(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) spoke at the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing entitled “VA Claims System: Review of VA's Transformational Progress.”
Currently, 4,000 veterans in Reno, Las Vegas, and across Nevada have waited on average 433 days to have their VA claim completed. This is the longest wait time in the nation and is well over the VA’s targeted deadline of 125 days.
Remarks as prepared:
Thank you Chairman Sanders and Ranking Member Burr for holding this hearing on the claims process.
It is no secret that the veterans claims backlog is the most critical mission facing the Veterans Benefits Administration. Every person is this room knows the seriousness of this problem, but I specifically want to underscore how this is affecting veterans in Nevada.
4,000 veterans in Reno, Las Vegas, and across Nevada have waited more than the VA’s target deadline of 125 days for their claim to be completed. On average, Nevada veterans waited 433 days to have their claims completed—this is the longest wait in the nation and it is simply unacceptable.
Under Secretary Hickey, I know you are committed to fixing this issue and appreciate you recognizing the gravity of this problem, but it’s important to me and my constituents that I bring this story to your attention.
A Las Vegas Veteran wrote to me recently: “I am just one more Disabled Veteran still fighting the appeals process with the VA. I understand now that no one is going to expedite my appeal and I will probably die before I get any successful resolution, but there are huge numbers of vets just like me and some in worse shape. None of us deserve to be put on hold forever.”
Frustration—That is what this veteran and veterans across the nation are feeling.
I, as well as my colleagues, want this to be fixed for the good of our veterans, there’s no doubt about that. I am proud to have teamed up with some of my colleagues to thoroughly examine the claims process front to back and from every perspective.
The reality is—VA has a 1945 process. This outdated process no longer makes sense both for the VA and for the Veteran.
Looking back at two decades of VA backlog, I found that VA has always fixed the problem with short-term solutions rather than asking the difficult question of whether the entire process needs to be updated.
VA needs a 21st Century benefits delivery system for our nation’s Veterans. But there is not going to be one silver bullet that solves this problem.
It is going to take multiple proposals that address multiple aspects of the claims process for us to really reach a resolution.
But that means it’s time that all stakeholders open up about what needs to be fixed and how to fix it.
The VA has a role to play. Veteran Service Organizations and Congress have a role to play. Even the Veterans themselves have a part to play in resolving this. And it no longer makes sense to point fingers and place blame.
Instead, Congress needs to give the VA and Regional Offices the tools and resources they need to bring the backlog down. But this cannot be done without an open and frank discussion about what’s working and what’s not.
Congress needs to work together with the VA and VSOs to solve this problem and solve it permanently so that this Committee isn’t back here in a few years having the same discussion.
I know that the Chairman and Ranking Member are committed to that, and I will be reaching out to them about solutions that I’ve identified.
Our nation owes it to Veterans to resolve this problem together and keep our promise to care for them when they return home from war.
Thank you again, Under Secretary Hickey for being here to testify. I look forward to hearing about what progress VA has made and working with you, VSOs, and Veterans to end this backlog.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Policy, today delivered the following remarks during a hearing entitled “Rebuilding American Manufacturing.”
Remarks as prepared:
Thank you Chairman Merkley for holding this hearing today. I’m pleased that our sub-committee continues to focus on jobs and the middle class. For too long, job creation has received second-class treatment by Congress. With Nevada continuing to lead the country in unemployment, Congress must develop policies that spur job growth – especially in industries like manufacturing.
Manufacturing is critical to the American economy, and its continued strength is key to putting Americans back to work. While Washington hesitates to act, America’s manufacturers are shutting down and jobs are being lost.
While Nevada is known for travel, gaming, and mining – manufacturing represents an important segment of our economy by employing more than 56,000 workers at 1,800 manufacturing companies. I would also note that the average wage for manufacturing employee in Nevada is over $52,000 a year which is ten thousand dollars more than the average salary in the state.
Unfortunately, Nevada manufacturers are continuing to struggle in this recession. Just a few months ago, a headline in my hometown newspaper, the Nevada Appeal, read: “Manufacturing Sector Rebound Likely Isn’t Near.” The article went on to highlight that Nevada has lost 10,000 manufacturing jobs in this recession and has only regained 1,000. By industry sector, that is the second-largest job loss in the state.
While it cannot be done overnight, it is my hope that Washington can get serious and implement an agenda to strengthen American manufacturing and create American jobs.
I believe that the key to ensuring Americans continue to have access to high quality manufacturing jobs is not to enact burdensome regulations or a protectionist agenda, but to expand economic freedom. This goal can be accomplished by simplifying our tax code so that businesses are encouraged to locate and remain in the U.S., by ensuring that we are effectively educating our children, and by supporting policies that foster fair competition and open access.
As a nation, we must engage the realities of this growing global and technological economy, and Congress must develop policies that ensure the U.S. remains at the forefront of these changing dynamics and create jobs here in America.
Thank you Mr. Chairman, and I look forward to hearing all of the testimonies from our witnesses.
Nov 13 2013
(Washington, D.C.) – Today on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) shared stories he has received from Nevadans whose healthcare costs are rising, or whose plans have been cancelled under ObamaCare. Heller’s speech centers on President Obama’s promise to the American people that if they liked their health insurance plan, they could keep their health insurance plan.
Last week, Heller cosponsored the If You Like Your Health Plan, You Can Keep It Act (S.1617) introduced by Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), which allows Americans to keep their current health insurance plan.
Excerpts from the speech below:
“We’ve all heard from the law’s supporters that ObamaCare would give uninsured Americans access to health insurance. Time and time again, they promised that people who already had a health plan they liked could keep it.
“In fact, President Obama made that exact promise on numerous occasions.
“But one of my constituents sent me a letter last week telling me that wasn’t the case. Sunny from the Las Vegas area wrote ‘I wanted to tell you that we have lost our wonderful health insurance plan.’ Sunny’s family received a letter from their insurance company telling them that their existing plan didn’t qualify under the Affordable Care Act. They were automatically reassigned to a new plan that costs about $400 more per month.
“But yet another one of my constituents, Kirk from northern Nevada, was just notified that his current health insurance has been cancelled. He went to the exchange to find a new policy and shared his story with me. He wrote, ‘…despite higher deductibles and higher co-pays, my new insurance under this devastating law will be more than 250% of what I am paying now.’
“Marc received a letter telling him that his current plan is no longer offered. The plan, the letter detailed, was cancelled in order to ‘meet the requirements of the new laws.’ Marc was given the option to keep his plan for one additional year if he accepts a rate increase, even though he just saw a rate increase in September.
“I think Steven from Washoe County would likely take issue with that promise. He told me that he now has health care that costs $293 per month. However, he just received a letter from his health care provider informing him that the cost of his health care will increase to $546 per month on January 1st. That means health insurance costs will nearly double next year. There’s nothing affordable about that. There’s nothing secure about that.
“I have a letter here from a father from Reno. He writes, ‘I’m writing you to tell you that I’m now eating crow. A few weeks back I wrote to you and expressed my support for health reform and my dissatisfaction with the government shutdown. Since then, I’ve received notification from my insurance company informing me that my current policy is being discontinued. I then began shopping for new policies for myself and family and have found that rates are two to three times of what I’m currently paying and that my max out of pocket will double, all for basically the same plan as what I have now. In essence, I’ve been put into a situation where I can either save for my kids’ college education or buy healthcare.’
“These stories don’t fit with the narrative we’ve heard for nearly five years. Now, President Obama is trying to backtrack on the dozens of times he made his promise to the American people.
“These personal stories are why I’m proud to cosponsor the ‘If You Like Your Health Plan, You Can Keep It Act,’ introduced by my colleague, Senator Johnson from Wisconsin. This is a simple, but necessary, bill to give Americans the ability to keep their health plans if they like them. The people of Nevada deserve better, and they deserve to have a government that keeps its promises.”
Nov 13 2013
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) testified at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law entitled "The Surveillance Transparency Act of 2013." Last month, Heller joined Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) to introduce this bill, which would expand and improve ongoing government reporting about current National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance programs.
Additionally, Heller has partnered with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) on the USA Freedom Act (S. 1599) to stop the NSA from using the practice of bulk data collection to obtain telephone records of millions of Americans.
Remarks as prepared:
Good Morning, it is a pleasure to be here. I would like to begin my remarks by thanking Chairman Franken for inviting me to testify today.
I also want to thank you for holding this hearing and for your leadership to bring more transparency to the bulk collection programs run by the National Security Agency.
This is a strong bill rooted in the belief that Nevadans, Minnesotans and all Americans should be provided access to reports that explain the personal communication records the government is collecting and how many Americans’ have had their information caught up in that collection.
By now, most people are well aware of the bulk collection practices by the federal government that are authorized by sections of the PATRIOT Act and sections of the FISA Amendments Act.
I am confident the full Judiciary Committee will have a robust debate on the bulk collection practices and whether or not those programs should continue.
I believe the bulk collection programs mostly authorized under section 215 of the PATRIOT ACT should come to an end. Subsequently, I agreed to join Judiciary Chairman Leahy as a principal sponsor with Senator Lee and Senator Durbin on the USA FREEDOM Act.
While there is disagreement on whether that program should continue, I am confident all of us can agree that these programs demand more transparency.
That is why I joined Senator Franken to introduce the Surveillance Transparency Act of 2013.
This legislation would call for reports by the Attorney General detailing the requests for information authorized under the PATRIOT ACT and the FISA Amendments Act.
The reports would detail the total number of people whose information has been collected under these programs, how many Americans have had their information collected and also how many Americans actually had their information looked at by the NSA.
Furthermore, this legislation would allow telephone and Internet companies to tell consumers basic information regarding the FISA Court orders they receive and the number of users whose information is turned over.
The principles outlined in this bill to increase transparency for Americans and private companies would clear up a tremendous amount of confusion that exists with these programs.
That is why transparency reform is included in multiple NSA reform proposals including the Intelligence Oversight and Surveillance Reform Act introduced by Senator Wyden, the USA FREEDOM ACT introduced by Chairman Leahy and myself, and the FISA Improvements Act introduced by Senator Feinstein.
Mr. Chairman, while positions on the bulk collection program may differ, many of us agree on the need for more transparency.This is why I urge support for the Franken Heller legislation before the Sub-Committee today.
We are talking about millions of Americans’ call records that are collected and stored by the NSA and Americans should have access to some basic information regarding the amount of data collected and what is actually being analyzed so that my constituents can determine for themselves whether they believe this program is worthy to continue or not.
Thank you again for the opportunity to testify today, and Mr. Chairman, thank you for your leadership on this issue.
Nov 07 2013
(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV), Ranking Member of the Senate Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance Subcommittee, today delivered the following remarks during a hearing to examine the impact of demand letters — sent by patent assertion entities (PAEs) or “patent trolls” — on small businesses, consumers, and innovators:
Remarks as prepared:
I would like to thank Chairman McCaskill for holding this hearing and I would also like to thank our witnesses for being here and sharing their expert testimony today with the subcommittee.
Today, we are taking a hard look at patent litigation. Specifically, we are looking at the practice of some entities that engage in aggressive pre-litigation practices based on alleged patent infringements.
We all agree that patent holders should be protected under the law and they should be able to assert patent protection methods. Patents are incredibly important to our economy and we all agree that a patent holder should receive compensation for their innovation.
Unfortunately, there are some actors in this sphere who are aggressively asserting that a patent they own has been infringed on in a manner that some believe is in fact deceptive.
Examples brought to our attention include a business that accumulates patents, often by purchasing them from defunct companies or directly from individual inventors. The company then makes use of patents that are ambiguous or broadly written in order to maximize the number of companies against which the troll can assert the patent.
These companies generally do not make or sell anything related to these patents. Instead, they identify companies using a technology that it can allege is an infringement of the patent, then they write a letter to the alleged infringer stating that infringement has occurred and litigation will commence unless a licensing agreement is entered into—i.e., “pay us or we’ll sue you for patent infringement.”
This practice seems to have initially started with technology companies; however other industries including retailors, hospitals, banks, restaurants and the gaming industry have become targets as well.
This practice concerns me and I am sure it concerns many Senators. If frivolous lawsuits are being filed across my state of Nevada because a coffee shop allows their customers to use free Wi-Fi in Reno or a Las Vegas Casino receives a demand letter on a game they offer, it can have a negative impact on the economy because it could hinder innovation and economic growth.
So, I do not believe there is any question that this practice is taking place, it is.
What I hope the hearing today sheds light on is the scope of the problem and the most appropriate method to stem this behavior.
It is my understanding that the Federal Trade Commission has authority to act under its existing Section 5 authority to enforce against unfair and deceptive acts and practices. I also understand if they are waiting for the results of their own 6B study to be completed before moving forward.
I think it is important to see that study or at the very least have a stronger understanding of the scope of the issue before us, especially before moving on to any proposal that may be under this Committee’s jurisdiction regarding the FTC.
I also know that patent reform is an issue that the Judiciary Committee has looked at and will continue to look at. Many of the issues that will be discussed here may also be solved by passing rule-making authority instructing the Patent and Trademark Office to enforce standards on these “demand letters.”
I hope that we can aid in solving this problem by using this hearing today to shed more light on this issue, but this Committee is somewhat limited due to the narrow lane of jurisdiction we have.
Nevertheless, this is an important issue and even by holding this hearing, we are drawing attention to it and rightly so.
So again, I thank the Chairman for holding this hearing, and discussing ways in which we can work to ensure patent holders can protect their patents and that frivolous patent lawsuits are mitigated.
Thank you again Ms. Chairman.
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) spoke on the Senate floor about the need to stop the National Security Agency (NSA) from using the practice of bulk collection to obtain telephone records of millions of Americans. On Tuesday, Heller joined Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) as a lead Republican cosponsor to the USA Freedom Act (S. 1599), which stops the massive intrusion on Americans’ privacy by ending bulk data collection practices permitted under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act.
Excerpts from the speech below:
“…Due to published reports in newspapers around the world, Nevadans are well aware that the federal government has been collecting phone data of law-abiding citizens without their knowledge through a process known as bulk collection. These practices are mostly authorized by Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act.
“…Millions of Americans’ call records are collected and stored by the NSA because a few numbers may help solve an authorized investigation.
“…I believe, Mr. President, what Congress has authorized is a massive surrender of our constituents’ privacy.
“…I want to be clear; I share the concerns of all Americans that we must protect ourselves against threats to the homeland. I believe that we must continue to understand that terrorism is very real and the United States is the target of those looking to undermine the freedoms we hold as the core of our national identity.
“…So, in essence, Congress has authorized a program that invades the privacy of millions of Americans with little to show for it. The results simply do not justify this massive invasion of privacy. That is why I want to end the bulk collection practices authorized under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act and have joined Senator Leahy to introduce the bipartisan, bicameral USA FREEDOM Act.
“…Here in the United States Congress, it is our responsibility to take great care to acknowledge each possible step that could whittle away our privacy. We must examine its necessity carefully and reasonably. And in this case, I do not believe such practices are warranted.”
Oct 30 2013
Legislation considered in Veterans Affairs Committee Today
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) urged his colleagues on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee to support the Veterans Benefits Claims Faster Filing Act (S. 1148) and the Military Family Relief Act (S. 1573).
Heller Veterans Legislation Considered by the Committee today:
Veterans Benefits Claims Faster Filing Act (S. 1148) - This legislation, which Heller introduced with Senator Heinrich (D-NM), is a bipartisan bill to help reduce the veterans disability claims backlog. The bill would require the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) to provide veterans with accurate information for faster filing options.
Specifically, the bill would require the VA to track and post the average turnaround time for veterans when they are filing their claims. Filing claims online through the Fully Developed Claims (FDC) program, instead of filing a paper claim, accelerates turnaround times and makes processing more efficient. The bill would require the VA to inform veterans that under current law, when they file a FDC, they are eligible to receive up to an extra year of benefits.
Military Family Relief Act (S. 1573) –Senator Heller is an original cosponsor of this bill introduced by Senator Jon Tester (D-MT). The bill would authorize the VBA to automatically provide Death and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) and death pension benefits to the widows and widowers of fallen service members and veterans for up to six months. Currently, these widows are ineligible to receive benefits until they file a claim and it is approved, a process that can often take several months.
“Those who wrote the law should be beholden to it”
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) spoke on the Senate floor about an amendment he cosponsored along with Senators David Vitter (R-LA) and Mike Enzi (R-WY), among others. Their legislation will require all Members of Congress, the President, Vice President, and all political appointees in the Administration to purchase their health insurance on the Obamacare Exchange without the help of taxpayer-funded subsidies.
Excerpts from the speech below:
“…Specifically, this amendment seeks to eliminate special Washington D.C. exemptions in the current law. It requires Congressional staff, including Committee and Leadership staff, as well as the President, the Vice President and all political appointees in the Administration to participate in the same exchanges that ObamaCare forces on everyday Americans.
I think it’s clear that the American people are fed up with the Beltway mentality that the rules apply to everyone else, but not Washington D.C. If you ask me, a law that applies to all Americans except those who wrote it, simply doesn’t pass the smell test.
By the way, I want to note that this elitist attitude isn’t anything new. In fact, America’s second President, John Adams, warned against a legislative assembly that would ‘In time, not hesitate to exempt itself from the burdens which it will lay, without shame, on its constituents.’ It turns out, this was a tragically accurate prediction.
If ObamaCare is such a good idea, why wouldn’t those who helped write the law stand proudly by it? The fact that ObamaCare protects a select few from participating in its exchanges is just further evidence that the law never should have been passed to begin with.
And if Congress is going to pass laws that are unpopular, we had better be ready to live by those same rules as everyone else. That’s what this amendment is about, and I hope my colleagues will join me in supporting it.”
Jul 30 2013
"I don’t trust the IRS or the NSA, and I certainly don’t trust the federal government to manage nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain"
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) spoke at the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee about his strong opposition to Yucca Mountain and his concerns regarding the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) proposal to ship nuclear waste to the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS). Heller requested that the DOE work in a transparent way when it comes to nuclear waste storage in Nevada.
Excerpts from the speech below:
“…While I am concerned that the Nuclear Waste Administration Act of 2013 does not do the right thing and take Yucca Mountain off the table, I am pleased that we are discussing legislation that recognizes the need for a realistic solution.
“As you know, Nevada is home to the proposed Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository. I have long had serious concerns about the safety of Yucca Mountain and the suitability of Southern Nevada as the final resting place of our spent nuclear material.
“Many people here know I don’t trust the IRS, I don’t trust the NSA, and I certainly don’t trust the federal government to appropriately manage a repository at this site. I hope that my position is clear.
“As you know, DOE and the State of Nevada have been in discussions regarding the shipment of nuclear waste from Oak Ridge, Tennessee to the Nevada National Security Site.
“I remain concerned about any plan to bring nuclear waste to Nevada, and continue to be concerned about the reclassification of waste for DOE’s convenience.
“If DOE wants to have a partner in Nevada on activities at the NNSS, we need DOE to act like a partner…”
*To see the full exchange, please visit the Energy and Natural Resources Committee website at www.energy.senate.gov.
Compares asking celebrities to promote Obamacare to tactics used in the ‘50s and ‘60s glamorizing tobacco products
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) spoke on the Senate floor about the negative impacts of Obamacare. Heller’s speech comes on the heels of the Administration’s decision to delay the law’s mandate on employers and small businesses.
Excerpts from the speech below:
“…But the more the American people learn about it, the less popular it becomes. In fact, news reports tell us the Administration is now looking for help from Hollywood celebrities to push a bill that many Americans clearly do not support.
“That tactic has been used before. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, Hollywood was used in order to sell and glamorize tobacco products. Today, Hollywood is being asked to peddle the Affordable Care Act. Perhaps to make up for past sins…
“The President’s recent decision to delay, for another year, the law’s mandate on employers and small businesses is more compelling evidence that the Obamacare approach to healthcare reform isn’t working, and is only going to make matters worse…
“Nearly 75% of small businesses in this country have been forced to fire their employees, or cut their hours and turn full-time workers into part-time workers. In fact, just last month, 322,000 workers were forced into part-time employment…
“I can understand the Obama Administration’s decision to delay the employer mandate that is crushing small businesses across the country. That’s why so many of us opposed the law to begin with.
“But the American people deserve far better than a cherry-picking, tax-increasing approach to healthcare reform. American families shouldn’t have to juggle higher healthcare premiums with the threat of losing their job, or losing hours at work. They deserve common sense solutions that will reduce costs and increase access to high-quality care. Obamacare, clearly, is not that solution."