Urges Colleagues to Support VA Appropriations Bill

(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) spoke on the Senate floor, urging his colleagues to support the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies (MilCon-VA) Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2017. During the speech, Senator Heller emphasized the importance of providing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) the funds necessary to continue to fix the issues plaguing the agency and to keep the commitments made to our brave veterans.


(Washington, DC) –Today, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) spoke at a Senate Committee on Finance Subcommittee on Health Care hearing titled, “Alzheimer’s Disease: The Struggle for Families, a Looming Crisis for Medicare.” During the hearing, Heller pointed to the importance of access to tele-medicine services for patients and families suffering from Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases in rural areas. He also spoke about those in his own family who have been affected by Parkinson’s disease.


(Washington, DC) –Today, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) spoke at a Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing, highlighting his legislation to improve veterans’ experience with health care. The legislation, S.3035, requires the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to carry out a pilot program for the contract hiring of medical scribes so that physicians can spend more time with their veteran patients and improve the quality of every VA health care appointment.


Recently, Senators Heller and Jon Tester (D-MT) teamed up to introduce bipartisan legislation honoring our veterans by helping improve the quality of VA health care.

Issue: Veterans are experiencing long appointment wait times and less time with their VA doctor for a variety of reasons, but in part due to high patient load and not enough doctors to serve the population. This shortage is a nationwide problem, but in particular it impacts the VA because there are fewer recruitment and retention tools available to the VA compared to the private sector.

Legislative Solution: Require the VA to carry out an 18-month pilot program in up to five VA medical centers for the contract hiring of medical scribes to assist VA physicians with workload. This bill ensures doctors have more time to see veteran patients rather than enter medical data.  It will also serve as a recruitment tool for doctors who want an employment package comparable to the private sector.

What is a medical scribe? A medical scribe is an individual trained and hired to enter information into the electronic health record or chart at the direction of a physician or practitioner. A scribe can be found in multiple settings, including physician practices, hospitals, emergency departments, long-term care facilities, long-term acute care hospitals, public health clinics, and ambulatory care centers.

Benefits of Medical Scribes:

  • Reduces the amount of time a physician must capture and enter data during a patient’s visit and increases the time they have to see patients, which can improve both quality of care and timeliness of care.
  • Physicians often request scribes as part of their employment package, so the use of scribes can serve as a VA recruitment and retention tool in a system that struggles greatly with this issue due to the competitive advantage of the private sector.
  • Improves the quality of electronic health records because scribes can devote the time to detailed documentation.

The legislation is supported by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Disabled American Veterans, and the American Legion.


(Washington, DC) –Today, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) spoke at a Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, & Urban Affairs hearing titled, “The Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress.” During the hearing, Heller questioned Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen over the state of the U.S. economy and potential factors that could influence it.


(Washington, DC) –Today, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) underscored the importance of advancing the Interstate 11 project with U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. During the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation hearing titled, “Implementation of the FAST Act,” Heller and Foxx discussed ways to expedite the planning, permitting, funding, and construction of the project which will connect Phoenix and Las Vegas, and then extend to Northern Nevada as a result of the FAST Act


Senator Heller successfully included six of his legislative priorities, including his I-11 extension legislation, in the FAST Act. This law is the first long-term surface transportation reauthorization bill in over a decade and was signed into law on December 4, 2015.


(Washington, DC) – Recently, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) spoke on the Senate floor honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defending our nation.

“On behalf of the state of Nevada, the United States Senate, and the United States of America, I express my sincere gratitude to the families of all Nevadans who have given their lives in the line of duty.


“I assure you that your loss will never be forgotten. And I thank and commend each of the brave Nevadans currently serving in our armed forces, as well as their families, for their sacrifice.”

Remarks as prepared:

Every day in Washington, I pass by the Iwo Jima Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery. This is a humbling reminder of the valiant men and women from across this nation who have answered the call of duty in two World Wars, the wars in Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan, and numerous other conflicts waged to keep America free. It constantly reminds me that the ongoing fight to care for our nation’s veterans is my duty and responsibility as a United States Senator.

These fearless warriors had moms and dads of their own. They had sons and daughters, loved ones, neighbors and friends. But they selflessly made the ultimate sacrifice for us. They stood against tyranny, fought oppression and injustice, and defended liberty with the highest measure of honor, valor and courage.  They demonstrated the greatest love a person can have by laying down their lives for our country.

The greatest honor we can bestow on our men and women in uniform and their families is to remember their immeasurable sacrifice.  While we carry on the tradition of Memorial Day, let us never forget that every day is a chance to thank and honor our patriots in uniform. 

Last week I had the honor of attending the final send off for two of Nevada’s very own at the Arlington National Cemetery. Let me tell you about one of them, Bob Wheeler.

Mister Wheeler was a patriot in every sense of the word. He joined the United States Air Force in November of 1962, serving in the Para-Rescue career field.  He was recognized as a true innovator in his leadership position, opening the door for free-fall parachuting and combat tactics. He led by example, working diligently and earnestly to help those around him and to protect our country. Bob was credited with saving 28 lives throughout his career, including vulnerable aviators who had crashed and distressed seamen in the Vietnam War. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross for Valor, the Airman’s Medal, numerous Commendation Medals, 17 Air Medals, and SEA Services Ribbons. His twenty years of service and bravery will never be forgotten. Those are the types of men and women our armed services is made up of, and they live all across this nation in each and every state represented in this body.

I had the pleasure of working with Mr. Wheeler personally, as he served on my Northern Nevada Veterans Advisory Council. We worked as a team, along with the rest of the council, to help improve resources for Nevada’s veteran community. His first-hand knowledge of combat and veterans’ needs could never be replicated – he was one of a kind, and I am thankful to have had him as an ally in helping Nevada’s veterans.

That’s why I was so disappointed to hear the head of the VA, Secretary Robert McDonald, comparing the wait times veterans experience at the VA for health care appointments to the wait times at Disney theme parks. It’s totally inappropriate and inexcusable. It shows there is still a culture and an attitude inside the VA that needs to change.  The mission of the VA should always be serving the veteran, not finding ways to avoid accountability.

With the words, “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan,” President Lincoln affirmed the government’s obligation to care for those injured during the war and to provide for the families of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Congress can do this is by working diligently on behalf of those who served and survived, which is why one of the greatest privileges of serving Nevada in the Senate is the opportunity to sit on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. 

Recently, I joined my colleagues to introduce the Veterans First Act. It focuses on one thing: improving the delivery of care and benefits to our nation’s veterans and their families. Specifically, I championed causes that reform the VA disability claims process and create a system that can withstand surges in disability claims without generating another claims backlog. Also, I sought to implement a new, voluntary five-year pilot program to help reduce the large backlog of appeals at the Veterans Benefits Administration. I want to establish a new channel whereby veterans can expedite their appeal instead of waiting two to four years for a decision by the Board of Veterans Appeals.  Finally, I want to ensure homeless veterans AND their families are cared for, which is why this bill includes provisions to reimburse VA-funded shelters for care of the child of homeless veteran.

On behalf of the state of Nevada, the United States Senate and the United States of America, I express my sincerest gratitude to the families of all Nevadans who have given their lives in the line of duty.  I assure you that your loss will never be forgotten. And I thank and commend each of the brave Nevadans currently serving in our armed forces, as well as their families, for their sacrifice.  But my gratitude extends across the nation to all veterans and their families. We owe you all a debt that can never be fully repaid.  May God bless our troops, and may He continue to bless our great country.


(Washington, DC) –Today, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) spoke at a Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing about U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald’s response to a letter Heller recently sent. The letter expressed Senator Heller’s strong disgust and disagreement with the Secretary’s comments comparing the wait times of veterans at VA health care facilities to those of visitors at Disney theme parks. 

A copy of the letter sent to Secretary McDonald can be found HERE.


(Washington, DC) –Today, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) spoke at a Senate Committee on Finance hearing titled, “Debt versus Equity: Corporate Integration Considerations.” During the hearing, Heller emphasized the need to overhaul the nation’s international tax system and drop the corporate tax rate in order to make the United States more competitive with our foreign partners. He also addressed the Treasury’s new rules on inversions.


(Washington, DC) –Today, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) spoke at a press conference to unveil legislation with colleagues on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee to reform the agency and improve the delivery of care and benefits to our nation’s veterans and their families. The bipartisan agreement, known as the Veterans First Act, ensures our brave heroes are put first and provided the care they were promised.


Below is a list of legislation led by Senator Heller included in the Veterans First Act:

  • 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act (S.1203) – Senators Heller and Casey, as Co-Chairs of the Senate VA Backlog Working Group, championed this legislation designed to reform the VA disability claims process and create a system that can withstand surges in disability claims without generating another claims backlog.
  • Veterans Affairs Research Transparency Act of 2015 (S. 114) – Senator Heller’s legislation promotes greater transparency and sharing of research related to veterans, their health, and other issues by requiring the VA to make taxpayer-funded research for the VA publicly available.
  • The Express Appeals Act (S.2473) – Senator Heller co-led, along with his colleagues Senators Sullivan, Tester, and Casey, legislation establishing a new, voluntary five-year pilot program to help reduce the large backlog of appeals at the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA).  The bill would establish a new channel whereby veterans, upon receiving a decision on an original disability claim by the VA, would have the option to file an express appeal with the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA), in lieu of the traditional appeals process.


Heller stresses importance of ensuring transparency at the FCC through his legislation

(Washington, DC) –Today, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) spoke in support of his legislation, the Federal Communications Commission Process Reform Act of 2015 (S. 421), at a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation markup. The legislation, which brings greater transparency and reform to the rulemaking process at the Federal Communications Commission, successfully passed committee.     

Remarks as prepared:

I want to start by thanking Chairman Thune for including my FCC Process Reform Act on today’s markup, and to Senator Daines for his cosponsorship.

All of us on the dais know that the communications and technology sectors are the most rapidly advancing sectors of our economy.

In Nevada, it is driving jobs and investment, and generates billions of dollars in U.S. economic activity every year. 

Nevadans are employed by this sector and Nevadans enjoy the mobility of voice, video and data, which is why my bill to reform the way the FCC operates is so important.

Whether it’s turning on the tv, dialing on your cell phone, or browsing the Internet, every Nevadan and consumer in America is increasingly impacted by what goes on at the FCC.

So the stakes here are high. We have an independent agency that has massive influence over a sector of our economy and our entertainment.

And we have seen multiple examples of the FCC engaging in rulemaking practices that raise suspicions that they are being less than transparent.

For example, it took two weeks after a vote on net neutrality to actually see what was passed.

To Nevadans, the question is – why is it a secret?  Why can’t you show America what you are voting on? 

I think we all know the reaction you get from the public when they are told you have to pass the bill to find out what is in it.

But that isn’t all.  Senator Johnson released an excellent report that directly highlights my concerns with how the FCC operates.  

His report analyzed the Rulemaking for the Open Internet Order, known by the public as Net Neutrality rules.

And it looks like from Senator Johnson’s report that the Chairman pulled a bait and switch of the Open Internet Order with improper influence from the White House.

Let me read you a quick timeline:

On November 1st of 2015 - FCC staff stated they would circulate an Open Internet draft that would take a hybrid approach to net neutrality.

November 6th - White House staffer Jeffrey Zeints briefs Chairman Wheeler on the President’s plan to push for a different approach, complete Title II reclassification.

November 7th – Chairman Wheeler’s senior staff internally hits “Pause” on drafting the hybrid approach.

November 10th – the President publicly states his support for Title II regulation of the Internet.

December 5th – Chairman Wheeler publicly embraces Title II.

The report concluded that the FCC changed course on the Open Internet Order under the influence of the White House, and also failed to solicit input on its new direction.

This is not transparency or the workings of an independent agency.

That is why this is important.  We cannot have an independent agency that looks like it is playing politics rather than actually advocating for the public interest.

The consumers and the marketplace deserve a better understanding of the procedures the FCC goes through to reach a decision.

That is the reason the Senate should provide more instruction.

This bill should be supported by everyone here because it is about transparency.  

Frankly, Nevadans don’t trust the government and they don’t trust the FCC.  

It doesn’t matter where I’m traveling, whether it is rural places like Elko or cities like Las Vegas and Reno, there is a feeling that this Independent Agency operates in secrecy.

That’s why it’s time to shine a light on what goes on over at the FCC.

These reforms would provide instruction to all FCC Chairmen, Democrat or Republican.

My bill would ensure that orders would never be passed until the public has seen the text at least 21 days before the FCC votes. 

It is shocking that I have to even write that in a bill, but I do.  

The legislation also mandates a cost-benefit analysis on rules with a significant economic impact. 

This is codifying an executive order issued by President Obama; but because the FCC is an independent agency, they didn’t have to adopt cost-benefit analysis. 

And they didn’t, because it would not have helped with their justification for rulemaking.

Even Democrats from time to time are in favor of a cost-benefit analysis. 

For example, just a few days ago, four dozen Democratic House members sent a letter asking the FCC to hold off on its Order on set-top boxes until a cost-benefit analysis is performed.

I think it’s time for Members of this Committee to be honest about what they see going on at the FCC and recognize there is room for improvement.

This isn’t about who is Chairman or what policies they are passing.

It is about ensuring transparency over the process for the sake of the American public. 

That is why I encourage every one of my colleagues here to support this legislation and work with me moving forward to improve the way the Commission operates.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.