any relocation and moving expenses if the secretary determines that the employee committed an act of waste, fraud or malfeasance. furthermore, despite comments made by some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, my bill also contains language that increases protections. let me say that again. of ncreases protections whistleblowers. these new whistleblower protections would stipulate any employee cannot be removed
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under this new authority if they have an open claim at the office of special counsel. to add even more protections for those who blow the whistle at v.a., my bill would also set up a new process to be used in addition to any other process that is currently allowed by law. this will protect whistleblowers from retaliation and removal while they bring issues to light up through their chain of command. these protections are unprecedented and strengthen existing whistleblower protections. in fact, 16 whistleblower groups signed a letter of support for the whistleblower provisions of this particular bill and stated that section 8 of my bill is, and i quote, a major breakthrough in the struggle for v.a. whistleblowers to gain credible rights when defending the integrity of the agency's mission and disclosing quality of care concerns. further, section 8 of the bill
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would provide a system to hold employees accountable for their actions when they retaliate against those exposing waste, fraud or abuse, end quote. mr. chair, as i've always said, i agree with all of my colleagues that the vast majority of the employees at the department of veterans affairs are hardworking public servants who are dedicated to providing quality health care and the benefits that our veterans have earned. but it is beyond comprehension that with as much outright malfeasance as our committee has uncovered at the department of veterans affairs and the increased scrutiny that we have placed on the department over the past five years and their need to hold employees accountable that we still see far too many instances of v.a. employees not living up to the standards that america expects.
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it's even more incomprehensible that anyone would oppose this bill. for example, we have discovered, for instance, an employee showing up drunk to work to scrub in for a surgery on a veteran. an employee taking a recovering addict to a crack house and buying him drugs and the services of a prostitute. a v.a. employee participating in an armed robbery and senior managers retaliating against whistleblowers at which point v.a. then has to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to the whistleblower in restitution. not only are all of these acts egregious and not only are all of these instances factual, they really are just the tip of the iceberg, but what causes me
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to stand before you today is that in none of these instances did the v.a. hold these employees accountable in any reasonable time frame if they did at all. i blame many factors for this, but mainly i blame an antiquated system that's left v.a. managers unwilling to jump through the many hoops to do what is right. mr. chair, it is well past time that we not allow the current system to continue and it's certainly our duty to finally take action and to enact meaningful change at v.a. that puts the veterans and their families first and foremost. everything else should come second, and that includes the power of the public sector unions. as i've said before, v.a. is not sacred. our veterans are. unfortunately, since the v.a. committee began placing greater
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focus on changing the civil service as it pertains to the v.a., the unions have pushed back at every single turn. even telling committee staff that anything other than the status quo would never garner their support. well, if the list of employees i mentioned before you who were not held accountable is not a clear example of how broken the status quo is, then i don't know what is. members, it's time that we put politics and the misguided rhetoric of opponents of change aside and instead align ourselves with our nation's veterans and the organizations that represent them. 18 veteran service organizations support the bill that's before us today. the american legion, the veterans of foreign wars of the united states, disabled american veterans, paralyzed veterans of america, student veterans of america, am vets,
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association of the united states navy, the military order of the purple heart, national association of uniformed services, iraq and afghanistan veterans of america, concerned veterans for america, the fleet reserve association, military officers association of america, the reserve officers association, the enlisted association of the national guard of the united states, vets first, vietnam veterans of america and the united states army warrant officers association. that's 18 groups, mr. chairman. these groups represent millions of veterans and their families, not public employee unions who support the status quo that has led to the litany of problems at the department of veterans affairs. the choice is clear and each of us is now faced with either siding with the veterans of this country or corrupt union
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bosses. everyone in government knows that the civil service laws that were once meant to promote the efficiency of government are now obsolete and make it almost impossible to remove a poor performing employee. even last year, v.a.'s deputy secretary, sloan gibson, sat before our committee and admitted it was too difficult to fire a substandard employee. another former senior v.a. employee then acting under secretary for benefits stated at a committee hearing last year and i quote, with our g.s. employees, it's the rules, the regulations, the protections are such that it's almost impossible to do anything, end quote. the government accountability office studied the government's ability to hold low-performing employees accountable and they found that it took six months to a year on average and
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sometimes significantly longer to fire poor-performing government employees. when the choice act was signed into law in 2014, even president obama said at the bill signing, and i quote, if you engage in an unethical practice, if you cover up a serious problem, you should be fired, period. it shouldn't be that difficult, end quote. well, i know the administration has changed its tone since the choice act was signed into law, since this legislation would now affect all v.a. employees, even unionized ones, i strongly believe we should maintain the same expectations for the rank and file at v.a. as we do at senior officials, regardless of your title or your rank within the agency. it is a privilege to work at v.a. and to serve the veterans of this country. it is not a right.
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last summer, the house passed the removal section for all v.a. employees in h.r. 1994, and at the time i received a lot of pushback from my colleagues on the minority side about the accountability language and i was told i was trying to make all v.a. employees at will and to completely destroy the civil service system. as i said then and i say now, that was not and is not my intention, but i do believe that the current system is hampering v.a. from moving forward into an organization that is deserving of the veterans that it serves. in short, i want to a civil service system at v.a. that serves and protects veterans, not bad employees. i continue to hear concerns that this bill will hurt the department's ability to recruit and retain good employees and will hurt morale. i also know that last night the
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administration released a statement about its concerns with the accountability measures in this bill and that this language could impede rather than support v.a.'s ability to carry out its duties. i think these arguments are nothing but scare tactics. mr. chairman, what's impeding v.a. from carrying out its duties is decades, decades of tolerating poor performance and even criminal or even unethical behavior. the antiquated civil service laws are binding the department's hands and permitting the toxic behavior of a few to overcome the good work of a majority. if we do not at least try to give the secretary the tools needed to hold v.a. employees accountable, then we are just as culpable for any future v.a. failures as the antiquated civil service laws that foster these failures now. that's why this legislation is not punitive but it is necessary if we truly want to
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make the ability for the changes in this congress. the american people, and most importantly our veterans, expect this to occur. the best way to improve morale is to make it easier to get rid of the roots of dysfunction that we currently see throughout the department of veterans affairs. i have been told that v.a. can't fire its way to excellence, but neither can you malfeasance. most americans would be appalled with the complexity that's now baked into our civil service system. in the real world, if you don't do your job effectively or if you engage in unethical conduct, you get removed from the payroll. it's that simple. we only need to look at the news that broke last week regarding 5,300 employees at the wells fargo bank that were fired for creating hundreds of
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thousands of fake deposit accounts and cheating customers by charging them bogus fees. that is how disciplinary actions are handled in the private sector. they were fired. and i believe it's something the public sector needs to learn from. compare that to the fewer than 10 v.a. employees held accountable for the wait time manipulation at the center of the largest scandal in v.a. history, and it's no wonder why americans are losing faith in their government. there's not a tout in my mind that all of my colleagues here care about our nation's veterans, and we can show that by passing this bill before us today. i also want to touch on a component of the bill that would improve the disability claims process. v.a. should process veteran's claims for disability accurately, consistently and in
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a timely fashion. disagrees veteran and asks for an appeal, the appeal process should be thor rogue, swift, and fair. the current appeals process is broken. it's a lengthy, complicated and confusing process for our rhett rans and their families. the appeals reform section was drafted by the department in collaboration with d.s.o.'s and other veterans' advocates this eintent of the bill is to modernize their existing cumbersome appeal prosssess and ensure that veterans receive appeals decisions in a timely fashion. my bill, based entirely off the committee of -- based entirely off committee member dina titus' bill, would allow veterans to move a traditional appeal with a hearing and an opportunity to offer new evidence in support of their claim. additionally, it would give veterans an option to choose a faster process in which the
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veteran would not submit new evidence but would receive an expedited decision. although there are many questions about how v.a. will implement this proposal, we don't have the luxury of time in these closing days and the backlog of pending apeels is exploding. as of the first of january this year, there were 375,000 appeals pending in v.a., including at the board of veterans' appeals. on the first of june of this year, there were almost 457,000 appeals pending, an increase of 82,000 pending apeels in less than 18 months. moreover, the board of veterans' appeals said the number of appeals will rise from 88,000 to 360,000 in 2017 a 400% increase in one year. it's obvious that congress needs to act now. this bill offers the best chance
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to improve v.a.'s appeal prosssess and provide veterans with the best possible decision on their claim. mr. chairman, today we have a makes ful package that changes to civil service system, as well as making profwressive steps in changing the antiquated system that veterans are currently stuck in when appealing their disability claims. finally it's vital for our colleagues to keep in mind that h.r. 5620 is truly a bipartisan bill. it combines two of the biggest legislative proposals -- priorities proposed by both the republicans and the democrats. and as we near the end of this congress, we have the opportunity to put politics aside, to make real and lasting change to a broken system. today we can decide to stand with our veterans or stand with the status quo and the unions that perpetuate the status quo which i believe has failed them and the american public for far,
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far too long. i hope you'll join me and the 18 veteran organizations that support this legislation. do what's right for our veterans, pass h.r. 5620, let's put accountability first so that transformative reforms can succeed. with that, i reserve the balance of my time. the chair: the gentleman from florida reserves. the gentleman from california is ecognized. mr. takano: i rise in strong -- i yield myself such time as i may consume and rise in strong opposition to this bill. there's no question whether congress should take tack action to increase accountability at the v.a. on both sides of the aisle we recognize that v.a. employees have a patriotic duty to provide veterans the care they've earned and there should be consequences when they fail to meet that standard. but we must also recognize that v.a. employees, nearly a third of whom are veterans themselves,
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have constitutional rights. in several ways, h.r. 5620 violates those rights and therefore will not achieve our shared goal of a more accountable v.a. work force. in fact, passing this bill will move it further away from a strong accountability system that will improve the quality of service v.a. provides to veterans. this flaw in the legislation is not without precedent. the accountability provisions included in the 2014 veterans choice act could not be enforced after the attorney general determined they violated due process rights. and president obama threatened to veto a previous version of the bill, h.r. 1994, for the very same reason. now, unfortunately, the majority ntinues to treat the constitutional rights of v.a.
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employees as inconvenient obstacles to evade instead of fundmental protections to uphold. the strict time requirements h.r. 5620 puts on administrative bodies such as the office of personnel management and the u.s. merit systems protection board to decide appeal cases would meaningfully impact the ability of every v.a. employee to get a fair and proper hearing. this improperly hands power to e v.a. secretary for setting bonuses. according to the doctrine, congress cannot shift authority at agencies without providing an intelligent framework for carrying out that thrt. as written, h.r. 5620 violates that doctrine. finally, i believe the majority's efforts to institute new whistleblower provisions would be overturned for the same reason that the u.s. attorney general's office said it would
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not defend an unconstitutional section of the choice act. it violates the appointment clause in the constitution by allowing lower level employees to have the final decision making authority to decide whether an employee will be fired. now, these are more than minor legal concerns. they are reasons why v.a. employees who commit misconduct will not be held accountable when their terminations are challenged in court. we can pass h.r. 5620, but we'll be right back here a year from now or two years from now when the law is deemed unconstitutional. now, our senate colleagues have a bipartisan bill that includes accountability provisions that could serve as a foundation for legislation in the house. we had an opportunity to advance
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language that both parties and both chambers can agree to and i am disappointed that we are not pursuing that path. i'm also disappointed that this bill includes a moratorium on bonuses for v.a.'s senior executives. recruiting and retaining strong leadership at the v.a. is critical to its long-term success and this provision will damage the department's efforts to maintain a talented work force that can address the underlying systematic issues that are causing poor performance. i'm not alone in this assessment. the american legion and the military officer association of america and others have expressed reservations about this punitive approach to the v.a.'s senior executives. finally, i'm frustrated, i'm particularly frustrated that the majority has cast this bill as a
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tess prattly needed bipartisan fix for the v.a. appeals process. the v.a. appeals act of 2016 introduced by my friend and colleague congresswoman dina titus has unanimous support and would sail through the house and senate on its own. it is nearly the product of four years of work. and both sides agree to it. and yet you would attach to a bill that we cannot agree to and it makes no sense that we are holding up this magnificent legislation that both sides worked on with the hard work of my friend and colleague from nevada. this legislation would move the v.a. away from an inefficient and convoluted unified appeals process and replace it with a -- with different -- differentiated
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lanes which give veterans clear options after receiving an initial decision on a claim. in sum, it would allow all veterans to have a clear answer and path forward on their appeal within one year of filing. by attaching it to this bipartisan accountability bill, the majority is preventing the appeals reform from moving forward. he -- denying veterans the streamlined process they deserve. i strongly urge the majority to allow congresswoman titus' legislation to come to the floor as a standalone bill so we can accomplish a critical objective for the veterans community. free the titus bill. let it come to the floor. now the chairman talks about accountability and improving the culture at the v.a. i would like to remind my friends from florida -- my friend from florida, last week, we heard testimony from the co-chairs of the commission on care. this commission was appointed in
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a bipartisan way by the president, by the speaker, by the minority leader of this house and the majority and minority leader of the senate. the co-chairs gave us a report on their recommendations. and when asked about, should there be an easier way to fire people, should there be a way to steamline the accountability process, to my surprise, they both answered, no. to a question posed by the -- by one of the republican members. they recommended, they recommended that more investment nd more time be devoted to the training and to leadership training within the v.a. and they both lead private sector health organizations. and they both stated how they are obligated to due process concerns of their employees. and they were shocked at the
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relative underappreciation for the personnel function at the v.a. they did not emphasize stripping away due process rights for workers. instead, they strongly urged our committee to look at supporting the personnel function and -- of the v.a. and improving leadership development and the managerial skills of the managers. so i recommend that we take this legislation back to committee, back to regular order, instead of considering it on a rushed basis and suspending the rules. mr. speaker, all of us, democrats and republican, believe in the need for stronger accountability for employees at the v.a. to ensure that our veterans get the care they deserve. unfortunately, this legislation falls short of that goal. i urge my colleagues to vote no and i reserve the balance of my time. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from florida is recognized --
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the chair: the gentleman from florida is recognized. mr. miller: i remind my good friend, the ranking member on the minority side that this bill has been sitting out there for six weeks , in time for 8 amendments to have been filed. it definitely was not rushed. and i remember back in high school, of the three branches of government and the executive branch is supposed to enforce the laws that this body, congress, writes. i don't believe it's the attorney general's responsibility, she may wish she was a judge, she's not, she's the attorney general, she cannot deem something unconstitutional. with that, i would give mr. lamb born a minute and a half, the gentleman from colorado. the chair: the gentleman is recognized for one and a half minutes. mr. lamborn: i appreciate the leadership of chairman jeff miller, both in the committee and with this particular piece of legislation. mr. chairman, our veterans demand strong accountability tools contained in h.r. 5620. since the phoenix wait list scandal, very few individuals
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have been held accountable. fewer still are those whose disciplinary actions have not been overturned by the merit system protection board this state of affairs is deplorable. this bill provides v.a. leadership with the tools to hold all v.a. employees accountable for their performance an misconduct, not just those members of the senior executive service. this bill is long overdue. veterans within my district are still experiencing poor service from the v.a. v.a. employees have openly joked in front of our veterans about their immunity to any disciplinary actions for their poor performance. mr. speaker, our veterans have earned the privilege of interacting with v.a. employees who put the veteran first, not their own careers. i urge my colleagues to support this vital piece of legislation. i yield back the balance of my time. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman yields back. the gentleman from florida reserves. the gentleman from california is recognized.
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mr. takano: i'd like to yield to the gentlewoman from nevada, ms. titus. the chair: the gentlewoman is recognized for five minutes. ms. titus: thank you, thank you to the ranking member for yielding, and thank you to the chairman, even though we may disagree on this legislation, i believe he's been a fair chairman to work with for all members of the committee. when i became a member of the veterans affairs committee and ranking member of the disability assistance and memorial affairs subcommittee back in 2013, much of the focus was on the disability claims backlog. it had ballooned and it was causing some veterans to wait almost two years just for their initial claim decision. after that backlog was reduced after considerable work by congress and the administration, the problem shifted to the appeals process where 450,000 veterans are currently waiting in an overburdened, overcomplicated system. the average claim takes more than three years to adjudicate and claims that progress to the
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board of veterans appeals can languish for more than 2,000 days. both of these figures are also rising, so if we miss this historic opportunity to outdate the appeals system, the wait for our nation's heroes will continue to lengthen. by 2027, we'll be telling our veteran constituents that they will likely have to wait a decade for their appeal to be resolved. and that's just unacceptable. it's important to keep in mind that the appeals process was first developed back in 1933, and it was laths updated in the -- last updated in the late 1980's. so surely true reform is long overdue. accordingly, this has become a top priority for the v.a. and for veteran service organizations, and it should be a priority for congress as well. over the last month, the v.a. has been working closely with experts from the v.s.o.'s and
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other veteran advocacy groups to reform this broken system and replace it with a streamlined process designed to provide quicker outcomes for veterans while also preserving their due process rights. before you in this bill is the result of those efforts. it creates three lanes from which veterans can choose to appeal their claim. the first is a high level de novo review for veterans who want to have a fresh set of well-trained eyes review their claim. the second is a lane for veterans who wish to add additional information or evidence to their claim. and the third is for veterans who choose to have a full review done by the board, either with new evidence or as an expedited review without new supporting documents. veterans will be able to choose their own lane, depending on the specifics of their particular case. as part of this new system, the v.a. will provide more details to veterans when their initial
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claim decisions are delivered. this enhanced claims decision will better help veterans decide if they want to appeal and which lane will best suit their needs. i appreciate that so many veterans organizations, including disabled american veterans, the american legion, veterans of foreign wars, iraq and afghanistan veterans of america, am vets, paralyzed veterans of america and all others have all endorsed this appeals legislation. it's unfortunate that my bill has been attached to a controversial legislation regarding accountability at the v.a. while we all agree that accountability for employees at the v.a. is critical for ensuring that our veterans receive the services and the care that they have earned and deserved, we should separate the two issues. pass appeals reform and work in a bipartisan manner on the accountability provision.
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last summer, this house passed an accountability bill, so rather than passing another one that's very similar, which we know the administration opposes and feels is unconstitutional, let's get the appeals reform process done instead of playing politics that could hurt our nation's heroes. with that i thank you and i yield back. the chair: the gentlewoman from nevada yields back the balance of her time. the gentleman from california reserves. the gentleman from florida is recognized. mr. miller: thank you very much, mr. chair. i'd remind my good friend that the very same groups that she said supported her appeals reform are the very same ones that support my accountability legislation. with that i recognize mr. bilirakis from the state of florida, district 12, for one minute. the chair: the gentleman from florida is recognized for one minute. mr. bilirakis: i rise in support of h.r. 5620, the v.a. accountability first and appeals modernization act, and i thank the gentleman for filing the bill. h.r. 5620 provides additional resources and flexibility to
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the secretary to remove employees for poor performance or misconduct. what's wrong with that? it further improves the protections of whistleblowers that continue to receive retaliation from managers for simply wanting to do the right thing. thank you, mr. chairman, for putting that language in there. additionally, this bill improves the veterans appeals process with reforms sought to decrease excessive wait times for those waiting on a disability rating, and i thank representative titus for that lapping as well -- language. in my district, i hear veterans waiting too long for a decision to be made, which could take additional years on average in the appeals process. much too long. mr. speaker, this process is broken and needs to be modernized right now. so, again, with that i urge my colleagues to support the bill, and i yield back the balance of my time. the chair: the gentleman from florida yields back the balance of his time. the gentleman from florida
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reserves. the gentleman from california is recognized. mr. takano: -- the chair: the gentleman from california is recognized. mr. takano: mr. speaker, i wish to comment on the assertion that it's the attorney general's and the president's responsibility to enforce the reflected in the constitution. however, the attorney general of the united states also has the duty to make sure that the taxpayers' money is well used, and i often hear on the other side of the aisle a concern about unnecessary litigation or litigation that goes beyond the bounds of what is reasonable. and the attorney general also has the obligation to take a look at the laws and to examine whether or not they would withstand constitutional muster .
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the american people do not demand of their attorney laws that litigate are clearly unconstitutional. that would be a waste of money. and in the case of an accountability law and accountability bill that clearly have flawed tools, tools which would be deemed unconstitutional, it would result in the following. it would result in managers taking actions against employees, employees -- money being spent on lawyers to dismiss these employees or otherwise discipline them but employees being able to get their day in court and find that the provisions under which they are being disciplined are unconstitutional being reinstated after a lot of expense. this is precisely why i'd like to see this legislation go back to committee and for us to consult attorneys on both sides
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and not pass laws that are clearly going to pass constitutional muster. yes, 81 amendments were filed because there are many problems with this legislation. only 22 were ruled in order. i think we should go back to the drawing board, take the senate legislation which has bipartisan support as a starting point. and as for the whistleblower protections, i've already stated my comments that these whistleblower protections are also flawed in 5620. would be believe it ruled unconstitutional and therefore flawed. mr. speaker, passing this legislation does not pass constitutional muster. it won't solve our problem. we need a real fix to improving v.a. accountability, and h.r. 5620 is not the solution. i reserve the balance of my time. the chair: the gentleman from california reserves the balance of his time. the gentleman from florida is recognized. mr. miller: thank you very much, mr. speaker.
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i'd remind my good friend that the attorney general did comment on one particular live case. as a matter of fact, sharon at mond, the person it -- the wait time debacle in phoenix is suing to get her job back and the attorney general has taken exception with one minor part of the law that was passed in 2014, the choice act. we've actually fixed her questions as it relates to the appointment clause in this piece of legislation, so that problem should have been resolved at this point. with that i recognize the gentleman from the first district of tennessee for two minutes, dr. roe. the chair: the gentleman from tennessee is recognized for two minutes. mr. roe: thank you, mr. chairman. i rise in support of h.r. 5620, the v.a. accountability first and appeals modernization act, sponsored by my friend and colleague and v.a. committee chair, jeff miller. this legislation would bring much-needed relief for veterans who are currently waiting months and sometimes even years
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for the disability benefit appeal to be adjudicated. it would also grant the secretary the expanded authority he needs to remove v.a. employees for poor performance or misconduct. mr. speaker, at the beginning of 2015, there were roughly 375,000 pending appeals within the v.a. system. a mere 18 months later in june of 2016, that number exploded o 457,000, a 1.2% increase per month. with that in mind, it is clear that the v.a. appeals process is fundamentally broken. by its own admission, the board of veterans appeals' annual report for fiscal year 2015 stated that the number of appeals certified to the board from the regional offices will to ease from 88,183 in 2016 359,000 in 2017, an almost 400% increase in 12 months. we must work now, not later, to
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address this backlog before things get even more out of hand. by implementing the reforms included in this legislation, the v.a. will be operating under a streamlined process needed to drawdown this backlog. this bill also gives veterans some accountability -- accountability of how they wish to have their appeal to be reviewed. they will have their appeal heard by the regional order or have it bumped to the board for adjudication. by requiring veterans to waive or request a hearing or limit or introduce new evidence in support of their claim, the veteran will have more control over who reviews their appeal, when it is reviewed and what evidence is reviewed. veterans will continue to be a ated by a case number, not member of the armed forces, if this bill is not passed. and the secretary can better maintain order within its work
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force. mr. miller: i yield the gentleman an additional 30 seconds. mr. roe: by expanding the authority of the secretary to discipline or fire senior executive employees granted under the choice act, all v.a. employees and in an effort to protect employees who speak out from suffering retaliation, this bill provides comprehensive whistleblower protections. these provisions are not meant to discourage or reduce morale for good, honest v.a. employees. in fact, it should accomplish just the opposite. the opponents of this provision are looking to protect the nurse who showed up drunk for surgery. the employees who purchased illegal drugs for veterans or the managers who cooked the books on scheduling appointments and resulted in virps dying. as someone who -- veterans dying. as someone who spent time at a v.a. facility, i feel very strongly that the removal of these employees -- it makes the v.a. safer, more -- the chair: the gentleman's time has expired. mr. roe: veterans deserve the
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best care, and i would challenge anyone to explain to me -- the chair: the gentleman's time has expired. the gentleman from florida reserves. the gentleman from california is recognized. mr. takano: mr. speaker, i'm concerned that the bill before us today will actually undermine whistleblower protections rather than strengthen them. the office of special counsel echoes moof concerns. their statement regarding the bill reads, quote, section 8 of this act may undermine whistleblower protections and accountability by creating a new and unnecessary process for reporting concerns. section 8 also creates an unreasonable expectation that supervisors will be able to evaluate an employee concern within four business days. this process is overly burdensome for employees and supervisors and may be entirely unworkable in many instances. we should go back to the drawing board. let's go through regular order back in committee and not do
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this under the suspended rules and try to fix things on the floor of the house. this approach, i continue, quote -- what i said wasn't a quote. but i continue the quote of special counsel. this approach is not the best method for improving accountability or evaluating supervisory efforts to support and protect whistleblowers. o.s.c. believes that reinforcing existing channels for reporting concerns would better protect the interests of v.a. whistleblowers, end quote. whistleblowers are essential for proper oversight. accountability measures that undermine whistleblowers or deter them from coming forward will make it harder. again, the whistleblower protections in this bill may actually undermine our ability to protect them. i reserve the balance of my time. the chair: the gentleman from california reserves the balance of his time. the gentleman from florida is recognized. mr. miller: thank you very much. i quote from a letter to mrs. kirkpatrick from the office of special counsel, and i quote, we appreciate the bipartisan
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support for stronger whistleblower protections for v.a. employees as reflected in h.r. 5620. with that i yield to the gentleman from kansas, the first district, mr. huelskamp, two minutes. the chair: the gentleman from kansas is recognized for two minutes. mr. huelskamp: i thank the chairman and appreciate his strong and effective leadership in the committee. at a committee hearing last year, the v.a. publicly admitted to me it was too difficult to fire bad employees. the situation is so dire that dozens of blatantly neglect employees and convicted criminals continue to work at the v.a. with zero consequences for their behavior. . i was a quick co-sponsor of this bill when introduced by the chairman, because it provides necessary solutions to a problem that has per is cysted far too long -- persisted far too long. this bill will expand the v.a. secretary's removal authority to include all v.a. employees and speed up the process. it will put in placad

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