Honoring Our Veterans - and A Big Win for Rural Health Care in Our Region
Hello Folks –
I hope you had a terrific Veterans’ Day weekend! Our community is stronger because we have so many people who served this nation who have chosen to call our region their home. As your representative, I’m committed to the notion that – if you serve our country, we should have your back. As we approach Thanksgiving next week, we should all be thankful for our nation’s veterans.
Speaking of veterans, let’s dive right into some news!
Honoring Our Veterans
Between 1956 and 1975, 2.7 million Americans served in some of the most severe conditions in the history of American warfare. Sadly, when veterans came home from Vietnam, they often didn’t get the gratitude they had earned.
In 2017, in a rare flash of bipartisan cooperation, Congress passed, and the President signed the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act. Under this law, the Department of Defense named Commemorative Partners to distribute lapel pins to Vietnam-era veterans as a means of honoring and thanking them for their service. This was a step toward trying to express the gratitude and recognition that Vietnam Vets should’ve received in the first place.
As a commemorative partner, I recently had the honor and privilege of celebrating veterans from the Vietnam era on two occasions.
In partnership with the Kitsap County Commissioners and the Kitsap County Veterans Advisory Board, I had the honor of recognizing local Vietnam veterans at a Kitsap Vietnam Veterans Pinning in Port Orchard.
And in partnership with Allen AME Church, Mayor Victoria Woodards, and the Tacoma community, I had the honor of recognizing local Vietnam war veterans at Allen AME Church in Tacoma.
At both of these events, each veteran was presented with a Vietnam Veteran Commemorative Pin as a token of sincere gratitude, on behalf of a grateful community and nation.
But Congress can – and should – do more than just honor our veterans with words. Our veterans deserve action.
This year, I’m proud that Congress made some progress on that front – passing and getting signed into law the Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act. This legislation will create a “presumption of service connection” for illnesses resulting from toxic exposure to airborne toxins, burn pits, radiation, and Agent Orange. This will require the Veterans Administration to cover healthcare and disability benefits for veterans who were exposed to these hazards during their service and developed a toxin exposure-related illness. I’ve spoken to far too many veterans who have suffered as a result of toxic exposure. And this new law will make a real difference for them.
I‘ve also led the charge on legislation to address veterans’ homelessness and to ensure that ageing veterans get the long-term care that they deserve. I’m pushing to get these bills passed before the end of the year.
Our nation must – and I will – do everything we can to ensure those who serve are valued and cared for – now and in the future.
Working For You – And Delivering Results
Some of the most important work that my office does is focused on helping constituents who are grappling with the VA and other federal agencies. We’ve helped dozens of veterans get the care, benefits, and recognition that they’ve earned. For example, we assisted with the paperwork of Edward Dvorak who was awarded the Silver Star decades after his service in Vietnam. You can read about that here. If you or someone you know needs a hand with a veterans-related issue, please reach out to Roni in our Tacoma office.
Beyond that, my team and I have been working harder than ever to be there for you, to get back to you, to advocate for you when you grapple with federal agencies, and to hear your concerns, thoughts, and ideas first-hand. While we still have a few more weeks in the year, I wanted to share a quick update on some of that work:
The work our team does includes everything from helping people get a tax refund that seems stuck in IRS purgatory to assisting veterans in getting the benefits they have earned – and deserve. It includes helping small businesses as they pursue loans from the Small Business Administration to helping civilian defense workers who may be struggling with the Office of Personnel Management. Everyone on Team Kilmer is committed to helping folks in our region every way we can. I value opportunities to hear from you directly and to make sure you are treated fairly by our government. Whether you need help getting a passport or are grappling with a federal agency and having trouble getting the answer you need - please shoot us a note.
We also hold mobile office hours - and may be coming to a town near you soon! This week, our team will be in Forks on Wednesday the 16th and La Push on Thursday the 17th. Stay tuned here for future updates.
Additionally, if you want to share your stance on an issue – or to hear mine – reach out. I want to hear from you! I’m committed to getting back to you, to helping you, and to making progress for our region.
A Big Win for Rural Health Care in Our Region
We've got to ensure folks in rural communities have access to affordable health care.
Unfortunately, during the Trump Administration, senior officials put forward a policy called “site neutral payment” – which aimed to reduce reimbursement rates under Medicare for hospitals with affiliated clinics or care facilities. This policy change would have negatively impacted access to care in rural areas - impeding the ability of some hospitals, including Olympic Medical Center (OMC) facilities in Port Angeles in Sequim, to serve folks in our region. For OMC, alone, the potential loss would have been nearly $50 million over the next decade.
That’s why over the last few years, I’ve been hard at work to change that policy and restore reimbursements to facilities like OMC. After filing legislation, meeting with senior officials, and calling for change, we got it done. Just last week, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) finalized a new rule that will help essential safety-net hospitals continue to provide affordable care in rural communities.
This is a big deal! This will have a huge impact on hospitals in rural areas – including OMC – and ensure they can use critical reimbursement funding to improving access to clinic and same-day surgery services, upgrading medical equipment, or hiring additional doctors and nurses. It’s a big win for health care on the Peninsula!
Read more here.
Working for You
Honoring Local Employers
It was great to join the Grays Harbor community at the Greater Grays Harbor 2022 Leader’s Banquet & Business Recognition Awards Ceremony recently to celebrate and honor terrific businesses and leaders across our region! A big congratulations to all of the winners and nominees!
Supporting Our Local Teachers
As the son of two schoolteachers, and as a dad, I am incredibly grateful for our teachers - who have the vital role of educating the next generation of leaders and thinkers. We need to have their backs! I appreciated the opportunity to sit down with teachers from across our region in Bremerton to talk about how the school year is going so far, to listen to their concerns, and talk about how I can push the federal government to be a better partner. I'll keep at it!
OK – that’s it for now, folks. As always, I’m honored to represent you.