Southwest Arkansas Daily
Update from Washington
From Senator John Boozman
To the Class of 2017
It’s time to recognize the Class of 2017. I had the honor of addressing graduates at Williams Baptist College in Walnut Ridge on May 13, 2017. Here is some of the advice I gave to graduates:
I’m sure many of you are documenting this milestone on social media. You have a lot to be proud of so it is no surprise that you want to share your accomplishment. If you check my Facebook, Twitter or Instagram later today, you’ll likely see a picture of me congratulating the Williams Baptist College Class of 2017 as well.
Social media offers a wealth of information that helps keep us up-to-date with the latest news from around the world to what is happening with our friend next door. The ease and convenience of these platforms allows us to stay engaged with our friends and share what is important to us. It’s become so easy to share about ourselves that we lose grasp of the virtue of humility.
We are called to be humble, to follow the example set by Jesus, but as a society we are struggling to follow on this path. Social media makes it more pronounced.
In his book “Mere Christianity,” C.S. Lewis wrote, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”
God has given us each unique talents to help others. It’s a very personal path to understanding how we have been called to help and how we can best serve the needs of the community. This is important to living a life of faith. We should be asking ourselves how can make the lives of others better? This is something we all need to be reminded of – including Washington.
When I was first elected to Congress to represent the Third District of Arkansas in 2001, I became friends with Congressman Tom Osbourne who was representing a district in Nebraska.
Prior to being elected to Congress,
Tom was one of the winningest head coaches in collegiate football history. He
coached his teams to 13 conference championships, 3 national championships and
earned a spot in the College Football Hall of Fame.
He understood that this life we are
given is about more than personal accomplishments. He felt compelled to give
back and thought the best way to use his talents was to serve in the House of
The old football player in me sought
out the Coach for counsel when I got to Washington. He provided a wealth of
advice, but perhaps the best lesson he taught me is that, even in a place like
Washington, you can get a lot accomplished if you don’t care who gets the
That is the truth. We are stronger and smarter as a team. When each person brings their individual talents to the table we can change things for the better.
In a TED talk in April, Pope Francis relayed a message to act humbly or risk ruin.
“The more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more you are called to be humble,” he said.
We are all capable of helping others. You don’t have to be a U.S. Senator or have your dream job or live in your dream house. There is a role for us all to play.
Humility is a civic virtue. We all want to leave our state, country and world a better place for future generations. The question to ask yourselves, Class of 2017, is how can you make a difference?
As my college football Coach Frank Broyles repeatedly told my Razorback teammates and me, there are two types of people in this world: givers and takers. Live your life as a giver, not a taker.
Boozman Applauds Executive Order to Improve VA Accountability
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement after President Trump established an Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
“VA has struggled to dismiss lackluster and negligent employees. I am pleased to see the commitment of the Trump administration to hold bad actors accountable and institute protections for whistleblowers. This will allow VA to better serve our veterans. I look forward to working with my colleagues and the administration to build on this momentum and provide our veterans with the care and attention they earned.”
Boozman Welcomes Fort Smith Pastor Marty Sloan as Guest
(Pictured: U.S. Senator John Boozman, Pastor Marty Sloan and Senate Chaplain Barry Black)
WASHINGTON –Fort Smith Pastor Marty Sloan delivered the opening prayer in the U.S. Senate Thursday as the guest chaplain at the recommendation of U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR).
“Serving as the guest chaplain is an incredible honor. I am thankful for Pastor Sloan’s ministry and am so pleased that he could be here to offer an invocation asking God to guide and bless the efforts of Congress and America’s leaders,” Boozman said on the Senate floor.
Sloan serves as Lead Pastor of Harvest Time, one of the most active and well-attended houses of worship in Fort Smith. He has been in the ministry for 22 years.
The Senate Chaplain invites two ordained clergy members, each month, to pray in the Senate as guest chaplains. Guest chaplains have represented all the world's major religious faiths.
April 27, 2017
Boozman Encourages Arkansans to Dispose of Unneeded and Unused Prescription Drugs
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) encourages Arkansans to participate in Arkansas Take Back on Saturday, April 29 to get expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs out of their homes.
“Drug take-back programs are an important tool to combat prescription drug abuse. I’m proud of the ongoing efforts across our state to get unneeded and unused prescription drugs out of our homes. Arkansas Take Back is making a big difference and helping save lives,” Boozman said.
Arkansas Take Back launched in 2010 to break the cycle of addiction by collecting unneeded and unused prescription medications. Thanks to this initiative, 105 tons of unwanted medication estimated at more than 290 million pills have been removed from Arkansas homes.
Boozman has been a leader in the fight against prescription drug abuse, helping secure a $3.9 million grant awarded to Arkansas last week to help combat opioid addiction in the state.
Click here to find Arkansas Take Back drop off locations.
April 25, 2017
Boozman Votes to Confirm Perdue as Ag Secretary
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) issued the following statement after voting to confirm Gov. Sonny Perdue as Secretary of Agriculture:
“I am proud to support Gov. Sonny Perdue to serve as Secretary of Agriculture. He has a proven record of advocacy on behalf of farmers, ranchers and producers and I am confident that he will continue to be a strong voice for the industry and rural America. I look forward to working with Secretary Perdue to support and strengthen our agriculture community.”
As a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, Boozman questioned Perdue during his confirmation hearing in March. Boozman asked Perdue about his support for opening new markets for American agriculture products and urged him to use his authority as Secretary of Agriculture to make federal child nutrition programs more efficient and flexible so children who are receiving school meals have access to healthy and nutritious food in the summer when school is out.
April 21, 2017
Boozman Statement on the Passing of Former Congressman Jay Dickey
WASHINGTON –U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement on the passing of former Arkansas Congressman Jay Dickey:
“Congressman Jay Dickey was a devoted public servant who dedicated himself to the people of Arkansas. He loved his state and was an unapologetic statesman who worked for its betterment. Jay was very helpful and kind to me in many ways when I became a congressman. My thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time. Jay left a legacy of faith and example that they can be proud of.”
New Tools to Combat Prescription Drug Abuse
Prescription drug abuse is a nationwide epidemic that’s hitting close to home. In Arkansas, the sale of opioids is 25 percent higher than the national average. Arkansas Act 820 signed into law by Gov. Asa Hutchinson earlier this month aims to change that statistic by requiring practitioners to check the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) before prescribing opioids.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls this state-run electronic tracking system one of the “most promising state-level interventions” for addressing prescription opioid abuse. The law strengthens Arkansas’s six-year-old PDMP.
Other states that have implemented mandatory drug monitoring programs have seen a sharp decline in prescription drug-related deaths. I am hopeful our state will experience similar results. This is a great step forward in our fight to combat prescription drug addiction and it opens the door to improving care to our veterans.
Veterans are twice as likely to die from accidental opioid overdoses than non-veterans. The threat our veterans face is two-fold. Untreated chronic pain can increase risks of suicide, but poorly managed opioid treatment can also be fatal.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) practitioners are required to follow state law where they practice, so unless a state requires using PDMP, monitoring a veteran’s prescription history is voluntary. That needs to change. Practitioners at federal agencies like the VA should be obligated to check this database when prescribing medication.
I’ve addressed this issue with VA Secretary David Shulkin and I’m hopeful that we can work together to create a commonsense plan that allows all health care providers access to PDMP so they have the opportunity to advocate for appropriate medications that are right for our veterans.
In March, President Donald Trump tapped New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to lead an opioid task force to focus on drug addiction, prevention and treatment. This builds on the commitment from Congress to capitalize on the efforts, best practices and the input of law enforcement, doctors, drug treatment advocates and patients on the path to recovery that began with the passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) last year.
Congress followed-up with the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act, which includes a provision that authorizes the opioid crisis grant program. Arkansas was awarded $3.9 million in grant funding earlier this month to help combat opioid addiction in our state.
Efforts to fight prescription drug abuse in Arkansas have been underway for years. In 2010, Arkansas launched a statewide effort to break the cycle of addiction by collecting unneeded and unused prescription medications. Across the state, Arkansas Take Back is decreasing the availability of unnecessary prescription drugs by properly disposing of expired and unneeded medication.
There are more than 130 permanent drop-off sites across the state and many law enforcement agencies host temporary drop-off sites bi-annually. The next Take Back event is Saturday, April 29.
Drug take-back programs are important to breaking the cycle of addiction. We’ve had great leadership from the governor, state legislators and law enforcement officials who see the scope of prescription drug abuse. I’m confident that these efforts coupled with the state’s new law to monitor patients’ history of prescription drugs will save lives.
March 29, 2017
Boozman Congratulates Cyber Course Graduates
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) applauded the first class of graduates of the Air National Guard Cyber Skills Validation Course at Little Rock Air Force Base (LRAFB).
“This is a historic day at Little Rock Air Force Base. These graduates are essential to combatting our nation’s growing cyber threat. This cyber training course is an important mission to Little Rock and maintains an important role for Arkansas in preserving our national security. I’m proud of the graduates and the work done to launch this course and train these cyber warriors,” Boozman said.
Guard members started the inaugural class on February 7, and on Wednesday the class of 20 was recognized in a graduation ceremony attended by the director of the Air National Guard Lieutenant General L. Scott Rice.
Boozman, a co-chair of the Senate Air Force Caucus, joined the Arkansas Congressional Delegation in fighting for a cybersecurity mission at Little Rock Air Force Base. In 2015, then Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James visited LRAFB to see the unique capabilities of the base.
This class is the first of its kind. The Department of Defense plans to increase cyber missions nationwide.
March 17, 2017
Free File 2016 Taxes
With less than a month to go before our taxes are due on April 18, many Arkansans are hard at work navigating our nation’s complicated and confusing tax code. Over the past 15 years, there have been nearly 6,000 changes to the tax code, an average of more than one a day. It’s no wonder that the Taxpayer Advocate Service, an independent office within the IRS, estimates that individuals and businesses spend six billion hours each year to comply with the tax code. Fortunately, navigating the complex tax code has become easier. The paper, pencil and calculator method of figuring out taxes now includes easier ways to file income taxes.
Private businesses have made filing taxes more painless for us. Advertisements for tax preparation services and tax software are fixtures on TV during this time of the year. More than 90 percent of individuals rely on these to file their income taxes.
For more than a decade, the IRS has worked with several private online tax preparation businesses to form the Free File Alliance. This program helps make it easier for people to file their taxes online. Taxpayers who earned less than $64,000 last year are eligible for free online individual income tax preparation and electronic filing services.
Unfortunately, this program is underutilized by eligible taxpayers. That’s why I recently joined Governor Asa Hutchinson and Arkansas organizations to increase awareness of this program.
Arkansas is one of 21 states that has its own Free File programs, allowing eligible taxpayers to file both their federal and state tax return online for free. This is an important service that enables Arkansans to keep more of their hard-earned money.
I’m proud to support the goals of the Free File Alliance. This is an important resource that makes tax preparation easier and increases access to free online filing options for eligible taxpayers and makes the federal government operate more efficiently. The Government Accountability Office estimates the Free File Alliance has saved the IRS at least $105 million in processing costs. This is an important public-private partnership that uses the expertise of tax preparation companies to empower Arkansans and all Americans to better understand their finances and ease tax filing complications.
There is still time to take advantage of this service for 2016 tax filings. I encourage Arkansans to learn more about this program and use this free service at www.irs.gov/freefile.
Homeland Security Directive: Rhetoric vs. Reality
When President Trump began his campaign for the White House, he made national security—and in particular, homeland security—a cornerstone of his platform.
His calls to secure the border, keep terrorists off of U.S. soil and protect our communities struck a chord with a large majority of Americans who for years felt that Washington ignored their very real concerns about our porous borders and broken immigration system.
As expected, the president has moved quickly to deliver on his promises to fix this broken system.
The Trump administration recently rolled out a revised version of its Executive Order aimed at restoring confidence in the the procedures we use to vet refugees fleeing from nations known to harbor radical and violent extremists.
The revised version appears to have benefitted from the engagement of the president’s cabinet, especially the key input of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. This valuable input underscores how important it is for the president to have his team in place to govern effectively. It is vital that every agency involved in implementing this directive is engaged during its development.
Congress has many problems to tackle, but protecting our nation is at the top of that list. That requires we work together to govern. It also requires that we take a step back from the heated rhetoric and have honest conversations. Taking the fundamental steps to protect our homeland does not diminish the fact that we are a welcoming nation that strives to help the vulnerable.
It is no secret that ISIS and other violent extremists want to exploit our nation’s generosity and welcoming spirit to sneak terrorists onto American soil. We can, and must, take reasonable measures to prevent that. It is reasonable, responsible in fact, to put a pause on accepting refugees from these nations in order to fix the flaws in the process and instill confidence in the system.
There are considerable challenges we face when trying to vet refugees from the countries impacted by this directive. Four of the countries on this list don’t even have a U.S. embassy, so you can understand how difficult it is to get a complete picture of the refugees seeking asylum from those countries when we don’t even have open communications channels with them. If we can affect positive outcomes and overcome these challenges, as was the case with Iraq, then we can confidently remove a country from the list.
Every country will be evaluated within twenty days of this directive. If a country comes up short of where it needs to be, it will have fifty days to fix the failures in communications with us.
Taking these reasonable steps to reduce this threat in no way runs counter to the ideals that our nation is built upon. We can be proud of the resources the U.S. has provided to support those fleeing persecution in war-torn Syria. I have visited the refugee camps we support in Jordan and Turkey. Our commitment to their well-being is strong. The rhetoric just doesn’t match the realities when it comes to this issue.
As Chairman of the Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee, I strongly support President Trump’s efforts to get Washington to uphold our most important responsibility—protecting the American people. I stand ready to work with him, Secretary Kelly and my colleagues to accomplish this goal.
March 3, 2017
Arkansans Bring Recommendations for VA Improvements to Washington
Our Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) are leading on the frontlines to ensure that our nation follows through with its promise to take care of those who have served us. They offer a unique perspective on how Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) policies affect our veterans and what changes need to be made to improve services. As Congress continues to modernize VA and strengthen the delivery of care, accountability and benefits our veterans earned, the recommendations of our VSOs are invaluable.
Arkansas members of the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans and Veterans of Foreign Wars recently traveled to Washington to reaffirm their support for our veterans and advocate for policies on their behalf. One of the topics we discussed in detail was mental illness in our veteran community.
In Arkansas, veterans represent about eight percent of the population, but about 20 percent of suicides. We must take action to change this tragic reality. We need to improve access to meaningful mental health services and strengthen suicide prevention awareness among our veterans.
Mental health is a battlefield that many of our men and women who served in our nation’s uniform find themselves facing here at home. These invisible injuries are why we struggle to identify at-risk individuals. Two years ago Congress passed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act to deliver help to our veterans, but this was only a first step.
We need to continue making improvements to ensure that struggling veterans have access to the VA programs that have proven to work, and provide the personnel, services and tools to support them. Appointment cancelations with mental health providers have left veterans waiting for up to six months for an appointment. This unfortunate reality is unacceptable. These appointments are much too critical to delay. Sadly, we are seeing the tremendous shortage of mental health providers in our nation impact veterans across the country.
Another challenge to determine veterans who need assistance is that some of the most vulnerable people we need to reach aren’t formally affiliated with the VA and may be unknown to veteran groups in their communities. VSOs have made great progress by initiating their own programs in order to recognize those veterans in need.
In testimony before a joint hearing of the Senate and House VA Committees earlier this month, VFW Commander Brian Duffy said its community based program is making a difference. “No group can relate to a veteran in distress as easy or effectively as a fellow veteran,” he told committee members.
Peer-to-peer support programs have proven successful for VSOs and I believe the VA can have the same success. VA should invest in expanding its peer-to-peer efforts.
The input from our VSOs is vital to my colleagues and me as we improve VA health care delivery. When it comes to our nation’s veterans, their commitment to our country is without question, and our commitment to them must be the same.
March 2, 2017
Boozman Statement on the President’s Address to Congress
WASHINGTON –U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement in response to President Trump’s Address to a Joint Session of Congress:
“Arkansans supported a new direction for our country in the November election. In his address to Congress, President Trump laid out a vision that seeks to revitalize our economy by pursuing policies that will promote innovation and unite Americans with a common purpose. Whether it be jobs, education, healthcare, infrastructure or national security, our nation is facing serious challenges that will require Congress and the president to collaborate and pursue solutions that will answer these difficult questions. I look forward to working with the president and any of my colleagues who are willing to do the tough work required to meet these challenges and help improve the lives of Arkansans and Americans across the country.”
February 24, 2017
Creating Opportunities for Rural America
The diversity of Arkansas’s landscape makes the Natural State a truly unique environment. We can be proud of the resources that exist in our state that support a wide range of industries, interests and jobs. An important aspect of our state’s makeup is its rural identity. In the 2010 census, 44 percent of Arkansas’s population identified as rural compared to 19 percent of the entire nation. We must keep our rural communities in mind as we create policies to improve the lives of all Americans.
Arkansans deserve access to quality and affordable health care no matter where they live. Unfortunately, in recent years, rural hospitals and clinics have reduced services or eliminated them entirely because of the costly burdens of Obamacare. It’s important that Congress consider the challenges facing health care in rural America. That’s why I recently joined my colleagues in sending a letter to the Trump administration urging the President to implement policies to improve and strengthen access to health care in rural communities.
We’ve made progress on health care access for veterans in rural areas. In 2014, Congress passed, and the president signed, legislation reforming access to health care services for our veterans. One of the highlights of the law is that veterans can see non-VA providers if they live 40 miles or more from a VA health facility. This ensures more veterans have access to timely, reliable and dependable health care. I am committed to continuing to improve this benefit our veterans earned.
New models for health care delivery include telehealth. This is an innovative approach that is helping to meet the needs of rural Arkansans by using technology like video conferencing and the internet to deliver quality patient care. A key component for this method is access to high-speed broadband internet service.
The internet has become an essential tool for how we communicate and conduct business but a digital divide exists in Arkansas and much of rural America. The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Broadband Progress Report released last year shows that 25 percent of Arkansans don’t have access to broadband. For those people who do have access, they lack adequate internet speed.
Access to quality, high-speed internet has quickly become the cornerstone of a prosperous economy and is the backbone for economic innovation. As a leader of the Senate Broadband Caucus, I'm determined to extend this service to all Arkansans, regardless of where they live. That’s why we must include it as part of infrastructure discussions and support its expansion. I was proud to join members of the caucus in sending a letter to the president urging him to prioritize policies that will promote deployment of high-speed, reliable broadband for all Americans as part of any infrastructure initiative.
As we shape policies for the future, we must consider the well-being of rural communities. I am proud to support the needs of rural Arkansas and will continue to advocate for solutions that provide opportunities for rural communities to succeed.
Boozman Honors Military Support in Arkansas
ROGERS, AR – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) honored employees at Sealed Air Rogers today for their support of co-workers who serve in the National Guard and Reserves.
Boozman presented plaques from the Secretary of Defense to Greg Williams and Andy Morrison on behalf of Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve (ESGR). Williams and Morrison were nominated by two National Guardsmen who work at Sealed Air Rogers. ESGR is a Department of Defense program established in 1972 to promote understanding between Reserve Component Service members and their civilian employers.
“For every Arkansan serving our nation to do their best it takes great support from friends, family and co-workers who understand their sacrifice and service,” Boozman said. “I am grateful that Sealed Air Rogers and these great Arkansans are there to back up our men and women who protect and defend us.”
During the visit Boozman toured the plant and visited with employees. He was also presented with the National Association of Manufacturers Legislative Excellence Award for support of manufacturing jobs in Arkansas and throughout the nation.
"Senator Boozman has worked hard for North American commerce, including manufacturing and agriculture. With his support, we continue to gain competitiveness and to pursue growth opportunities,” said Sealed Air Rogers plant manager Ross Tompkins. "Additionally, Senator Boozman is a strong supporter of veterans, a key component of our workforce. We thank Senator Boozman for being able to come to our plant today."