UpD8: Veteran’s Affairs a hot topic in the 8th Congressional District

U.S. Rep Mike Fitzpatrick and his Democratic opponent, Kevin Strouse, last week spoke out about alleged fraud and mismanagement at Philadelphia’s Veterans Affairs regional office.

Fitzpatrick, a Republican who represents the 8th Congressional District, urged federal law enforcement authorities to investigate potential criminal activity following reports of data manipulation and mail destruction brought to light in whistleblower testimony in front of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

“I urge you to consider opening an investigation into these allegations. The unlawful destruction of veterans’ claims and correspondence is a serious issue,” Fitzpatrick wrote in a letter. “The fact that data may have been manipulated so that certain VA supervisors and employees could get bonuses, at the expense of veterans’ pension and disability claims languishing in the backlog, is unconscionable and deserving of further investigation.”

The letter sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigations, U.S. Postal Service and the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania highlights the testimony of VA whistle blower Kristen Ruell and VA Office of Inspector General findings that noted alleged shredding or destroying of mail.

Fitzpatrick and fellow Rep. Patrick Meehan wrote a letter to Under Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Benefits Allison Hickey, questioning a pattern of destroyed and concealed mail from veterans at Department of Veterans Affairs facilities across the nation.

The two lawmakers released photos obtained from a whistleblower that purportedly show filing cabinets and boxes full of unanswered mail from veterans. They wrote that reports of discarded or destroyed mail from veterans “suggest a pattern of misconduct that could well extend throughout the VA.”

In the Philadelphia office, there were allegedly eight filing cabinets and more than 160 boxes full of unanswered, ignored mail.

Strouse called on Congress to make a strategic investment in upgrading the IT capability of the VA in order to make claims processing more efficient and provide more timely service to veterans throughout Pennsylvania.

“Congress needs to make a strategic investment in upgrading the IT infrastructure at the VA in order to increase the efficiency of claims processing and reduce costs over the long term. Unfortunately, Republicans in the House and Senate, including Congressman Fitzpatrick, have repeatedly voted against properly funding the VA. This issue is personal to me — at a time when we have fewer veterans serving in Congress than anytime since World War II, I plan to use my experience and work ethic from my time in the Army to find bipartisan solutions to address the many problems plaguing this ineffective Congress.”
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Strouse won the endorsement of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO.
Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale cited Strouse’s commitment to stand up for working families on issues of wages, jobs and workers rights.

“I’m incredibly honored to have the support of Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, an organization representing over 800,000 workers across our great commonwealth,” Strouse said. “When I am elected to Congress this fall, hard-working families in Bucks and Montgomery counties can be sure that I will work tirelessly to fight for greater access to the kind of economic opportunity once enjoyed by everyone in the middle class, which has been under constant assault by Congressman Fitzpatrick and his right-wing allies in Washington, and further eroded by Gov. Corbett.”

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Meanwhile, Strouse called on Fitzpatrick to sign on to a bipartisan letter urging Speaker of the House John Boehner and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to bring export-import bank reauthorization to the floor for a vote.

The letter, supported by the Chamber of Commerce, urges House leadership to reauthorize the federally backed export-import bank, which was founded in 1934 to help American businesses finance foreign sales.
If Congress fails to act by Sept. 30, the bank’s charter will expire.

“We need new leaders in Washington who can put an end to this senseless dysfunction and work towards common-sense solutions to help spur economic opportunity and create jobs for the middle class,” Strouse said.

“This is a common-sense solution for American business with a history of bipartisan support, and I call on Congressman Fitzpatrick to immediately sign on to this letter and urge Speaker John Boehner to bring the bill to a vote before his inaction harms even more businesses in Bucks and Montgomery counties.”
Strouse is a former Army Ranger, CIA counterterrorism analyst, and veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He lives in Middletown with his wife and two young children. He is program director of Teach2Serve, a nonprofit that teaches social entrepreneurship to local high school students.

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In other news, Fitzpatrick is accepting applications for fall semester internships in both his Washington, D.C. and Langhorne offices.

The unpaid internships are an opportunity for any students interested in the legislative process, public service and learning more about the inner workings of the federal government.

The opportunity is open to college students, law students, and recent graduates. Responsibilities include answering phone calls from constituents, organizing mail and faxes, leading constituents on tours of the Capitol Building, greeting visitors and assisting the congressman’s overall legislative efforts through research and writing.

The deadline for applications is Aug 8.

If interested in working in Washington, contact Anna Marie DiMascia at 202–225–4276 or annamarie.dimascia@mail.house.gov
If interested in working in Langhorne, contact Jen Nawalinski at 215–579–8102 or Jennifer.Nawalinski@mail.house.gov

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Fitzpatrick joined fellow Rep. Tim Murphy, Bucks County Commissioner Diane Marseglia and members of the Bucks County Suicide Task Force to discuss the bipartisan Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act.
The legislation aims to reform the nation’s mental health system by focusing programs and resources on psychiatric care for those most in need of services. Measures include increasing access to trained professionals, strengthening communication between doctors and families and ensuring federal funds support treatments, not bureaucracy.

“The stark reality is that millions of Americans who suffer from mental illness are going without treatment, and families are struggling to find care for loved ones. As a legislator and community leader who cares deeply about those I serve, I remain dedicated to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to follow through on the mending and strengthening of mental health services available in the U.S.,” Fitzpatrick said. “Individuals and families who have been touched by mental illness deserve a support system that empowers families and caregivers, fixes the shortage of resources available to those in need of treatment, and drives evidence-based care. That’s exactly what H.R. 3717 provides.”

The bill, written by Murphy — a clinical psychologist with over three decades’ experience — and co-sponsored by Fitzpatrick, is the product of a year-long committee investigation into the nation’s mental health system and has been described as the most comprehensive overhaul of the system since the Kennedy administration.

“The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act is an extraordinary piece of legislation. The members of the Bucks County Suicide Task Force, as well as the Family Survivors Committee, believe this may be the most important legislation to be introduced in support of mental health and preventing suicide and similar tragedies in decades,” said Marseglia, the head of the task force. “We are grateful for Rep. Murphy’s efforts and Rep. Fitzpatrick’s support and will do all we can to assist in its passage.”

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Fitzpatrick has been named the recipient of the 2014 Congressional Cancer Champion Award for his work
to deliver a unified message to Congress and the White House on the need for increased cancer-related funding.

The award is presented annually by One Voice Against Cancer, a collaboration of more than 40 national nonprofit organizations.

“As a federal representative and a cancer survivor, I am fully committed to providing a strong voice in Congress for cancer patients, survivors, advocacy organizations and families in my district and around the nation,” Fitzpatrick said. “The fight against cancer is one that transcends politics, and I am proud to lead the bipartisan push for the awareness and funding we need to put an end to the despicable disease.”

Fitzpatrick, a member of the Childhood Cancer Caucus, Skin Cancer Caucus and Rare Disease Caucus, has worked to solidify $29.9 billion in funding for the National Institutes of Health for fiscal year 2014. That’s a $1 billion increase from the previous year.

“American science and innovation has changed the way the world thinks about and treats cancer; it is imperative that Congress does its part to encourage discovery and support those on the front lines of life-saving research,” Fitzpatrick said. “I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to prioritize cancer research and prevention efforts as part of a larger, national health initiative that increases the quality of life for all Americans.”

The award was presented to Fitzpatrick by Ed Scholl, a Quakertown resident who has been involved with cancer advocacy on both the local and federal levels for years with the organization Cancer Action Network.

“Since 2005, when Congressman Fitzpatrick was first elected, he has not just been a supporter of cancer research, prevention and early detection, he has been a champion of the cause. This OVAC award is a recognition from every major cancer organization in the country uniting in identifying Congressman Fitzpatrick as one whose support has been critical in leading the way in Washington, as well as every corner of the country, in finding a cure,” Scholl said. “It’s an honor and a privilege to have someone like Mike partner with volunteers in his district to take a national lead in fighting back against this disease that takes too many.”

Dick Woodruff, chairman of One Voice Against Cancer and vice president for federal relations for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said, “One Voice Against Cancer is proud to recognize Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick during this year’s lobby day with its 2014 Congressional Cancer Champion Award for his leadership and commitment to cancer research and prevention. “Congressman Fitzpatrick has worked across the aisle to build congressional support for lifesaving cancer research, prevention and early-detection programs.”

Fitzpatrick is serving his third term in the U.S. House of Representatives. The district includes all of Bucks County and a portion of Montgomery County.