‘Clear Flouting of Roe v. Wade’: Court Strikes Down Anti-Choice Bill in Wisconsin

Ruling could set important precedent for upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case
by Lauren McCauley, Common Dreams staff writer

Had the Wisconsin law taken effect, at least one of the state’s four remaining abortion providers would have been forced to close immediately. (Photo: Joe Gratz/flickr/cc)

Striking down a state effort to “politically interfere” with a woman’s right to choose, a federal appeals court on Monday declared a Wisconsin law unconstitutional in a ruling reproductive rights advocates say is both a “victory” and an important precedent for an upcoming Supreme Court decision.

In his searing rebuke, Judge Richard Posner with the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, said the law was a “clear flouting of Roe v. Wade.”

The ruling applied to a measure signed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker in 2013, known as a TRAP law—short for “targeted regulation of abortion providers.” It stipulated that an abortion provider must have admitting privileges at a local hospital, mirroring policies passed in 10 other states.

In the opinion, Judge Posner echoed the concern of medical experts, who argued that the political maneuver both threatened a woman’s constitutional right and endangered her health.

“What makes no sense is to abridge the constitutional right to an abortion on the basis of spurious contentions regarding women’s health,” Posner stated.

Indeed, during the federal trial, an independent, court-appointed medical expert said of the Wisconsin law: “I think it is an unacceptable experiment to see if you decrease access (to abortion) and see if more women die. It is not acceptable. It is not ethical.”

Following Monday’s ruling, Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, said, “The federal appeals court in Wisconsin recognized what the medical experts have been saying all along: These laws aren’t about protecting women’s health, they are about shutting down clinics and preventing a woman who has decided to have an abortion from actually getting one.”

Monday’s 2-1 ruling blocks a state effort to revive the law after it was struck down by a lower court in March.

Texas is facing a U.S. Supreme Court battle over its “draconian” version of the TRAP law, in a similar case said to have wide implications for national abortion rights. The Texas law has forced the closure of over half of the state’s women’s health clinics and, according to researchers, driven up to 240,000 women in the state to dangerously attempt to end pregnancies on their own.

Had the Wisconsin law taken effect, at least one of the state’s four remaining abortion providers would have been forced to close immediately. Advocates say the resulting backlog would have “delay[ed] procedures by up to 10 weeks, forcing abortions later in pregnancy, if a woman is able to have one at all.” Earlier this year, Walker signed a bill banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy with an extremely narrow exception for medical emergencies.

In a statement Monday, Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said the Wisconsin ruling was “an important victory for women’s health and rights.”

“Laws restricting abortion hurt women—as we’ve seen in states like Texas, where restrictions are already forcing women to end pregnancies on their own, without medical assistance,” Richards said. “This is what we all feared would happen, and we’re deeply concerned that we’ll see this more and more if the Supreme Court does not intervene.”

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Posted in Abortions, Constitution, Culture War, Judiciary-Federal, SCOTUS

NOT Good Enough for the Fearful?

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson explains the Syrian refugee screening process

In the days since the terrorist attack in Paris, there has been a huge debate in the United States over Syrian refugees. While the U.S. has committed to taking 10,000 people fleeing the Syrian civil war, some have argued that there is no way to ensure that terrorists won’t enter the country posing as refugees. The Obama administration has responded by saying that the vetting process is extremely rigorous.

So, putting aside emotional rhetoric about this issue, what exactly is that process?

According to Secretary Jeh Johnson, more than 23,000 potential refugees have been referred to the U.S. and that only 2,000 have made it past the screening. But according to the GOP fearmongers, our process isn’t good enough for them.  Is that because 2,000 worthy souls actually made it through the process?

Head more …. HERE

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Posted in Congressional Activity, Culture War, GOP, Homeland Security, Human Rights, Refugees

The Right-Wing’s UnAmerican Rhetoric

Hitler1aFrankly, I’m ashamed of the anti-islamic rhetoric being spewed forth by those on the right (or should I say wrong) side of the political spectrum.  With Republican candidates calling refugees nothing more than rabid dogs (Ben Carson), espousing registration of anyone who is a Muslim (Donald Trump), saying that we should take in ‘Christian’ refugees but not ‘Muslim refugees (Bush) and stomping the crap out of our constitutional right to freedom of assembly (Marco Rubio), I truly hope Americans start waking up to what the Republican party has apparently become — the party of Hitler.

Here’s a few of the headlines that make me wonder exactly “what” the Republicans want to “take our country back to.”

Articles from the right

Articles from the left

Meanwhile, newly anointed Speaker Ryan pushed forth legislation (HR 4038) that would pretty much put a halt to resettlement of any Syrian refugees on U.S. soil claiming “It’s a security test, not a religious test. This reflects our values.”  HR4038, which was passed by the House yesterday, was introduced shortly after the terrorist attacks by the fear mongerers of the right-wing.  Never mind that the attacks in Paris were NOT conducted by Syrians, but by homegrown radicalized French and Belgian domestic terrorists.  So while any French or Belgian domestic terrorist could present their official EU passport, travel to the U.S. and commit an act of terrorism in the U.S., we’ll be preventing non-violent Syrian refugees from being able to escape the horrors of terrorism for themselves and their family.

Speaker Ryan has portrayed our current vetting process as being seriously broken, Democratic Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD5), on the other hand, claims he’s wrong. “The bill rests on a faulty assumption that the European refugee screening process is similar to the United States screening process. This is entirely inaccurate,” he wrote in today’s Daily Whip. Rather than improve security, Hoyer said that HR4038 would prevent refugees from entering the country by making the vetting process overly inefficient. He described the bill as a “knee-jerk reaction” to a situation in Europe dissimilar to our own.  Unfortunately, even with Democratic leadership against the bill, one-fourth of Democrats succumbed to the hysteria and voted to pass it in the House vote.

Under existing law, the United States vets refugees for one-and-a-half to two years before allowing refugees to enter the country. If enacted (President Obama has vowed to veto it), this bill would likely halt the screening process.  Just as the Republicans have never gotten around to proposing any alternative to the Affordable Care Act, and as they’ve passed one bill after another to nullify any actions taken by the EPA to protect our environment, they’d likely pass yet another bill to nullify any actions taken to rectify their ‘vetting’ concerns.

The Paris attacks have sparked deeply troubling, abhorrent anti-Muslim rhetoric and anti-immigrant policy proposals from the Republicans in Congress that not only don’t represent our American values, but they’re contrary to the principles outlined in our U.S. Constitution.  I just hope that Americans, especially those new citizen immigrants, all across our nation are paying attention. Enough is enough!  It’s time for us to cast our votes FOR American values and AGAINST those who have clearly demonstrated they would trample them in a heartbeat.

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Posted in Congressional Activity, Constitution, GOP, House, Immigration, Refugees

An Open Letter to Paul Ryan

AnnWernerAs a nation, we must stand up and call out those who betray what it means to be an American.

Dear Paul Ryan,

Shame on you. Shame on your Party for succumbing to the absolute worst in human nature. Shame on you for wanting to legislate turning our back on people who are fleeing for their lives. Shame on you for fomenting fear and hatred. Shame on you for accusing our president of politicizing the refugee crisis.

What has he said? He said he will veto the bill Republicans have cooked up to stop us from accepting a mere handful of Syrian refugees. Because he is abiding by our constitution, President Obama is politicizing this crisis? Is that what you’re saying? His statement “this is not who we are” is politicizing this crisis? This is “remarkably unpresidential?”

I’ll tell you who is politicizing it. You, and the people in that sorry excuse for an American political party, the GOP. The people who are always yelling about the Constitution and upholding the principles in it.

Donald Trump is on TV calling for shutting down every mosque in the United States. He has gone so far to say we should require all Muslims carry identification. What’s next? Making them wear star and crescent patches in a replay of what the Nazis did to Jews in Hitler’s Germany? Members of your party are calling for a religious litmus test: Christians only. Members of your Party want to round up Muslims in this country and put them into internment camps. Members of the GOP would have us believe that 5-year-old children and their mothers pose a threat and that every male Muslim is a terrorist. If left to your own devices, you would build a wall around this entire country and throw out everyone who doesn’t look like you, think like you and hate like you. One of the most hurled around “insults” of our president from your irrational, xenophobic, lying brethren is that Obama is a Kenyan Muslim and a secret member of the Muslim Brotherhood, bent on destroying America.

How dare you accuse the president of politicizing this crisis when that is all members of the Republican Party have done since the onset of the worst refugee situation since World War II? How dare you impugn his patriotism? I don’t even want to hear the word Constitution coming out of your mouth. You and the members of your backwards Party have betrayed every single value our country was built upon. I will remind you of the symbol that stands in New York Harbor. It’s a damned shame that I have to remind you. You, after all, are Speaker of the House, and one would think you would remember what we stand for, but since you don’t here is a refresher course:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
‘Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!’ cries she
With silent lips. ‘Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’”

For once in your stingy, privileged, Ayn Rand worshipping life, think about what you are doing and saying. You have forgotten what it means to be an American. You have betrayed the values Republicans used to respect. You have betrayed the values that made this country great. You and those like you are spitting on the Constitution you claim to want to uphold. You and the right wing members of your Party are a national embarrassment. More than that, you are a national disgrace.

Ann Werner

Ann Werner is the author of thrillers and other things. Visit her at Ann Werner on the Web

Follow Ann Werner on Facebook and Twitter

This letter was originally posted at LiberalsUnite

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Posted in Congressional Activity, Culture War, Democracy, GOP, Human Rights

What’s next? Dismantling Lady Liberty?

CAKyOt4UgAAfIzLOur three Teapublican congressmen from Nevada, Mark Amodei, Joe Heck and Cresant Hardy locked arms in antipathy and voted to deny Syrian refugees entrance to American shores (Roll Call Vote 643: HR 4038) just as their ancestors denied access to German Jewish refugees during WWII, half of whom died during the Holocaust.  Surprisingly, they didn’t amend the bill so they could dismantle Lady Liberty as well.

Lady Liberty was officially presented to America in 1886 as a gift of the French to the American people.  Her French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi had originally drawn up plans to create a monumental statue in the form of an Egyptian fellah, or a peasant women, which means she would have been a “Muslim” woman. He wanted to place her at the Suez Canal’s Port, but couldn’t find the financing.  Instead, he reworked everything and she was presented to us instead.  I’m sure if the cowardly Republimen realized this, they’d be more than happy to completely dismantle her and send her packing as it’s clear that they no longer believe in the motto inbscribed at her base:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

It was an egregious American President and his Administration that created this mess, by lying us into starting a pre-emptive war in Iraq, that destabilized the entirety of the middle east, spawning ISIS and the carnage they’ve created.  Still, the Republimen in Congress feel absolutely NO ownership of their savage carnage nor for the resultant refugees fleeing for native country for their lives.  And now, Republican despots are touting how terrified they are of widows and 3-5 year old orphaned Syrian Refugees.

Personally, I’m ashamed of the action our representatives in the Congress took today.  It’s their jobs to lead this nation and to make things work.  Instead, all they can do is cast doubt on anything and everything, vote to do nothing, and then crawl back under their favorite rock in fear.

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Posted in Amodei, Candidates, Congressional Activity, Culture War, GOP, House, Human Rights

Obama Issues Veto Threat for GOP’s Syrian Refugee Gum Up the Works Bill

President Obama has issues yet another veto threat to the House Republimen regarding their Syrian refugee bill (aka, H.R. 4038 – American SAFE Act of 2015).


In a statement of administration policy, the White House made the president’s veto threat clear:

The Administration’s highest priority is to ensure the safety and security of the American people. That is why refugees of all nationalities, including Syrians and Iraqis, considered for admission to the United States undergo the most rigorous and thorough security screening of anyone admitted into the United States. This legislation would introduce unnecessary and impractical requirements that would unacceptably hamper our efforts to assist some of the most vulnerable people in the world, many of whom are victims of terrorism, and would undermine our partners in the Middle East and Europe in addressing the Syrian refugee crisis. The Administration therefore strongly opposes H.R. 4038.

The current screening process involves multiple Federal intelligence, security, and law enforcement agencies, including the National Counterterrorism Center, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS), State, and Defense, all aimed at ensuring that those admitted do not pose a threat to our country. These safeguards include biometric (fingerprint) and biographic checks, medical screenings, and a lengthy interview by specially trained DHS officers who scrutinize the applicant’s explanation of individual circumstances to assess whether the applicant meets statutory requirements to qualify as a refugee and that he or she does not present security concerns to the United States. Mindful of the particular conditions of the Syria crisis, Syrian refugees – who have had their lives uprooted by conflict and continue to live amid conditions so harsh that many set out on dangerous, often deadly, journeys seeking new places of refuge – go through additional forms of security screening, including a thorough pre-interview analysis of each individual’s refugee application. Additionally, DHS interviewers receive extensive, Syria-specific training before meeting with refugee applicants. Of the 2,174 Syrian refugees admitted to the United States since September 11, 2001, not a single one has been arrested or deported on terrorism-related grounds.

No Room at the InnThe certification requirement at the core of H.R. 4038 is untenable and would provide no meaningful additional security for the American people, instead serving only to create significant delays and obstacles in the fulfillment of a vital program that satisfies both humanitarian and national security objectives. No refugee is approved for travel to the United States under the current system until the full array of required security vetting measures have been completed. Thus, the substantive result sought through this draft legislation is already embedded into the program. The Administration recognizes the importance of a strong, evolving security screening in our refugee admissions program and devotes considerable resources to continually improving the Nation’s robust security screening protocols. The measures called for in this bill would divert resources from these effortsiven the lives at stake and the critical importance to our partners in the Middle East and Europe of American leadership in addressing the Syrian refugee crisis, if the President were presented with H.R. 4038, he would veto the bill.

The House of #Republimen are slated to vote TOMORROW on this wasteful showboat legislation. Instead of helping to resolve the crisis before Syrian refugees, H.R. 4038 is nothing but dreadful political grandstanding that directly enhances ISIS recruitment efforts worldwide.

Potential refugees ARE already vetted. But, hypocritical #Republimen, who claim to hate wasteful spending and bureaucracy, are once again wasting what limited legislative time that is available for critical legislative action, taking a showboat vote on a useless, and truly wasteful bill that will seriously add to the bureaucracy and increase costs.  So much for being the small government fiscally responsible crowd.

H.R. 4038 is one bill that President Obama can’t veto fast enough.

How Democratic presidential candidates propose to handle terror threats at home and abroad, in light of the Paris attacks and the shifting threat of the Islamic State:

Senator Bernie Sanders on PBS News Hour with Gwen Ifill:

Secretary Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail today:

(I couldn’t find any YouTube video from Gov. Martin O’Malley subsequent to the debate and the Paris attack on this issue at the time of this post.)

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Posted in Congressional Activity, Human Rights, Refugees

Clinton: Supporting Our Veterans, Troops and their Families


Just ahead of Veteran’s Day, Presidential candidate Secretary Hillary Clinton has issued a fact sheet detailing her commitments to our Nation’s Veterans.  “As Commander-in-Chief, Secretary Clinton will personally commit to fulfilling America’s promise to our veterans, our troops, and their families — a commitment driven by her recognition not just of the extraordinary sacrifices they make, but also of how essential that promise is to our long-term national security and our vitality and prosperity at home.”


Secretary Clinton believes that supporting our veterans is a sacred responsibility. By fulfilling that responsibility, we not only ensure that veterans receive the opportunity, care, and support they earned by serving our country. Prioritizing their reintegration also ensures that they bring their unique skills and experience to the success of their communities and our nation after their service is over. Yet too often, we as a nation failed to uphold our end of the bargain. As Commander-in-Chief, she will personally commit to fulfilling America’s promise to our veterans, our troops, and their families – a commitment driven by her recognition not just of the extraordinary sacrifices they make, but also of how essential that promise is to our long-term national security and our vitality and prosperity at home.

Secretary Clinton has fought for our veterans throughout her career. This issue is deeply personal for her, and her approach is rooted in her upbringing as the daughter of a World War II veteran and decades of experience working with military members and their families. As First Lady, she fought to have Gulf War Syndrome recognized. As Senator on the Armed Services Committee, she fought to establish new services for military members and veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress (PTS) and traumatic brain injuries (TBI). She regularly worked across the aisle to expand military benefits, including to ensure that all members of the Reserves and National Guard and their families had access to health benefits; to expand benefits afforded to surviving spouses; and to broaden protections afforded by the Family and Medical Leave Act to the family members of wounded service members. And as Secretary of State, she was at the table in the Situation Room, providing advice to the President on the most grave decision a Commander-in-Chief makes: whether and how to send our military personnel in to harm’s way.

Secretary Clinton is committed to a strong and resilient military, built by the extraordinary men and women who volunteer to serve and the families who serve alongside them. And she believes that issues affecting current service members and veterans are inseparable. As President, she’ll continue to support the needs and talents of all who have served and who serve us still, whether Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen, including active duty, reserve, and National Guard, and every race, creed, gender, and sexual orientation. And she will have no tolerance for failure to put veterans first.

Secretary Clinton’s comprehensive plan will:

  • Fundamentally reform veterans’ health care to ensure veterans’ access to timely and high quality health care and block efforts to privatize the VHA
  • Modernize and refocus the full spectrum of veterans’ benefits across the federal government
  • Overhaul VA governance to create a new veteran-centric model of excellence
  • Empower veterans and strengthen our economy and communities by connecting their unique skills to the jobs of the future
  • Sustain and strengthen the all-volunteer force
  • Strengthen services and support for military families

The systemic failures of the VA to uphold its core mission underscore the need for fundamental reforms and focused leadership. Long wait times for health care, crippling claims backlogs, and lack of coordination among agencies represent government at its worst. Secretary Clinton recognizes the gravity of these challenges, and as President will pursue a veteran-centric reform agenda that tackles problems head-on and revitalizes the VA. She will end the excuses and ensure our veterans receive the timely health care they deserve. She will oppose the privatization of the VA system, which would undermine our veterans’ ability to get the unique care that only the VA can provide while leaving them vulnerable to a health care market poorly suited to their needs. And she will lead a national effort to invest in and empower veterans to apply their considerable skills in their communities.


Veterans must have access to a system that puts their needs first. But in order to build such a system, prepared for the unique and growing needs of the twenty-first century, we cannot simply throw more money at the problem or tell veterans to go get private care, as the VA’s implementation of the Veterans’ Choice Act has shown. We also cannot throw our veterans at the mercy of the private insurance system without any care coordination, or leave them to fend for themselves with health care providers who have no expertise in the unique challenges facing veterans. The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) must embrace comprehensive process and systems integration across its health care enterprise to ensure a fully-networked and financially- sustainable organization that is dedicated to best practices and continual improvement in everything it does. Specifically, Secretary Clinton will:

  • Create a new framework for VHA health care delivery by refocusing, reorganizing, and streamlining the VHA to best serve veterans in the 21st century. The VHA must be transformed from primarily a provider of services into an integrated health care system that responsibly balances its role as health care provider, partner, and payer for veteran-directed care. And it must have the health care providers necessary to ensure it is able to provide quality and timely care. At the same time, the VA must maintain the ultimate responsibility of coordinating and ensuring comprehensive and quality health care for every veteran and the specialized services that they deserve – critical functions that would disappear if the VA were privatized. The VHA must:
    • Refocus as a veteran-centric provider of service-connected care. The VHA should focus its resources on what it can do best, particularly health care for service-connected conditions. This is especially important in areas where veterans lack access to the necessary care outside of the VHA, such as prosthetics and traumatic brain injury.
    • Synchronize and coordinate VHA care with other available programs, including coverage already provided to veterans, such as private or employer-provided insurance, TRICARE, Medicare, federally-qualified health centers, Indian Health Service, and the Affordable Care Act, to ensure the most responsible use of taxpayer dollars;
    • Strategically purchase private-sector care when it makes sense to do so, such as for some specialty inpatient or surgical procedures, expanded access to mental health and substance abuse treatment, or when the VA cannot provide timely access to necessary care. Secretary Clinton would present and advocate for legislation that allows the VA to pursue provider agreements to do this in the most effective and efficient manner;
    • Establish a VHA Strategic Oversight and Governance Board of health care and management leaders. In line with the best practices of modern hospital systems across the country, the board will be empowered to provide oversight of VHA management processes, monitor accountability, promulgate best practices, and ensure the VHA remains true to its mission of putting veterans first. This Board would include strong veterans representation.
  • Personally convene the Secretaries of Veterans Affairs and Defense regularly in the Oval Office and direct them to develop, execute, and report on an effort that integrates their health care operations to create a more efficient and a sustainable system. She will direct them to:
    • Streamline the DoD-VA health care footprint by identifying opportunities to co-locate and better coordinate inpatient services across federal health delivery programs, while stripping out costly and redundant bureaucratic functions, and developing a plan to ensure the VA has the facilities needed to provide 21st century care;
    • Synchronize procurement to find cost savings by negotiating and procuring a single formulary of pharmaceuticals along with medical and office supplies and information systems to ensure compatibility and eliminate waste and redundancy;
    • Streamline VA and DoD IT, ending the years of delay in developing an electronic health record (EHR) system that is fully interoperable. The VA has over 100 different versions of its own EHR system, making it difficult enough to communicate between different VA clinics, let alone with DoD. DoD and VA must also eliminate bureaucratic barriers to seamless coordination and information-sharing. And the new system must also link to private sector providers to enable full information sharing, care coordination, and integrated billing and payments.
  • Improve health care for women at the VHA to ensure all veterans are fully and equally supported after serving our nation. Women veterans are the fastest growing population served by the VA, highlighting the importance of proactively addressing the VHA’s ability to meet their needs. Secretary Clinton would work to pass bipartisan legislation that requires VA medical facilities to meet the health care needs of women veterans. In addition, Secretary Clinton calls for:
    • New funding to ensure women equal and respectful access to health care, going beyond simply modifying facilities and increasing the number of OBGYNs employed by the VHA, to include expanding provider training, ensuring culturally-competent VHA staff and policies, and providing other gender-specific health services – including mental health services;
    • Requiring the provision of reproductive services across the VHA to ensure women have access to the full spectrum of medical services they need;
    • Broadening initiatives to provide childcare at VA medical facilities so that parents, particularly single mothers, don’t have to choose between taking care of their child and taking care of their health.
  • End the veteran suicide epidemic and ensure that every veteran has access to world-class
    medical and counseling services whenever and wherever they are needed. To do this,
    Secretary Clinton will:

    • Increase funding for mental health providers and training to ensure timely and ongoing identification and triage of mental health issues, and ongoing access to quality mental health care and substance abuse treatment, particularly for alcohol and opiate abuse, including private-sector care when necessary.
    • Expand programs targeted at providing effective mental health treatment for veterans that have participated in classified or sensitive missions without compromising non-disclosure requirements, working with Congress to pass needed legislation;
    • Promote better prescriber and treatment practices by promulgating guidelines that recommend treatments for pain management other than opioids, so that prescribers can consider those alternatives, particularly for patients without chronic physical pain;
    • Ensure that Military Sexual Trauma (MST) is acknowledged as a valid form of PTS, setting a burden of proof for MST that is no higher than for any form of trauma, and that men and women who suffer from it are uniformly eligible for disability compensation and treatment;
    • Educate and encourage state veterans affairs departments to include veteran mental health programs in state requests for federal grants as part of Secretary Clinton’s initiative to combat drug and alcohol addiction;
    • Provide proper legal assistance to review and upgrade other-than-honorable discharge categorizations for service members who were improperly separated from service due to service-connected mental health and cognitive issues, such as TBI, PTS, and addiction.
  • Continue efforts to identify and treat invisible, latent, and toxic wounds of war that
    continue to affect veterans, family members, and caregivers long after their service. This includes Agent Orange, Gulf War syndrome, burn pits, and – two issues that Secretary Clinton has long worked to better address — PTS and TBI. Secretary Clinton will:

    • Maintain presumptions of service-connection for latent and invisible wounds from the Vietnam War, Gulf War, Iraq war, and Afghanistan war while directing the VA to consider additional presumptions of service connection for disabilities arising from toxic exposure;
    • Expand the current VA burn pit registry to become a comprehensive registry for all post- 9/11 deployment veterans exposed to environmental dangers, toxic hazards, and other conditions.
    • Dedicate research funding and provide mechanisms for collaborative efforts to facilitate the development and expansion of evidence-based diagnostic tools and treatments for veteran-centric conditions, including mental health issues and other invisible, latent, and toxic wounds of war, and direct the VA, HHS, and DoD to collaborate and integrate portfolios when it makes sense to do so.

In the years following World War II, 16 million returning service members were able to rely on the health care and educational opportunities afforded by an adaptable VA organization, headed at the time by General Omar Bradley. General Bradley worked effectively with Congress and stakeholders to build the system that cared for those returning troops. In a similar spirit, aimed at address the VA’s current limitations, Secretary Clinton will direct a national, multi-sector effort to streamline and modernize the veterans’ benefits system. The “New Bradley Plan” will address the shortcomings of today, while ensuring the nation can meet the needs of tomorrow’s veterans. To implement this plan, Secretary Clinton will:

  • End the disability benefits and appeals backlog through overtime work, productivity improvements, and new initiatives. Secretary Clinton will:
    • Streamline and simplify the claims process by integrating DoD and VA medical evaluations, using “fully developed claims” from private providers, allowing rules-based automatic adjudication for the simplest of applications, and by ensuring veterans have an effective appeals process to make sure the VA gets it right.
    • Improve the VA’s partnership with DOD to anticipate and prepare for future waves of VA claims across the government, and surge resources to the system before claims backlogs grow out of control.
    • Launch an Innovation Initiative led by a team with diverse backgrounds and expertise to connect the VA with leaders in the nation’s leading businesses, universities, and non-profits to develop innovative solutions for sustainably managing the claims and appeals process and to address unforeseen challenges.
  • Bring Sustained and Focused White House Leadership and Attention to coordinate the programs supporting our veterans across the U.S. government, ensure continued consultation and engagement with the veteran community, and leverage the private sector to ensure the entire nation is mobilized to meet this challenge. To do so she will:
    • Create a standing President’s Council on Veterans, coordinated by a Senior White House official responsible for Veterans Integration. The council will be an all-of-government approach to supporting veterans, comprised of the heads of all 17 agencies involved in this mission to synchronize and integrate the patchwork of programs and benefits.
    • Conduct an end-to-end evaluation to optimize the full scope of benefits afforded to our veterans and provide recommendations to ensure that greater investments in services and support for veterans are smart, effective, and will best meet the needs of veterans today and for generations to come;
    • Convene a White House Summit on Veterans to personally address progress on veterans’ issues with all stakeholders directly, meet early and regularly with a cross-section of veterans to understand their needs and ensure we meets our promises, and work with state governors to ensure that veterans and National Guard issues are addressed at the state level given their important role;
    • Continue to engage private and philanthropic sectors with this effort by ensuring that companies know the value of hiring veterans and by amending federal ethics and acquisition regulations to allow VA, DoD, and other federal agencies to effectively partner with the private and nonprofit sectors, including better data sharing, more open access to federal facilities, and sharing of resources.

Secretary Clinton recognizes that America’s veterans are an enormous asset for the future of the country and our economic growth. Veterans bring unique skills from their time in the military that can move America’s economy forward. From their commitment to service and teamwork to specific job skills from computer science to welding, investment in our veterans can power a workforce for the future. Secretary Clinton is committed to the programs and supports that will strengthen pipelines of veterans and service members into higher education and industry. Specifically, Secretary Clinton will:

  • Support and broaden initiatives that provide educational benefits, job training, and support for veteran entrepreneurs. Secretary Clinton will build on First Lady Michelle Obama’s Joining Forces Initiative with a national push to improve the pipeline of our nation’s veterans into the workforce. To do this, she will:
    • Make the Post-9/11 GI Bill a lasting part of the nation’s social contract with those who serve, working with Congress to pass legislation that solidified existing benefits, preserves and extends family transferability (including to non-traditional families), and expands qualified uses for use in the 21st century economy, such as at approved coding academies, entrepreneurship programs, and apprenticeship programs with America’s leading companies and labor organizations;
    • Expand tax credits for veterans’ employment through reauthorizing and making permanent the Work Opportunity Tax Credit for veterans and expanding it to provide credits to businesses that hire disabled veterans.
    • Improve concurrent certification and credentialing programs by increasing funds available to state and local governments to process military certificates, and by expanding the concurrent credentialing program to all appropriate military career fields, to ensure that our veterans can seamlessly transfer their skills from the military to the community;
    • Strengthen veteran entrepreneurship programs, including expanding the efforts of the Interagency Task Force on Veterans Small Business Development to provide entrepreneurship training and counseling and small business loan guarantees;
    • Create pathways and platforms for service members to enter growing career fields, including jobs in clean energy, cyber, and information technology, and areas of critical need by improving integration between these opportunities and the military’s Transition Assistance Program;
  • Protect veterans from discrimination and predatory companies that unfairly target veterans and their families, in the spirit of Secretary Clinton’s broader efforts to protect consumers and bolster the middle class, she will:
    • Fight back against schools that prey on veterans, including through legislation that closes the 90-10 loophole exploited by for-profit schools, and by banning schools from receiving federal student aid (including DoD tuition assistance and VA GI Bill funding) if they are found guilty of fraudulently recruiting students;
    • Enforce zero tolerance for firms that overcharge service members and veterans by banning bill collectors and loan servicers from contracts to service federal loans, and help defrauded students discharge debt from fraudulent schools;
    • Strengthen non-discrimination laws protecting veterans and military families by expanding the Uniformed Services Reemployment and Readjustment Act (USERRA) and Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), adding veteran status to the Fair Housing Act of 1968 to protect veterans from discrimination in the housing market.
  • Move decisively to end veteran homelessness by building on successful initiatives and expanding programs that help ensure long-term success.
    • Increase funding for reducing homelessness while expanding public-private partnerships, with an emphasis on regions with the greatest need. Leverage federal resources to support community-based organizations, including by reallocating excess and unused federal property for use by veteran-focused non-profit organizations;
    • Expand complementary programs and services including outreach, especially in locations involving high densities of homeless veterans, and programs that prepare veterans for independent living to prevent recidivism, such as counseling, job training, disability benefits, and transportation;
    • Address the needs of homeless women veterans and homeless veteran families by clarifying language in the Fair Housing Act that removes ambiguities in the law regarding gender and family-specific housing, and providing shelter options that account for local demographic conditions.
  • Support Veterans Treatment Courts nationally using block grants to state and local governments while also directing the VA to expand its current pilot programs for “medical legal partnerships” to offer space to community legal organizations in VHA clinics. Veterans Treatment Courts provide an alternate to the traditional criminal justice system for veterans with minor offenses aggravated by mental health or substance abuse issues, ensuring these veterans are rehabilitated while getting the treatment they need.
  • Recognize the honorable service of LGBT veterans by proactively reviewing and upgrading discharge records for veterans who were discharged because of their sexual orientation; and honoring their service by continuing efforts to improve the support and care they receive at the VHA to ensure respectful and responsive health care.

Fulfilling the nation’s duty of taking care of our veterans requires effective performance by the VA and other federal agencies that support veterans. As part of a broader effort to promote good governance, Secretary Clinton will reform management within the Department of Veterans Affairs, ensure fair and transparent accountability, and set us on a path to excellence for our nation’s veterans for generations to come. Secretary Clinton will:

  • Create a culture of accountability, service, and excellence at the VA. Secretary
    McDonald has done a commendable job of refocusing the VA on its core mission: putting veterans first. But Secretary Clinton believes more must be done to reform and improve the VA from the top-down, and from the bottom-up. Secretary Clinton supports legislation that will:

    • Hold every employee accountable for their performance and conduct. From the top leadership to mid-level managers to entry-level employees, everyone at the VA must embody the highest workplace standards. Supervisors must be empowered to suspend or remove underperforming employees in accordance with due process not only for the good of the organization, but in service of our nation’s veterans.
    • Revamp the performance evaluation system to recognize and advance high-performing employees to create a thriving, effective, and sustainable organizational culture, while also establishing processes to ensure managers are held accountable for taking action to deal with poorly performing employees.
    • Bolster critical whistleblower protections. Individuals who sound the alarm over wasteful programs or question inefficient practices embody the spirit of reform and management excellence that the VA must champion. Whistleblower protections are key to ensuring these employees are empowered and their voices heard, not silenced.
  • Provide budgetary certainty to facilitate reforms and enable long-term planning. The recent budget deal reached between the Congress and the White House is a promising first step in providing government agencies with much needed fiscal stability. But we must go further by ending the sequester for both defense and non-defense spending in a balanced way, and prioritizing full-funding and advance appropriations for the entire Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • Ensure our veterans are buried with the honor, distinction, and integrity they deserve, directing the VA to clean up problems that have led to unacceptable indignities for our veterans and their families.

Our obligation to our veterans cannot be separated from our broader commitment to take care of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, coast guardsmen -active duty, reserve, and National Guard – and their families. Our men and women in uniform have volunteered to put their lives on the line to serve our country in operations that keep our people safe and ensure peace and security across the globe. As President, Secretary Clinton will make sure the United States supports the men and women who make the US military the best-trained, best-equipped, and strongest military the world has ever known.

Secretary Clinton believes that no individual should have to choose between serving their country and taking care of their family, while on active duty or afterward. She will continue to work with civilian and military national security leaders to ensure that our nation’s armed forces are trained, equipped, and ready for the full spectrum of challenges they will face, including those still over the horizon.


The All-Volunteer Force (AVF) has been stressed by fourteen years of continuous combat and is endeavoring to rebuild and reset, while facing growing instability and complexity around the world, reduced end-strength, and an uncertain fiscal environment. Secretary Clinton is developing a broad strategy on DOD budget and reform measures grounded in permanently ending the damaging sequester while making smart reforms in both defense and non-defense spending. Included in that plan will be military personnel policies that support and promote total force readiness by:

  • Supporting smart compensation and benefits reform that attracts the best and brightest new recruits to the AVF. Secretary Clinton’s unwavering commitment to our military men and women includes policies that will:
    • Ensure reforms to military compensation and retirement benefits improve readiness and quality-of-life, and working with Congress and the services to ensure that ongoing improvements to the system, such as plans to modernize the commissary system, are accomplished in a smart and comprehensive manner, guaranteeing the strength and sustainability of the force for generations to come.
    • Modernize the military health system by ensuring service members, military retirees, and their families robust access to health care by changing the incentive structure of the TRICARE contracts to produce better health outcomes with better patient satisfaction, expanding access to mental health care through telemedicine and non-traditional treatments, and ensuring the health needs of military women – including reproductive health care – are fully supported.
  • Adopting modern and inclusive personnel policies that serve to bolster and enhance the finest fighting force the world has ever seen. Secretary Clinton’s plan will both take advantage of America’s strengths while embodying its values. This includes:
    • Attracting millennials to military service by building on ‘force of the future’ initiatives, to include emphasizing military opportunities in science and technology and promoting smarter and more flexible DoD policies on tour lengths and assignments, which give military families greater stability and increase retention.
    • Zero-tolerance for Military Sexual Assault and Harassment by strengthening protections to ensure that our women and men in uniform can serve without fear of sexual assault or harassment, and without fear of retaliation for reporting.
    • Welcoming women to compete for all military positions provided they meet the requisite standards, in line with the ongoing DoD policy review. From piloting fighter jets to serving on submarines to earning respect as an Army Ranger, merit and performance should determine who serves in the military’s combat specialties and units, not gender.
    • Supporting the DoD policy review on transgender service, anticipating that transgender people will soon be allowed to serve openly alongside their comrades in arms in a military where everyone is respected enough to let them serve with dignity.

Secretary Clinton recognizes that military family readiness is a critical part of total force readiness, and she understands that military families face unique concerns and challenges, especially after fourteen years of continuous deployments. To tackle these challenges, Secretary Clinton will:

  • Promote family policies that provide military families with additional opportunities and much-needed flexibility in juggling multiple challenges. This includes:
    • Increasing access to child care both on- and off-base, including options for drop-in services, part-time child care, and the provision of extended-hours care, especially at Child Development Centers, while streamlining the process for re-registering children following a permanent change of station (PCS);
    • Creating flexibility around military moves by allowing families to continue receiving their housing allowance for up to six months after a military member’s PCS move under common-sense circumstances; for example, when the service member has a spouse enrolled in a degree-granting program or one or more children enrolled in a local school;
    • Expand military spouse employment initiatives by developing resources and high quality portable or work-from-home positions for spouses while expanding public hiring preferences and credentialing programs to assist military spouses.
  • Champion efforts to care for our military members and families, and ensure that our
    nation honors and respects them throughout their service and beyond. Secretary Clinton will:

    • Ensure continued focus on mental health for military members and families by enhancing DoD programs to help remove the stigma of mental health issues and by developing a comprehensive whole-of-life approach with the DoD Suicide Prevention Office that includes education, training, counseling resources, and family outreach;
    • Remain committed to extended leave policies that are critical to military families, whether preparing for a service member’s deployment or caring for a wounded warrior, and expanding paid maternity and paternity policies across all of the services;
    • Continue to support Gold Star Families and recognize their sacrifice through enhanced gratuity payments to surviving spouses and ongoing access to benefits in recognition of their sacrifice.
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Posted in 2016, 2016 Election, Candidates, Democratic Party, DOD, Elections, Veterans Affairs

Reinventing High School


— General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.), Founding Chair,  and Alma J. Powell, Chair, America’s Promise Alliance

We want to talk to you about our nation’s high schools for a moment.

In 2008, the Department of Education required all states, for the first time, to use the same calculation for their high school graduation rate — a key accountability measure that this administration has embraced. In 2010, President Obama and Secretary Duncan joined the America’s Promise Alliance at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to launch the GradNation campaign, setting a national goal of a 90 percent high school completion rate by 2020.

We’re seeing tangible results.

High school graduation rates have risen and are continuing to rise across America. Preliminary data from the Department of Education for the 2013-2014 school year show the narrowing gap between students from low-income families, students of color, students with disabilities, English language learners and their peers.

This increase in graduation rates is the result of hard work by millions of young people, families, educators, community leaders, business leaders and policy makers who have come together to create brighter futures for young people.

But while we celebrate this progress, we need to be smarter and more persistent if we want to continue to raise graduation rates for all students.
Today, a diverse group of people is coming together at the White House to talk about how we can do that in a smart way. You should follow along, and join the conversation here.

Young people have to be a respected voice at the center of change. The only way this works is if they’re a part of the process.

The latest report out of our research institute asked young people who left school without graduating what would have helped them stay in school. Here’s what we found:

The most powerful “innovation” contributing to students’ success is support from caring adults in schools. Young people told us they need an anchor, someone whom they can trust to be a stable presence in their lives. Even better is a web of supportive adults and peers to help them navigate their way through life’s challenges and toward graduation and a successful adulthood.

Students who do not graduate on time have been stigmatized as ‘dropouts.’ But we’ve been listening to these young people and learning about the complex and extraordinary challenges they face — unstable housing, food insecurity, trauma, violence, physical and emotional abuse, and bullying. Leaving school may be a last resort — but it may also feel like their only option. We’re humbled by these students’ determination not only to survive, but to craft a safe and meaningful life and to fulfill their dreams.

Today, we want to applaud those participating in the White House Next Generation High School Summit working together to accelerate innovation that creates the conditions under which all children have a real chance to succeed.

We want to encourage everyone who participates in today’s conversation to be guided by the best evidence of what works. We hope we can ‘redesign’ in such a way that teachers and other adults in schools have the time and expectation to forge real and positive relationships at every turn.

And finally, let’s be persistent: The policies, practices and stigmas that contribute to opportunity gaps in this country were long in the making — and they will take time and attention to dismantle.

(As an aside, I was astounded to hear one of the commentators claim with better education systems, her son could have become a doctor, and that her daughter is a teacher and that’s just fine.  From the tone and the demeanor of the comment, it struck me as the roots of systemic gender discrimination.)

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Posted in Announcements, Education, Events

Tickets Are Now Officially ON SALE!


Table reservations are coming in briskly, so I encourage everyone to purchase their tickets and/ or tables soon!

Tickets may be purchased in any of the following ways:

  1. Send payment to address listed on invitation
  2. Give payments directly to Nyla Howell, Kimi Cole, Marty McGarry or John Harris (tickets will be mailed to you when payment received)
  3. Order tickets online through Eventbrite by clicking on this link: GET FIRST IN THE WEST TICKETS

This past weekend it came to my attention that there is a strong likelihood of attracting an additional national caliber Democratic speaker for our event. Updates will be sent out immediately as speaker(s) are added.

1st in the West VIP invitation brochure

NEVADA is truly First In The West for 2016 caucuses- let’s start the year by gathering and showing our Nevada Democratic spirit!

— Kimi Cole, Chair- Douglas County Democrats

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Posted in Announcements, Democratic Party, Events, NVRDC Meeting
Upcoming Events
  • Wmca City Council Mtg December 1, 2015 at 2:00 pm – 6:00 pm 90 WEST 4TH ST., WINNEMUCCA, NV 89445 Agendas: http://bit.ly/1JBy7GB
  • NSDP C/C Mtg - Clark County December 5, 2015
  • HumboldtDems Mtg December 8, 2015 at 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm
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