Categorized | Government, News

Updates from Sen. Schatz (June 3-10)

MEDIA RELEASE

SCHATZ CALLS REPORT ON LONG WAIT TIMES AT HAWAII VA UNACCEPTABLE

A Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) audit found that the average wait time for new patients seeking primary care at the VA Medical Center in Honolulu was 145 days, significantly higher than the desired goal of the VA.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz called the findings of the wait times in Hawaii unacceptable and called for improvements in access to health care for veterans.

“This excessive wait time is unacceptable. It is clear that the VA needs additional resources to match increasing demand for health services,” Schatz said. “Our veterans deserve better. That is why I’m supporting legislation that would cut wait times and establish a major new VA medical facility on Oahu that would double VA clinical services on the island.”

Last week Schatz announced his support for bipartisan legislation authored by Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that would make the VA more accountable and improve access to health care for veterans.

It would allow the VA to reallocate $500 million in unspent funds to hire new doctors and nurses, expanding the pool of health care providers to help reduce the wait times for veterans.

The bill would also authorize a $15.88 million lease for the Advance Leeward Outpatient Healthcare Access (ALOHA) Center in the Ewa Plain of Oahu.

Once completed, the 118,000 net usable square-foot ALOHA Center will double the VA’s existing clinical capacity on Oahu, helping veterans get the timely care they need by alleviating the demand for existing services at the Spark M. Matsunaga VA Medical Center at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu.

The facility is initially expected to provide care to 15,000 veterans, with enrollment growing annually as more veterans visit from the North Shore and the center of the island.

APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE PASSES FUNDING FOR TSUNAMI WARNING SYSTEM

The Senate Committee on Appropriations advanced the Fiscal Year 2015 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, which provides funding for important public safety programs.

Schatz secured $26.88 million in the bill to strengthen the tsunami warning system that protects Hawaii and coastal communities across the nation.

The funding allows the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program (NTHMP) to coordinate the efforts of federal, state, and local agencies to protect coastal residents and visitors across the Pacific.

“The recent earthquakes in the Pacific have shown us that strengthening our tsunami warning system is more important than ever,” Schatz said. “This important investment in tsunami warning technology will help protect Hawaii’s communities and save lives.”

Earlier this year, the Obama Administration proposed a $6 million cut to the NTHMP.

Schatz led six Senate colleagues in restoring the funding to protect the nation’s coasts.

At Schatz’s request, the Appropriations Committee also included $5 million for a new coastal resilience grant program and report language to strengthen the network of buoys that detect and warn when tsunami threaten.

Through NTHMP, State Civil Defense has funded a number of critical activities for Hawaii resilience, including:

* conducting three-dimensional modeling and producing extremely accurate tsunami inundation maps

* providing support and materials to assist all counties and six communities (Kailua, Kaneohe, Ewa Beach, Hauula, Pearl Harbor Air & Naval Base, and Marine Corps Base Hawaii) in achieving the TsunamiReady rating

* publication of the Homeowner’s Guide to Prepare for Disasters and the Hawaii Boaters Safety Guide

* establishment of tsunami evacuation routes and signage throughout the state

These funds also support local multi-language radio Public Service Announcements and provide for the development and production of outreach materials for residents, visitors, tourists and special needs groups.

In addition to the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program, Schatz was able to secure funding for the following programs that increase the resilience of Hawaii’s communities, ecosystems, and animal life:

*Improving Regional Weather Monitoring Capabilities – $29.5 million

The bill directs $29.5 million to regional operations for the Integrated Ocean Observing System. The continuous real-time data streams provided by the national IOOS program and PacIOOS, Hawaii’s program, improve weather forecasting and ensure the safety of fishing fleets and communities across the nation and in Hawaii and the Pacific. These programs also help researchers monitor global climate change. This research helps coastal communities develop adaptation strategies.

Schatz was also able to include language in the bill to protect the jobs of Information Technology Officers, who perform critical support functions at Weather Forecast Offices across the nation, including in Hawaii.

* Sustaining the Nation’s Coral Reefs – $36 million

Hawaii has some of the country’s largest and healthiest coral reefs, but these unique ecosystems are beginning to experience the effects of climate change, including ocean warming and acidification. These effects threaten the health of coral reefs and the fish that rely on them.

Schatz ensured $26 million in funding for NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation program, which provides funding to state agencies and community organizations in Hawaii and other coastal states to remove invasive species, reduce land-based sources of pollution, and restore fisheries, fishponds, and coral reefs.

The bill also provides $10 million to National Marine Fisheries Service programs to protect invertebrate species, such as endangered corals, across the nation and in Hawaii.

* Protecting Marine Endangered Species – $113.4 million

Schatz secured funding for research, conservation, recovery, and protection of endangered marine species, including species unique to the Hawaii region: the Hawaiian monk seals ($49 million nationally) and Hawaiian sea turtles ($12 million nationally).

These funds help mitigate the impacts of climate change and other human activities on these endangered species and support local research and management activities, including activities at the Marine Mammal Center Ke Kai Ola Monk Seal Hospital on Hawaii Island.

Schatz also helped ensure that the Sanctuaries and Marine Protected Areas will be funded at $49 million, $1.8 million above the President’s request.

The Sanctuaries and Marine Protected Areas program provides funding for the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument and the Humpback Whale Sanctuary in the shallow warm waters surrounding the main Hawaiian Islands.

The bill also provides $3.4 million in funds for the Marine Mammal Commission, which is charged with research and management of protected species of marine mammals.

* Strengthening Coastal Habitats – $73.55 million

The bill delivers $52 million to NOAA’s Community Restoration Program, which provides funding for local communities to manage coastal resources. The bill also provides $21.55 million for the National Estuarine Research Reserve System.

As extreme weather events become more and more common, Hawaii officials have recognized that estuaries have the capacity to provide natural resilience. A new Hawaii site, Heeia, will soon join the coastal management system.

These programs benefit not just local marine life, but also local economies.

Restoration and protection of natural defenses in coastal areas help to provide flood control, prevent erosion, and protect homes and coasts from high waves and storm surges.

* National Sea Grant College Program – $62 million

The bill directs $62 million to fund the National Sea Grant College Program. The University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program’s research, extension, education, and outreach activities contribute to sustainable coastal development and tourism, coastal problem resolution, and marine resource stewardship.

* Environmental Educational Programs – $27.2 million

Schatz secured $27.2 million, $10.8 million above the President’s request and $4.8 million above the House’s request, for NOAA’s Office of Education to fund the Bay Watershed Education and Training program, which provides environmental education for Hawaii’s K-12 students and professional development for Hawaii’s educators.

SENATE MOVING FORWARD WITH BILL TO IMPROVE ACCOUNTABILITY AT THE VA

Schatz cosponsored the Ensuring Veterans Access to Care Act of 2014, legislation that would make the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) more accountable, make way for a major new VA medical facility on Oahu, cut wait times, and improve access to health care for veterans.

The Senate is likely to consider the new legislation on the floor next week.

“Our veterans and their families have made tremendous sacrifices in service to our nation and we have a responsibility to make sure they get the health care and benefits they have earned,” Schatz said. “Veterans facing long wait times to see a doctor and access health care is inexcusable. Our bill will make VA executives more accountable, cut wait times, and establish a major new VA medical facility on Oahu that would double VA clinical services on the island, helping make sure Hawaii veterans get the timely care they deserve.”

Specifically, the Ensuring Veterans Access to Care Act would:

* Make VA executives more accountable

The bill would give the VA Secretary the authority to immediately remove underperforming senior executives while ensuring an appeals process for those employees.

* Help create new VA medical facilities

The bill would authorize the VA to enter into 27 major medical facilities leases in 18 states and Puerto Rico, including a $15.88 million lease for the Advance Leeward Outpatient Healthcare Access (ALOHA) Center in the Ewa Plain of Oahu.

Once completed, the 118,000 net usable square-foot ALOHA Center will double the VA’s existing clinical capacity on Oahu, helping veterans get the timely care they need by alleviating the demand for existing services at the Spark M. Matsunaga VA Medical Center at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu.

The facility is initially expected to provide care to 15,000 veterans, with enrollment growing annually as more veterans visit from the North Shore and the center of the island.

* Cut wait times for veterans

The bill would standardize the process to make sure patients can get medical care in their community when the VA is unable to provide such care within its stated goal of 14 days.

* Address medical staff shortages

The bill would address system-wide health care provider shortages, and authorize and expedite the hiring of new doctors, nurses and other health care providers.

The legislation was introduced by Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

SCHATZ LAUDS HISTORIC EPA CLIMATE PROPOSAL

Schatz hailed President Barack Obama and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposal to reduce carbon pollution from power plants by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

The new protections would place federal limits on carbon pollution, protecting public health and helping combat climate change.

“Today, 40 precent of America’s carbon pollution comes from power plants. But right now, there are no national limits to the amount of carbon pollution that plants can pump into the air we breathe,” Schatz said.

“These new safeguards will allow state and regional economies to adjust and cut carbon pollution over time in a very aggressive, but realistic way that works for them. Regulating carbon through the EPA under the Clean Air Act is morally and legally the right thing to do,” he said.

The proposal will give states and regions flexibility in determining how to meet those goals through energy efficiency, increased renewable energy, retrofitting existing power plants, or by developing carbon trading programs.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Become a fan on facebook

 

Quantcast
%d bloggers like this: