Senator John Boozman

3rd Congressional District Senator

320 Hart Building
Washington, DC  20510
(202) 224-4843   http://boozman.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/e-mail-me
http://boozman.senate.gov/

 

September 6, 2019

Innovation is Advancing Arkansas Agriculture

The agriculture industry is a top economic driver for our state. Having input from those in a variety of agri-businesses and production operations is vital to crafting legislation that meets the needs of our producers. That’s why I visit annually with farmers, ranchers and industry stakeholders at their family farms and production facilities to hear how Washington can improve the agriculture environment and help our producers succeed at feeding and clothing the world.

My 2019 Ag Tour highlighted innovative methods developed by Arkansas agri-businesses to improve operations, and there were plenty of groundbreaking practices to shine a light on. For instance, Fayetteville-based Little Bird Systems created a wireless detection technique to measure feed in livestock feed bins. Helping producers optimize the supply chain and cut feed costs improves efficiency and grows their bottom lines.

Vet Veggies, a Springdale business, uses hydroponics to grow produce sold to local stores and restaurants. Owner Jerry Martin says this type of innovative approach to farming allows him to supply the increasing demand for healthy food grown locally. Cultivating kale, lettuce, basil and other produce indoors lets the business grow its produce year-round and avoid unpredictable weather conditions.

At Arkansas State University, students shared how they’re using drones to study water use in fields and weed suppression. This research is helping our farmers compete with producers around the world by increasing their production efficiency while simultaneously equipping young people with skills they can use to be successful and support our agriculture industry into the future.

Technology is making it easier for producers to make decisions that will increase their yields. Jackson County farmers demonstrated for me the infrared technology they use to determine what areas of their fields are under stress. This allows them to fix problems earlier in the growing season. In addition, more efficient irrigation practices are helping farmers ensure crops get the water necessary to thrive while actually conserving this valued resource.

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue saw first-hand some of the technology Arkansas farmers are using to improve their crops. Earlier this month, he visited Carlisle-based Vantage Midsouth Precision Agriculture, a company using GPS and laser technology to improve the efficiency of farming and agriculture production.

This year’s tour took on extra significance as the Farm Bill I helped pass last year is now being implemented. Our agriculture producers are facing low commodity prices, an escalating trade war and poor weather conditions. This year, there are 1.3 million acres of unplanted land in Arkansas because of rainfall and flooding. Agriculture producers I visited with said the Market Facilitation Program (MFP) has helped make up a portion of what they lost, because of retaliatory tariffs, and they are optimistic for opportunities to create new markets in which to sell their products.

Cuba is a potential market less than 100 miles off our coast. Normalizing trade with Cuba would be a game changer for Arkansas farmers looking to sell their products. The recent trade agreement with Japan and the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) are also opportunities for our ag producers to compete and sell the safest, cheapest food supply in the world.

As a senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I will continue to be a voice for Arkansas ag producers and support policies that help our state’s largest industry.

 

August 30, 2019

Serving Arkansas Veterans

The Congressional calendar designates August as an opportunity for members of Congress to spend an extended period of time back home. As such, I strive to use this time to travel around to different parts of our state and meet with constituents in a variety of settings because it provides numerous occasions to listen and learn.

As part of my 2019 August in-state work period, I set out on a week-long tour focused on meeting with veterans, visiting veteran-owned businesses, examining Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities serving Arkansans and listening to voices advocating with and for former service members across our state.

As the son of a veteran and a longtime member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee in Congress, I understand how critical it is for our nation to keep the promises made to those who have worn America’s uniform. That’s why I’ve made a substantial effort to work on veterans’ issues and help improve the quality of care and services offered by the VA.

The “Serving AR Vets” tour took me to communities such as Yellville, Salem, Pocahontas, Walnut Ridge, Russellville, Jonesboro and Pine Bluff to speak with veterans who own successful businesses; recognize Arkansans like Bill Strauss and Thomas Vaughns with incredible legacies of service; and talk personally with members of the veteran community, their loved ones and advocates.

I have made it my top priority to address veteran suicide in Arkansas and across the nation. We all must work together in this fight, which is why we hosted meetings with mental health professionals, military servicemembers, veterans, non-governmental organizations in the community and government officials to sit down and discuss ways to better coordinate and identify successful programs.

I’ve been working on policies in Washington to address this crisis, as well other legislation related to improving women veterans’ experiences with and access to VA health care services and providing the Department with the resources it needs to ensure our veterans receive the care they have earned.

VA medical centers and facilities play a critical role in delivering care and services to Arkansas’s veterans. Talking with VA staff and providers at hospitals in Pine Bluff, Memphis and Fayetteville and at Community Based Outpatient Clinics in Mountain Home and Fort Smith provided me the chance to hear directly from the men and women treating and interacting with Arkansas veterans regularly.

We are blessed that the facilities providing medical services to veterans in our state often receive high praise from those for whom they exist to serve. Where there are missteps or shortcomings – including issues like lack of providers and technological challenges – we must make sure that those problems are remedied. After visiting with so many VA health care providers during this tour, I’m committed to working even more diligently to make certain the VA continues to improve its performance and services.

I’m grateful to have been able to travel across Arkansas, listening and learning about the well-being and challenges of our state’s veteran community. I plan to take their input back to Capitol Hill to provide real-life examples and experiences alongside the policy proposals that impact those who served our nation.

Our state can be proud of the rich, awe-inspiring record of military service by our family, friends and neighbors. It was an honor to visit with so many of them and help ensure we continue to honor and serve Arkansas’s veterans in the future.

 

August 23, 2019

Connecting with Arkansas Classrooms

Students across the state are back in class for the 2019-2020 school year. As administrators, teachers and pupils begin diving into new lesson plans and formulating goals and objectives to work toward this year, we are all excited for what the future holds.

I believe in interacting with students and teachers through the power of technology. That’s why I plan to continue connecting with Arkansas classrooms via video chatting services like Skype this school year as I have for the past several years. Spending time with teachers and students in our state even while I’m working in Washington, D.C. has proven to be a rewarding and fun experience.

Our educators have an incredibly meaningful and empowering responsibility to prepare students for success. Young Arkansans are well-served by their teachers’ efforts to help them learn, grow and develop the skills and abilities needed to chase their dreams and eventually contribute to our state and their communities.

As a former member of the Rogers School Board, I understand how challenging it can be for educators and administrators to do more with less. That’s why I will continue making it a priority to find ways to support and recognize the critical work they do on behalf of our students.

Having a dialogue with the education community in Arkansas, which I do by hosting video calls with classes across the state, provides me the opportunity to hear what is on students’ minds as well as receive real-time feedback and insight from their teachers.

I’ve hosted these discussions with many classes in the past and have consistently participated in conversations that are beneficial to myself and my staff in Washington and Arkansas. During these discussions, I usually try to help students understand what I do as one of their voices within the federal government in addition to helping inform and bring real-life examples to the lessons they’ve been taught about in civics, history and social studies. Our visits also give me the opportunity to personally tell educators how proud I am of them and how much I, on behalf of the entire state, appreciate what they do.

It’s my honor to represent the people of Arkansas in Washington as one of your United States Senators. Engaging with classrooms to share what I’m working on for our state and answer questions about current events, our government and my own path to public service is a unique and educational opportunity for all involved – and one that I am eager to expand this year.

If you know of a class that would like to connect with me, invite them to reach out to my office in Washington to learn more. I welcome the chance to visit with classrooms and educators in every corner of our state. To all those involved in our students’ education, I send my best wishes for a great school year and hope to talk with you soon.

 

August 16,2019

Boozman Recognizes Service of Arkansas Army National Guard and Navy Reserve Veteran

Click here to watch excerpts of the interview with Dr. Estella Morris

 

WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized the service of Dr. Estella Morris in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series recognizing the military service of Arkansans.

Morris was raised in Dermott, Arkansas in Chicot County. Her father was a machinist for the cotton gin and her mother a school teacher turned housewife with 14 children. As the second-oldest of her siblings, Morris often took the role of babysitter. She became involved with 4-H where she learned skills such as sewing, cooking and public speaking and helped integrate Arkansas 4-H and the National 4-H Council.

After she graduated from McGehee High School, Morris was interested in joining her friends at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, but she was selected to attend the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. “A lot of planning went into deciding who had the capability to be able to function in different cultural settings and I was one of those who could do that,” Morris said.

Morris says she was one of 50 African American students out of the 10,000 students on campus. “It was a culture shock,” she said.

She attended the nursing school for two years before deciding to return home. She got married and started a family and decided she wanted to be closer to her family so she finished her degree at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

In 1977, Morris began working for the Volunteers in Service to America program, or VISTA, a national service program. Morris worked in youth and community development where she facilitated relationships with local housing projects and tenants. Because of her involvement as a community organizer, she was recruited by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to work as a social worker in the Independent Living Program to help move veterans living in institutional settings into residential housing.

In her role she often heard the stories of veterans she worked with which then inspired her to serve in uniform. In 1982, Morris joined the Army National Guard. Later, she served in the Navy Reserve.

“I thought I would be a whole lot better equipped to work with this population of individuals if I look at joining the military as well. Especially considering that this was a family history as far as I was concerned, having grown up with everybody going into the military. So I decided that’s what I would do,” said Morris.

Morris was 34-years-old when she enlisted, making her older than both her Drill Sergeant and Company Commander. “I had lived certain life experiences that other recruits had not lived,” Morris said.

She completed basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. While there, Morris was selected as squad leader of the Bravo Company so she continued her role of responsibility. “I thought, I went from being at home with two kids to being in a unit with 40. Because I was the oldest, I became everybody’s mom,” she said.

During Advance Individual Training at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, Morris was promoted to Sergeant, which came with more responsibility.

While she was a member of the Arkansas Army National Guard and worked full-time for the VA, she continued to add more to her plate by going back to school to pursue her master’s degree in social work. Later, Morris continued her education at Jackson State University in Mississippi where she earned her doctorate.

Today, Dr. Morris continues her work for the VA as leader of the Veterans Day Treatment Center. She has been nationally recognized for her work in assisting homeless veterans and implementing programs to achieve long-term stability.

“I am grateful for Dr. Morris’ dedication and service to our nation in her many public service roles, including nearly four decades of work with the veteran community. She has been the driving force at the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System in developing and implementing programs that help veterans. I am pleased to be able to collect and preserve her stories of military service and share how they encouraged her expanded outreach to her fellow veterans,” Boozman said.

Boozman will submit Morris’ entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans.

 

August 9, 2019

Committee-Backed Highway Bill Will Produce Economic Benefits for Arkansas

The Senate will have a lengthy to-do list awaiting us when we reconvene in Washington next month. While some of the items on our to-do list will likely get slowed down by long, partisan debates, one that should receive quick, bipartisan support is the reauthorization of the highway bill.

The Highway Trust Fund is set to expire next year. However, since Republicans and Democrats have traditionally found common ground on infrastructure, this should be an issue that we can resolve well in advance of the deadline. We have a good head start, thanks to the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee’s unanimous approval of the America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act of 2019.

The bill authorizes $287 billion for upgrades that will improve the connectivity, efficiency and safety of our highways across the country. It provides resources and flexibility for states to build safer and more modern highway, rail and bridge systems. It also includes reforms for which I negotiated that will cut bureaucratic red tape, streamline review processes and improve safety in rural America.

Additionally, the EPW Committee amended the bill to include language that Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and I authored that would make federal discretionary grant funding available to modernize and deepen McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS). This amendment, along with another provision Sen. Inhofe authored, would open up $250 million in non-highway formula funding for Oklahoma to use for the MKARNS and will allow Arkansas and Oklahoma to jointly apply for federal freight grants that will total over $5 billion in the five years following the enactment of this legislation.

Expanding opportunities to fund improvements to the MKARNS is a key factor in leveraging its full economic potential. For far too long, the MKARNS has been operating under a critical backlog of much needed modernizations. Our changes will provide the MKARNS with a number of new funding outlets that were not previously available to this important project, bringing increased traffic to the waterways.

At its core, the America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act of 2019 is about jobs. Our national economy thrives in part because of the efforts to inter-connect the United States throughout its history. The ability to efficiently move goods and services across the country is a critical factor as to why the U.S. has been able to compete and thrive within the global marketplace.

While the state and local economies receive a short-term boost from highway projects once they are underway, the true impact is felt over the long-term through the increase in regional commerce. The quality of a state’s infrastructure is near the top of the list of factors that business owners consider when deciding where to locate a business or enterprise, so it is of vital importance to Arkansas’s economic outlook that we reauthorize the Highway Trust Fund.

However, there are more than economic reasons to get this bill across the finish line. Some of our roads and bridges are actually beginning to crumble and deteriorate. We’ve employed temporary measures that have succeeded in repairing and rebuilding many of these deficiencies in the short term, but upgrading and enhancing them is a better and more cost-effective long-term solution for addressing safety concerns.

Now is the time to push ahead and make sensible, productive investments in our nation’s infrastructure. Doing so will ultimately save money in the long-term. It will also help our economy grow and equip our country with the necessary resources to remain competitive in the global economy in the years ahead.

 

August 2, 2019

Secretary Esper is the Right Leader for the Pentagon

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper recently settled into his new Pentagon office after the Senate overwhelmingly approved his nomination prior to the start of the August work period.

He is taking the reins at the Department of Defense (DoD) at a time when the United States, our allies and our interests face a number of complex challenges and threats around the globe.

In recent weeks, Iran shot down a U.S. surveillance drone in international airspace and attacked or seized tankers flagged by our allies that were traveling the Strait of Hormuz. North Korea resumed missile testing, firing short-range ballistic missiles off its eastern coast, out of anger because of planned South Korea-U.S. military exercises. Two U.S. Army paratroopers were killed in a combat-related incident in Afghanistan, bringing the total number of U.S. servicemembers killed in action this year to 12.

The rising tensions with rogue nations like Iran and North Korea, along with the ongoing violence in conflict zones, are far from our only concerns. Near-peer competitors continue to challenge U.S. leadership on the world stage. Both Russia and China are showing off advanced technological capabilities and increased global reach while projecting an adversarial tone toward America and our allies.

Russia’s litany of belligerent acts—which includes aerial bombing campaigns on behalf of a murderous regime in Syria and cyberattacks on Western democracies—cannot be ignored. Nor can China’s ominous warnings that it is prepared to use force if Taiwan declares its independence. The two nations recently conducted what Russia called a “joint air patrol” that resulted in a Russian military plane intruding upon South Korean airspace while ignoring repeated radio warnings.

The multitude of pressures we face makes it vital that the role of Secretary of Defense is filled by the right person for the job. I am confident that Mark Esper is the correct choice to lead DoD.

Secretary Esper is a decorated combat veteran, a respected scholar and a proven leader. His expertise in national security policy, deep understanding of the inner-workings of the Pentagon and the bipartisan respect he has earned from members of Congress will make him a valuable partner as we work to ensure our armed forces are ready for today’s challenges and prepared to counter tomorrow’s threats.

With his forward-thinking mindset, Secretary Esper will advance our military capabilities to counter emerging threats and ensure that our military is prepared for the future of warfare. He understands that while we must remain able to confront the asymmetrical tactics of terror organizations like the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, an increased focus needs to be placed on the ability to quickly and decisively neutralize rogue nations while staying ahead of the military build-up of near-peer nations.

Secretary Esper is taking charge of a reenergized Pentagon, the result of Congress and the Trump administration’s shared focus on lifting our military out of a period of strategic atrophy and chronic budget uncertainty. For too long, this mismanagement allowed our adversaries to gain a strategic advantage and weakened our military’s readiness.

This shared commitment to our national security—which includes the largest investment in our national defense since the Reagan administration—has helped renew America’s strength. I am confident that Secretary Esper will continue to build upon the progress we have made, ensuring U.S. superiority and curtailing threats that our global competitors might otherwise be emboldened to mount.

 

August 2, 2019

Boozman Continues Push to Improve Access to Health Care for Women Veterans

Leads Bipartisan Effort to Increase Women’s Awareness and Use of VA Services Upon Transition from Military Service to Civilian Life

WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) is again building on his efforts to improve women veterans’ experiences with and access to health care services at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Boozman joined Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) to introduce the Servicewomen’s Health Transition Training Act of 2019, legislation aimed at proactively helping women transitioning from active duty to civilian life learn about and utilize the VA services available to them.

“I’ve heard directly from women veterans in Arkansas that access to care and lack of awareness about the availability of gender-specific care at the VA are barriers of tremendous concern,” said Boozman. “As the number of women veterans continues to increase, this problem will only compound unless we do everything we can to help them understand the healthcare and resources available to them when they transition out of active duty. This legislation is a simple way to help increase awareness of and access to VA healthcare options for women veterans so that more will utilize these services and benefit from them after separating from military service.”

“Servicewomen face unique challenges as they transition from active duty, and many are unaware of the women-centered benefits and services – including mental health assistance, maternity care, cancer screenings and casework management – that the Veterans Health Administration provides,” said Cortez Masto. “Currently the average waiting time for women veterans to receive benefits from the VA after separating from service is almost three years. It’s crucial we close this gap in care, starting with increasing the knowledge of available VA healthcare resources. Our servicewomen and veterans have sacrificed so much for our country, and they should be empowered to access the full range of services they need to thrive.”

The Servicewomen’s Health Transition Training Act of 2019 would direct the Department of Defense to encourage female service members separating or retiring from the Armed Forces to participate in the Women’s Health Transition Training Program which informs women about the services offered by the VA and offers guidance through the process. The bill also calls for the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, to submit a report to Congress by February 2021 on all available metrics on the program and make recommendations for improvements.

This legislation is supported by the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN).

Earlier this year, Boozman reintroduced the Deborah Sampson Act with Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) to eliminate barriers to care and services that many women veterans face and help ensure the VA can address the needs of women veterans. It now has 39 cosponsors in the U.S. Senate and is supported by Veterans Service Organizations including the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and the Disabled American Veterans (DAV).

 

July 31, 2019

OKLAHOMA, ARKANSAS LEADERS DETAIL FUTURE OF MKARNS

WASHINGTON  U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and John Boozman (R-AR), along with Governors Kevin Stitt (R-OK) and Asa Hutchinson (R-AR), announced provisions in America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act that outline the future for modernizing the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS). These provisions will open up $250 million in non-highway formula funding for Oklahoma to use for MKARNS and will allow Oklahoma and Arkansas to jointly apply for federal freight grants that will total over $5 billion in the five years following the enactment of this legislation.

“The future of MKARNS is more than just deepening an existing waterway,” Inhofe said. “Providing new funding opportunities to deepen and modernize MKARNS will empower future economic development and expand agriculture exports and oil and gas development in our state. I’m proud to have authored provisions that would bring the MKARNS into the next generation and would allow the more efficient movement of goods across all modes of transportation by relieving congestion and reducing wear and tear on highways and bridges.”

“Oklahoma is home to the furthest inland warm-water port in the nation, and countless Oklahoma jobs, economic opportunities and agriculture exports are tied to the Port of Catoosa, the Port of Muskogee and the MKARNS,” Governor Kevin Stitt said. “Senator Inhofe and Senator Boozman are working to give our state the tools to use federal freight funding and INFRA grants to modernize MKARNS and expand its impact across our great state. This is a critical infrastructure priority that will continue to grow Oklahoma and expand opportunity for economic diversity. I appreciate the visionary leadership of Senator Inhofe and the collaborative efforts with our neighboring state as we make significant progress on expanding MKARNS.”

“Expanding opportunities to fund improvements to the MKARNS is a key factor in leveraging its full economic potential,” Boozman said. “For far too long, the MKARNS has been operating under a critical backlog of much needed modernizations. Our changes will provide the MKARNS with a number of new funding outlets that were not previously available to this important project. I appreciate Senator Inhofe’s leadership and support of our inland waterways, and I will continue to advocate for innovative solutions that address our water infrastructure needs.”

“This is great news for Arkansas and the future of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System,” said Governor Asa Hutchinson. “The MKARNS is one of our state’s most valuable economic assets, and I appreciate the leadership of Senators Boozman and Inhofe for leading the effort to include these important provisions in the Highway Bill.”

Inhofe and Boozman authored an amendment that was accepted during the committee mark-up that would allow Oklahoma and Arkansas to apply for federal discretionary grant funding to modernize and deepen MKARNS. Additionally, Inhofe authored a provision in the legislation that will allow states to use their federal freight formula funding on waterway projects if needed or desired, making it possible for federal resources to be used for modernizing and deepening federal waterways, like MKARNS.

Expanding the ability of states to direct freight funding and apply discretionary grant funding does not diminish the importance of federal resources for highways and bridges. Rather, it substantially improves the movement of freight along recognized transportation corridors more efficiently, relieving congestion and wear and tear on our nation’s highways, allowing federal dollars to get more mileage. For each barge on the river, 62 semi-trucks are off the roads.

 

July 26, 2019

Members of Arkansas Congressional Delegation Announce $10.5 Million Grant for Infrastructure Upgrades in Southeast Arkansas

WASHINGTON –U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Tom Cotton (R-AR), along with U.S. Representatives Rick Crawford (AR-01) and Bruce Westerman (AR-04), announced that the Southeast Arkansas and Northeast Louisiana Multimodal Freight Corridor project has been awarded $10.5 million in funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

The funds were awarded to the Southeast Arkansas Economic Development District on a competitive basis from DOT’s Improvement Project Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant program.

The funds will be used to modernize and improve rail safety infrastructure along the freight corridor—which runs from McGehee, AR to Tallulah, LA—while also improving the regional connectivity of three inland waterway ports. This grant will provide the necessary funds to improve the connectivity and efficiency of their rail systems and inland waterways.

“This is exciting news for the region. The economic benefits of increased rail and river traffic are vital to the long-term growth in Southeast Arkansas. The Southeast Arkansas and Northeast Louisiana Multimodal Freight Corridor is the type of project that could serve as a national model for how smart infrastructure investments can spur results and drive lasting benefits for economies in rural America,” Boozman said.

“Arkansas’s economy depends on safe, reliable infrastructure to move products to market. Updating the Southeast Arkansas and Northeast Louisiana Multimodal Freight Corridor will provide the region with the improved rail-safety and port-connectivity necessary to sustain long-term economic growth. I’m grateful to Secretary Chao and the U.S. Department of Transportation for their commitment to improving infrastructure in Arkansas,”Cotton said.

“This grant will move more commodities, bring Southeast Arkansas into the global marketplace, and ignite the Delta’s economy. This is all welcome news for Arkansas’s 1st district and I look forward to years of economic development,” Crawford said.

“As a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I’m thrilled to see so many resources allocated to improving rail and waterway infrastructure. In a rural state, modern, safe and efficient railways and ports are crucial parts of driving economic growth. The devastating flooding we experienced this year showed how essential it is to upgrade Arkansas’s infrastructure, and this grant is a huge step in the right direction,”Westerman said.

Boozman, Cotton, Crawford and Westerman sent a joint support letter for the project to DOT Secretary Elaine Chao earlier this year.

 

July 19, 2019

U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement Will Help Arkansas’s Economy Grow

 Fair trade agreements have become increasingly important to Arkansas’s economy over the last half-century. The world is more connected than ever. Access to global markets is necessary, not just for the large corporations that call Arkansas home, but also for small and medium-sized businesses looking to expand their operations and footprints.

With a level playing field, Arkansas’s agriculture, manufacturing and small businesses can compete with anyone around the globe. The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is the type of mutually beneficial trade agreement we need to pursue to help Arkansas’s economy grow.

According to the Arkansas World Trade Center, Natural State goods and services are exported to 181 countries, but Canada and Mexico combined for over one-third of our exports in 2017. Our exports to these two countries added $2.1 billion to Arkansas’s economy that same year.

Nearly 69,000 jobs in the state are dependent on trade with Canada and another 41,000 jobs are tied to trade with Mexico. They are the workers in the paper mills in south Arkansas. The employees of the steel mills in northeast Arkansas. The family farmers producing rice in the Delta. The line workers at the poultry processing plants in northwest Arkansas. These Arkansans, and many more, work in the industries that produce our top exports to Mexico and Canada.

For them, and countless others, the announcement that a trade agreement has been reached with Canada and Mexico was very welcome and promising news. Arkansas farmers, business leaders and workers understand how vital it is to have free—but also fair—trade, particularly with our neighbors to the north and south. It helps create the sense of certainty that has been sorely missing for our manufacturers, small businesses and agriculture industry.

Arkansas has a diverse economy ranging from aerospace and defense to steel production to the world’s largest retailer, but agriculture is by far our largest industry. It adds around $16 billion to our economy every year and accounts for approximately one in every six jobs.

For our agricultural community, it is particularly critical that we push this agreement across the finish line. Our farmers face a very tenuous situation right now.

Commodity prices are well below the cost of production. Farm incomes in 2018 dropped sharply again for the fifth consecutive year. Total farm debt has risen to levels not seen since the early 1980s. A rainy fall and spring have hampered planting season in Arkansas while producing one of the worst floods in our state’s history.

In my discussions with farmers on how we can help, the same mantra is often repeated—they prefer trade over aid. While they appreciate the president’s efforts to ease the pain during these trade standoffs, what they really need are more markets in which to sell their products. They understand that increased trade is the way to create a better long-term outlook for their operations.

Our neighbors to the north and south are our natural allies and trading partners. The president and his team worked hard to get Canada and Mexico to the negotiating table to formalize a more mutually beneficial agreement. That hard work has paid off in the form of the USMCA. Now, Congress has a responsibility to see it through to the end.

 

July 19, 2019

Boozman, Cardin Call for Reauthorization of Water Research Grants

WASHINGTON U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Ben Cardin (D-MD), members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, introduced the Water Resources Research Amendments Act (WRRA), a bill to reauthorize federal grant funding for water resources research institutes in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Each state and territory has a water institute located at a land grant or other university designated by its governor that conducts essential research on state and regional water challenges. Water Research Institutes also provide training for hydrologists and other water-related scientists and engineers, and fund public outreach and education on water issues. 

“Access to safe and clean water is critical to the livelihood of every American. Research conducted by the Arkansas Water Resources Center and its sister institutions around the country helps manage this vital resource. This bill will provide the means needed to solve real-world problems so we can effectively meet the water demands of our communities,” Boozman said.

“Extreme weather has increased the frequency of floods and droughts, causing more severe water issues nationwide. The research being done by scientists in every state looks at these new difficulties as well as chronic issues affecting availability, stability and public health. Our goal is to ensure that everyone in this country has clean, safe water at home and at work,” Cardin said. “Clean water and resilient infrastructure are ever more critical for production of resources, economic stability, and the health and well-being of every person and business in this country.”

WRRA amends the Water Resources Research Act of 1984 to ease the burden on cash-strapped local jurisdictions by creating a 1:1 threshold for matching grants. It also provides greater accountability by aligning five-year grant funding with five-year evaluations and annual reporting.

“The National Institutes of Water Resources (NIWR) applauds Senators Cardin and Boozman for introducing the Water Resources Research Amendments Act to reauthorize this important program at USGS.  Across the nation, the institutes collaborate with over 150 state agencies and more than 160 local and municipal offices to deliver needed research and planning in areas such as combating harmful algal blooms, mitigating drought effects, and protecting against soil erosion.  We look forward to working with the senators’ offices to advance this program,” said Dr. Daniel Devlin, President, National Institutes of Water Resources.

“In Arkansas, we have used these funds to research emerging issues like harmful algal blooms, the use of irrigation strategies like alternative wet and drying in rice, and state agencies wanting to prioritize where to invest resources to improve water quality. In 2018, the Arkansas Water Resources Center funded five research projects and with the increase in funds our institute and others across the country will be able to accomplish even more – these funds will focus on the issues that emerge that our state needs to be able to address,” said Dr. Brian E. Haggard, Director of the Arkansas Water Resources Center.

“I thank the Senators for their strong support of water resources research. Funds from this federal/state partnership have addressed Maryland’s diversity, from farms to forests to cities, from the Chesapeake Bay to the Appalachians. Researchers have developed methods to treat dairy manure while producing methane as a source of renewable energy, to control urban runoff with green roofs and constructed wetlands, and to better communicate flood risk to citizens of all walks of life. They are investigating erosion, extreme precipitation, wetland processes, legacy contaminants, and intersex fish. With the support of this program, fundamental understanding and innovative techniques will continue to protect human health, environmental integrity, and economic sustainability in Maryland and across the country,” said Dr. Kaye Brubaker, Director of the Maryland Water Resources Research Center.

The text of the Water Resources Amendments Act (WRRA) can be found here.

The bill increases the amount authorized for section 104(b) grants from $7.5 million to $8.25 million. The heart of the WRRA program is the 104(b) grant. These grants to the institutes have stagnated in recent years, just as states and regional authorities are in need of more and more assistance from these entities. Additional funds will not only allow institutes to train more students to work in STEM fields, but also help meet the research needs of states facing increasing droughts, algal blooms and floods. The increased number more closely matches the level of the last authorization bill.

The legislation also expands the funding available for section 104(g) grants from $1.5 million to $1.75 million. The 104(g) grants address water issues of national significance. As a multitude of research needs have crossed state lines, these grants help augment the base program awards. The current funding amount only allows for two to three grants per year, despite increasing national water challenges. The increased amount will allow more grant applications to be funded.

 

Boozman Recognizes Service of Fort Smith WWII Veteran 

Click here to watch excerpts of the interview with George Vinson

 WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized the service and sacrifice of WWII Navy veteran George Vinson in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series recognizing the military service of Arkansans.

Vinson, a 95-year-old Fort Smith resident, grew up on a farm in Alabama. He graduated from Eufaula High School in Eufaula, Alabama and spent several months in trade school before enlisting in the Navy.

Vinson’s goal was to be a fighter pilot, but the Navy assigned him to a different position. He ended up being quite happy about the role he was selected for despite it not involving flying. “I got an assignment which was better and I enjoyed a lot better,” Vinson says about his duty as a quartermaster.

Vinson served on the destroyer USS Edison. He worked on the bridge, the ship’s command center. “I loved that because I was up there where a lot of action was and I could hear a lot of what was going on,” Vinson said.

His crew sailed through the Panama Canal. On its way to join the Pacific Fleet, the ship docked in San Diego where Vinson had an opportunity to meet with his brother, a member of the Air Force.

“We met to say goodbye,” Vinson said. “We didn’t know if would we be back or not, but we both made it back, thank God.”

Vinson recalled working on the bridge during a mission to rescue a sailor who fell overboard a troop ship. Two additional destroyers were also searching for the sailor. Vinson said his ship made two sweeps of the area and he encouraged the Captain to make one more pass. That’s when they found the sailor who had been in the water for hours. “He could see us, but we couldn’t see him,” Vinson said. He said rescuing the sailor was one of the most rewarding experiences of his military career.

Vinson and his fellow crew members had trained for the invasion of Japan, but those orders changed once the atomic bombs were dropped. The crew reached Japan for occupation after the war ended and served in an observation role. After two months, the ship was assigned to the Aleutian Islands as a weather station. Vinson says duty for weather patrol was tough because of the rough waters.

Following his military service, Vinson used the GI Bill to attend school.

“As a member of the Greatest Generation, George Vinson’s dedication and service to our nation helped change the course of history. I am grateful that his memories of his time in uniform will be preserved for future generations,” Boozman said.

Vinson’s entire interview was submitted to the Veterans History Project (VHP) by Zane Watson. Watson was inspired to participate in the VHP for his Eagle Scout Service Project by Boozman’s office. As part of the project, Watson interviewed veterans and trained other scouts and high school students to collect the oral histories of our veterans for the Library of Congress VHP.

To learn more about the VHP and how you can help preserve the memories of veterans click here.

 

July 12, 2019

Connecting with Arkansans

Technology has changed the way we communicate. The improvements provide us all more efficient ways to reach our loved ones, stay informed and meet new people. For me, it’s made staying connected to Arkansans while at work in Washington a lot easier. During the school year I’m able to talk with students via Skype from my office in Washington, D.C. Similarly, it allows me to talk with thousands of Arkansans across the state in interactive telephone town halls.

The Congressional Management Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to enhance the effectiveness of congressional offices, calls telephone town hall meetings “one of the most significant technological advances in Congress in the past two decades.” I’ve hosted a number of these events because they are a great way to engage with Arkansans about issues facing our state and nation. These allow me to speak with more people in a variety of locations and give me the opportunity to hear about the topics on the minds of the individuals and families I represent.

I hosted my most recent telephone town hall in early July. We had a great discussion on a variety of topics in the news including legislation I recently introduced to ensure children have access to nutritious meals when school is out. The Hunger-Free Summer for Kids Act will update federal child nutrition programs to make them more efficient and flexible so communities have more options to reach children in need of food assistance. Earlier this month I visited a meal site in Springdale to see firsthand how important this program is to the community and how these reforms will help support the needs of more children.

Another topic on the minds of participants was the humanitarian and security crisis on the southern border. A record number of migrants have overwhelmed border facilities. The dramatic spike in the number of unaccompanied minors is creating a humanitarian crisis and we have a responsibility to care for them while their claims are adjudicated. That’s why Congress recently approved emergency funding to improve the housing standards and provide the basic necessities to protect these vulnerable children.

Several callers had specific questions about veterans benefits. My staff is here to help Arkansans who have questions or are experiencing problems with their Department of Veterans Affairs benefits and any issues involving federal agencies. While I cannot override the decisions made by a federal agency, I can often intervene to cut through the red tape, get answers and try to help resolve the issue.

I was pleased to hear that several individuals on the call have reached out to my office for assistance. We’re here to help. My goal is to make sure each Arkansan having trouble with a federal agency or a concern about policy a priority.

I appreciate citizens across the state who listened and asked questions during this latest telephone town hall. If you would like to participate in the next event, visit my website www.boozman.senate.gov and sign-up to join. I look forward to talking with you soon.

 

July 11, 2019

Boozman, Tester Introduce Legislation to Help State Cemeteries Meet Federal Veteran Burial Standards

 Bipartisan bill covers travel costs for specialized training for cemetery personnel

WASHINGTON- U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Jon Tester (D-MT) introduced legislation to improve access to specialized training that would ensure Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) grant-funded cemeteries meet and maintain the National Cemetery Administration’s (NCA) National Shrine Commitment.

The NCA sets standards for maintaining VA national cemeteries. Although state and tribal cemeteries are held to the same benchmarks and measures, they often fall short of meeting the requirements due to a lack of adequate and appropriate training. While the NCA offers training to state VA cemetery employees at no cost to the state, the VA does not currently cover travel costs for the training of these individuals. The cost of travel prevents some organizations from sending representatives to learn the proper procedures.

This legislation simply adds travel for training as an allowable expense to already existing grant programs established for the maintenance and operation of state veteran cemeteries.

“Making it easier for cemetery personnel to learn the procedures and nationwide standards is commonsense so we can honor the men and women who served our country in uniform with the tribute they deserve,” Boozman said.

“We owe it to our veterans and their families to ensure that our state and tribal cemeteries are properly looked after,” said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “By helping cemetery personnel get the proper, specialized training they need, we are honoring the courageous role men and women played in preserving our freedom and protecting this country.”

To help states and tribal organizations meet the VA’s high standard for veteran memorial benefits, NCA’s National Training Center (NTC) in St. Louis, Missouri allows state and tribal employees to attend training provided to national cemetery employees. This training allows cemetery employees to learn procedures such as those required for setting headstones and markers in accordance with National Shrine Commitment standards, ensuring proper height and alignment of headstones.

 

 

July 5, 2019

Providing for Our National Defense

We’ve just celebrated America’s 243rd birthday, so it’s fitting that the Senate recently passed the annual authorization bill that helps ensure our nation’s military is able to perform a fundamental role prescribed by the Constitution – providing for the common defense.

For the last 58 years consecutively, Congress has approved the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which authorizes funding and provides authorities for our military to help strengthen our national security and make sure our service members have the tools and resources they need to defend the United States. That this annual bill has received such tremendous support for so many decades demonstrates just how vital it is acknowledged to be.

The Fiscal Year 2020 NDAA passed the Senate by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 86-8. It authorizes $750 billion in critical funding to our Armed Forces and makes significant investments in research and development for key defense technologies that will help the U.S. maintain our competitive advantage. Importantly, it includes a 3.1 percent pay increase for our men and women in uniform – which would deliver to them their largest raise in a decade – as well as needed reforms to private military housing.

The Senate-passed NDAA has provisions I offered that benefit Arkansas, our national security and our veterans. One significant aspect that will directly help our state deals with the expansion of the Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery. I led an effort supported by our entire congressional delegation to allow the transfer of nearly 141 acres of land at Camp Robinson to the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs in order to secure more burial space for Natural State veterans.

Other language that I successfully advocated to be included ranges from broadening wounded warrior adaptive sports programs to allow veterans who were enrolled in their respective service’s Wounded Warrior Program prior to their date of separation to continue rehabilitative services for one year, to providing an authorization for additional full-time Air Force Reservists – one of the top priorities for the Air Force Reserve.

I have also worked with the Departments of the Army and the Interior on growing Arlington National Cemetery, our nation’s most sacred shrine, because it is close to capacity. The FY20 NDAA includes my provision authorizing a land exchange to allow more burial space for veterans at Arlington so that our fallen men and women who are eligible will have the opportunity to be laid to rest amongst the many heroes who preceded them.

Supporting and strengthening our military forces during a time when we face evolving threats helps deter our adversaries from seeking out conflict with the United States and our allies. Protecting America and its citizens requires our combat force to be lethal and well-equipped. The NDAA makes the appropriate investments in order to maintain our superiority and curtail threats that our global competitors might otherwise be emboldened to mount.

Senate passage of the NDAA is an important first step in the efforts to bolster our national defense. We must continue that momentum by passing a good bill through both chambers and sending the legislation to the president’s desk to become law.

 

July 2, 2019

Boozman Joins Colleagues to Introduce Bill Making Crisis Line Easier for Veterans to Access

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) is one of six senators seeking to reduce veteran suicide by making the dedicated crisis hotline easier to access.

Boozman joined Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Jon Tester (D-MT) as the lead Republican sponsor of the Suicide Prevention by Eliminating Excessive Digits Act of 2019 (SPEED) Act, which requires the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to designate a three-digit dialing code, like 911, for the current Veterans Crisis Line number.

“Despite the significant resources we have allocated toward suicide prevention efforts, the number of veterans who take their own lives everyday remains unchanged. More work must be done to find ways to reach veterans in need. Establishing a three-digit number that is easy for veterans to remember, and quick to access in a crisis, is one simple way we can save more lives. We simply have to do everything in our power to move the needle in the right direction,” said Boozman.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates that more than twenty veterans die by suicide every day across the United States and suicide rates are nearly two times higher for veterans than for non-veteran adults. The Veterans Crisis Line, a 24/7 operation created in 2007, has answered over 3.5 million calls.

Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND) joined Manchin, Tester and Boozman as original cosponsors of the SPEED Act.The bill has the support of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Helping introduce the SPEED Act is the latest in a series of efforts by Boozman to address the veteran suicide epidemic. Last month, Boozman introduced the IMPROVE (Incorporating Measurements and Providing Resources for Outreach to Veterans Everywhere) Wellbeing for Veterans Act, which VA Secretary Robert Wilkie called “key” to unlocking the veterans suicide crisis. The bill creates a new grant program to enable the VA to conduct additional outreach through veteran-serving non-profits in addition to state and local organizations. Additionally, Boozman is leading efforts to ensure the VA corrects its suicide prevention outreach failures identified by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) as the lead Republican cosponsor of the Reach Every Veteran in Crisis Act.

 

June 21, 2019

Eliminating Summer Hunger Requires a Seamless Transition

For children, summertime brings a euphoric feeling of freedom. For a few months, it means no more early classes, pop quizzes or homework. But for too many children in Arkansas, it raises levels of anxiety instead of euphoria because they no longer have a reliable prospect to eat a meal at breakfast or lunchtime.

Over 300,000 Arkansas students depend on free or reduced-price breakfast or lunch served during the school year. Many of those students lose access to the same nutritious meals when school is out. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) was created to fill in that gap during the summer months.

The SFSP offers children from low-income families free lunch and snacks in the summer. While it works well in some communities, too many children still go hungry during the summer. This is evidenced by the fact that summer meals currently reach less than 20 percent of children who participate in similar programs during the school year.

The program is hamstrung by rules that date back to the 1960s and dictate a one-size-fits-all approach to the problem of summer hunger. Currently, children must travel to a central location and eat their meals together. In rural areas, it can be difficult for children to reach a site, if a site even exists. In suburban and urban areas, inclement weather or violence can keep children from these sites and cause them to miss a meal.

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and I are leading a bipartisan charge to overcome this challenge and make federal child nutrition programs more efficient, flexible and better equipped to reach children in need. Our bill, the Hunger-Free Summer for Kids Act of 2019, brings colleagues from different regions, with views across the political spectrum, together to address the issue and it counts Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as one of its cosponsors. We teamed up because we have seen the need for more options to end hunger in our communities and share a belief that the best solutions to this problem come from the ground up.

The bill proposes two alternative options states can utilize through SFSP to reach children who can’t access meals at a central location. The first would allow for meals to be consumed off-site through innovative means like mobile feeding programs and backpack meals. The other option would authorize the summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) program, which would provide eligible families $30 per summer month per child, with a maximum of $100 per child per year, to purchase food from approved retailers. In USDA pilot programs, summer EBT was shown to reduce child hunger by over 30 percent.

Local groups who currently operate summer meals sites do an excellent job providing a seamless transition from school lunches to summer lunches for many children in the state. Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, our local foodbanks and others want to be helpful in reaching children whose transition from school year to summer is not as smooth. The changes proposed in the Hunger-Free Summer for Kids Act of 2019 will channel the energy and want-to of these helpers to make the summer meals program work for all areas of the state.

 

June 20, 2019

VA Secretary Calls Boozman Bill “Key” to Unlocking Veteran Suicide Crisis

 WASHINGTON– Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie expressed his support for legislation authored by U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) that would create a VA grant program to leverage veteran-serving non-profits and other community networks in order to reduce veteran suicides.

“What you have is the key, I think, to unlock part of this crisis,” Wilkie said on Wednesday during the Senate VA Committee’s hearing on veteran suicide prevention.

Boozman’s IMPROVE Wellbeing for Veterans Act would allow the VA to tap into current community programs and provide a framework for better coordinating those community efforts and measuring the results. The legislation creates a new grant program at the VA to expand the reach of services aimed at preventing veteran suicides.

“I welcome Secretary Wilkie’s support of this legislation. The VA has a real opportunity to work with its partners to develop a tool that can be used to measure not just what services were made available to a veteran, but the effectiveness of the programs. I’m hopeful this approach will reduce veteran suicide rates,” Boozman said.

Watch Boozman highlight the need for the IMPROVE Wellbeing for Veterans Act

Boozman is also leading efforts to ensure the VA corrects its suicide prevention outreach failures identified by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) as an original cosponsor of the Reach Every Veteran in Crisis Act.

 

June 19, 2019

Boozman-Warner Legislation Aims to Expand Outreach, Create Measurement Tool to Improve Effectiveness in Fight Against Veteran Suicide 

WASHINGTON- U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Mark Warner (D-VA) introduced legislation to improve coordination of veteran mental health and suicide prevention services and to better measure the effectiveness of these programs in order to reduce the alarming number of veteran suicides.

The IMPROVE (Incorporating Measurements and Providing Resources for Outreach to Veterans Everywhere) Wellbeing for Veterans Act creates a new grant program to enable the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to conduct additional outreach through veteran-serving non-profits in addition to state and local organizations.

“Congress has provided significant resources to the VA to decrease veteran suicides, yet the number of veterans who take their own lives everyday remains unchanged,” Boozman said. “We all share the goal of saving the lives of veterans. We must have better coordination of existing programs; a common tool to measure the effectiveness of our programs; and better information sharing, data collection and continual feedback in order to identify what services are having the most impact. Creating a framework for these necessary pieces is essential to empowering organizations to work together in the fight against veteran suicide.”

“Of the 20 veterans who commit suicide every day in this country, roughly 14 of them don’t receive treatment from the VA,” said Warner. “This legislation will target that group by providing grant funding to private organizations with a proven track record of strong mental health and suicide prevention efforts among veterans. It’s my hope that broad coordination between the VA, state veterans affairs departments, first responders, and local leaders, will allow us to support more at-risk veterans and make a meaningful impact on reducing veteran suicide rates in this country.”

In Fiscal Year 2010, the VA requested $62 million for suicide prevention outreach. In Fiscal Year 2020, that number nearly quadrupled to $222 million. Despite the sharp increase in funding, the rate of veterans suicides has remained roughly unchanged at 20 per day. Only six of those 20 veterans are receiving healthcare services at the VA. This points to a significant need to empower the VA to work through community partners to expand outreach. At the same time, national data indicates there are more than 50,000 organizations that provide suicide prevention services for veterans, yet they are hard for veterans to find, access, apply for and use.

To date, policy makers have assessed capacity and access to services as a measurement for effectiveness. Despite significant capacity increases, the rate of veterans suicides remains the same. There are no shared tools to measure the effectiveness of programming at improving mental resiliency and outlook, which would be indicators of reduced suicide risk.

To address these programmatic gaps, the IMPROVE Wellbeing for Veterans Act will accomplish three broad objectives:

  • Enable the VA to directly or indirectly reach more veterans than it currently does.
  • Increase coordination among currently disparate community resources that serve a wide variety of veteran needs – all of which play a part in reducing the purposelessness that ends in suicide.
  • Create and inspire broad adoption of a measurement tool that will indicate effectiveness of services provided for veterans suicide prevention.

Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) are original cosponsors of the legislation.

 

June 17, 2019

Boozman Recognizes Service of Arkansas Army National Guard Veteran

Click here to watch excerpts of the interview with Mark McMullen

WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized the service and sacrifice of Colonel (retired) Mark McMullen in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series recognizing the military service of Arkansans.

McMullen was raised on a farm in Hazen. He was driving a tractor by the age of 10, but he didn’t keep his feet on the ground for long. He developed an interest in aviation after flying in a crop duster. “I would either ride on the wing or in the hopper of the crop duster, until my mom found out,” McMullen laughed. McMullen’s dad hired an instructor to teach him to fly. A week after his 16th birthday he flew his first solo flight.

McMullen’s best friend talked him into enlisting in the Army Reserve while in school at the University of Central Arkansas. Commissioned in the ROTC, he credits his Captain for turning his life around and encouraging him to take his education seriously.

He planned to go to flight school, but had to settle for the infantry because of his grades earlier in his college career. After completing an officer basic course at Fort Benning, Georgia, he returned to the UCA ROTC department where he learned that Arkansas was standing up the 437th Attack Helicopter Battalion and they were looking for pilots. Four months later McMullen was in flight school at Fort Rucker, Alabama where he graduated as a UH-1 (Huey) helicopter pilot.

At the time, the 437th had 107 pilots, 72 of whom were Vietnam War veterans. McMullen was assigned as a flight instructor, and he recognized he could learn a lot from his students. “I only had 100 hours of flight time and I’m teaching guys with a thousand hours in combat time. And guys who’d been shot down and captured,” he said. “I cut my teeth with some of the finest men that the military has ever built.”

Among his other assignments was serving as an officer recruiter for Arkansas. “I held myself to the same standard we asked our enlisted recruiters to do.” He met the goal of enlisting 50 recruits, two years in a row.

McMullen says he was looking forward to retirement in 2007 when he would achieve 20 years of service, but in 2003 he was selected as 2nd Battalion commander of the Arkansas Army National Guard. In September of that year, the battalion received deployment orders for Operation Iraqi Freedom. One month later, he was at Fort Hood, Texas for pre-deployment training.

In January 2004, McMullen relied on fellow Arkansans to get his advance team to Iraq. “We found an Air Guard unit from Arkansas that had a Razorback painted on a C-130 in Kuwait,” McMullen said. He landed in Balad, Iraq much to the surprise of the movement officer. The rest of the soldiers arrived via convoy in the following days.

McMullen served as Battalion Commander for an Air Traffic Services operation, transforming from tactical operations to fixed base operations at four airfields.

“In Balad we were taking mortars, heavy, and rockets,” McMullen said. “We were surrounded. You could go any direction that you wanted and engage with the enemy.”

McMullen deployed for one year and is especially proud of his team for receiving the Meritorious Unit Commendation.

One of the biggest challenges of McMullen’s career was January 2007 when he was notified that crew members of Easy 40, three of whom were Arkansas National Guardsmen, were killed when their Black Hawk helicopter was shot down in Iraq.

McMullen acknowledges his successful military career was due in part to the support of his wife. “I could have never done it without her,” he said. While his call to serve kept him away from his family, it didn’t stop his son from following in his footsteps. “I’m proud of the fact that my son and I served in Iraq together. He went on for two more tours.”

“I am grateful for Mark McMullen’s dedication and service to our nation. His memories of military service are an important part of our history and I am pleased to be able to collect and preserve his stories,” Boozman said.

Boozman will submit McMullen’s entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans.

June 14, 2019

Creating Regulatory Certainty for Farmers & Landowners

Arkansas agricultural producers feed and clothe the world. They need certainty and predictability in order to successfully operate their businesses, but too often federal regulations place unnecessary burdens on the industry. What our state’s farmers and ranchers want are simple, commonsense rules that are easy to understand so they can comply with the law and be good stewards of their land.

In a recent Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) hearing, my colleagues and I examined how one particular regulation –  known as the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule –  has caused hardships for farmers and ranchers.

An interpretation by the previous administration told agriculture producers that their ditches, ponds and puddles are navigable waters. This put Washington in control of almost every body of water in Arkansas.

This definition resulted in inconsistent implementation and undue burdens falling on the agriculture community.

For example, farmers were told that they would not be subject to the WOTUS rule unless they were performing a new farming activity; any continued farming would be exempted. However, a Senate report conducted by the Senate EPW Committee found examples proving this is not the case.

In 2015, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) told a landowner that changing the use of a field from growing alfalfa to orchards would constitute a land use change that would allow Corps regulators to pursue enforcement action if plowing the field to plant trees involved a discharge to wetlands. The Corps regulator informed the landowner that despite an extensive farming history, orchards were never planted on the ranch so they are not the same kind of farming and might not be considered a normal farming activity.

Arkansas agricultural producers understand this is a common practice. When federal regulations prevent a farmer from engaging in sensible crop rotation and land management, that ultimately hurts their ability to properly manage their land.

That’s why I fought against the broad interpretation and encouraged the Trump administration to redefine the WOTUS rule.

Within a month after taking office, President Trump issued an executive order directing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Corps to review and revise the WOTUS rule. Last December, the administration proposed new rules that would provide more regulatory certainty to agricultural producers and all landowners.

I am encouraged by the proposed rule that rolls back the Obama-era policy and establishes reasonable definitions that are clear and consistent.

The June hearing was the first the EPW committee convened on WOTUS since the Trump administration published its definition of the rule. Providing an opportunity for stakeholders to share their input on the proposed rule will help ensure the regulation will protect our water while simultaneously providing regulatory certainty. I will be closely following the rulemaking process to make sure there are no unintended consequences for landowners.

June 14, 2019

Boozman Joins Colleagues to Build on Efforts to Reduce Military Spouse Unemployment

 WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) joined Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Jon Tester (D-MT) to introduce legislation to build on efforts to reduce military spouse unemployment and improve access to affordable childcare.

The Jobs and Childcare for Military Families Act of 2019 would change the tax code to incentivize businesses to hire military spouses and make it easier for military families to afford childcare.

“Military spouses are vital to our all-volunteer force. They make sacrifices, like taking on family duties during long deployments and supporting frequent moves, and they do it mostly without recognition. As a result, they face a unique set of challenges that make career advancement more difficult. This is a thoughtful approach to help ease the burden on our military families by improving employment opportunities for spouses,” Boozman said.

“The men and women who support our troops deserve our support too. This bill is an effort to improve job opportunities and access to affordable childcare for military spouses as they face frequent moves and unexpected transfers. The families who sacrifice so much to serve our country should never have to choose between staying in the military and supporting their own families,” Kaine said.

“Our nation’s military spouses and families make great professional and personal sacrifices every day. We’ve got to improve access to employment opportunities for military families, and help ensure they can afford quality childcare without breaking the bank,” Tester said.

Military families frequently face financial insecurity due to spousal unemployment—which is an often overlooked military readiness issue—and obstacles to accessing quality, affordable childcare exacerbate these challenges. Unlocking the full talent of the nearly one million active duty, reserve and National Guard spouses would improve these families’ financial security while boosting their local economies.

The Jobs and Childcare for Military Families Act includes two main provisions:

  • Expands the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) to incentivize businesses to hire military spouses. The tax credit is already offered to businesses that hire veterans and other populations that face employment obstacles.
  • Makes flexible spending accounts available to military families so they can opt in to reserve pre-tax dollars from their paychecks to pay for out-of-pocket childcare expenses.

In addition to Kaine, Boozman and Tester, the Jobs and Childcare for Military Families Act is cosponsored by U.S. Sens. Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). The bill is endorsed by Blue Star Families, Military Officers Association of America, National Military Families Association and Servicewomen’s Action Network.

June 13, 2019

Boozman Provision Included in Legislation to Aid Blue Water Navy Veterans

WASHINGTON– A bill that expands U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits to veterans exposed to toxic chemicals during the Vietnam War includes a provision authored by U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) that extends benefits to the children of Vietnam veterans who served in Thailand who were born with spina bifida.

H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, passed the Senate unanimously after passing the House of Representatives last month. The bill, backed by many veterans service organizations, now heads to the president’s desk.

“Providing VA benefits to the children of Vietnam veterans stationed in Thailand born with spina bifida is the fair and right thing to do. They will now be eligible for the same health care, monetary allowance and vocational training as children of Vietnam veterans who served in Vietnam born with the same condition,” Boozman said. “I’m pleased this provision was included in the Blue Water Navy bill and am hopeful that access to these benefits will help improve the lives of former service members exposed to toxic chemicals during their time in uniform, as well as the lives of their families.”

Background

Veterans who served on ships off the coast of Vietnam but did not dock or approach close to the shore were previously ineligible for certain VA disability benefits covering certain medical conditions associated with the chemical herbicide Agent Orange commonly used in Vietnam. In a recent court decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit determined the VA must grant these benefits to Blue Water Navy veterans.

The U.S. Department of Justice recently declined to challenge the decision at the Supreme Court. However, the passage of this legislation will codify the benefits into law and ensure that future judicial action will not reverse the outcome.

H.R.299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, will:

  • Expand the presumption of Agent Orange exposure to veterans who served off the coast of Vietnam.
  • Extend presumption of Agent Orange exposure to veterans who served in or near the Korean demilitarized zone.
  • Provide benefits to children of Vietnam veterans who served in Thailand and were born with spina bifida.

 

June 12, 2019

Boozman Statement on U.S.-Poland Joint Defense Declaration

 WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement on the joint declaration on U.S. force posture signed today by President Donald Trump and Polish President Andrzej Duda:

“Increasing U.S. forces in Poland is a strong deterrent against Russian aggression in Eastern Europe. I am pleased that President Trump is strengthening our presence in Eastern Europe and ensuring that our military presence in Europe supports our operational plans and reinforces our commitment to our allies,” Boozman said.

In 2018, Boozman visited Poland and saw first-hand the work being done by U.S. forces to sustain operations in Europe to ensure we have a credible force to deter Russian aggression.

Boozman also introduced an amendment that was included in the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act to require the Pentagon to conduct an assessment of the need for combat enablers as it examines the feasibility and advisability of permanently stationing a U.S. Army brigade combat team in Poland.

 

June 12, 2019

Boozman Advocates for Farmers Harmed by Overreaching Water Rule

 WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), encouraged support for the Trump administration’s definition of water rules that will provide certainty for Arkansas agriculture producers.

During an EPW hearing to review the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) regulations, Boozman shared the challenges farmers face under the previous administration’s WOTUS rule and the need to redefine the policy.

“The permitting exemption for ordinary farming and ranching activities from the Obama administration’s stated WOTUS rule was meaningless,” Boozman said. “Imagine the frustration that farmers feel as they go through the permitting process.”

Boozman highlighted the experience of a landowner who was changing the use of a field from growing alfalfa to instead plant orchards in 2015. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said that action would constitute a land use change which would allow Corps regulators to pursue enforcement action if plowing the field to plant trees involved a discharge to wetlands.

The Corps regulator informed the landowner that despite an extensive farming history, orchards were never planted on the ranch so they are not the same kind of farming and might not be considered a normal farming activity.

Doug Goehring, commissioner of the North Dakota Department of Agriculture, testified before the committee and told Boozman that he had conversations with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials about what defined normal agricultural practices.

“Everybody said ‘we’re going to deal with this case-by-case.’ The problem is you never had a consistent answer depending on who you’re talking to,” Goehring said. “All of a sudden it could be detrimental or perceived detrimental that a normal common practice would have constituted a permit or permission to actually farm and ranch in a responsible manner.”

This was the first committee hearing on WOTUS since the Trump administration published its definition of the rule. Boozman has been strongly opposed to the Obama administration’s WOTUS rule and worked to overturn it.

 

June 12, 2019

Boozman, Cotton, Rep. Crawford Support Second Wave of Funding for Rural Broadband in Six Arkansas Counties

  Washington, D.C. — The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) authorized $22.6 million in funding over the next decade to expand broadband to 6,582 unserved rural Arkansas homes and businesses in six counties, representing the second wave of support from last year’s Connect America Fund Phase II auction. Providers will begin receiving funding this month. Rural broadband access connects Arkansans and is a critical step for economic development.

“I’ve long advocated for increased investment in rural Arkansas to support the expansion of broadband. These funds will help deploy high-speed, reliable broadband to improve quality of life and economic opportunity. As a co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, I will continue to promote and advance policies that strengthen internet service in rural areas of Arkansas and all across America,” said Boozman.

Whether they’re starting a business, earning a degree, or accessing medical care, it’s important for all Arkansans to have modern broadband access. I’m pleased that the Federal Communications Commission is closing the digital divide by making quality internet connection possible for Arkansans, no matter where they live,” said Cotton.  

 “Many of our rural communities have been forced to make compromises in terms of education and commerce due to their bandwidth capabilities. These tradeoffs stifle the competitiveness and health of our rural communities compared with urban areas. Rural broadband is necessary to ensure the advancement of Arkansas’ First District and bridge the gap between rural and urban areas, and I appreciate the FCC for making these expansions a priority,” said Crawford.

  “I’m pleased to announce that the second round of funding starts now for buildout of high-speed Internet service to 6,582 rural Arkansas homes and businesses, which will bring them to the right side of the digital divide and give them access to the 21st-century opportunities that broadband offers,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.  “Providers will be deploying gigabit-speed connections to all the locations for which funding is being authorized today, making cutting-edge broadband available to these rural consumers.”

BACKGROUND:

Nationwide, the auction last fall allocated $1.488 billion in support to expand broadband to more than 700,000 unserved rural homes and small businesses over the next 10 years. To date, the first two rounds of authorizations are providing $278.4 million nationwide over the next decade to expand service to 97,998 new locations.

In Arkansas, today’s authorization brings the total authorized in May and June to $40.8 million, which will expand broadband service to over 11,934 homes and businesses. Over the coming months, the FCC will be authorizing additional funding as it approves the final applications of the winning bidders from the auction.

Below is a complete list of the companies, by county, receiving support in Arkansas in the June funding wave, along with the number of homes and businesses served (locations), the amount of support over 10 years, and the minimum download/upload speeds being provided:

 

June 7, 2019

Arkansas Delegation Urges President to Approve Disaster Assistance

 WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton—along with Congressmen Rick Crawford, French Hill, Steve Womack and Bruce Westerman—sent a letter to President Donald Trump and administration officials urging them to support Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson’s request for a major disaster declaration because of extensive damage caused by continued flooding and recent severe storms in the state.

“Simply put, this is a historic flood that demands the immediate attention of the federal government. This unprecedented flooding is something unseen on the Arkansas River before,” members wrote in the letter. “Our citizens will be in dire need of assistance in order to regain suitable living conditions.”

The following is the full text of the delegation’s letter of support:

On behalf of the State of Arkansas, we are writing to support Governor Asa Hutchinson’s request to declare a major disaster, pursuant to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief Act, as a result of the devastating flooding and severe storms that began on May 21, 2019, and continue across the state.  

 Currently, 16 counties are reporting damage from extremely heavy rainfall, both locally and upriver in the Arkansas River system, with multiple levee breaches across the state leaving hundreds of structures still at risk. Governor Hutchinson declared a state of emergency on May 24, 2019, and the counties of Conway, Crawford, Faulkner, Jefferson, Perry, Pulaski, Sebastian and Yell has subsequently declared states of emergency. Local, state and federal officials have assisted with evacuations and emergency protective measures in Conway, Crawford, Faulkner, Jefferson, Perry, Pulaski, Sebastian and Yell counties, and shelters operating in 6 counties are currently housing Arkansans displaced by dangerously high waters.

 Simply put, this is a historic flood that demands the immediate attention of the federal government. This unprecedented flooding is something unseen on the Arkansas River before. Preliminary Damage Assessments indicate that over 857 homes have sustained major damage or were destroyed across eight counties, with many not yet experiencing the full impact of the floodwaters. Out of the 1,147 homes assessed thus far, an estimated 97% are uninsured.  It is also estimated that over 20% of those individuals are low income. Our citizens will be in dire need of assistance in order to regain suitable living conditions.

 While Preliminary Damage Assessments have occurred, the Arkansas River has not yet crested. It is anticipated that the number of homes damaged will increase as communities experience further flooding and state and federal teams are able to fully assess the damage across the state.

 The resourcefulness and resilience of Arkansans in recent weeks has been impressive, however, as losses mount, the people of our great state hope the federal government will join in these restoration efforts. Federal government resources are critical in the immediate aftermath of this devastating flooding, and coordination between the federal government and state and local officials is crucial to begin the process of recovery and rebuilding.

 We strongly support Governor Hutchinson’s request for immediate federal assistance through both Individual and Public Assistance. We are eager to assist in any way possible to ensure expedited evaluation of this request. Please do not hesitate to contact our offices with any questions.

 We thank you for the support you have already offered, and respectfully ask for your continued attention and assistance in providing the resources necessary to ensure the safety of Arkansans.

 

June 7, 2019

Commemorating the Turning Point of WWII

The late Thurlow Fernandez, a WWII veteran who called Sherwood, Arkansas home, recalled during an interview in the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project (VHP) how a medical condition he suffered from on June 6, 1944 prevented him from participating in the invasion of Normandy, France. He said it’s unlikely that he would have come home if he hadn’t been hospitalized because all of his shipmates were killed. More than 6,000 Americans died on D-Day, but their sacrifice and heroism marked the beginning of the end of World War II.

I was honored to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion in a ceremony with President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and my congressional colleagues. We reflected on the sacrifices that were made on the hallowed ground where American and Allied troops landed and where thousands of individuals gave their lives.

The Allied forces’ assault on the German-held French coastline during World War II is the largest amphibious invasion in history. It remains one of our nation’s greatest military achievements. The courage, strength and determination of members of the Greatest Generation who were called to defend freedom on D-Day will forever serve as an inspiration for future generations of Americans.

Many of these heroic individuals are buried at the Normandy American Cemetery. The graves of brave Americans dot the landscape where these courageous liberators fought and died. The crosses and Stars of David that mark their places of rest shine in the sun light on the cliffs of Normandy, giving hope for peace and reminding us of the costs of war.

The Normandy American Cemetery is the jewel of American Battle Monuments Commission sites. Approximately one million visitors each year pay their respects to those who lost their lives in the D-Day invasion and the battles that followed.

The cemetery and visitor center recognize the sacrifice of members of the Armed Forces who served at this turning point of the war, including the story of Private First Class Harold Eugene Sellers of Jonesboro, Arkansas.

Sellers was a member of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division. As a pathfinder, his mission was to lead the invasion by parachuting behind enemy lines into Normandy and setting up radar and lights for C-47s, which had been loaded with additional paratroopers the night before the amphibious landing. He jumped over France and was targeted by German gunfire. Sellers landed in a tree not far from Utah Beach, where he was killed. He was one of the first American casualties of D-Day.

As a co-chair of the Senate French Caucus, I was honored to introduce the Senate-passed resolution recognizing the 75th anniversary of this operation and acknowledging the courage and sacrifice of the Allied troops who came to the aid of those oppressed by the Nazi and Fascist regimes.

As we have just marked another anniversary of this historic and momentous occasion, let us resolve to reflect on the sacrifice and heroism displayed on behalf of our nation and the cause of freedom, and let us also commit to let it influence us in ways that challenge us to pursue the same devotion and service to America as the generation that stormed the beaches of Normandy in 1944.

 

June 6, 2019

Boozman Commemorates D-Day Anniversary

Senators at the American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, France, on June 6, 2019, after a ceremony commemorating D-Day’s 75th anniversary.

WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) joined a bipartisan Senate delegation in Normandy, France to participate in an official ceremony at the American Cemetery of Colleville-sur-Mer for the 75th anniversary of D-Day. The delegation joined President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron to recognize this occasion.

“The courage, strength and determination of members of the Greatest Generation who were called to defend freedom at Normandy will forever serve as an inspiration for future generations of Americans. The sacrifices made by Arkansans and all Americans and Allied troops in Normandy changed the trajectory of WWII,” Boozman said. “We must honor and continue to defend what they fought for and fulfill our obligation to support all of our veterans and their families.”

Boozman commemorated this historic occasion with a speech on the Senate floor on Monday. On Tuesday, the Senate approved a resolution introduced by Boozman to recognize the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion and honor the members of the U.S. Armed Forces who helped bring an end to World War II.

Approximately 10 thousand Allied soldiers were wounded or killed during the D-Day landings, including six thousand Americans. Many of these heroic individuals are buried at the Normandy American Cemetery. Approximately one million visitors each year pay their respects to those who gave their lives in liberating Western Europe and helping bring an end to World War II. Funding for the Normandy American Cemetery and other American Battle Monuments Commission sites fall under the jurisdiction of the Senate Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, which Boozman chairs.

 

May 31, 2019

Arkansas Strong

The Arkansas River is experiencing historic flooding that has unfortunately resulted in Natural State homes, businesses and communities now finding themselves underwater. The water level has surpassed the record floods of 2015, 1990, 1941 and 1927. What we are facing is unprecedented, however the strength of Arkansas is its people. Arkansans are rising to meet this challenge.

As I travel around our state, I have seen the willingness of friends, neighbors and strangers who are helping and supporting Arkansans in need. We can be encouraged by volunteers who filled sandbags to build barriers against the water, businesses that opened their doors to provide families displaced by floods with food and housing and individuals who helped others get to higher ground. The all-hands-on-deck efforts demonstrate how so many communities are eager to assist their families, friends and even strangers in these difficult circumstances. This natural disaster is truly bringing out our best.

Having spent much of this week visiting communities hard hit by flooding and surveying damage, I am heartened to see the strength and mental fortitude of Arkansans. While we don’t yet know the full impact of this disaster, it is considerable. President Trump issued an emergency declaration for Arkansas, allowing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide assistance for emergency protective measures for 16 counties spanning across our state.

On Thursday, Governor Asa Hutchinson invited members of the Arkansas Congressional Delegation to participate in an aerial tour of flooding across the state. We saw the scope of the disaster at Toad Suck, Dardanelle, Ozark, Trimble Lock and Dam, Van Buren and Fort Smith. Having grown up in Fort Smith, I’ve never seen water levels in the community this high.

The power of Mother Nature is truly remarkable. This continues to be a dangerous situation and we are fortunate to have the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, law enforcement, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Arkansas National Guard and many other organizations and individuals who are closely monitoring the water levels, levees and dams and are ready to respond to potential emergencies. President Trump recognized these efforts, tweeting that Arkansas’s “local officials are doing a great job” in responding to the flooding.

I have been in close contact with state and local leaders and have maintained an open line of communication with the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM). Personnel are working extended shifts in order to keep residents safe. I appreciate their tireless efforts to respond to this historic natural disaster.

This is one of the worst natural disasters in our state’s history, but we can be proud of the resolve that Arkansans have demonstrated to face this challenge. There is a long road ahead to recovery and my office stands ready to help. Federal government resources are critical in the immediate aftermath of this devastating event. I’m committed to ensuring the federal response is appropriate and timely.

My staff and I will continue to support the needs of our state as we get through this disaster and lead coordination between the federal government and state and local officials that will be necessary for recovery and rebuilding.

 

May 30, 2019

Boozman Statement on Passing of Sen. Thad Cochran

 WASHINGTON – Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement on the passing of Thad Cochran, former U.S. Senator for Mississippi:

“Thad Cochran was one of the most respected voices in Congress during his 45 years of service. He took me under his wing when I was elected to the Senate and his mentorship was unmatched and invaluable. I learned a great deal from him and take tremendous pride in our joint efforts to help the entire Delta region. Senator Cochran was a trusted neighbor and tremendous friend to Arkansas. I join with countless others in expressing my condolences to his loved ones and the people of Mississippi, who knew Thad Cochran to be an incredibly effective legislator and public servant. I will always remain grateful for his legacy and more importantly, his friendship and counsel.”

 

Boozman Joins Governor & Members of the Arkansas Congressional Delegation for Aerial Tour of Flooding

  

Boozman speaks to media on the Garrison Ave Bridge in Fort Smith on Thursday following the flyover tour.

LITTLE ROCK – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) joined Governor Asa Hutchinson and members of the Arkansas Congressional Delegation for an aerial tour of Arkansas River flooding.

“Historic flooding has left many communities along the Arkansas River unrecognizable. This is one of the worst natural disasters in our state’s history, but we can be proud of the resolve that Arkansans have demonstrated to face this challenge. This continues to be a dangerous situation and we are fortunate to have the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, law enforcement, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Arkansas National Guard and many other organizations and individuals who are closely monitoring the water levels, levees and dams and are ready to respond to potential emergencies,” Boozman said.

The tour allowed Boozman and other elected leaders to see the record flooding at Toad Suck, Dardanelle, Ozark, Trimble Lock and Dam, Van Buren and Fort Smith.

Boozman plans to continue surveying flood damage on the ground Friday.

On Wednesday, the Arkansas Congressional Delegation sent a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to support the governor’s request for a federal disaster declaration.

On Monday, Boozman visited the Dardanelle Lock and Dam and received a briefing from Brigadier General Paul Owen, commander of the Southwestern Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Little Rock District Commander Colonel Robert Dixon. He also participated in a meeting with Fort Smith business leaders, elected officials and Arkansas Department of Emergency Management officials before viewing the considerable flooding and surveying the Barling Lock and Dam.

 

May 29, 2019

Arkansas Delegation Supports Governor’s Request for Disaster Declaration

 WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton—along with Congressmen Rick Crawford, French Hill, Steve Womack and Bruce Westerman—sent a letter to President Donald Trump and administration officials urging them to support Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson’s request for a federal disaster declaration due to extensive damage as a result of continued flooding and recent severe storms in the state.

“The resourcefulness and resilience of Arkansans in recent days has been impressive; however, as losses mount, the people of our great state hope the federal government will join in these restoration efforts,” members wrote in the letter.

The following is the full text of the delegation’s letter of support:

Dear Mr. President:

On behalf of the State of Arkansas, we are writing to support Governor Asa Hutchinson’s request to declare a major disaster, pursuant to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief Act, as a result of the recent devastating flooding and severe storms across the state.   

Currently, 15 counties are reporting damage from extremely heavy rainfall, both locally and upriver in the Arkansas River system, with multiple levee breaches across the state. Voluntary evacuations are currently underway across at least four counties, with shelters opening in the cities of Fort Smith, Conway, Altheimer and Wright. These facilities can only take in 755 Arkansans displaced by dangerously high waters.

Simply put this is a historic flood that demands the immediate attention of the federal government. Since May 21, 2019, the Arkansas River has seen levels rise at a historic rate, surpassing the record floods of 2015, 1990, 1941 and 1927.  This unprecedented flooding is something unseen on the Arkansas River before. Long-term saturation will provide prolonged stress on the levee system, yielding devasting impacts to infrastructure and personal property if failure occurs.

As Governor Hutchinson noted in his request, there has been extensive damage across the state. Presently, the state is conducting extensive flood fighting operations with multiple counties impacted, and considerable property and infrastructure damage either occurring or anticipated to occur. There are approximately 3,124 total structures with potential impacts, and this number will continue to rise as the flooding continues.

Due to the unknowns associated with this event, and the amount of rain and changing conditions, it is difficult to estimate the level of Direct Federal Assistance required. The activities listed below are our current estimates based on past experiences: 

  • United States Army Corps of Engineers – sandbags, self-contained pumps, damage assessment teams, power generation, technical assistance, mapping, GIS support, and inundation mapping
  • United States Coast Guard – air transportation assets, technical assistance
  • Civil Air Patrol – air assets 
  • United States Fish and Wildlife Service – wildlife management assistance and technical assistance
  • United States Department of Agriculture – crop damage assessment, technical assistance water management and inundation mapping
  • Federal Highway Administration – Emergency Relief Program
  • Environmental Protection Agency – damage assessments, technical assistance
  • National Guard – heavy lift helicopters, aerial imagery

 The resourcefulness and resilience of Arkansans in recent days has been impressive; however, as losses mount, the people of our great state hope the federal government will join in these restoration efforts.

 Federal government resources are critical in the immediate aftermath of this devastating storm, and coordination between the federal government and state and local officials is crucial to begin the process of recovery and rebuilding. 

We are eager to assist in any way possible to ensure expedited evaluation of this request. Please do not hesitate to contact our offices with any questions.

We thank you for the support you have already offered, and respectfully ask for your continued attention and assistance in providing the resources necessary to ensure the safety of Arkansans.

 

May 24, 2019

Finding Common Ground on Health Care Reform

The average American spends over $10,000 annually on health care expenses and experts expect that number to continue to rise. Combine that hefty price tag with the very personal nature of health care decisions, and you easily see why health care reform is a priority for millions of Americans.

There are a number of competing ideas on how to fix our broken health care system. Thankfully, the Medicare-For-All, more accurately described as Medicare-For-None, approach being pushed in the U.S. House of Representatives is not going anywhere in the Senate. Leader McConnell and my Republican colleagues understand that any plan that will force Americans to pay more to wait longer for inferior services is not a workable solution to our health care woes.

Can a divided Congress with such divergent views on health care reform pass meaningful reforms in this climate? I believe we can. The key will be to focus on smaller, bipartisan pieces of legislation that will provide relief to families from rising health care costs, improve patient outcomes and ensure access to quality and affordable care.

To that end, I have introduced two bills that would be perfect places from which to start.

First, I joined with Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) to propose a solution to the physician shortage crisis our nation is facing. Our bill, the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act, would ease the arbitrary cap on the number of Medicare-funded graduate medical education (GME) positions imposed by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997.

The number of available physicians per population in the Natural State is among the lowest in the nation and providers of all specialties are facing a serious shortfall, especially in Arkansas’s rural communities. Lifting this antiquated cap on training slots for medical school graduates is a perfect example of a small reform that can make a big difference.

Similarly, another seemingly easy lift that would net positive returns would be to enable physician extenders to play a larger role in the process. That’s why I introduced legislation to enhance the role of radiology assistants (RAs).

The Medicare Access to Radiology Care Act would enable radiologists to submit claims to Medicare for non-diagnostic services performed by RAs they directly supervise in both the hospital and office setting. It will ensure patients—particularly those in rural areas where health care options are fewer—have timely and quality access to services.

I also have lent my support as a cosponsor to a number of bipartisan bills on which Congress should be able to find common ground. One, the Protect Act, reflects the stated intention of every member of Congress. It will ensure that health insurance coverage is available to Americans with pre-existing conditions without unreasonably high premiums or exclusions. We can also come together to reauthorize funding for community health centers, which serve a vital function of providing affordable health care to more than 27 million Americans, to ensure they remain operational. I have cosponsored a bipartisan bill to accomplish this goal. Finally, we can find consensus to repeal the 40 percent excise tax on certain employer-sponsored health insurance that is expected to impact half of employer-based health plans by 2025.

Reforms to our health care system require thorough and thoughtful debate. This is especially true for significant policy changes. While that discussion remains ongoing, we can advance commonsense reforms and move closer toward a system that ensures access to affordable, quality care for every American.

 

May 23, 2019

Boozman Introduces Bill to Improve Health Care Services

Addresses rising demand for radiology services by enhancing role of radiology assistants performing non-diagnostic services 

(Pictured: U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) visits with members of the Arkansas Radiological Society during their visit to Washington, D.C. this week to discuss their support for this legislation.) 

WASHINGTON– U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) is working to address the rising demand and clinical need for timely medical imaging services by introducing legislation that enhances the role of radiology assistants (RAs).

The increased complexity of radiologic studies, coupled with high demand for radiology services, has placed an added burden on our already strained Medicare program. One value-based, efficient solution to address this need and improve patient outcome is to enhance the role of RAs.

Boozman’s legislation—the Medicare Access to Radiology Care Act—would enable radiologists to submit claims to Medicare for non-diagnostic services performed by RAs they directly supervise in both the hospital and office setting. It will ensure patients—particularly those in rural areas where health care options are fewer—have timely and quality access to services.

“Hospitals in Arkansas and around the country are always searching for better ways to deliver medical services to patients in more cost-effective ways. Many health policy experts have identified the use of physician extenders as one way to help achieve that goal,” Boozman said.

While RAs are newly recognized under Medicare to perform services under direct supervision, the radiology practices that employ them are unable to submit claims to Medicare for RA performed services in hospitals, where they normally work.

“These healthcare professionals are well qualified to address the increased demand in medical imaging services and fill the gap in the shortage of radiologists, particularly in rural areas. Ensuring the procedures performed by RAs are covered by Medicare is a commonsense way to provide seniors with the specialized services they deserve,” Boozman said.

The Medicare Access to Radiology Care Act is cosponsored by Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA), Steve Daines (R-MT) and Jon Tester (D-MT).

 

May 23, 2019

Boozman Presses for Passage of Legislation to Improve Benefits and Services for Women Veterans  

WASHINGTON–U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, urged committee members to approve the Deborah Sampson Act, legislation that would eliminate barriers to care and services that many women veterans face.

There are more than two million women veterans in the United States. More than 20,000 women veterans call Arkansas home. The number of women veterans accessing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care services has steadily increased, but the VA’s policies are in need of reform to better serve this population.

“This is something that we can solve. It’s going to take some work. It’s going to take a little bit of change in attitude in some cases,” Boozman said during the Wednesday hearing. “We can do a better job of providing the resources that women veterans need.”

Watch Boozman advocate for the Deborah Sampson Act.

Boozman and Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), Ranking Member of the Senate VA Committee, reintroduced the Deborah Sampson Act in February. The legislation has widespread support of Veterans Service Organizations.

The pair have aggressively pursed reforms to policies that impact women veterans. Most recently, they sent a letter in December 2018 to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie urging him to implement provisions in the Deborah Sampson Act that are within his authority.

The VA Committee considered additional legislation cosponsored by Boozman including:

  • S. 123Ensuring Quality Care for our Veterans Act – Introduced by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), this would ensure that every VA health care provider with a revoked license undergoes a third party clinical review of their patient care. If the review determines that a standard of care was not met, the veteran will be notified.
  • S. 805Veteran Debt Fairness Act of 2019 – Introduced by Tester, this would prevent the VA from charging veterans for its own accounting mistakes.
  • S. 857 – Legislation introduced by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) that would increase the amount of special pension for Medal of Honor recipients.

 

May 17, 2019

Gratitude for Our Service Members

While it may seem like the members of the U.S. Senate—much like America itself—are strongly divided on issues of national policy, I can say without a doubt that we are all united in support of our troops and their efforts to protect and defend our nation and its ideals.

The men and women who wear our nation’s uniform selflessly serve. They are fully aware of the risks they face. Despite that, they bravely put themselves in harm’s way to defend our country, ideals and allies around the world.

They didn’t choose this life to seek recognition, awards or honors. Like those who wore the uniform before them, they chose the path of a higher calling, desiring to use their talents for the greater good. The men and women who serve in our military embody what it means to be a giver.

I know my fellow Arkansans share my gratitude and appreciation for all of our military personnel and their families who sacrifice at home while their loved ones are abroad.

Our state has a storied military heritage and a long, proud history of supporting our nation’s defense. Troops stationed in the state served our country honorably even before it was admitted to the Union.

Today, Arkansans stationed around the globe and our personnel at the Little Rock Air Force Base, Camp Robinson, Ebbing Air National Guard Base, Pine Bluff Arsenal and Fort Chaffee continue to make the Natural State proud.

We highlight their service during the month of May—which includes six military-related national observance days—as a way to express our gratitude. That gratitude endures in perpetuity.

We simply cannot thank our service members enough for the tremendous sacrifices they make to ensure that we can continue to live in the greatest, free country the world has ever known.

As the son of an Air Force Master Sergeant, I learned at a young age about the sacrifices our men and women in uniform make. I also learned very early on, that military families face unique challenges. It truly is a family affair.

My father joined the National Guard while he was in high school and, in the middle of his junior year, his unit was shipped out to prepare for World War II. He remained in the Air Force long after the war was over, serving over twenty years.

The example set by my father’s military career—and the lessons we learned growing up in a military family—helped my siblings and me prepare for a productive, service-centered life. The experience taught us one of the most valuable lessons I continue to carry with me today—through their service to our country, the men and women of our military are part of something much bigger than themselves.

My father was not only my hero, but as a World War II veteran, he and his fellow service members in my hometown of Fort Smith were embraced in the same manner by the community as a whole. The respect and admiration our community displayed for military members wasn’t faked or forced. It was genuine. And it remains just as strong today in communities across our great nation.

While those displays will be more publicly visible during National Military Appreciation Month, the feelings of respect, admiration and gratitude will carry on long after the end of this month. Our nation is eternally grateful for the sacrifice of every service member working to keep America safe, strong and free.

 

May 16, 2019

Boozman Recognized for Championing Fulbright and International Education Exchange Programs

 

 

(Pictured: U.S. Senator John Boozman with Farmington, Arkansas native and Fulbright Scholar Colton Flynn)

WASHINGTON–U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) was presented with the Institute of International Education’s (IIE) Centennial Medal for his dedication to international education and cultural exchange programs.

“Educational exchanges like the Fulbright Program help change the world. Providing opportunities for students to participate in international programs allows for the exchange of ideas, fosters an understanding of different cultures and strengthens diplomatic relations. I’m proud to support programs that break down barriers by building a network of global ambassadors,” Boozman said.

During the medal presentation Boozman met with Colton Flynn, a native of Farmington, Arkansas who recently earned his Ph.D. from Oklahoma State University. Flynn was a Fulbright Scholar who conducted agriculture research in Ethiopia with Ethiopian farmers and scientists.

The Fulbright Program, the United States’ flagship educational exchange program, was created by former Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright in 1946.

IIE is a global leader in international education. The not-for-profit organization works internationally to design and manage scholarship, study abroad, workforce training and leadership development programs. IIE is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

 

May 15, 2019

Boozman & Cotton Recognize Eureka Springs Aviation Cadet Museum

 WASHINGTON–U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) introduced a Senate resolution recognizing the Aviation Cadet Museum in Eureka Springs as America’s National Aviation Cadet Museum.

From 1917 to 1965, the flying cadet and succeeding aviation cadet programs served as the primary production source for nearly 500,000 joint service pilots, navigators and bombardiers. The bravery, courage, dedication and heroism of these aviators and their supporting ground crews during World War I and World War II were critical factors in defeating our nation’s enemies.

“Preserving the history of our nation’s aviation cadets demonstrates our gratitude for their sacrifice and service. For more than two decades, the Aviation Cadet Museum has been dedicated to sharing their stories and educating the public about our nation’s military aviation history. I’m proud to honor the accomplishments of these heroes whose achievements in the air helped defeat our adversaries.”Boozman said.

“Our nation’s aviation cadets fought bravely in our nation’s defense, and we should honor their service,” said Cotton. “This resolution will help ensure their legacy is long remembered.”

Founded in 1994 by former aviation cadet and Air Force First Lieutenant Errol Severe, the museum preserves and promotes an understanding of the aviators who built the air arm of this nation. It honors the teamwork, collaboration, patriotism and courage of those men as well as those individuals on the home front who mobilized and supported the national aviation effort in the 20th century. 

 

May 14, 2019

Boozman, Bennet Reintroduce Bipartisan Bill to Expand Agricultural Exports to Cuba

Leading Arkansas agriculture groups praise benefits for state’s producers

WASHINGTON –U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) reintroduced the Agricultural Export Expansion Act of 2019, legislation to remove a major hurdle for American farmers and ranchers to selling American agricultural products in the Cuban market. The bipartisan bill would support jobs in Arkansas, Colorado and across the country by lifting restrictions on private financing for U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba.

“Arkansas farmers need new markets and one solution is sitting less than one hundred miles off our coast. Cuba imports 80 percent of its food, but Americans start out at a disadvantage since private financing is not allowed. Our bill removes this barrier, allowing our agricultural producers to compete, while simultaneously exposing Cubans to American ideals, values and products. It’s a small step, but one that can yield big dividends for American farmers and the Cuban people,” Boozman said.

“We’ve heard loud and clear that American farmers and ranchers want the opportunity to compete and sell their product around the world, including in the Cuban market. Despite our progress in the 2018 Farm Bill, existing trade restrictions with Cuba continue to put our farmers and ranchers at a disadvantage,” Bennet said. “This common-sense bill would unlock new market opportunities for Colorado farmers and ranchers who have a tremendous amount to gain from competing in the Cuban market.”

Boozman supported a provision to the 2018 Farm Bill that took steps to help American agriculture access the Cuban market by allowing funding for U.S. Department of Agriculture export promotion programs for U.S. agricultural products to be used in Cuba. However, the biggest barrier for producers as they seek access to Cuba is the Trade Sanctions and Reform Act (TSRA) prohibition on providing private credit for those exports, which forces Cubans to pay with cash up front for American-grown food. As a result, American farm goods have become less competitive, and Cuba has turned to other countries who are able to directly extend credit to Cuban buyers for transactions. This bill would amend the TSRA to allow for private financing of agricultural exports and level the playing field for American farmers competing in the global market.

Arkansas agricultural groups greeted the news of the bill’s reintroduction with optimism, highlighting the potential economic benefits it will have for the state’s producers.

“There are great opportunities for Arkansas agriculture to expand our markets, and also to go a long way toward improving the quality of life for the people of Cuba. If trade restrictions were removed, it is probable that the U.S. will immediately capture most of Cuba’s $1 billion in annual agricultural imports. Arkansas, in fact, would benefit more than any other state, with more than $160 million in projected sales, primarily rice and poultry products but also beef and other commodities that are grown and raised in Arkansas,” said Randy Veach, President of the Arkansas Farm Bureau.  

“We very much support the effort to unlock the Cuba market. We feel trade with Cuba is a great way to help our farmers find new markets and for our country to spread democracy and capitalism into areas in need of great change. Arkansas farmers are beyond ready to play a key role in this effort,” said Andrew Grobmyer, Executive Vice President of the Agricultural Council of Arkansas.

“The reintroduction of this legislation is welcomed with much excitement and appreciation from Arkansas rice farmers. Among a challenging planting season and highly uncertain market climate, this financing option could be the determining factor in conducting trade with Cuba at a crucial time for Arkansas agriculture. Senator Boozman has once again demonstrated his leadership through his persistence on this issue,”said Jeff Rutledge, Chairman of the Arkansas Rice Federation.


Original cosponsors of the Agricultural Export Expansion Act of 2019 include U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Angus King (I-ME), Mark Warner (D-VA), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Susan Collins (R-ME), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and John Hoeven (R-ND).

 

May 10, 2019

Small Businesses Drive Our Economy

According to the Small Business Administration, Arkansas is home to more than 247,000 small businesses, which is over 99.3 percent of all businesses in our state.

These enterprises employ over 479,000 Arkansans, making it easy to see how big of an impact they have on our state’s economic climate.

In addition to powering the economy, small businesses also contribute to the communities they operate in.

They embody the American values and ideals that helped build our country—hard work, willingness to take risks and vision for opportunity.

That’s why the Senate recently recognized the importance of entrepreneurs by passing a resolution designating a week in May as “National Small Business Week.” I encourage people across Arkansas and throughout the country to support the small businesses in their communities.

This show of support certainly means a lot to the folks who own these companies and the employees who count on them to earn their livelihoods. It also serves as a way to further cultivate and reward the entrepreneurial spirit that is at the very heart of America.

It’s important that policymakers continue to listen to the concerns and advice of our entrepreneurs and those they employ. We can build on our positive economic growth by pursuing more policies that will help our small businesses succeed.

We recognize and commend those who take this leap of faith while generating positive economic activity and benefits that help strengthen and sustain the system that has created more wealth for more people than any other in human history.

This system underpins our society and is marked by the freedom and ability to make our own economic decisions. Those decisions have often led Americans to start businesses and become their own bosses. As a result, America’s small businesses are now, without question, the backbone of our economy.

During a recent visit in north central Arkansas, I met with several small business owners and their employees. Representatives from the Small Business Administration were on-hand for some of these meetings, underscoring the agency’s willingness and desire to help promote and assist small business owners and entrepreneurs with establishing or expanding their companies.

At each stop, the conversations provided me with invaluable insights about the challenges and opportunities these businesses face. The discussions also inevitably turned to how the economic climate has changed for the better in recent years.

Our small businesses are even more competitive as the result of pro-growth policies like tax reform and regulatory relief, which have created certainty for entrepreneurs. These pro-growth policies have not only helped drastically uplift and improve America’s economy, but have also given business owners and entrepreneurs the confidence they had been lacking for so many years about whether to invest in or expand their operations.

I applaud the men and women in Arkansas and across the United States who work incredibly hard running their own businesses and chasing the American Dream. I am committed to empowering these entrepreneurs by promoting policies that encourage innovation and expansion.

 

May 9, 2019

Boozman, Tester Fight for Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange During Service in Thailand

 WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Jon Tester (D-MT) introduced legislation to allow veterans who served in Thailand during the Vietnam War-era the opportunity to prove toxic exposure in order to qualify for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits.

“We made a commitment to our veterans, and must continue that promise to care and provide assistance for those exposed to Agent Orange regardless of where they served in Thailand. Expanding the VA’s policy to provide service-connected benefits is crucial to that pledge. Arbitrarily limiting consideration of a veteran’s claim is misguided, especially considering the VA determined that herbicides were used on fenced-in perimeters of military bases in Thailand. This bill will eliminate the unreasonable burden on veterans to prove toxic exposure,” Boozman said.

“Exposure to Agent Orange has had serious, lasting impacts on Montana’s veterans, and the VA needs to address their needs, no matter where the veteran served,” Tester said. “These folks risked their lives for our country when they were deployed to Thailand and we have a duty to ensure they get the benefits to which they’re entitled.”

The VA currently awards service-connected benefits for exposure to toxic chemicals to veterans whose duties placed them on or near the perimeters of Thai military bases from February 28, 1961 to May 7, 1975. This restriction arbitrarily disqualifies veterans who may otherwise be able to prove their exposure, regardless of their assigned duties during their time stationed in Thailand.

Veteran Service Organizations including Disabled American Veterans (DAV) have long advocated for improvements to health coverage for veterans exposed to dangerous herbicides.

“DAV strongly supports legislation to extend presumptions for Agent Orange and other herbicide exposure to all veterans who served at military installations in Thailand during the Vietnam Era, regardless of the base, duty or military occupational specialty. This legislation would also extend benefits to children of Thailand Vietnam-era veterans who develop spina bifida, which are now granted to children of veterans who served in Vietnam. We applaud Senators Boozman and Tester for introducing this important legislation to provide Vietnam-era veterans who served in Thailand greater equity with respect to presumptive diseases associated with herbicide exposure,” said Joy Ilem, DAV National Legislative Director.

Similar legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives in April.

 

May 7, 2019

Boozman Urges Support of OPM Nominee

WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) urged members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to support the nomination of Dale Cabaniss to serve as the director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) while introducing her before the committee on Tuesday.

Cabaniss served as Republican staff director of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government during Boozman’s tenure as chairman. Boozman applauded her leadership for advancing the committee’s appropriations bill. “In 2016, for the first time in the history of the most recent subcommittee jurisdiction, we passed our bill out of the full committee on a bipartisan and unanimous vote. This was no small feat and it would not have happened without Dale’s knowledge and expertise,” Boozman told committee members.

President Donald Trump announced in March his decision to tap Cabaniss to lead the Office of Personnel Management. In addition to her extensive service in the Senate, Cabaniss also served as chairman on the Federal Labor Relations Authority.

 

May 3, 2019

Improving Access to Broadband

President Trump recently met with Democratic congressional leaders to discuss the potential for advancing an infrastructure package this Congress. In addition to investments in roads, railways and air travel, the discussion included expansion of broadband access. Incorporating the deployment of high-speed, reliable broadband into any infrastructure efforts must be a priority.

Broadband investment strengthens our economy and expands opportunities for healthcare, agriculture and education. There is a need for improvement, particularly in rural areas. As a rural state, there are more challenges to providing Arkansans access to the minimum speed of wired broadband that experts agree is functional: 25 megabits per second.

In February, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a draft of its 2019 Broadband Deployment Report that showed growth in broadband connectivity nationwide. Despite the positive gains, internet access in rural areas of our state continues to be insufficient to meet the needs of residents. Arkansas ranks as the 48th most connected state, according to the FCC.

As a founder and co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, I’m leading efforts to find solutions that will close the existing digital divide. This Congress, the caucus will be facilitating the use of accurate broadband maps. Updated coverage surveys will help us underscore where resources need to be deployed in order to bring broadband to underserved areas.

Earlier this month, I joined my fellow caucus co-chairs to introduce the Measuring the Economic Impact of Broadband Act. This legislation will result in reliable data collection on the economic impact of broadband on our nation’s economy. This information will allow the public and private sectors to target investments to increase connectivity in Arkansas.

Support for the expansion of rural broadband was included in the 2018 Farm Bill. The bill that President Trump signed into law late last year allows the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to leverage grants and loans with loan guarantees to fund projects that deploy high-speed broadband in rural America. Coupled with the December 2018 launch of USDA’s ReConnect Program to facilitate broadband deployment, the farm bill’s policy changes will increase opportunities for rural areas to get resources to bridge the digital divide.

Arkansas organizations are taking advantage of these tools to promote connectivity. Earlier this year, Arkansas Rural Internet Service (ARIS), a partnership between Ouachita Electric Cooperative and South Arkansas Telephone Company, announced it received nearly $20 million in loan funding from USDA to deploy broadband in the region. USDA continues to promote its grant and loan programs and share how telecommunications companies, rural electric cooperatives, internet providers and communities can apply for these resources.

Members of my staff recently attended a broadband roundtable at the University of Arkansas at Monticello organized by Congressman Bruce Westerman to highlight opportunities for stakeholders in Drew and Ashley counties. I am hopeful this outreach will encourage more applicants intent on helping to increase connectivity in rural Arkansas.

Students in every public school across the state are now using high-speed broadband, which is another indication of just how vital reliable internet access continues to be within our 21st century society and economy.

Broadband is an important tool that we must provide all Arkansans access to in order to improve quality of life and economic opportunity. I look forward to working with my colleagues, the FCC and industry leaders to ensure all Arkansans have the ability to use broadband internet and enjoy the abundant benefits it provides.

 

May 3, 2019

Boozman, Cotton Secure Additional Protections for Arkansas Catfish Industry

 WASHINGTON- U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton applauded a decision to impose antidumping duties on Vietnamese catfish exporters, a move that will help ensure Arkansas and all U.S. catfish producers can compete on a more level playing field. This action by the International Trade Administration (ITA) follows concerns raised by Boozman, Cotton and six other senators last fall.

The ITA this week issued its final determination on antidumping rates to impose on Vietnamese catfish exporters. The ITA found that Vietnamese firms continue to violate U.S. antidumping laws and the agency imposed higher penalties on offending export companies—some penalties as high as $3.87 per kilogram on imported frozen catfish fillets.

“This decision is good for Arkansas’s catfish producers who supply a safe, high-quality product for American consumers,” Boozman said. “When other countries dump inferior products in the U.S. market at prices below the cost of production, American farmers and consumers are the ones who lose. I will continue working to level the playing field for the domestic catfish industry. Our farmers can compete with anyone in the world, but they cannot compete against foreign governments who do not play by the rules.”

“Arkansas catfish farmers shouldn’t be forced out of business by foreign companies who cheat the system. These steep penalties will make those firms think twice before illegally dumping their inferior fish products into the U.S. market,” Cotton said.

In October 2018, Boozman and Cotton sent a letter to the Department of Commerce that raised concerns regarding questionable ITA actions in assessing antidumping duties on Vietnamese companies exporting frozen catfish fillets to the United States. A preliminary ITA determination issued in September 2018 recommended only nominal penalties on these companies. However, congressional interest in the matter prompted further investigation of the companies’ dumping practices, resulting in higher penalties being assessed for violations.

The ITA determination, combined with ongoing U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) catfish inspection, are providing U.S. catfish producers with a fairer competitive market overall and ensuring that stringent food safety requirements are being met. 

 

April 30, 2019

Boozman Convenes Hearing on President’s Budget Request for VA 

WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, held a hearing to examine President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2020 and Fiscal Year 2021 funding request for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The hearing included testimony from the Honorable Robert Wilkie, the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs; the Honorable Dr. Paul Lawrence, the Under Secretary for Benefits of the Veterans Benefits Administration; the Honorable Randy Reeves, the Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs; the Honorable Jon Rychalski, the Assistant Secretary for Management and Chief Financial Officer and Dr. Richard Stone, Executive in Charge of the Veterans Health Administration.

The following is Chairman Boozman’s opening statement as prepared for delivery:

The budget requests $220 billion in FY 2020 for the Department of Veterans Affairs, including medical care collections.  This includes $93 billion in discretionary funds, a $6.5 billion or 7.5 percent increase over FY 2019. The budget also requests a total of $221 billion in advance appropriations for FY 2021.

Although the large FY 2020 increase highlights the importance of programs for veterans, it also reflects creation of the Veterans Community Care Program, which consolidated multiple community care programs through the MISSION Act. VA estimates the FY 2020 cost of the MISSION Act-related programs is $8.9 billion – an amount that in past years would have been funded through mandatory appropriations, but now must be covered by discretionary funds.

Members of this subcommittee remain committed to providing VA with the resources needed to care for our veterans. However, to do that we must have accurate cost and execution estimates from the department. None of us want to repeat the experience of past budget shortfalls.

In addition, the Budget requests $1.6 billion for Electronic Health Record Modernization. This includes funds for the third year of a ten-year contract with Cerner. As I have previously noted, many of us on this committee have long advocated for a single, joint medical record that will follow a servicemember throughout their career in the military and into their time as a veteran.  We remain hopeful that the collaboration between VA, DOD and Cerner can deliver on this vision.

Timely and effective implementation of the Veterans Community Care Program and the Electronic Health Record Modernization efforts pose significant challenges for the department in FY 2020. As VA addresses interoperability of both legacy and community health systems and programs, it is essential that its community – including staff, providers and veterans – are educated on the changes in policy and processes.

In addition to updates on those programs, we look forward to hearing details about the department’s request for mental health services, including efforts to combat opioid use disorder and prevent veteran suicide, initiatives to prevent veteran homelessness and efforts to improve care for our rural veterans, including through telehealth. We also appreciate VA’s efforts to reduce the appeals backlog and address the implementation challenges of the Forever GI Bill, including ensuring veterans receive the benefits required under law. Finally, we are aware the Justice Department requested an extension on the deadline to appeal the Federal Circuit Court decision regarding benefits for Blue Water Navy Veterans. We would like to hear more about the expected costs associated with this case and what, if any, additional resources the Veterans Benefit Administration (VBA) may need as a result.

We look forward to discussing these and other issues this afternoon.

 

April 26, 2019

Committed to Fighting the Opioid Epidemic

Since 2010, citizens across our state have participated in Arkansas Take Back to get expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs out of their homes. This program was launched because families and individuals continue to experience the serious consequences brought on by the escalating opioid epidemic.

According to a recent study by the National Safety Council, Americans are more likely to die from opioid abuse than in a motor vehicle accident. A 2015 analysis by the group found that only one in five Americans consider prescription pain medication to be a serious threat.

On average, 115 people die each day in the U.S. from opioid overdose and 40 percent of all opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription drug. Our state ranks second in the nation for over-prescribing opioid medications. More prescriptions are filled in Arkansas each year than there are people. In light of that reality, we can be proud of the participation in Arkansas Take Back from people in all corners of the Natural State. These events have produced the return of 160 tons of unneeded medications, which amounts to more than 442 million pills, demonstrating that this campaign is succeeding in getting excess prescription drugs out of circulation.

Defeating this epidemic is a priority and leaders at all levels of government are using a comprehensive approach to reverse the trend. This year the state legislature approved, and the governor signed into law, legislation to remove unnecessary restrictions to evidence-based treatment for opioid abuse. These efforts by state leaders have gained national attention. The American Medical Association applauded Arkansas for setting an example for other states to follow so patients don’t have to wait to receive FDA-approved medications proven to support recovery.   

Last congress, several pieces of legislation were passed and signed into law to improve the tools and resources available to fight opioid abuse and addiction, including the Opioid Crisis Response Act, an all-inclusive approach to countering the epidemic that includes a focus on recovery.

There is a clear need to continue seeking out ways to help our family members and neighbors affected by this crisis. One such solution, as President Trump explained in his State of the Union address this year, is to eliminate the flow of drugs into our country. In early April, Attorney General William Barr echoed this sentiment before members of the Senate Appropriations Committee. In addition to drugs coming into the country through our southern border, Attorney General Barr also said the FBI is undertaking methods to reduce drug trafficking via the internet and through the mail.

Federal resources are being deployed nationwide to break the cycle of addiction. During a visit to Searcy County in March, I saw how grant funds from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are being used to implement effective treatment, recovery and prevention methods at Boston Mountain Rural Health Center in Marshall. Improving its transportation and telehealth services has made a difference for patients. Several other facilities across the state have recently been awarded funds to give addicts and their families new hope in the fight against opioid abuse.

There is overwhelming support for and desire to turn the tide against the opioid epidemic. I’m committed to helping our state and the country continue developing strategies to combat prescription opioid abuse and improving access to treatment and recovery to save lives. 

 

April 18, 2019

Pulling the Plug on Robocalls and Scammers

The unwelcome nature of scammers and telemarketers’ frequent, harassing and deceitful calls to our landlines and cell phones is something almost everyone can agree on. It’s time more is done to curb them.

The good news is that efforts are underway in our state and on a national level to cut down on these practices that at best are a nuisance, but often turn out to be nefarious schemes to trick hardworking people out of their paychecks or savings.

We are all familiar with these calls. They are now the top consumer complaint submitted to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Many are automated and offer an unearned, unsolicited and seemingly too-good-to-be-true award. Others turn out to be from a real person who, within a few moments, begins attempting to collect on debts you are alleged to owe to government agencies or private businesses.

What’s worse is that sometimes these calls are made to seem more legitimate even before you answer them by using “spoofing” technology which causes the caller ID service on our devices to show that the incoming call appears to be coming from a local or familiar number.

Unfortunately, these unwanted calls continue to occur and are increasing. It’s easy to see how much of a risk they pose to unsuspecting people, particularly the elderly or those who might be convinced to act quickly and render some form of payment in order to settle a debt or assist a loved one they fear might be in danger or in need.

A Little Rock-based company, First Orion, predicts that nearly half of all cellphone calls in 2019 will come from scammers. Call-blocking company YouMail projects that last month over five billion robocalls were placed, including 60 million in Arkansas.

The United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation has recently passed legislation, which I have cosponsored, to combat annoying, illegal and abusive robocalls. The Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act is a bipartisan bill that seeks to mobilize the federal government to more aggressively prevent these calls and punish the culprits.

It would increase the statute of limitations for regulators to pursue investigations and take legal action as well as allow the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to levy fines without first issuing a legal warning. Additionally, the TRACED Act will prod carriers to implement new technology to verify if a call comes from a real number while also seeking to bring agencies like the FTC, FCC, Department of Justice and state attorneys general together to work on ways to tackle this issue.

Our state is also leading efforts to stop unwanted calls to Arkansans. The state legislature recently passed and the governor signed legislation raising the penalty for illegal robocalls from a misdemeanor to a felony as well as making spoofing a felony. The law requires telecom companies to report annually to the state Public Service Commission on steps they take to identify and block illegal robocalls.

Pulling the plug on robocalls and scammers is common sense. Their manipulative, harassing practices are unwarranted and, in many cases, illegal. I will continue to advocate for solutions and enforcement of existing laws so that Arkansans and citizens across the country do not continue being hassled, badgered and even defrauded by these illegitimate actors.

 

April 12, 2019

Boozman Reviews Implementation of Veterans Health Program

 WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) pushed the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to share details on its implementation of landmark reforms to veterans’ community care programs.

Boozman, a member of the Senate VA Committee, has spoken with veterans, Veterans Service Organization officials and private sector health care providers around Arkansas who are looking forward to the expanded benefits within the VA MISSION Act, but are concerned about the lack of information provided by the VA on the program that is scheduled to come online June 6, 2019.

The senator pressed the VA on its readiness for launching this program during a hearing Wednesday. “Do veterans know what to expect on June 6? Are we being proactive to the veteran community?” Boozman asked.

Dr. Jennifer MacDonald, the Veterans Health Administration official in charge of the implementation, said a plan has been developed to educate veterans and providers about the new benefits.

NATO at 70

During a recent address before a Joint Session of Congress, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg vividly described the two monuments that stand out front of the organization’s headquarters in Belgium. One, a piece of the Berlin Wall. The other, a twisted steel beam from the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

As Secretary General Stoltenberg noted, both serve a special purpose. These monuments stand as powerful reminders for NATO members of where we have been, are going and our commitment to one another.

NATO turned 70 this month. The United States and our Trans-Atlantic allies in the organization have seen the world change considerably during those seven decades. The threat posed by the Soviet Union—one of the main reasons the alliance was formed—no longer exists. However, the international community now faces the challenge of an increasingly hostile Russia in its place.

When Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014, it carried out an alarming act of aggression that Europe hasn’t seen since World War II. Realizing that he faced little recourse for that action, Vladimir Putin stepped up his belligerent acts by arming pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine, carrying out bombing campaigns on behalf of a murderous regime in Syria and conducting cyberattacks on Western democracies.

As if this litany of aggressions isn’t enough, Russia has deployed mobile, nuclear-capable missiles in Europe. This is a clear violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty that will have long-term ramifications for NATO countries. As the Secretary General stated in his Joint Session address, “an agreement that is only respected by one side will not keep us safe.”

We don’t have to return to a Cold War-era arms race as a result of Russia’s actions. However, we must, as Secretary General Stoltenberg noted, “prepare for a world without the INF Treaty and take the necessary steps to provide credible and effective deterrence.”

While the threat posed by a resurgent Russia reinforces the need for a strong NATO, it is far from the only concern facing the alliance. China’s expanding global influence and the aspirations of smaller rogue nations like North Korea and Iran will continue to challenge the west moving forward. Despite making great strides to eliminate ISIS, the threat posed by radical Islamic terrorists remains ever present and knows no boundaries.

Amidst all these challenges, NATO stands as a very visible deterrent. When half the world’s military strength stands together, bad actors take notice. Collectively, NATO members also make up half of the world’s economic might. The bond the U.S. shares with our NATO allies extends far beyond security cooperation, as many of these nations are our most reliable and trustworthy trading partners.

The strength of NATO is contingent on each and every member paying its fair share. Every member nation must meet the agreed upon defense spending levels. Secretary General Stoltenberg stressed this point during his address and this message has begun to resonate with NATO members. An additional $41 billion has been spent on defense by our European allies and Canada in the last two years alone. That number is expected to reach $100 billion by the end of the year.

President Trump deserves credit for bringing about this sea change. His words to our allies that were not living up to their commitments were conveyed in a direct manner. NATO must be a fair alliance.

We have accomplished a great deal together, but many challenges remain for NATO. As we mark the 70th year of the alliance, we do so with the knowledge that our friends from across the Atlantic will continue to be trusted partners who stand by each other in our hours of need.

 

April 9, 2019

Boozman Convenes Hearing on President’s FY20 Budget Request for Military Construction, Family Housing and BRAC

 WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, held a hearing to examine President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2020 funding request for military construction, family housing and Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) for the Department of Defense (DoD).

The hearing included testimony from Robert McMahon, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment; Lieutenant General Gwendolyn Bingham, Assistant Chief of Staff of the Army for Installation Management; Vice Admiral Dixon R. Smith, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Fleet Readiness and Logistics; Major General Vincent A. Coglianese, Commander of Marine Corps Installations Command; and Assistant Deputy Commandant, Installations and Logistics; and Brigadier General John J. Allen, Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection and Director of Civil Engineers.

The following is Chairman Boozman’s opening statement as prepared for delivery:

Good afternoon. The subcommittee will come to order. We meet today to discuss the President’s FY2020 budget request for military construction, family housing and Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) for the Department of Defense.

The FY2020 base budget request of $11.2 billion reflects a nine percent increase over the FY2019 enacted level of $10.3 billion. While it is great to see an increase in the military construction request for the second consecutive year, reversing years of underfunding while simultaneously building ready and resilient installations will remain a challenge. The increased complexity of facilities needed to support today’s weapons systems and new platforms is driving complex designs, higher costs and aggressive construction schedules.

Additionally, efforts to support several multibillion-dollar recapitalization initiatives culminate in large and complex projects taking up a greater share of the budget. We are all aware that this portfolio has been taking on increasing levels of risk for years, and affordability continues to decrease as the costs of construction projects continue to rise. This is evident in this year’s request, as the top twenty percent of projects account for half the budget.

The FY2020 budget request begins to improve our infrastructure, but the total military construction request is still less than three percent of the total Department of Defense budget. Congress and the department must collaborate to find innovative solutions to deliver facility investments with constrained resources. This is an urgent need, given that military construction not only supports new weapons platforms that are inter-dependent on purpose-built infrastructure, but it also provides for hospitals, schools and housing to improve the quality of life for our service members and their families.

To that end, I am pleased that the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Services are developing and implementing efforts on infrastructure management and reform. I look forward to learning more about how the services are implementing these initiatives and hearing how they will improve existing processes.

The FY2020 Overseas Contingency Operations/European Deterrence Initiative request is $645 million; a decrease from the FY2019 enacted level of $921 million. I would be remiss if I didn’t note the $9.2 billion emergency request to support hurricane reconstruction efforts and the national emergency at the southern border. The damage at Tyndall Air Force Base and Camp Lejeune is truly devastating, and I think we must rebuild in a smart, thoughtful manner as quickly as we responsibly can.

I also believe that border security is an urgent need that should be a priority. Clearly, work remains to be done in order to achieve the level of border security that the American people are calling on Congress to deliver, and this will require a whole-of-government effort. I don’t think I’m exaggerating if I say the specific request in front of the subcommittee is unprecedented and will spark passionate debate among my colleagues. However, I remain hopeful that the subcommittee can work together in our traditional bipartisan fashion to develop a bill that supports the department and our service members.

Before we turn to our witnesses, I would like to recognize my colleague, Senator Schatz, for his opening remarks.

 

April 5, 2019

     Fixing the Broken Senate Confirmation Process

The Senate recently adopted changes to make the body more efficient and improve its ability to fulfill one of its constitutional obligations: providing our advice and consent to the administration in order to fill the executive branch positions that require Senate confirmation.

In years past, the confirmation of presidential nominees has highlighted the ability of senators to work together and approve nominations when an individual is clearly qualified. Despite the fact that the country is best served by timely confirmation of the president’s nominees, the Senate minority has engaged in historic obstruction for more than two years. This has prevented the ability of President Donald Trump to fully staff federal agencies and confirm his nominees.

In order to respond to the needs of our country, our federal agencies must have the leaders in place to support the administration and serve the needs of all Americans which these federal departments exist to do.

When you change presidents, you also change personnel in federal agencies. That means processing more than one thousand nominations for executive branch positions. This is in addition to the confirmation of judges to fill vacancies within our federal courts.

Unfortunately, there has been an ongoing effort to hinder the ability of the president to fully staff federal agencies and confirm his nominees to the federal bench.

The rules of the Senate ensure there is ample time to vet and discuss individuals nominated to serve in these important positions. Traditionally the debate time of noncontroversial nominees is minimal, but President Trump’s nominees have moved at a glacial pace through the Senate because the minority is running out the clock on nearly every nomination, even those with broad, widespread support.

For example, despite the unanimous support among members of the Judiciary Committee, the Senate spent more than an entire week considering four district court judges on the floor, where they eventually received support from every senator for their confirmations.

This is obstruction purely for the sake of obstruction. It ultimately harms the reputation of the Senate as well as the federal departments, agencies and courts where these nominees could already be serving on behalf of the American people.

What we’ve experienced in terms of being able to confirm nominees to sub-cabinet level positions is unprecedented.

Over the last two years, Democrats have abused procedures to delay votes on 128 of President Trump’s nominees. In comparison, the first two years of President Obama’s time in office, this only happened 12 times. If you add this to the cloture votes for the first two years of Presidents George W. Bush and Clinton, it’s a total of 24.

In early April, the Senate took steps to restore the tradition of timely consideration and confirmation of the president’s nominees by reducing debate time. The rule change is similar to the standing order that was approved by senators during a Democrat-controlled Senate in 2013.

This new precedent will still allow lengthy consideration of cabinet-level nominees and those nominated to fill seats on the Supreme Court and federal appeals courts.

Eliminating the ability to delay confirmation of a nominee that most, or sometimes even all, senators eventually vote to support is important to restoring fairness and productivity in the Senate. Timely consideration of executive branch nominees improves efficiency and ultimately holds the administration more accountable to the American people.

April 2, 2019

Arkansas Lawmakers Introduce Legislation to Expand State Veterans Cemetery

WASHINGTON- U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton along with Congressmen Rick Crawford, French Hill, Steve Womack and Bruce Westerman introduced legislation to transfer nearly 140 acres of land at Camp Robinson to the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs (ADVA). The land conveyance will facilitate expansion of the Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery in North Little Rock.

“This is a commonsense solution that helps the Army Guard and the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs. The land is costly to maintain and not useful to the guard for training. It will provide a valuable expansion of burial space for veterans – an important step to securing a place of honor for future generations of veterans. This land conveyance will help the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs provide the men and women who served in uniform an appropriate final resting place that acknowledges of their service and sacrifice,” Boozman said.

“Our veterans deserve burials that reflect their service to our nation and the state of Arkansas. This expansion will ensure that we keep our promises to Arkansas veterans who choose to be buried alongside their brothers and sisters in arms,” Cotton said.

 “Our men and women in uniform make substantial sacrifices so that we can enjoy the freedoms that we hold dear. We must continue to honor their commitment to our country. This land transfer to will ensure that our veterans are not turned away from having an appropriate burial ground that acknowledges their service,” Crawford said.

 “Expanding the Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery ensures that we can continue to honor veterans and their families with fitting tributes that memorialize their service to our country,” said Hill. “Transferring this land from the Arkansas National Guard to ADVA is an efficient and effective solution that benefits all Arkansans.”

“The grounds where America’s heroes lie are some of the most sacred among us. By allowing for the expansion of Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery, this bill ensures that our brave veterans can be laid to rest among their comrades in uniform for generations to come. It’s an honor they earned through service, and I call on Congress to swiftly approve this proposal,” Womack said.

“Without this land transfer, the Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery will run out of room and be forced to turn families of veterans away. The land conveyance is a practical solution to an imminent need, and I’m honored to sponsor legislation giving space for veterans to be laid to rest alongside their fellow patriots,” Westerman said.

The land that will be transferred from Camp Robinson to the ADVA has not been used for Army Guard training in over 25 years. The land lies in the flight path of the North Little Rock airport runway, which limits the use of training devices such as artillery simulators, flares and smoke. It is also separated from the main areas of Camp Robinson and has limited access.

The land transfer to the Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery at North Little Rock will enable continuation of first burials beyond 2045, when the current cemetery is predicted to reach capacity. Rather than developing an additional cemetery in central Arkansas, the land conveyance provides an expansion opportunity which will be a more cost-efficient alternative for the ADVA.

 

April 2, 2019

Boozman, Coons Seek to Commemorate 75th Anniversary of D-Day

WASHINGTON –U.S. Senate French Caucus co-chairs Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Chris Coons (D-DE) introduced a resolution to mark the upcoming 75th Anniversary of the D-Day invasion and honor the members of the U.S. Armed Forces who helped bring an end to World War II.

“Seventy-five years ago, the brave men and women of the Allied Forces embarked on the opening phase of Operation Overlord in an effort to break the Nazi stranglehold on Western Europe. The courageous effort to storm the beaches of Normandy changed the trajectory of history,” said Boozman. “As co-chairs of the Senate French Caucus, Senator Coons and I have introduced this resolution to recognize the upcoming 75th Anniversary of the D-Day landings and to express our gratitude and appreciation to the members of the U.S. Armed Forces—including those from Arkansas—who participated in these operations. The courage and sacrifice of the Allied troops who came to the aid of those oppressed by the Nazi and Fascist regimes will always serve to inspire future generations.”

“As co-chair of the Senate French Caucus, I am proud to introduce this resolution with Senator Boozman to recognize the brave members of the U.S. and Allied Forces who fought and died on the beaches of Normandy 75 years ago in the name of freedom,” said Coons. “Operation Overlord, commonly known as D-Day, lifted millions from the grasp of tyranny and helped forge lasting partnerships among nations that value freedom around the world. We owe a debt of gratitude to these heroes whose service and sacrifice changed the course of history.”

 

In the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, 57,000 members of the United States Armed Forces, and 153,000 of their counterparts in the Allied Expeditionary Force, launched Operation Overlord by storming ashore five landing areas on the beaches of Normandy, France. The first day of the operation, which became known as D-Day, approximately 10,000 Allied soldiers were wounded or killed, including 6,000 Americans. Operation Overlord led to Allied liberation of Western Europe from the control of Nazi Germany and an end to World War II.

 

April 1, 2019

Boozman Applauds Congressional Youth Cabinet Participants

LITTLE ROCK – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) wrapped up the second year of his Congressional Youth Cabinet on Friday listening to presentations from 30 high school juniors at the Arkansas State Capitol. The students met with Boozman to share their ideas for legislation regarding workforce development, the opioid epidemic and trade tariffs.

“I am proud of these young leaders for their hard work and dedication to the Congressional Youth Cabinet,” Boozman said. “I have enjoyed visiting with them throughout the school year and was impressed with their policy presentations. I am confident these students will continue to be leaders and doers who give back to their communities. I hope their participation in the Congressional Youth Cabinet is something they can point to as having made a distinct and significant contribution to their development as students and informed, engaged citizens.”

Sean Cunningham attends DeWitt High School. He said, “Being on Senator Boozman’s Youth Cabinet has given me the experience and courage that I will need to make major presentations in my future. I am so thankful for this opportunity, as well as the wonderful people that I got to meet.”

Lily Ryall is a junior at Central High School in Little Rock. She commented on her group’s final assignment saying, “This project has been unlike any other project I’ve ever had to do. But, it’s been challenging in all the best ways! I’ve learned a lot about how to work best in a group, managing my time, and thinking in a bipartisan way.”

Rachel St. Onge attends Northside High School in Fort Smith. “Given the opportunity to participate in Senator Boozman’s Congressional Youth Cabinet has been an honor,” St. Onge said. “Within the cabinet you learn how to step up and become a leader as well as getting to know students across Arkansas. It is a wonderful opportunity to learn how the government works and understanding the issues that the states face.”

Camden Jones attends El Dorado High School. He said, “My experience on this council has taught me the importance of being politically informed, and gotten me more involved in my community.”

The Congressional Youth Cabinet is designed to give students first-hand experience in the democratic process and a chance to understand how public policy impacts them, their families and their communities. The students selected issues to address at their first meeting and worked in teams divided by congressional district throughout the year. In addition to policy suggestions, the students had to describe how their proposal would be funded and implemented.

 

March 29, 2019

Recognizing Arkansas’s Unique Role in Pursuit of Women’s Equality

In 1987, Congress passed legislation that designates March as Women’s History Month. This is a special time to reflect on the countless women who have shaped our nation and those who continue to devote their time and energy to the pursuit of equality here at home and abroad.

In 1932, Arkansas elected Hattie Caraway to the U.S. Senate, which made her the first woman ever elected as a U.S. Senator. She broke barriers, changed norms and helped lay the foundation for the new role women were beginning to be recognized as deserving to play in the Senate throughout her legislative career. During her 14 years as a legislator, she was the first woman to chair a Senate committee and became the first woman to preside officially over the Senate.

The path Hattie Caraway trail-blazed for more women to enter the ranks of the “world’s greatest deliberative body” has without a doubt made the Senate a better, stronger institution and has benefitted our nation immensely.

Today, more women are serving in Congress than ever before. We need look no further than Hattie Caraway to understand the magnitude of her decision to step forward and serve her state and country.

More women are also answering the call to serve our nation in uniform.

Women are the fastest growing demographic of veterans, but many Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities don’t have the ability to provide equitable care or services to women veterans. This Congress, Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) and I have reintroduced legislation to eliminate barriers to care and services that many women veterans face. Our bill is appropriately named the Deborah Sampson Act, which honors the service and sacrifice of the American Revolutionary hero who disguised herself as a man in order to serve in the Continental Army.

We can be proud of Deborah Sampson and the countless women patriots who have followed in her footsteps. We must update VA services to support the unique needs of our entire veteran population, including the growing number of women relying on the VA for care.

While opportunities remain to advance women’s equality, the United States recently took an important step to empower women worldwide.

Congress approved and President Donald Trump signed into law the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act. Senator Ben Cardin (D-ME) and I introduced this legislation to eliminate global gender-related barriers and empower female entrepreneurs around the world.

In some parts of the world, women are pushed so far to the sidelines that they are denied access to even the most basic of financial services. Cultural and historical barriers prevent women from launching a business, building savings and supporting economic growth in their communities. Leveling the playing field will help the world economy grow substantially.

Providing women access to tools for economic success supports global prosperity. Our country can lead by example and help deliver these tools and empower women. I look forward to seeing women succeed because of this legislative effort.

Empowering women strengthens families, communities and our nation. As we take time this month to reflect on the challenges women have overcome and still face, let us continue the momentum started generations ago by hardworking, courageous and determined women who envisioned a country full of opportunities for success for all.

 

March 26, 2019

Boozman, Enzi Introduce Resolution Recognizing 40th Anniversary of the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty

 WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) introduced a resolution commemorating the 40th anniversary of signing of the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty.

The Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty was signed on March 26, 1979, ending 31 years of war between the two nations. It was the culmination of months of negotiations that began when Muhammad Anwar al-Sadat, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, and Menachem Begin, Prime Minister of Israel, met with President Jimmy Carter at Camp David, Maryland from September 5 to September 17, 1978. The “Camp David Accords”—which were signed at the conclusion of that twelve-day meeting—served as the framework for the treaty. Forty years later, Egypt and Israel continue to enjoy a strong and peaceful bilateral relationship.

“The Camp David Accords and resulting peace treaty are an enduring achievement that serve as a reminder that lasting peace in the region can be achieved. It should also remind us the positive impact the U.S. can have when it remains fully engaged in settling conflicts. Our relationship with both nations is stronger now than ever, as a result of the extensive efforts on the part of American diplomats to bring the parties to the table. They set an example for the world in seeking peaceful and long-lasting resolutions to conflicts,” Boozman said.

“Forty years ago, Israel and Egypt showed that lasting peace between adversaries should never be seen as an impossibility,” Enzi said. “The Camp David Accords and peace treaty stand not only as a reminder of the power of diplomacy, but also the benefit that the United States can provide when it leads the way forward on the world stage. Their legacy should be a beacon of hope for all those who understand that focusing on the common good can provide prosperity for all those involved.”

Specifically, the resolution:

  • Congratulates the governments and people of Egypt and Israel for 40 years of peace based on the Camp David Accords;
  • Encourages the governments of Egypt and Israel to serve as examples of honest statesmanship and peacebuilding;
  • Commends the example set for the world in seeking peaceful and long-lasting resolutions to conflict; and
  • Requests the President to issue a proclamation to observe the anniversary with appropriate ceremonies and programs.

 

March 26, 2019

Boozman: The Green New Deal is not a Serious Solution

 WASHINGTON— U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement after the Senate rejected the Green New Deal in an overwhelming manner:

“We have an obligation to cut emissions and move our energy consumption toward renewable sources. The U.S. can be proud of the efforts we have made to move in this direction, but more work remains to fully achieve these goals. The Green New Deal is not going to get us there.

Instead, the Green New Deal is an all-encompassing, far-left wish list masquerading as a clean energy plan. The authors of this massive—and extremely expensive—plan suggest the Green New Deal can cure all of society’s ills within a 10-year time frame. What they won’t tell the American people is how exactly it will work or where they intend to find the trillions of dollars it will cost. They don’t have answers for either question.

Real solutions to our energy and environmental challenges should be driven by positive incentives, research and development—not heavy-handed regulation. Furthermore, our strategy should focus on addressing those specific issues and not be used as a pretense for the government to involve itself in almost every aspect of its citizens’ lives.

We need to embrace an all-of-the-above approach to energy security that includes wind, renewable biomass, hydroelectric and solar power. The solution absolutely needs to also include an expansion of nuclear power, which the Green New Deal mysteriously leaves out.

Policies that incentivize production and usage of renewable forms of energy are the way forward to responsibly balance our energy needs with our concerns for the environment. The Green New Deal, and its laundry list of undeliverable promises, is not a serious solution to any of the supposed injustices it proposes to fix.”

 

March 22, 2019

Celebrating a Century of American Legion Service

The American Legion, the nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization, is celebrating its centennial. For the past 100 years the American Legion has been a leading advocate for veterans and their families. The Legion has played a role in crafting legislation, shaping policies, expanding services and creating generations of civic-minded Americans. I’m proud to commemorate its century of service.

Since its founding, Legionnaires have proudly worked to strengthen our country and our communities while upholding the promise our country made to those who have worn our nation’s uniform.

The Legion has helped fight for the creation of the U.S. Veterans Bureau in 1924, the forerunner of the Veterans Administration. Decades later, the organization was active in elevating it to cabinet-level status as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

During WWII, the American Legion drafted legislation that would become the G.I. Bill. Legionnaires were instrumental in securing passage of this landmark legislation that helped returning troops further their education, buy houses and start businesses. It also established hiring privileges for veterans.

The Legion continues its strong advocacy for improving these and other benefits. Its efforts were vital in the passage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the enhancement measure passed in 2017 which bears the name of former American Legion Commander Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act.

I am optimistic about the progress we will make on issues important to the veterans community because of the excellent and active work of the American Legion Department of Arkansas, which has more than ten thousand members in nearly 150 posts throughout the state.

I had the opportunity recently to visit American Legion posts in Harrison, Batesville and Jasper and join Legionnaires in celebrating this anniversary. In recognition of its century of service, I presented these posts with a flag flown over the United States Capitol and a copy of the speech I delivered on the Senate floor to mark this occasion. I look forward to visiting other posts throughout the year to recognize Legionnaires for their dedication to improving the lives of veterans and their families and promoting American values and serving others.

For 100 years, the American Legion has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of veterans and their families. In honor of the centennial, Congress approved minting commemorative coins to recognize this milestone. The coins went on sale earlier this month.

Proceeds from the sales will help support veterans in need and support mentoring programs such as Boys and Girls State. This program has helped influence generations of leaders, myself included.

As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I have seen up close Legionnaires and the American Legion Auxiliary’s dedication and the results their efforts have produced in Arkansas and across our entire country.

I’m proud to recognize the American Legion on its 100 years of advocacy and celebrate this century of service with the two million members who are making a difference each day as Legionnaires.

The American Legion, the nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization, is celebrating its centennial. For the past 100 years the American Legion has been a leading advocate for veterans and their families. The Legion has played a role in crafting legislation, shaping policies, expanding services and creating generations of civic-minded Americans. I’m proud to commemorate its century of service.

Since its founding, Legionnaires have proudly worked to strengthen our country and our communities while upholding the promise our country made to those who have worn our nation’s uniform.

The Legion has helped fight for the creation of the U.S. Veterans Bureau in 1924, the forerunner of the Veterans Administration. Decades later, the organization was active in elevating it to cabinet-level status as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

During WWII, the American Legion drafted legislation that would become the G.I. Bill. Legionnaires were instrumental in securing passage of this landmark legislation that helped returning troops further their education, buy houses and start businesses. It also established hiring privileges for veterans.

The Legion continues its strong advocacy for improving these and other benefits. Its efforts were vital in the passage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the enhancement measure passed in 2017 which bears the name of former American Legion Commander Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act.

I am optimistic about the progress we will make on issues important to the veterans community because of the excellent and active work of the American Legion Department of Arkansas, which has more than ten thousand members in nearly 150 posts throughout the state.

I had the opportunity recently to visit American Legion posts in Harrison, Batesville and Jasper and join Legionnaires in celebrating this anniversary. In recognition of its century of service, I presented these posts with a flag flown over the United States Capitol and a copy of the speech I delivered on the Senate floor to mark this milestone. I look forward to visiting other posts throughout the year to recognize Legionnaires for their dedication to improving the lives of veterans and their families and promoting American values and serving others.

For 100 years, the American Legion has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of veterans and their families. In honor of the centennial, Congress approved minting commemorative coins to recognize this milestone. The coins went on sale earlier this month.

Proceeds from the sales will help support veterans in need and support mentoring programs such as Boys and Girls State. This program has helped influence generations of leaders, myself included.

As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I have seen up close Legionnaires and the American Legion Auxiliary’s dedication and the results their efforts have produced in Arkansas and across our entire country.

I’m proud to recognize the American Legion on its 100 years of advocacy and celebrate this century of service with the two million members who are making a difference each day as Legionnaires.

 

 

March 21, 2019

Boozman Works to Stop Veterans from Being Punished for VA’s Miscalculations

 WASHINGTON— U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced legislation to prevent the VA from charging veterans for its own accounting mistakes.

The VA annually sends as many as 200,000 overpayment notices totaling thousands of dollars to veterans and their families, sending them into crippling debt and withholding future benefits payments until the debt is paid. These overpayments are often a result of the VA’s own accounting errors, but the VA puts veterans and their families on the hook for repaying the debt.

Boozman, Tester and Brown introduced the Veterans Debt Fairness Act to reduce these overpayment errors and require the VA to hold itself, and not veterans, accountable for its mistakes. Their bill requires the VA to shoulder the debt burden of overpayments if the VA was responsible for the debt. 

“Veterans rely on their VA benefits to make ends meet and shouldn’t be penalized for the department’s accounting mistakes,” Boozman, a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee said. “Supporting veterans and their families by eliminating the potential for hardships caused by the VA’s errors is important to honoring our commitment to their service and sacrifice.”

“It’s wrong to put the debt from the VA’s accounting mistakes on the shoulders of men and women who have served their country,” said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “For some veterans, these benefits make the difference between paying monthly rent or missing payments, and we’ve got to stop the VA from pulling the rug out from under veterans and their families.” 

  “Our veterans sacrifice so much already to serve our country. They shouldn’t be paying for the mistakes of the agency that’s supposed to serve them,” said Brown.

 VA benefit overpayment notices have been steadily increasing, sometimes for a payment period dating back as far as five years. Many of these debt overpayments are at no fault of the veteran or their dependents, but rather VA accounting errors and record mismanagement. Currently, the VA can send out debt repayment notices to veterans requesting the full amount due within 30 days while freezing all benefit payments until the debt is repaid.

The Veterans Debt Fairness Act requires the VA to update its computer systems so veterans can update their own information regarding their beneficiaries, eliminating a key cause of overpayments. Under their bill, the VA would be required to offer electronic notification of debt notices, including information on how to file appeals and hardship waivers. Debt collection would have to adhere to a 5-year backlog time limit and no more than 25 percent withholding of benefit payments.

Boozman cosponsored similar legislation last year. Provisions of that bill were signed into law as part of the Veterans Benefits and Transition Act of 2018 forcing the VA to allow veterans to make changes to their personal information themselves. The backlog of these information requests were a main contributor to VA overpayments.

Cosponsors of the Veterans Debt Fairness Act include Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).

 

March 15, 2019

United Front on Veterans’ Priorities

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is in the process of implementing major reforms that will improve health care and education benefits as well as modernize its information technology. Congress crafted these updates with the input of veterans who often identify policies or problems that can be solved with legislative fixes. This is why hearing from veteran service organizations is so important.

Arkansas members of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans and other veteran service organizations annually visit Washington, D.C. to share their legislative priorities for the year. There is no substitute for coming to the nation’s capital and visiting with members of Congress to discuss the policy improvements that can deliver results for veterans.

There is a united front from these organizations to prioritize improvements to women veterans’ health care and efforts to combat the epidemic of veteran suicides.

We continue making progress to ensure the VA has the capability to meet the needs of every veteran. I am proud to join Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) in leading efforts to improve VA culture and services for women with the reintroduction of the Deborah Sampson Act. Several veteran service organizations specifically called on Congress to pass the Deborah Sampson Act because they believe it will help the VA better support the needs of women veterans.

There are more than 20,000 women veterans in Arkansas. Nationwide, they are using VA health care services at a rate three times great than in 2000, but many VA facilities still don’t have the ability to provide equitable care or services to women veterans. The Deborah Sampson Act would change that. Our bill eliminates barriers to care by increasing the number of gender-specific providers in VA facilities, expanding training of the clinicians and retrofitting VA facilities to enhance privacy for women veterans.

Updating VA facilities and programs to meet the needs of the changing face of our veteran community is important to upholding our promise to women who served in our nation’s uniform.

So too is revising the VA’s suicide prevention efforts.

It’s estimated that an average of 20 veterans take their lives each day. Despite the federal funds invested to reverse the statistics of veterans who die by suicide, we have not seen an improvement. In light of this reality, we must reevaluate the VA’s programs to reduce veteran suicides.

That’s why I included language in the Fiscal Year 2019 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill that requires the VA to develop metrics to evaluate the efficacy of all of its mental health and suicide prevention programs.

Since that was signed into law, the Government Accountability Office released a report that showed the VA failed to fully utilize its suicide and mental health prevention outreach funding. To improve the VA’s operation, oversight and evaluation of its suicide prevention media outreach campaigns, I joined with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) to introduce the Reach Every Veteran in Crisis Act. This bill will help Congress and the VA isolate meaningful suicide prevention programs so we can ensure resources are focused on efforts that save lives. Suicide prevention must be a top priority.

Advocacy by veteran service organizations has led to significant changes and improvements at the VA over the years. Their support for updates to health benefits for women veterans and successful suicide prevention programs is crucial as Congress crafts plans to resolve these challenges.

March 14, 2019

Boozman Votes to Secure the Border

 WASHINGTON— U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement after voting against the resolution to reject President Donald Trump’s border security emergency declaration.

“A humanitarian and security crisis exists along our southern border that requires immediate action. It is in our national interest to secure the border. I support President Trump’s decision to provide resources necessary to overcome the challenges our Customs and Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers on the frontlines face in protecting our border. The president’s use of an authority in existing law will fund the constructionof a strong border security system that will be a deterrent to those who seek to illegally enter our country.”

Boozman, Cardin Introduce Resolution to Elevate U.S. Efforts to End Violence Against Children

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) introduced a bipartisan resolution that calls for a comprehensive and coordinated strategy to end violence against children globally.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than one billion children worldwide are exposed to physical, sexual and mental violence in their communities, which includes being subjected to abuse, maltreatment, exploitation and more.

Research shows exposure to violence negatively impacts a young person’s cognitive and emotional development. Additionally, the global economic impact of physical, psychological and sexual violence against children can be as high as $7 trillion, or eight percent of the world’s gross domestic product.

“The outcomes the United States hopes to achieve with our global economic development initiatives will struggle to fully take hold in countries where violence against children goes unaddressed. Horrific acts like human trafficking and child labor have tragic lifelong consequences for individual children and devastate entire communities. This bipartisan resolution sends a strong message that a plan to end violence against children must be a priority in our global development strategy. We can maximize the results from initiatives like the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment (WEEE) Act—which Senator Cardin and I worked hard to pass into law—if we promote the need for an effective strategy to create a safe environment for children in violence-prone areas of the world,” Boozman said.

“Millions of children around the world have lost their childhoods to physical, sexual and mental violence and abuse. As adults, it is our responsibility to keep them safe and prevent the types of inhumane treatment and developmental roadblocks found in far too many corners of the world,” Cardin said.“This is a local issue and a global one. I am proud to stand with Senator Boozman to lead the call for the U.S. government to develop and implement a strategy to address the widespread dangers being faced by children and youth that is in line with international standards and sustainable development goals.”

Specifically, the resolution would resolve that the Senate:

  • Condemns all forms of violence against children and youth globally, including physical, mental and sexual violence as well as neglect, abuse, maltreatment and exploitation;
  • Recognizes the harmful impact violence against children and youth has on the healthy development of children;
  • Should develop and implement a comprehensive and coordinated strategy built upon evidence-based practices, including the INSPIRE package of interventions, and adopt common metrics and indicators to monitor progress across U.S. government agencies to prevent, address and end violence against children and youth globally.   

The resolution is cosponsored by Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Chris Coons (D-DE), Susan Collins (R-ME), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).

 

March 8, 2019

Green New Deal’s Massive Costs, Government Expansion Would Harm Arkansans

The Green New Deal didn’t quite receive the celebration its supporters were expecting when it was unveiled. Its release was greeted with a combination of bewilderment, amusement and confusion, which gave way to anger and disbelief the more that Americans learned about it.

The reason for this negative reaction is quite simple. Most Americans don’t like it when you suggest the government should have control over nearly every aspect of their lives. Yet that is exactly what the Green New Deal seeks to do under the pretense of ending climate change.

The authors of the Green New Deal and its accompanying memo suggest their plan is the cure for all of society’s ills. They cast themselves as saviors who will end global warming, income equality and oppression in one fell swoop.

What supporters can’t say is how they will implement this plan, what impact it will have on the average American and where they intend to find the trillions of dollars it will cost.

These details are important when you are asking for support of a plan that is estimated to cost up to $93 trillion dollars and dramatically expand the federal government’s reach into the daily lives of every American.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated that senators will have an opportunity to let Americans know where they stand on this poorly designed plan when he brings the Green New Deal up for a vote in the near future. It should easily be voted down.

We have an obligation to cut emissions and move our energy consumption toward renewable sources. These are worthy goals that we must continue to work toward achieving.

However, only a fraction of this unworkable plan deals with climate change and there is no conceivable way its energy mandates can be implemented. The Green New Deal dictates that the nation will rely 100 percent on renewable power within a decade. Experts say that is impossible to accomplish by 2050, much less within a constricted 10-year timeline.

The uncomfortable truth for Green New Deal proponents is that the U.S. is already leading the charge on carbon emissions reduction. We can continue to build on that progress, and encourage change within the international community, without mandating a government takeover of nearly every sector of our economy.

The way forward to solve our environmental challenges should be driven by positive incentives, research and development—not heavy-handed regulation.

As a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, I have long advocated an all-of-the-above approach to energy security. This strategy includes wind, renewable biomass, hydroelectric and solar power. And it absolutely needs to include the expansion of nuclear power, which the Green New Deal mysteriously leaves out.

Policies that incentivize production and usage of renewable forms of energy are the way forward to responsibly balance our energy needs with our concerns for the environment. The Green New Deal—which makes undeliverable promises, proposes to dramatically drive up costs for every American and will lead to a staggering loss of jobs—is not.

Single moms, seniors and people living on fixed incomes—the very people that supporters of the plan purport to help—will be the most negatively impacted by the Green New Deal. We can find ways –– including those outlined by myself and my colleagues that encourage innovative, private sector-driven solutions –to address climate change without a massive government takeover of our nation’s economy and culture. 

 

March 8, 2019

Boozman Honored with Disabled American Veterans 2019 Outstanding Senate Legislator of the Year Award

 WASHINGTON— Disabled American Veterans (DAV) honored U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) by presenting him with the organization’s 2019 Outstanding Senate Legislator of the Year award in recognition of his legislative efforts to help veterans and his commitment to ensure the programs, benefits and services they have earned, and rely upon, remain a priority for Congress.

“My father was a veteran so this is personal for me. Thank you to the more than one million DAV members and Auxiliary members doing great work to ensure we keep the promise our nation made to the men and women who have served. I remain committed to helping our service members, veterans and their families. I am honored to receive this recognition and thank DAV for its efforts to serve the veteran population,” Boozman said.

“With DAV’s Outstanding Senate Legislator of the Year award, we want to recognize Sen. Boozman for his stellar leadership and commitment to provide sufficient funding for veterans programs, benefits and services. Sen. Boozman has worked diligently in a bipartisan manner to ensure adequate funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs remains a national priority. As the sponsor of the Deborah Sampson Act, he has also been a leader in improving benefits and services for women veterans. We look forward to our continued partnership on future legislative efforts that will enable veterans to lead high quality lives with respect and dignity,” DAV Washington Headquarters Executive Director Randy Reese said.

DAV representatives presented Boozman with the organization’s Outstanding Senate Legislator of the Year award on Thursday, March 7.

As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies, Boozman is uniquely positioned to secure funding to improve veterans’ benefits and services.

The Fiscal Year 2019 veterans program funding bill authored by Boozman included a record level of discretionary funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs increasing its budget by of $5 billion above the FY2018 level. These additional resources will help provide the healthcare, benefits and memorial services earned by U.S. service members and veterans.

Boozman, along with Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), reintroduced the Deborah Sampson Act last month. The legislation would eliminate barriers to care and services that many women veterans face and would help ensure the VA can address the needs of women who are more likely to face homelessness, unemployment and go without needed health care. 

 

March 7, 2019

Arkansas VFW Members Urge Passage of Boozman-Led Bill to Improve Services for Women Veterans

 WASHINGTON— Arkansas members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) advocated for improvements to women veterans’ health programs and called for passage of the Deborah Sampson Act, legislation introduced by U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) that would ensure the VA better supports women veterans’ needs.

VFW members were in the nation’s capital this week to promote the organization’s 2019 priorities which include improving women veterans’ health care and combatting the epidemic of veteran suicides.

In addition to Boozman’s support of the Deborah Sampson Act, last week he helped introduce the Reach Every Veteran in Crisis Act, legislation to improve the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) suicide prevention programs. Boozman previously included language in the FY19 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill that requires the VA to develop metrics to evaluate the efficacy of all of its mental health and suicide prevention programs.

“The VFW is instrumental in helping Congress identify improvements that need to be made at the VA to ensure we live up to the promise we made to veterans. There is no substitute for coming to Washington to share these priorities. I look forward to advancing these policies so we can deliver results for veterans,” Boozman said.

Boozman met on Tuesday, March 5 with Arkansas VFW members in his Washington office

 During the VFW’s advocacy days, the organization’s leaders also testify before a joint hearing of the Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Boozman asked VFW Commander-in-Chief Vincent “B.J.” Lawrence about what Congress should focus on to improve the VA’s health care for women veterans during that hearing. You can watch Boozman’s questions to the commander here.

 

March 1, 2019

Boozman Pursues Improvements to Reduce Veteran Suicides

WASHINGTON— U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) is helping lead efforts to improve the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) operation, oversight and evaluation of its suicide prevention media outreach campaigns.

Boozman is the lead Republican cosponsor of the Reach Every Veteran in Crisis Act. The bill, authored by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), seeks to correct failures in VA’s suicide prevention outreach activities identified by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

“The VA has indicated that suicide prevention is its highest clinical priority and, with the alarming number of suicides in the veteran community, it absolutely must be. Congress is appropriating resources and the VA is turning that into action, but the numbers continue to trend in the wrong direction. This is why it is vital that we have metrics to measure the effectiveness of the VA’s mental health and suicide prevention programs. This bill will help Congress and the VA isolate meaningful suicide prevention programs so we can ensure resources are focused on efforts that save lives,” said Boozman.

“The Department of Veterans Affairs has a moral obligation to fight the scourge of veteran suicide with all the resources Congress has authorized, an obligation it is failing to meet with fatal consequences,” said Blumenthal. “VA must replace rhetoric with meaningful action and address the significant shortfalls in their suicide prevention media outreach campaigns. This bill provides an action plan to hold VA accountable for ensuring all veterans and their families are aware of the support services available during their time of need.”

In a 2018 report entitled Improvements Needed in Suicide Prevention Media Outreach Campaign Oversight and Evaluation, the GAO found that the VA had failed to establish targets to evaluate the efficacy of its campaigns, that leadership turnover led to a dramatic decline in media outreach activities and that the VA spent a fraction of its budget for suicide prevention media outreach during the last fiscal year.

The Reach Every Veteran in Crisis Act requires that the VA:

  • Establish targets—based on industry-standard metrics such as impressions and engagement rate—to evaluate the efficacy of its mental health and suicide prevention outreach campaigns;
  • Create a process to oversee VA’s suicide prevention media outreach campaigns;
  • Report to Congress on the expenditures and obligations of funds of the Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention; and
  • Ensure all future contracts regarding mental health and suicide prevention outreach include a clause that the contractor must track metrics established by the secretary and report these metrics to the Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention.

Boozman previously included language in the FY19 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill that requires VA to develop metrics to evaluate the efficacy of all of its mental health and suicide prevention programs.

 

WASHINGTON— Arkansas members of Disabled American Veterans (DAV) applauded U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) for his introduction of theDeborah Sampson Act, legislation to help ensure the VA supports the unique needs of women veterans.

DAV members were in the nation’s capital earlier this week pressing for congressional support of the organization’s 2019 legislative priorities which include improvements to women veterans’ health programs. DAV has endorsed the Deborah Sampson Act. The legislation would eliminate barriers to care and services that many women veterans face and would help ensure the VA can address the needs of women who are more likely to face homelessness, unemployment and go without needed health care. 

“DAV has been influential in identifying ways the Department of Veterans Affairs can strengthen its services. I look forward to continue working with DAV members as Congress crafts policies to ensure women veterans have equitable access to VA healthcare,” Boozman said.

Arkansas members met with Boozman in advance of the joint Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs hearing to highlight DAV priorities for 2019 on February 26.

Boozman met on Tuesday, February 26 with Arkansas DAV members in Washington, D.C.

In prepared testimony, National Commander Dennis Nixon wrote that DAV encourages Congress to “dedicate appropriate resources specifically to help the department address identified deficiencies and improve programs and services for our nation’s women veterans.”

Babies Who Survive Abortion Deserve Protection & Dignity

Recently a very disturbing and revealing discussion has been taking place in our country, raising serious questions about how much value and worth we ascribe to babies in the womb and especially those born despite an attempted abortion procedure.

This year several states have passed or proposed laws to codify the right to abortion up until the moment of birth. Entertaining the idea that the rights and privileges that newborn babies possess is an open-ended question is alarming. I believe we must defend their rights to life and to receive the same care that any other child born at the same gestational age would instead of being callously discarded or worse, intentionally killed in the name of reproductive freedom.

That’s why I supported the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act on the Senate floor last month. Although this legislation seeking to protect newborns who survive an attempted abortion received a bipartisan majority of votes, it regrettably did not pass.

The utter failure to recognize and affirm the right to life, especially after an infant has already been born, is greatly concerning. There should be no mistake or ambiguity regarding our commitment to uphold this basic, fundamental right and protect every child no matter the circumstances of his or her birth.

The legislation would create criminal penalties for doctors who allow infants surviving abortion to die rather than provide them medical care and also require that born-alive abortion survivors be transported to a hospital for treatment.

Abortionists who defied these mandates to render aid to abortion survivors would face the justice they are due instead of being ignored or permitted to continue committing this cruel, inhumane act that amounts to infanticide.

It is time for our country to speak with one clear voice and say that every human being is made in the image of God and is therefore in possession of dignity and worth that cannot be displaced or dispossessed. Anything short of this unambiguous declaration would be a tremendous disservice to our children and fatally undermine the values our society claims to uphold.

As a former medical provider, I believe that to end a newborn child’s life either by refusing to provide life-saving care or actively taking that child’s life – as in the case of infamous abortionist Dr. Kermit Gosnell and others – violates the oath every medical provider takes to “do no harm.”

As a dad and a grandfather, I know from my own experience just how precious each life is. Every new life is a treasured gift that brings families like mine immeasurable joy and meaning and any suggestion otherwise is tragic, heartbreaking and outrageous.

I am proud to have stood with my colleagues in support of this legislation seeking to protect these precious, vulnerable little ones. We can and should do this as a reflection of the country we want to be. While I’m disappointed with the result of the vote, my colleagues and I, along with millions of Americans across the nation, will continue to raise our voices on their behalf.

If we as a nation are to hold any claim to a moral character that deserves to be admired and emulated, we must be willing to say that the lives of newborn children have inherent value and are worthy of protection. There is simply no way to credibly claim otherwise.

February 28, 2019

Boozman Questions Ag Secretary on Rural Broadband Implementation

 WASHINGTON— Members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry received an update from U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on the implementation of the 2018 Farm Bill. U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), a strong supporter of the bill, urged its expeditious implementation and questioned the secretary about the progress of USDA programs to improve rural broadband.

“One of the biggest challenges facing Arkansas – and much of rural America – is access to reliable broadband,” Boozman said.

The 2018 Farm Bill allows USDA to leverage grants and loans with loan guarantees to fund projects that deploy high-speed broadband in rural America. Coupled with the December 2018 launch of USDA’s ReConnect Program to facilitate broadband deployment, the farm bill made positive policy changes to increase opportunities for rural areas to get resources to bridge the digital divide.

Boozman recognized the enthusiasm toward the ReConnect Program and has supported the department’s efforts to improve connectivity in rural communities.

“There has been immense interest in [the ReConnect Program]. My goal in doing that was to administer that and deploy those resources in a way that you all trusted us to do more because we need a moonshot about broadband connectivity across this country in order to do the things that we think will bring our nation back together from a rural-urban perspective,” Perdue said.

Watch Boozman’s questions to Sec. Perdue

According to FCC’s 2018 Broadband Deployment Report, about a quarter of Arkansas’s population doesn’t have access to broadband.

Boozman is a co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus. He is actively leading efforts to strengthen broadband deployment in Arkansas and across the country.

 

February 27, 2019

Arkansas Lawmakers Inquire to EPA About Federal Assistance for Trafalgar Road Fire

WASHINGTON- U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton, along with Congressman Steve Womack (AR-03), are inquiring with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) about the potential for federal assistance for extinguishing the Trafalgar Road fire in Bella Vista.

Boozman, Cotton and Womack sent a letter to EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler to obtain additional information on how the federal government can be of assistance as the state continues to address the issue.

“As we continue to learn more about the situation, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the state of Arkansas will require federal assistance to address the issue. We understand the law provides for a particular threshold of scientific data to trigger the EPA’s assistance on these types of environmental projects. It is the delegation’s intention to learn specifically what can be done at the federal level when the threshold is met so we can readily partner with the EPA to ensure funds and resources are swiftly dispatched to the state,” the letter reads.

Specifically, the letter asks the EPA to provide a precise threshold of scientific data that would trigger the EPA’s emergency response, provide any and all options from which the state may receive financial assistance and an air monitoring system that receives continuous information over an extended period of time for reliable and up-to-date data.

Boozman, Cotton and Womack thanked the EPA for the assistance provided so far and said they look forward to continuing a positive dialog with the agency on the issue.

Arkansas’s congressional delegation along with the local and state officials acknowledge and appreciate this assistance as well as the technical assistance provided by the EPA Region 6 Office in Dallas, Texas. We look forward to continuing to work with EPA to help the state of Arkansas best address the Trafalgar Road fire,” they wrote. 

 

February 26, 2019

Boozman Says Allies Continue to Express Need for “Strong Relationship” as Russian, Chinese and Iranian Influence Grows

(Boozman and Members of a Congressional Delegation led by Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Jim Inhofe, meet with German Minister of Defense Ursula von der Leyen and members of the German Bundestag to discuss the U.S. – German alliance and a shared commitment to NATO)

WASHINGTON–U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) said allies voiced concerns about the increasing influence of Russia, China and Iran at high-level meetings in nine countries last week.

Boozman traveled with a delegation led by the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK). After representing the U.S. Senate at the Munich Security Conference—where the delegation conducted discussions with officials regarding political, economic and security issues—the delegation traveled to Kosovo, Israel, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Algeria and Spain to discuss bilateral relations between these countries and the U.S. and participated in classified briefings about U.S. military cooperation and regional security efforts.

“The message we received at each stop was that a strong relationship with our allies is important as Russian, Chinese and Iranian regional influence continue to grow at alarming rates. As we face evolving security challenges, it is critical that we reinforce our commitment to strong, capable partnerships. I remain dedicated to protecting and advancing our goals while working with our allies around the globe,” Boozman said.

While at the Munich Security Conference, the delegation met with Ashraf Ghani, President of Afghanistan; Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General; Mariusz Blaszcak, Polish Defense Minister; and Ursula von der Leyen, German Defense Minister with a delegation from the German Bundestag.

The post-Munich leg of the trip included a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu where discussions focused on the possible U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and Syria as well as the influence of Iran and Russia in the region. The delegation also visited the Iron Dome Missile Defense Site while in Israel. In Djibouti, the delegation got a firsthand look at China’s growing influence in Africa when it flew over the first Chinese military base outside of its territory. The members of Congress also met with political and security leadership in each nation as well as U.S. military leadership and service members, including Arkansans, stationed at U.S. military installations.  

“With tensions on the rise around the globe, it is important to ensure that our troops serving abroad have everything they need to complete their mission and return home safely. It is always extra special to see Arkansans who are deployed far from the Natural State, working hard to ensure that the U.S. and our allies are safe,” Boozman said.

 

February 25, 2019

Boozman Recognizes Fort Smith Retired Air Force Commander

Click here to watch excerpts of the interview with Vietnam veteran Lt. Col. (retired) Robert M. Horn

WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized Lt. Col. (retired) Robert M. Horn, a Vietnam War veteran who dedicated a career to serving his country, in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series commemorating the military service of Arkansans.

Horn was destined to serve in the military. He grew up in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the home of the U.S. Air Force Academy. He learned firsthand about military service from his father who served in the Army Air Corps in WWII. His uncle was a member of the Air Force and was in his first year as an ROTC instructor at the University of Colorado (CU) when he encouraged Horn to participate in his program. “He got ahold of me and said ‘why don’t you give ROTC a try. If you don’t like it you’re no worse for wear.’ I did. I never came up with a good reason for getting out of ROTC,” Horn said. “The desirability of getting a commission grew stronger as I was aware that the draft was getting closer to me all the time.”

In 1970 the military was ridiculed by some of the CU student body; wearing a uniform on campus was at times dangerous for Horn who was then Vice Commander of the ROTC wing. “I had my office blown up,” he said.

He was commissioned as an Air Force officer later that year. His first assignment was at the Air Force Academy. “They parked me right in my mother’s back yard,” Horn said. 11 months later he received orders for Vietnam.

Horn was stationed at Cam Ranh Air Base as an auditor. His primary mission was to monitor the transition of supplies and equipment to the Army of Vietnam and the Vietnamese Air Force during the closure of American bases. His position required extensive travel which likely exposed him to Agent Orange and resulted in health challenges he lives with today.

He made an unwished-for trip back home in the fall of 1970 to accompany the body of his brother-in-law, Captain Halton Ramsey Vincent, a fighter pilot shot down over Laos. “I questioned a lot of things at that point, but nevertheless a few days later I had to get on an airplane to go back to Vietnam,” Horn said.

Later, Horn was assigned to four years in Panama ahead of the U.S. invasion. “What was an idyllic assignment for three years, for the last year I had to have my family ready for evacuation,” Horn said. He saw an increase in the harassment of Americans and on occasion his children were in dangerous situations. Despite the challenges, Horn said his time there was meaningful because of his involvement with operations and groundwork for the invasion of Panama. “I kind of have a vicarious feeling like I did something with that successful outcome. They took out Noriega and Panama is back to having democratic processes today.”

Horn’s final assignment was in Hawaii, but he soon realized he needed to focus on finding a career outside of the military. His time in uniform helped him land his second career in Fort Smith as the Vice President of Finance and Administration for Westark Community College, which today is the University of Arkansas Fort Smith.

“The president was a retired Army officer who was sympathetic to that military experience being transferrable to higher ed,” Horn said. “I’ve had a wonderful second career, in large part because the military trained me up in ways and means that were extremely beneficial in the role that I found in higher education.”

“Lt. Col. Robert Horn honorably served our country in uniform for more than two decades. He is a great example of leveraging skills learned and honed in the military for life after public service. I am grateful for his leadership in the military and in Fort Smith. Preserving his memories for the Veterans History Project is a great way to show our appreciation for his outstanding service to our country,” Boozman said.

Boozman will submit Horn’s entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans. 

 

February 25, 2019

Use Lessons Learned to Prevent Government Shutdowns

If there is one thing to take away from the recent partial shutdown it is this—governing by crisis does not work.

This was the third time since I was elected to the Senate that all or part of the federal government closed for a period of time as a result of a funding lapse. With this most recent partial shutdown, some agencies were funded months prior to the end of the fiscal year, while others were first funded on a short-term basis before being shut down in the absence of a larger funding agreement. This gave the impression that it wasn’t a true shutdown in the sense that only a part of the government wasn’t operating, which led to a lack of urgency on the part of some to resolve the differences that had led us to that point.

Despite being a partial shutdown, the list of affected Americans and Arkansans was long. Hundreds of thousands of federal employees missed paychecks, farmers and ranchers with loans from the Department of Agriculture faced financial difficulties and Transportation Security Administration agents who, forced to work without pay, were increasingly calling out of work raising serious security concerns. That’s just a sample of how widely the impact was felt.

Clearly, this is not the way we should be governing. In each of the government shutdowns during my time in the Senate, neither side got what they wanted in the end. Taking this approach does not benefit anybody.

The best thing we could do to end this self-defeating cycle would be to return regular order to the annual appropriations process. By passing all 12 individual spending bills each year, we would avoid shutdowns while putting the nation back on a path to fiscal responsibility. Departments and agencies should not be forced to operate without knowing what resources they will have at their disposal. It is incredibly inefficient, shortsighted and neglectful of the current concerns and needs of the American people.

While we have made progress on this front in recent years, we are still falling short of completing all 12 spending bills before the end of the fiscal year. That is why I support my colleague Senator Rob Portman’s bill, the End Government Shutdowns Act, as a failsafe to prevent crises caused by lapses in funding.

The End Government Shutdowns Act would create an automatic continuing resolution (CR) for any regular appropriations bill or existing CR when Congress and the administration reach an impasse at the end of the fiscal year. After the first 120 days, CR funding would be reduced by one percent and would be reduced by one percent again every 90 days thereafter until Congress and the president can reach an agreement that completes the annual appropriations process. This allows the federal government to remain open when budget negotiations falter before key spending deadlines. 

Passage of this bill would remove the ability to weaponize a government shutdown. It will ensure that federal employees, and others whose livelihoods depend on a fully operating government, are not subjected to unnecessary financial burdens because Congress and the president fail to do their jobs.

The American public has lost faith in our institutions. Failing to learn the right lessons from unsuccessful approaches further erodes that trust. It is vital that we operate in a manner that restores the public’s confidence in Washington. Ending the threat of government shutdowns is a good place to start.

 

February 22, 2019

Boozman Details Arkansas Priorities in Recent Funding Bill

 WASHINGTON- Provisions in a new law passed with the support of U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) stand to deliver numerous benefits for Arkansas for the remainder of the government’s Fiscal Year 2019. The bill funds federal agencies, including the Departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, State, Treasury and Justice and contains measures advancing many of the Natural State’s priorities and interests.

“This bill provides crucial funding for federal agencies –– many of which directly impact Arkansas’s economy and help meet vital needs in our state ––while avoiding a government shutdown. I fought to advance these priorities in addition to securing additional funding for border security and, while it doesn’t fund the president’s request in its entirety, it does increase resources for improved safeguards at our southern border. I’m proud to have helped deliver a funding package that contains a variety of measures critical for our state and will continue to advocate for increased funding for our border security in addition to supporting programs Arkansans rely on,” Boozman said.

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Boozman again demonstrated his commitment to Arkansas by supporting legislation that funds programs, initiatives and grants that are crucial to the state.

The following departments and agencies with direct, Arkansas-specific relevance were funded as a result of passage of this measure:

Department of Agriculture, including Rural Development programs, the Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies:

  • National Center for Toxicological Research: The bill includes $66.7 million for this facility located in Jefferson, Arkansas near Pine Bluff. This funding will support the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) research to promote and protect public health.
  • Agriculture Research: The bill includes $3 billion to support research conducted by land grant and non-land grant universities through the Agricultural Research Service. This funding will support agricultural research at the University of Arkansas and Arkansas State University that ranges in scope from innovative crop production practices to the protection of clean source water.
  • Rural Development: Included in the bill is significant funding for programs that help rural areas by supporting business development and job training opportunities. The Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Access (ATTRA) is a program that connects Arkansas agricultural producers to information that helps them improve their operations. This bill funds the program at $2.8 million. ATTRA administers the Armed to Farm program that assists veterans in transition to civilian life by training them for a career in farming. ATTRA has a regional headquarters located in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Departments of Commerce and Justice, as well as science-related programs and agencies:

  • Drug Courts and Veterans Treatment Courts: The bill supports the critical components of our judicial system that offer an alternative treatment to jail for individuals suffering from drug and alcohol addiction. Drug courts received $77 million and veterans treatment courts received $22 million to help break the cycle of addiction. Arkansas launched its first drug court in 1994 and participation in these rehabilitation practices continues to increase.
  • Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS): At Boozman’s request, the bill includes language related to the equitable use of grant funding for rural areas and asks the Department of Justice to consider the unique needs of rural communities when making grant awards. Arkansas law enforcement agencies have used this grant to hire additional personnel.

 Department of the Treasury, including Financial Services and General Government funding:

  • High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program (HIDTA): The bill includes $280 million to support effective and innovative drug control efforts by federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies operating in HIDTA areas. In Arkansas this includes Benton, Jefferson, Pulaski and Washington counties.
  • Drug Free Communities Program: The bill provides $100 million for community-based coalitions organized to prevent youth substance use.

Department of Homeland Security:

  • Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) and Staffing for Adequate Fire/Emergency Response (SAFER) Grants: The bill provides $350 million for Assistance to Firefighter Grants and $350 million for SAFER Grants which provide funding to local fire departments to hire firefighters, support the training needs of personnel and purchase essential equipment. Arkansas fire departments have received hundreds of thousands in funds to procure critical tools and equipment.
  • Emergency Management Performance Grants: The bill provides $350 million in funding that can be allocated to local emergency management services to support emergency preparedness.

Department of the Interior, EPA and Related Agencies:

  • Flatside Wilderness Study: The bill includes report language related to studying land adjacent to the Flatside Wilderness Area for inclusion within the Flatside Wilderness Area.
  • Land and Water Conservation Fund: The bill includes funds to support conservation projects in Arkansas including the Buffalo National River and the Cache River.
  • Water Infrastructure: The bill provides $2.9 billion to finance infrastructure improvements to public wastewater and drinking water systems.
  • Protecting and Restoring Quality Wetlands – The bill funds the North American Wetlands Conservation Act at $42 million. These grants are important to conserving our nation’s fish and wildlife resources and have led to the conservation of more than 77,000 acres of wildlife habitat in Arkansas. 
  • US Forest Service: The bill provides increased funding for fire assistance to protect the more than 19 million acres of forests in Arkansas. It provides $77 million for the Forest Inventory and Analysis which is used to assess forest health and the spread of non-native insects and diseases, make economic planning decisions, monitor wildlife habitat, gauge wildfire risk and assess rates of land use change. Forest Inventory Analysis data allows foresters, landowners and policy makers to effectively monitor forest trends and make informed management decisions. The bill also funds the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program which supports two ongoing projects in Arkansas: The Ozarks-Highlands Ecosystem Restoration Project in the Ozark National Forest and the Shortleaf-Bluestem Community project in the Ouachita National Forest.

Departments of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development:

  • Contract Tower Program: The bill funds this program, which provides enhanced safety, improved air traffic control services and significant FAA cost savings, at $168 million. There are five contract towers in Arkansas: Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, Bentonville and Texarkana.
  • Community Planning and Development– The bill provides $3.3 billion for the Community Development Block Grant program, the federal government’s largest and most widely available source of financial assistance supporting state and local government-directed neighborhood revitalization, housing rehabilitation and economic development activities. Grants are used to implement plans intended to address housing, community development and economic development needs, as determined by local officials.

February 15, 2019

Oversight is Crucial as the VA Rolls Out Major Reforms

Those looking for an example of how Washington can find common ground should look no further than the important work Congress has done, and continues to do, for veterans. The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s hearing room is traditionally one of the most bipartisan places in Washington. It is also one of the busiest.

Last Congress, under Chairman Johnny Isakson’s leadership, we held thirty hearings, considered fifty-six pieces of legislation and sent seventeen of President Trump’s nominees to serve our veterans to the full Senate.

That spirit of cooperation continued on the Senate floor. Last Congress, the Senate passed twenty-three major pieces of veterans-related legislation. As a result, the President signed into law bills that significantly enhance healthcare, education, retirement and other benefits for our veterans.

Now comes the heavy lift of implementing those new laws, some of which are quite significant. This list includes the VA MISSION Act, which is a major overhaul of how veterans receive health care, and the Forever GI Bill, which significantly updates their educational benefits. While the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) works to implement the changes brought about by these new statutes, it’s also undertaking one of the largest information technology modernization projects in our nation’s history. The VA simply cannot successfully accomplish all of this without working collaboratively with Congress.

In the spirit of cooperation, the leadership of the Congressional committees that share oversight responsibilities of the department recently sent a letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to request that the department work closely with Congress throughout the implementation process. As the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, I was one of the eight cosigners of this letter.

The letter represents a good faith outreach effort from the critical members of Congress who will be overseeing the VA’s efforts. It is aimed at ensuring there is an ongoing, positive dialogue between Congress and the VA throughout the process. This message was echoed during a recent subcommittee hearing I chaired about the VA’s implementation of its new electronic health record system.

With all of these reforms underway simultaneously, it is vital for VA to share information openly–even pre-decisional information–so that we can work together and have a common understanding of the impact of changes, including costs, and are able to assess challenges that may arise.

We share the common goal of VA’s success, and our hope is that early, frequent and fully transparent dialogs will allow the VA and Congress to jointly head off the kind of serious missteps we have seen in some recent implementation efforts. All of the changes being implemented require VA to be more open, transparent, complete and candid when engaging with Congress in the critical implementation stages of these programs.

Congress must be a full and true partner in the implementation of critical laws and initiatives. I believe that Secretary Wilkie agrees with us in that regard and will work hand-in-hand with us to ensure that the many positive changes Congress has passed into law for our veterans have the intended impact.

 

February 15, 2019

Boozman Receives Distinguished Service Award for Efforts to Promote Volunteerism 

(Pictured: U.S. Senator John Boozman is joined by Denise Grace, director of RSVP of Central Arkansas, who nominated him for the Distinguished Service Award that was presented at the 16th Annual Friends of National Service Awards in Washington, DC.)

 WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) was presented the Distinguished Service Award from Voices for National Service in appreciation of his exemplary efforts to expand high-quality opportunities for citizens to serve their community and our country.

Boozman was honored along with a bipartisan group of distinguished leaders in government, business and journalism from across the nation at the 16th Annual Friends of National Service Awards in Washington, DC. The event was hosted by Voices for National Service, a diverse coalition of national service programs, state service commissions and individual champions who work to ensure Americans of all ages and backgrounds have the opportunity to serve and volunteer in their community.

AnnMaura Connolly, President of Voices for National Service, called Boozman “a vocal champion for the benefits of national service.”

“As a member of the Appropriations Committee, he is passionate about working with his colleagues on both sides of the political aisle to ensure Americans of all ages and backgrounds have the opportunity to serve the nation and their communities. In recognition of his leadership and dedication to AmeriCorps and Senior Corps, Voices for National Service presents Senator Boozman with our Distinguished Service Award,” Connolly said.

Boozman was nominated for the award by Denise Grace, director of RSVP of Central Arkansas, who was on-hand for the presentation. Throughout his tenure in Congress, Boozman has strongly supported efforts to highlight and increase volunteerism. He is a member of the bipartisan National Service Congressional Caucus, annually cosponsors the AmeriCorps week resolution and works to promote National Days of Service.

“I’ve personally found giving my time in service of others to be a deeply rewarding experience which is why I have continuously sought to promote and support volunteer organizations like AmeriCorps and Senior Corps. The positive impact Arkansans have on their communities when they are provided an opportunity to make a difference is powerful. Volunteering brings out the best in participants as they put their talents to use on behalf of others and we are all better off as a result of their willingness to serve their neighbors in need,” Boozman said.

Boozman’s Senate colleagues Roger Wicker (R-MS), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Jack Reed (D-RI) were also honored at the event. U.S. Representatives Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Joe Courtney (D-CT), New Hampshire Governor and First Lady Chris and Valerie Sununu and Mark Donovan, President of the Kansas City Chiefs received awards as well.

Founded in 2003, Voices for National Service has built strong bipartisan support among our nation’s leaders and helped to elevate national service as a powerful strategy for tackling unmet needs, preparing young people for work, uniting our country and developing civic character.

In communities across the country, national service members of all ages and backgrounds provide critical services to fulfill unmet needs through their work with AmeriCorps and Senior Corps. National service members tutor and mentor struggling students, help fight the opioid epidemic, provide job training and other services to returning veterans, preserve the nation’s parks and public lands, offer disaster relief and recovery assistance after natural disasters and support independent living for seniors and Americans with disabilities. 

 

February 15, 2019

Boozman, Tester Renew Effort to Pass Landmark Legislation to Support Women Veterans

Senators Reintroduce Deborah Sampson Act to Improve VA Care, Services for Women

 WASHINGTON— This week U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Jon Tester (D-MT) reintroduced their bipartisan Deborah Sampson Act to support women veterans.

Women are the fastest growing demographic of veterans, but many VA facilities don’t have the ability to provide equitable care or services to women veterans. The Deborah Sampson Act would eliminate barriers to care and services that many women veterans face and would help ensure the VA can address the needs of women veterans who are more likely to face homelessness, unemployment and go without needed health care. 

“There are more than 20,000 women veterans in Arkansas. This population continues to increase as more women answer the call to serve in uniform. We must update VA services to support the unique needs of today’s entire veteran community,” Boozman, a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said. “This legislation will improve healthcare, services and benefits that women veterans have earned.”

“Women veterans must feel comfortable and empowered to turn to the VA for the health care and benefits they earned,” said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “It’s important we ensure the VA is holding up its end of the bargain to our sisters, mothers and daughters. Our bill will help change the culture at the VA to better support women veterans’ service and sacrifice.”

The Deborah Sampson Act includes the following provisions:

·         Empowers women veterans by expanding group counseling for veterans and their family members and call centers for women veterans,

·         Improves the quality of care for infant children of women veterans by increasing the number of days of maternity care VA facilities can provide,

·         Eliminates barriers to care by increasing the number of gender-specific providers in VA facilities, training clinicians and retrofitting VA facilities to enhance privacy and improve the environment of care for women veterans,

·         Authorizes additional grants for organizations supporting low-income women veterans and increases resources for homeless women and their families,

·         Improves the collection and analysis of data regarding women veterans, expands outreach by centralizing all information for women veterans in one easily accessible place on the VA website and requires the VA to report on the availability of prosthetics made for women veterans.

The Deborah Sampson Act is endorsed by veterans across the country, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and the Disabled American Veterans (DAV).

“Women have bravely served their country for more than a century, from serving in disguise during the Civil War to the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Bob Wallace, VFW Executive Director. “The VFW applauds Senators Tester and Boozman for introducing the Deborah Sampson Act, which would improve the quality of gender-specific care women veterans receive, enhance benefits such as homeless assistance, and require VA to develop a better understanding of where it may be falling short. This bill must pass immediately to show that Congress is serious about caring for all veterans, regardless of gender, and ensure women veterans receive the benefits they rightfully deserve.”

“IAVA is profoundly appreciative for the reintroduction of the bipartisan Deborah Sampson Act by Sens. Tester and Boozman,” said Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Chief Policy Officer Melissa Bryant. “The face of our military has changed and the VA must adjust as well to ensure our increasing numbers of women veterans like me get the care we need. This bill is the centerpiece of our She Who Borne The Battle campaign and we call on Congress to finally pass this bill this year.”

“The number of women veterans seeking VA health care services has more than doubled over the past decade, yet in many cases this population still feels marginalized by a VA health care and benefits system that was designed primarily for men and does not address their unique needs,” said Dennis Nixon, DAV National Commander. “This bill would establish many critical provisions DAV has advocated for to improve access and the quality of care for women patients. We applaud Senators Tester and Boozman continued commitment to the nation’s women veterans and urge swift passage of this important measure.”

The Deborah Sampson Act is sponsored by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Jack Reed (D-RI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Patty Murray (D-WA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Bob Casey (D-PA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Gary Peters (D-MI) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

Text of the Deborah Sampson Act can be found here. 

 

February 14, 2019

Boozman Statement on Passage of Legislation to Fund the Government & Increase Border Security

 WASHINGTON— U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement after voting for legislation to avoid another government shutdown and provide additional resources to secure our borders:

“While far from a perfect bill, passage of this legislation ends the uncertainty by fully funding the government while supporting additional resources to secure our nation’s borders.

The bill includes nearly $23 billion for overall border security. It provides an unprecedented level of funding for immigration enforcement agencies to ensure that our law enforcement officials have the resources they need to keep the American people safe, protects our ability to detain criminal illegal aliens and includes nearly $1.4 billion in funding for 55 new miles of physical barriers in the most needed areas along the southern border. This is an important step, considering the initial resistance on the part of Democrats to additional border security funding and their insistence that no money for a physical barrier would be provided.

More work remains to be done in order to achieve the level of border security that the American people are calling on Congress to deliver. My colleagues and I are committed to building on this down payment moving forward to resolve the crisis at our southwest border.”

 

February 13, 2019

Arkansas Lawmakers Introduce Resolution to Recognize the Marshallese

WASHINGTON- U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton along with Congressman Steve Womack introduced a resolution recognizing the strategic importance of the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Marshallese who live in the United States—of whom the largest concentration in the continental U.S. reside in Springdale, Arkansas.

“This resolution acknowledges the unique partnership our country has with the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the need for this support to continue. In Arkansas, the Marshallese have integrated and assimilated into our communities while also preserving and sharing their unique customs and traditions. To better meet their needs it is necessary to better understand and account for this population calling the U.S. home, making the 2020 census crucial to this goal,” Boozman said.

“The large Marshallese community in Northwest Arkansas is a constant reminder of the close relationship our nation shares with the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Just as the people of Arkansas and our Marshallese neighbors continue to strengthen their friendships, so the United States ought to continue bolstering its own relations with their home republic. This resolution celebrates the bond our countries share and the need for our two nations to keep working together,” Cotton said.

“The Marshallese in Springdale and across Arkansas enrich our state. This resolution highlights the contributions of the Marshallese and the important relationship we have built and shared as a community. With the 2020 Census approaching, as well as the Compact of Free Association up for renewal in 2023, it is also critical that we accurately account for the Marshallese residing in the U.S. to better serve them and the cities they live in,” Womack said.

The U.S. has a unique relationship with the Marshall Islands. In the aftermath of World War II, the Marshall Islands was a U.S.-administered United Nations Trust Territory. In 1986, the Marshall Islands entered into a Compact of Free Association (COFA) with the U.S. and became a sovereign, “freely associated” state. Under the COFA, the U.S. is obligated to defend the Republic of the Marshall Islands against attack or threat of attack. The U.S. also maintains unique military basing rights in the Marshall Islands that extend through at least 2066. The security and sovereignty of the Marshall Islands is important to our country and to the thousands of Marshallese who have planted roots in Arkansas. The COFA agreement is up for renewal in 2023.

Since the 1980s, thousands of Marshallese have legally migrated to the United States. The 2010 census estimated 4,324 out of the 22,400 Marshallese individuals living in the U.S. resided in Arkansas. However, that population is actually estimated to be between 8,000 to 14,000. In addition to its embassy in Washington, D.C., the Republic of the Marshall Islands also has a consulate in Springdale.

The resolution has the support of the entire Arkansas Congressional delegation. The largest populations of Marshallese residing in the U.S. today live in Arkansas and Hawaii.

 

February 8, 2019

There is More That Unites Us Than Divides Us

The State of the Union address is an important message delivered by the president that serves as a reminder of what we’ve achieved, the challenges we currently face and what remains to be accomplished to ensure future Americans will enjoy the same peace and prosperity we do today.

For the first time in Donald Trump’s presidency, he delivered a State of the Union address to a divided Congress. His message was clear there is more that unites us than divides us. He challenged lawmakers to work together to accomplish great things for the American people rather than put the interests of political parties ahead of that goal. Viewers widely agreed with this vision. According to polling by CBS News, 76 percent of those who watched the speech approved of the president’s remarks and his call for bipartisanship.

Last Congress, we were able to find common ground in a number of areas. We had bipartisan support to improve veterans’ health care, upgrade our nation’s water infrastructure, provide certainty for farmers and ranchers with a new farm bill and deliver treatment and prevention methods for individuals and families struggling with opioid addiction. I am hopeful that this spirit of cooperation can continue.

In his speech, the president explained the need to secure our southern border and urged Congress to work toward this goal so we can stop illegal immigration, human trafficking and the flow of drugs into our country. Arkansas Drug Director Kirk Lane attended the State of the Union as my guest. He is on the frontlines for education, treatment and prevention of the opioid epidemic in our state. Director Lane insists that border security is a key factor in this battle. I support the president’s request for increased funding to enhance border protection.

I am encouraged by the president’s commitment to improve our crumbling roads and bridges. His desire to work with Congress to invest in vital national infrastructure projects is important as my colleagues on both sides of the aisle have been eager to approve infrastructure funding. Investing in transportation infrastructure will save money in the long-term, create immediate jobs and produce decades of economic opportunity.

As the president mentioned in his address, his administration is leading efforts to lower healthcare and prescription drug costs. This has long been a goal of Congress. I’m also concerned about the costs associated with healthcare delivery and prescription drugs. We took an important step last year when Congress approved and the president signed into law the Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act which will prevent health insurers and pharmaceutical companies from masking the lowest possible cost of prescription drugs. We can build on this foundation by increasing access to generic drugs and increasing competition to lower the cost of medications.

We have a great opportunity before us to pave a path for a prosperous future. President Trump described some great examples from our history as well as in more recent times and introduced us to Americans who rose to the occasion to defend the interests of our country in fighting against cruelty, advancing space exploration and overcoming adversity. Americans have long been familiar with challenges to our freedoms, but we have always shown we are capable of overcoming these obstacles. We can achieve anything if we work together.

February 8, 2019

For a Stronger Economy, Empower More of World’s Women

 In our country’s recent past, we’ve seen just how much women bring to the table when it comes to the economy. Whether it’s starting their own businesses or joining companies of all sizes, their impact has been felt across every industry and reveals just how important their contributions are.

If we’ve recognized this reality in the United States it only makes sense to encourage other nations to learn from this example.

Women make up the majority of the world’s poor and are often held back by gender-specific constraints to economic empowerment such as lack of access to financial services and credit. In many corners of the world, cultural and historical barriers make it difficult for women to start businesses, build savings and make meaningful economic contributions.

Acknowledging these obstacles and understanding that the economy in countries where they exist, as well as in the increasingly interconnected global economy, is ultimately held back by women’s lack of access to vital economic tools and resources is what led Congress to take action.

I was joined by my colleague Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) in introducing the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act (WEEE Act) to provide an avenue to address economic opportunity inequality by tapping into the proven abilities of existing United States Agency for International Development (USAID) programs. USAID, which uses strategic investments to promote growth and development while advancing U.S. interests and influence, is perfectly situated to implement this initiative because it understands how to effectively deploy resources to – as its mission states – “lift lives, build communities and establish self-sufficiency.”

There was widespread agreement in Congress that our proposal was a smart, sensible approach to elevating women and enabling them to achieve their economic dreams and aspirations. Our bill passed the House and Senate in late 2018 and was signed into law last month.

The legislation also had support from key stakeholders, non-governmental organizations and the White House. Presidential advisor Ivanka Trump was a critical backer of the bill and helped ensure that it reached the finish line.

The WEEE Act will help the more than one billion women who are left out of the world’s formal financial system by expanding USAID’s microenterprise development assistance authority to include small and medium-sized enterprises with an emphasis on supporting those owned, managed and controlled by women. Additionally, it will modernize USAID’s development assistance toolkit to include innovative credit scoring models, financial technology, financial literacy, insurance and more to improve property and inheritance rights––all of which are vital in helping to overcome deep-rooted cultural and institutional hurdles that preclude women from accessing resources necessary for economic success.

I have complete confidence that USAID Administrator Mark Green and his team will implement our legislation in a way that will simultaneously work to the benefit of our international aid mission while also helping to uplift and empower women in countries all over the world to succeed in a way that has been just beyond their reach up until now.

All of those who worked on this bill shared an understanding that, because women in some parts of the world are pushed so far to the margins that they are denied access to even the most basic financial services – much less business loans –, leveling the playing field is the right thing to do. If we can achieve this goal the global economy stands to grow significantly. That is a good thing for women, their families and their communities.

 

February 6, 2019

Senate & House VA Authorizers, Appropriators Call for Transparency, Accountability

WASHINGTON—As the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) begins implementing historic reforms passed into law during the 115th Congress, the leadership of the Congressional committees overseeing the department is calling on Secretary Robert Wilkie to work collaboratively with Congress throughout the process.

In a letter to Wilkie, eight committee chairmen and ranking members—including U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), who chairs the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds the VA—called for transparency and accountability from the department. It comes at a time when the VA is managing the simultaneous roll-out of major laws including the VA MISSION Act, which overhauls how veterans receive health care, and the Forever GI Bill, which significantly updates educational benefits offered to veterans—all while undertaking the largest health record modernization project in the nation’s history.

“With all of the reforms underway simultaneously, it is vital for VA to share information openly–even pre-decisional information–so that we can work together and have a common understanding of the impact of changes, including costs, and are able to assess the impact any changes will have on other parts of VA. We share the common goal of VA’s success, and our hope is that early, frequent, and fully transparent dialogs will allow VA and Congress to jointly head off the kind of serious missteps we have seen in some recent implementation efforts. All of the changes being implemented require VA to be more open, transparent, complete, and candid when engaging with Congress in the critical implementation stages of these programs,” the letter states.

The letter was spearheaded by Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Ranking Member Jon Tester (D-MT). He was joined by the Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Mark Takano (D-CA) and Phil Roe (R-TN), and Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Senate and House Appropriations Subcommittees that fund the VA, including Boozman, Brian Schatz (D-HI), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), and John Carter (R-TX).

Boozman—the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies—noted that this good faith outreach effort from the critical members of Congress who will be overseeing the VA’s efforts is aimed at ensuring there is an ongoing, positive dialogue between Congress and the VA throughout the process.

“The VA is moving forward to implement many positive changes Congress has passed into law for our veterans. We simply need to ensure these changes are being instituted properly,” Boozman said.

The letter can be read in full HERE or by clicking the attached .pdf file.

 

February 1, 2019

WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized John Edmond Ross Sr., a Vietnam War veteran, in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series commemorating the military service of Arkansans.

Ross grew up in Kansas during the Great Depression. He was working for Beech Aircraft Corporation in Wichita when he went to the draft board. “They told me I would probably be next month’s pick,” Ross said. Shortly after this meeting, he was inspired by the Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis movie “Jumping Jacks” about Army paratroopers. “The sergeant was all enthused. He hadn’t recruited a paratrooper in some time and he was telling me how glamorous it was going to be,” Ross said.

 

It was months before he would experience excitement as a paratrooper. First he had to endure basic training at Fort Campbell, Kentucky and kitchen police duties which included what Ross calls “the filthiest job”cleaning out the grease traps. Once his eight weeks of basic were completed, he learned that he would have to continue his training before Airborne School because there were no spaces available for new students.

Eventually he started “jump school” at Fort Benning, Georgia and underwent more intense physical training. Many guys washed out because they “just couldn’t take the day-to-day endurance.” Ross and the other students were required to complete five jumps. His first jump was memorable because he became tangled with another parachute, but his training served him well and he and the other paratrooper landed unharmed.

Ross left the Army in 1956, but after getting married he realized how great the paycheck and the benefits were so he rejoined later that year within the allotted time for him to retain his rank.

In 1960, he received orders to go to Vietnam. Ross wasn’t familiar with the country and asked his colleagues who were also uncertain where in the world it was. He looked it up in a geography book to learn where he was going. 

“We were there for about a week and they couldn’t find jobs for us,” Ross said. He went to personnel and asked for a job or be sent back home. He was assigned to Duc My Camp in south central Vietnam, with officers and other senior non-commissioned officers. “That was about as un-army as the Army could be.”

He served another tour in Vietnam in 1970. For his service he earned the Bronze Star among other distinctions. Ross retired from military service in 1974. “I loved the Army. It was great. It was my home,” he said.

Today, Ross calls Conway home.

“I am grateful for John Ross’ dedication to our country and his willingness to serve. Capturing his memories and sharing his experiences of serving our nation in uniform is a great tribute to his service,” Boozman said.

Boozman will submit Ross’ entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans. 

 

January 25, 2019

Opportunity Zones: Incentivizing investment in economically-distressed communities. 

Hardworking Arkansans have benefitted from historic tax relief that Congress passed in 2017. More than 2.2 million jobs have been created since President Donald Trump signed the bill into law, paychecks have increased and a greater number of Americans are able to keep more of their hard-earned money. In addition, the law encourages long-term private investment to revitalize designated economically-distressed communities. Through these Opportunity Zones, Congress is bringing even more benefits to hardworking Americans and their communities. 

The U.S. Treasury Department has, as required by law, certified the 85 Opportunity Zones across Arkansas that Governor Asa Hutchinson nominated. Investors are incentivized to bring new, long-term investment to these communities by offering capital gains tax relief. This is a great way to leverage private investment to develop new businesses, support existing ones, encourage entrepreneurs, increase broadband capabilities and strengthen communities in Arkansas that have untapped or underdeveloped potential.

Nearly 35 million Americans live in areas designated as Opportunity Zones. This policy initiative can help open doors to development prospects that were once out of reach for communities and can help close the economic divide. Encouraging investment in these areas by way of tax incentives is an approach that can empower state and local leaders. This direction – instead of the failed approach of creating new federal bureaucracies which historically have been ineffective in the war on poverty – has the potential to yield massive economic benefits.

The administration took an important step in December of 2018 to maximize the resources available to assist Opportunity Zones and underserved communities. President Trump created the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council in order to coordinate, streamline and target existing federal resources to improve revitalization efforts in communities that need it most. This announcement was applauded by my colleague Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), who authored the original Opportunity Zone legislation that was included in the 2017 tax reform bill. Earlier this year, he encouraged the president to leverage federal resources to help these communities. The council will be led by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and includes officials from agencies across the government.

I recently attended a meeting with U.S. Department of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin who is working to finalize the rules and regulations for these Opportunity Zones. The full potential of this policy is yet to be realized, but he estimates that $100 billion in private capital will be invested in these areas.

Opportunity Zones hold a lot of promise for unlocking the potential of communities across Arkansas. Incentivizing investment in these areas will reinvigorate our economy and attract more opportunities for Arkansans. I am committed to working with Gov. Hutchinson and other state officials to ensure we are effectively maximizing this resource.

Communities in Arkansas that have been passed over or written off deserve the hope and promise of new opportunity that this program could usher in. We must support the effort to help them move closer to a future where the growth and success they desire is within reach.

 

January 25, 2019

Boozman Statement on Agreement to Temporarily End the Partial Shutdown

WASHINGTONU.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement after President Donald Trump announced an agreement to end the partial government shutdown for three weeks:

“This announcement is a promising step. Hundreds of thousands of federal employees have missed paychecks and Arkansans who rely on shuttered agencies have experienced unnecessary anxiety as a result of this partial shutdown. We can, and must, resolve our differences over border security without this extra turmoil.

I agree with the president’s call for more resources to defend our border. We must provide the funds for increased manpower, technology and infrastructure—including roads for access, electronic devices for surveillance and fencing for deterrence. These measures will help reduce the number of illegal immigrants coming across our border in addition to combatting drug and human trafficking. An increase in resources had bipartisan support from Senate Appropriations Committee members for Fiscal Year 2019. It’s time to act on that.

Speaker Pelosi refused to discuss border security until the government was fully open. The president has offered this good faith effort to move discussions on additional border funding forward. Speaker Pelosi should follow suit. Let’s come together to reach a consensus that puts the interests of our nation first.”

 

January 25, 2019

Boozman Votes to Enhance Border Security, End Partial Government Shutdown

WASHINGTON— U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement after voting in support of President Donald Trump’s proposal to reopen the government:

“I voted to support this important vehicle to advance talks to end the shutdown. I remain committed to negotiating a solution that delivers strong border security improvements and reopens the federal government. We must reach consensus by compromising and putting the interests of our nation first.”

 

January 18, 2019

Compromise Could End the Shutdown and Advance Border Security

Washington is unfortunately on new ground as the existing partial government shutdown has now, regrettably, become the longest in U.S. history. The sense of urgency that lingered in previous shutdowns doesn’t exist because some government agencies were funded months ago, while others were first funded on a short-term basis before being shut down in the absence of a larger funding agreement. It’s past time for the White House and leaders of both parties of Congress to come to the table and reach a deal to open the government and eliminate the existing uncertainty that federal employees, Arkansans and all Americans who rely on shuttered agencies are experiencing.

Hundreds of thousands of federal employees have missed a paycheck. President Donald Trump recently signed into law legislation that approves back pay for government workers, but they will not be compensated until the agencies employing them are funded. Other federal employees are working now and don’t know when they will be paid.

In an effort to minimize the disruption, the United States Department of Agriculture reopened Farm Service Agency offices for three days to assist farmers and ranchers with existing loan services. The Internal Revenue Service is recalling nearly 60 percent of its employees to handle tax returns and refund payments. Elsewhere, the financial stress is taking a toll on Transportation Security Administration agents who, according to agency officials, are increasingly calling out of work because of financial concerns.

Congress was set to adjourn the fourth week of January for an in-state work period, but that has rightfully been canceled because of the deadlock in Washington. I am hopeful we can use this week to negotiate and reach a compromise to fully open the government. However, the recent request by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to delay the president’s State of the Union Address, scheduled for January 29, until the government reopens is not acting in good faith to reach a successful deal.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he won’t bring a government funding bill to the floor that President Trump won’t sign. The exercise in the House to advance bills that the president won’t sign is not a solution to this problem. To resolve this impasse, compromise is necessary.

I agree with the president’s call for increased resources to defend our border. We must provide the funds for increased manpower, technology and infrastructure—including roads for access, electronic devices for surveillance and fencing for deterrence. These measures will help reduce the number of illegal immigrants coming across our border in addition to combatting drug and human trafficking. An increase in resources had bipartisan support from Senate Appropriations Committee members for Fiscal Year 2019. It’s time to act on that.

I will continue working with the president and my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to find a solution to end this uncertainty.

 

January 11, 2019

Dear Senator: Answers about the Partial Government Shutdown

I’m disappointed that differences in funding priorities has resulted in a partial government shutdown. Republicans and Democrats must come to the table to find a solution so we can end this partial shutdown and allow all federal agencies to provide the service Arkansans and all Americans expect and deserve. I’ve received many phone calls, letters and emails about the partial shutdown and I want to share a few answers to some of the frequently asked questions.

Why is this called a partial government shutdown?

Congress approved and President Donald Trump signed into law five spending bills that fund federal agencies in advance of Fiscal Year 2019, which began in October. The remaining seven appropriations bills that fund the Departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, Interior, Agriculture, State, Treasury and Justice were operating under a short-term spending bill that expired on December 21, 2018. The Senate advanced, with my support, a bill that would have avoided this partial shutdown, but the president said he would not sign it because there was not enough funding to improve border security. While the House of Representatives passed a bill that included the president’s newly requested level of funding for border security, the Senate was unable to move forward with the bill.

Do you think we should shut down the government until we address this crisis?

I agree with the president’s call for increased resources to defend our borders. I am hopeful we can find a solution that expands investments in border security and resume government operations among federal agencies.

I am a member of the Senate Border Security and Enforcement First Immigration Caucus and have visited our southern border on numerous occasions. I believe we need increased funding to protect our borders. National security is the federal government’s highest responsibility and we must allocate resources in support of border protection in order to accurately reflect this priority. I supported the president’s original budget request for border security funding in the Fiscal Year 2019 Senate Homeland Security Appropriations bill when it passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and I will continue advocating for increased resources for manpower, technology and infrastructure —including roads for access, electronic devices for surveillance and fencing for deterrence–– in order to reduce illegal border crossings.

I will continue working with the president and my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to find a solution that is agreeable to all parties and end the instability created by this partial federal government shutdown, but I do not believe such a disruption in services and uncertainty for federal employees is in the best interest of Arkansans, or the American people. Federal employees should never be in the unfortunate position where they worry when they will receive their paycheck.

What happens to federal workers employed at agencies that are not funded?

Many federal employees are furloughed. Others who work in public safety fields —such as FBI agents, border security personnel, TSA agents and Coast Guard employees —are working without pay. The Senate and House have both recently passed legislation that would compensate federal employees once the partial shutdown has ended, so all federal employees within the affected agencies will be compensated. The president has indicated that he will sign this bill.

 How can a government shutdown be avoided in the future?

Working in good faith to use regular order to pass the 12 individual appropriations bills prior to the end of the fiscal year is the way to avoid government shutdowns. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I was proud that we passed all of the bills out of the committee for Fiscal Year 2019. Unfortunately, only five of those passed the full Senate and were approved by the House of Representatives and signed into law. We must do better in the future in order to avoid this result. We can secure our borders and keep our government running at the same time because both things are necessary in order for our nation to thrive. 

January 9, 2019

Boozman-Cardin Bill Advancing Women’s Economic Empowerment Signed into Law

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump signed into law the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment (WEEE) Act, legislation that seeks to eliminate global gender-related barriers and empower female entrepreneurs around the world.

The bill was introduced in the Senate by Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) and enjoyed support and advocacy from anti-poverty and humanitarian groups in addition to being vocally backed by White House advisor Ivanka Trump.

“Providing women access to tools for economic success supports global prosperity. The WEEE Act empowers women to gain control of their financial futures while simultaneously facilitating improvements in their homes and communities. I’m proud to have led the effort in the Senate to help level the economic playing field for women around the world and I appreciate the tremendous support we received from many in the public and non-profit sectors to help this critical legislation become law,” Boozman said.

 “Investing in women creates a positive cycle of change that can lift women, families, communities and entire countries out of poverty,” said Cardin,ranking member of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee and a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “I believe in the power of women to change the world, and I am proud that our leadership on this new, bipartisan law will empower women entrepreneurs and sharpen our diplomatic and development tools to better fight global poverty and injustice.”

Specifically, the WEEE Act will:

  • Establish a development cooperation policy of the United States to reduce gender disparities related to economic participation and opportunity, strive to eliminate gender-based violence, support women’s property rights and increase the capability of women and girls to determine life outcomes.
  • Direct the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to include efforts that promote equality and female empowerment throughout its programs.
  • Expand USAID’s microenterprise development assistance authority to include small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), with an emphasis on supporting SMEs owned, managed and controlled by women; and
  • Modernize USAID’s development assistance toolkit to include innovative credit scoring models, financial technology, financial literacy, insurance and actions to improve property and inheritance rights.

The Senate bill was cosponsored by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Chris Coons (D-DE), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Susan Collins (R-ME), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA).

The bill was led by Representatives Ed Royce (R-CA) and Lois Frankel (D-FL) in the House of Representatives.

 

January 4, 2019

A Positive Outlook for the 116th Congress

Political pundits welcomed the 116th Congress with think pieces on a divided Congress. Can we work together? Can we get things accomplished for the American people? Will there be constant gridlock?

It is understandable that Americans are pessimistic about the chances of much getting done, especially in light of the fact that the new Congress has inherited an ongoing partial government shutdown. Even with that, I believe there are plenty of reasons to remain optimistic.

We all want to see the partial shutdown ended sooner rather than later, so we can move forward with the work the American people sent us to do without the specter of a funding battle hanging over the legislative branch. The crisis at our southwest border, however, cannot be ignored. The president’s insistence that Congress provide funding to address it is not an unreasonable demand.

A bipartisan majority of members of Congress have long agreed that in order to secure our homeland we need more infrastructure—including roads for access, electronic devices for surveillance and fencing for deterrence—at our southwest border. The issue has been avoided for too long in Washington. I support the President’s commitment to securing our border and his insistence that Congress follows through with the resources to accomplish this task.

The partial shutdown, however, cannot prevent Congress from completing other important responsibilities. The to-do list for the 116th Congress is long and we must move forward with checking important tasks off it while working to resolve the impasse over border security funding.

My colleagues and I are committed to continuing to build off what we delivered for the American people in the 115th Congress. Over those two years, we passed historic tax reform, rolled back needless regulation and implemented improvements to help Main Street lenders and job creators. We passed a new farm bill that is fair and equitable to the diverse needs of producers across all regions of the country, which will help bring certainty and predictability to farmers and ranchers across the country. We also approved an upgrade to our nation’s water infrastructure, help for families struggling with opioid abuse and a number of bills that will help our veterans.

The majority of these accomplishments were completed in a bipartisan manner, which is why I remain confident that we can continue down that path despite the fact that two different parties control the House of Representatives and the Senate. Those looking for an example of how to find common-ground should look no further than the important work Congress does for our veterans. The Veterans Affairs’ Committee in both chambers of Congress is traditionally the most bipartisan in Washington. I anticipate that will continue to be the case in the 116th Congress.

I believe the bipartisan spirit exemplified by the Veterans’ Affairs Committee exists in Congress as a whole. There is a great deal on which Republicans and Democrats can find agreement. Which is good news as there is plenty of work to be done. From implementation of the farm bill to major upgrades of our infrastructure, there are big ticket items ripe for bipartisan passage ahead of us.

I am familiar with serving during a time of divided government throughout the majority of my time in Washington. There have certainly been disagreements and challenges, but we were able to get quite a lot accomplished for the American people during those years. I believe we can continue to move our country forward during the 116th Congress.

 

January 4, 2019

Boozman: 2018 Significant Legislative Victories

 WASHINGTON— U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) is marking the completion of 2018 in part by reflecting on his successful efforts to move legislation benefitting Arkansas and advancing his policy priorities, including improving benefits and services for our nation’s veterans and promoting opportunities to upgrade and repair aging water infrastructure.

“I serve the people of Arkansas and I’m willing to sit down with anybody, no matter how much we might otherwise disagree, who is prepared to work in good faith to reach outcomes that will benefit our state,” Boozman said. “Through a lot of hard work, determination and perseverance, my team and I delivered some significant wins in 2018 for Arkansans to be proud of. I am pleased with our work and pledge to continue fighting for those goals that have yet to be realized.”

Click here for video of Boozman’s latest accomplishments

Boozman’s Noteworthy 2018 Legislative Accomplishments

Securing Required Funding for Water Infrastructure Now (SRF WIN) Act – This Boozman-led initiative takes an innovative approach to modernizing critical water infrastructure, especially for small, rural communities that are often unable to afford upgrades to their wastewater and drinking water systems. Helping finance repairs or replacements to this unseen but vital infrastructure is a timely win for many towns and cities in Arkansas and across the country. The SRF-WIN Act was included in a comprehensive water infrastructure bill which became law.

Fighting for Student Veterans’ Housing and Education Benefits – President Trump signed into law Boozman’s Forever GI Bill Housing Payment Fulfillment Act  to hold the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) accountable for its failure to fully comply with housing reimbursement rates for student veterans after the VA missed or underpaid benefits owed to these men and women who served our country. Boozman also helped lead the charge on the now-passed SIT-REP Act, which ensures student veterans are not forced to endure additional financial burdens and are not denied access to school facilities due to delayed processing of G.I. Bill benefit payments.

Farm Bill: Serving as a senior member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee and as a 2018 Farm Bill Conferee, Boozman ensured the final version would provide a workable safety net for farmers and ranchers while pushing for provisions he authored including SNAP reform, trade promotion funding for agriculture products in Cuba, regulatory reform and more which were included in the bill that was signed into law.

Protecting and Securing Arkansas’s Natural Resources – Working with Rep. Bruce Westerman (AR-04), Boozman secured passage of a land exchange, which was signed into law, between a church in Jessieville and the U.S. Forest Service that will expand the Ouachita National Forest. Boozman also joined Rep. French Hill (AR-02) in pushing to pass legislation to expand Arkansas’s Flatside Wilderness by 640 acres and name the new addition in honor of former U.S. Rep. Ed Bethune. This bill is expected to be signed into law in the coming days.

Funding Critical Military Installations and Programs in Arkansas – As part of the legislation that funded the Department of Defense (DoD) for Fiscal Year 2019, the bill supported numerous DoD initiatives in Arkansas that Boozman helped ensure would remain viable including $9 million for Razorback Range at Fort Chaffee, $20 million for munitions manufacturing at Pine Bluff Arsenal, research funding increases in which Arkansas schools and companies are engaged, increased funding for missile and munitions manufacturing––some of which occurs in Arkansas––in addition to funds directly marked for more Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopters and cyber research, both of which will benefit Arkansas military units. In the MilCon-VA funding bill, Boozman included measures to move forward with improvements at the Little Rock Air Force Base runway and additional resources to improve the base’s hydrant fuel system.

Increasing Resources for Veterans’ Health Care and Maximizing Troop Readiness– As Chairman of the Senate Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee (MilCon-VA) Boozman authored legislation that funds military construction and veterans programs for Fiscal Year 2019. The bill, which was signed into law as part of a larger appropriations package, includes a record level of funding for the VA. The bill also includes a provision to protect veterans from clinical errors at VA facilities which requires the Secretary of the VA to submit a departmental response plan to Congress that can be applied at the Fayetteville VA Medical Center and all future cases of clinical disclosures and provide recommendations about changes necessary to prevent such incidents.

Dismantling the Southwest Experimental Fast Oxide Reactor (SEFOR) – As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Boozman long-advocated for federal funding to dismantle SEFOR in a safe and responsible manner. Boozman secured funding in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 to complete the effort to decommission and dismantle SEFOR.

Empowering Women in the Global Economy – Legislation that seeks to eliminate global gender-related barriers and empower female entrepreneurs around the world, the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment (WEEE) Act, was passed at the end of the 115th Congress and is expected to be signed into law. It will help the agency that leads U.S. international development and humanitarian efforts to increase the tools available to support the economic success of women around the world and further benefit the global economy. Boozman introduced this bill in the Senate and worked with his colleagues in addition to Ivanka Trump and the White House to ensure passage of this legislation.

 

January 3, 2019

President Signs Boozman-Schatz Bill into Law Ensuring Veterans Receive Full Housing Benefits

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump signed into law the Forever GI Bill Housing Payment Fulfillment Act to ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reimburses veterans for missed or underpaid Forever GI Bill housing benefits.

The legislation was introduced by U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Brian Schatz (D-HI), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, to hold VA accountable for its failure to fully comply with reimbursement rates set by the Forever GI Bill. The legislation moved swiftly through both chambers of Congress. The Senate approved the bill on December 18 and the House passed it on December 20.

“I’m pleased that President Trump signed this bill into law to protect veterans who rely on this benefit. There’s simply no excuse for failing to fully deliver the housing benefits that GI bill recipients are owed. I will continue to use congressional oversight to make certain VA’s errors do not go uncorrected,” Boozman said. “I encourage any Arkansan who has been affected by this problem to reach out to my office so that we can ensure they get their full benefits.”

“Now that this bill is law, student veterans no longer have to worry about being shortchanged,” Schatz said. “Congress will also have more tools to make sure the VA does right by our veterans. I’m glad we were able to get this done.”

The VA should have used the Department of Defense’s 2018 Basic Allowance for Housing rates which should have been calculated based on the zip code where the student takes the majority of classes, rather than on the zip code in which the school’s main campus is located. Instead, some GI Bill recipients have been receiving housing stipends at the 2017 rate and based on the school’s zip code. In all cases, the 2018 rate is higher than the 2017 rate.

The legislation is cosponsored by Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Mark Warner (D-VA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH).

The Forever GI Bill Housing Payment Fulfillment Act would require the VA to:

  • End improper payments as soon as possible;
  • Establish a team of specialists who will be responsible to report to Congress a detailed plan to correct this egregious error;
  • Provide a report to Congress by July 2020 that identifies how many beneficiaries were impacted and to what extent, aggregated by state; and
  • Certify the department is fully compliant with the law.

 

December 28, 2018

In Support of Border Funding

As a member of the Senate Border Security and Enforcement First Immigration Caucus I am actively fighting for funding to protect our borders. National security is the federal government’s number one responsibility and we must allocate resources in support of border protection that accurately reflect this priority. I supported the president’s budget request for border security funding in the Senate Committee on Appropriations Fiscal Year 2019 Homeland Security bill and I will continue to advocate for increased resources for manpower and infrastructure in order to reduce illegal border crossings.

There is no doubt we have a border crisis that is escalating. Department of Homeland Security data shows that apprehensions along our southern border have nearly doubled in the past year. It is in our national interest to take necessary steps to provide the tools our Customs and Border Patrol (CPB) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers on the frontlines need to control our porous border and protect our communities and themselves as they carry out this important mission.

I’ve seen firsthand the challenges our interdiction agents face. In September, I visited the southwest border in California and Texas to see how we can improve policies to better control illegal immigration, human trafficking and drug smuggling. The need for more infrastructure—including roads for access, electronic devices for surveillance and fencing for deterrence—was echoed at each stop. We heard how border security upgrades improved community safety. Increased federal investment is necessary to achieve this on a larger scale.

Constructing a strong border security system coupled with enforcement of our immigration laws is a deterrent to those who seek to illegally enter our country. This is the first step to reforming our immigration system. We are a nation of immigrants and we can be proud of our history of welcoming and naturalizing those who follow the proper, legal process. We naturalize more new citizens annually than the rest of the world combined. We can maintain this guiding principle and continue its success by ensuring that individuals and families who wish to immigrate to the United States do so by obeying our laws.

Every day CBP, ICE and Coast Guard personnel put their lives on the line to enforce our laws, protect our borders and prevent drug smugglers from entering our country. Increasing funding in order to improve border security is a reasonable request. I agree with the president’s call for increased resources to defend our borders — a request that the House of Representatives recently supported. I am hopeful we can find a solution that expands investments in border security and funds the government.

 

December 21, 2018

2018 Year in Review

We are getting ready to close the book on the 115th Congress. The past two years have been busy in Washington as we passed historic tax reform, rolled back needless regulation and implemented improvements to help Main Street lenders and job creators. I’m proud to be a voice for Arkansas in the nation’s capital, representing our shared values as Congress crafts polices that will make a difference in the lives of Arkansans and all Americans. We made great progress this year that will help our state.

The Arkansas Rural Water Association applauded a policy update, based on legislation I introduced, that was included in the water infrastructure bill passed by Congress in October. My proposal, which is now law, will modernize critical water infrastructure funding and increase access to financing, particularly for rural areas often unable to afford upgrades to aging water systems.

Throughout this Congress, one of my top priorities has been to strengthen the ability of Arkansas farmers and ranchers to continue to be leaders in feeding and clothing the world. The farm bill that President Donald Trump recently signed into law improves essential programs for Arkansans, and I was proud to play a role in writing this law.

As is typical at the end of a Congress, there is a flurry of activity on the Senate floor as members work to pass their legislative priorities. My staff and I were driven to get significant legislation across the finish line that includes passage of the Forever GI Bill Housing Payment Fulfillment Act. This bill will ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reimburses veterans for missed or underpaid Forever GI Bill housing benefits. The department’s failure to fully comply with reimbursement rates set by the Forever GI Bill resulted from IT systems that had not been properly updated and a lack of internal processes to get the VA the necessary information about payment rates. This bill will correct this problem so our veterans can receive the full benefits they were promised.

In recent days Congress also passed the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment (WEEE) Act. This legislation seeks to break down the gender-related barriers to economic growth for women in developing countries. Women make up the majority of the world’s poor. This is due in part to lack of access to financial services and credit. I was proud to bring this bill to the Senate floor and pleased my colleagues supported recognizing the importance of leveling the playing field for women around the world.

In Arkansas, parishioners of Walnut Grove Church in Garland County are celebrating approval of a land swap with the U.S. Forest Service. Working with Congressman Bruce Westerman and my Senate colleagues, we were able to facilitate a land exchange that provides the church ownership of the land it worships on, something the congregation has vigorously pursued for more than two decades. I was proud to guide this change through the Senate.

These are just a few of the achievements from this past year that are worth celebrating. There are countless others, including more targeted efforts to respond to and combat the opioid crisis, comprehensive legislation to reform benefits and services for our veterans and much more.

I’m pleased with what we have accomplished in the 115th Congress and I look forward to working to make our country better in 2019. I wish you and your family all the best in New Year. 

 

December 20, 2018

Boozman On Hand as Farm Bill Signed into Law, Applauds President’s Support of Agriculture Industry

(Senator Boozman, along with Arkansas Farm Bureau representatives President Randy Veach, Board Member Terry Dabbs and Director of Government Affairs Matt King, attended the 2018 Farm Bill signing ceremony at the White House)

WASHINGTON– U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry and a member of the conference committee that authored the final 2018 Farm Bill, applauded President Donald Trump for supporting farmers and ranchers by signing the bill into law.

Boozman was at the White House as the president signed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 into law, the culmination of efforts to reauthorize farm policies that are critical for the agriculture industry and rural communities in Arkansas and across the country. The Arkansas Farm Bureau was also represented at the signing ceremony by President Randy Veach, Board Member Terry Dabbs and Director of Government Affairs Matt King.

“Signing this bill into law provides five years of certainty and predictability for America’s agriculture producers, everyday consumers and rural communities. Throughout this Congress, my priority has been to strengthen the ability of Arkansas farmers and ranchers to continue to be leaders in feeding and clothing the world. This farm bill improves essential programs for Arkansans, and I was proud to play a role in writing this law. I appreciate President Trump’s support of the bipartisan effort and hard work that went into getting this across the finish line,” Boozman said.

Highlights of Boozman priorities in the 2018 Farm Bill include: 

  • Providing a workable safety net for farmers and ranchers
  • Eliminating waste and abuse within the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Trade promotion funding for agriculture products in Cuba
  • Promoting jobs for veterans in agriculture
  • Regulatory reform
  • Research and development in crop insurance
  • Honoring multi-generational family farms

 

December 19, 2018

Senate Approves Boozman Bill to Ensure Veterans Receive Full Housing Benefits

WASHINGTON— The U.S. Senate unanimously approved the Forever GI Bill Housing Payment Fulfillment Act, legislation introduced by U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Brian Schatz (D-HI), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, to ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reimburses veterans for missed or underpaid Forever GI Bill housing benefits.

“The swift passage of this legislation shows the Senate’s commitment to ensuring our veterans receive the full benefits they earned. We must hold VA accountable for addressing its failure to properly implement housing benefits of the Forever GI Bill,” Boozman said. “I encourage speedy approval of this bill by the House of Representatives to help assure veterans that this error will be completely corrected.”

 “For many student veterans, every dime counts. That’s why the VA needs to get this right and pay student veterans the full amount of money they were promised,” said Schatz. “I’m glad that my colleagues in the Senate saw how important this issue is, and I hope this bill stays on the fast track to becoming law, so we can make this right for our veterans.”

Senators introduced the legislation to address the VA’s failure to fully comply with reimbursement rates set by the Forever GI Bill. The improper payments resulted from IT systems that had not been properly updated and lack of internal processes to get the VA the necessary information about payment rates.

The VA should have used the Department of Defense’s 2018 Basic Allowance for Housing rates which should have been calculated based on the zip code where the student takes the majority of classes, rather than on the zip code in which the school’s main campus is located. Instead, some GI Bill recipients have been receiving housing stipends at the 2017 rate and based on the school’s zip code. In all cases, the 2018 rate is higher than the 2017 rate.

The legislation is cosponsored by Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Mark Warner (D-VA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH).

The Forever GI Bill Housing Payment Fulfillment Act would require the VA to:

  • End improper payments as soon as possible;
  • Establish a team of specialists who will be responsible to report to Congress a detailed plan to correct this egregious error;
  • Provide a report to Congress by July 2020 that identifies how many beneficiaries were impacted and to what extent, aggregated by state; and
  • Certify the department is fully compliant with the law.

 

December 18, 2018

Boozman Recognizes Hot Springs Retired Army Journalist

Click here to watch excerpts of the interview with Lt. Col. (retired) Karen King-Johnson

“There can’t be a more rewarding career than being in the military. At least there wasn’t for me.”

WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized Lt. Col. (retired) Karen King-Johnson, a Vietnam War-era Army journalist, in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series commemorating the military service of Arkansans.

Karen King-Johnson calls Hot Springs home today. She grew up in a patriotic family. Her father bravely served during WWII and was killed in action at the Battle of the Bulge when she was just one-year-old. Her mother and stepfather worked at Tinker Air Force Base. After graduating from Oklahoma State University and a brief stint as a reporter for a local paper, King-Johnson joined the Army. “It just seemed like it was something I should always do,” she said.

One of her first assignments was in Germany where she served as commander of the Women’s Army Corp (WAC) detachment and fulfilled many responsibilities. “We were short-handed in 1966. We had taken all the veteran troops out of Germany and rushed them to Vietnam to try to fill in over there. The German command was just decimated. Everybody who was over there had at least a whole year’s worth of experience and numerous job titles,” King-Johnson said.

Following her service in Germany, King-Johnson was assigned to the Defense Information School at Fort Benjamin Harrison. “I had been begging to be assigned to a journalist-type role,” she said. Her assignments included covering celebrities in basic training at Fort Dix, including football star Joe Namath.

She eventually received orders for Vietnam and underwent intense survival training in advance of her tour. She left from Travis Air Force Base bound for Vietnam as the sole female aboard a plane of 225 soldiers. As a captain, King-Johnson was also the ranking officer on the flight.

In Vietnam, she served as Command Information Officer and her duties included leading a team of reporters, writing stories, photographing troops, printing internal publications to keep the troops informed, overseeing distribution of Stars and Stripes and publishing twice-daily news bulletins and writing weekly periodicals. She was also in charge of publishingUptight Magazine, which won the Thomas Jefferson Award for outstanding military publication in its field. King-Johnson flew to Washington, D.C. and accepted the award before notable diplomats and leaders.

After 15 years, King-Johnson retired from active duty, but she continued her service in the reserves and became an advocate for veterans. In 1982, she joined an Arkansas delegation in Washington, D.C. for a parade celebrating the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. In conversations with other female Vietnam veterans they concluded a monument was needed on the National Mall to honor the significant role of women in the war.

“It took us another 11 years,” King-Johnson said. She lobbied senators to encourage support for the Vietnam Women’s Memorial and testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands, National Parks and Forests which was chaired by then-Senator Dale Bumpers of Arkansas.

“There can’t be a more rewarding career than being in the military. At least there wasn’t for me. I got to do things and see things, that as a little kid from Oklahoma, I never would have gotten to do,” King-Johnson said.

“Lt. Col. Karen King-Johnson’s career is a unique example of the diverse leadership within our military. Her service, sacrifice and support for her fellow veterans is something we can all be proud of. Preserving her memories for the Veterans History Project is a great way to show our appreciation for the exemplary work she did serving our country,” Boozman said.

Boozman will submit King-Johnson’s entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans. 

 

December 17, 2018

Boozman Praises Ag Committee Leadership, Highlights Priorities in Farm Bill as Legislation Set to Become Law

WASHINGTON–With the 2018 Farm Bill set to become law, U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR)— a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry and a member of the conference committee that authored the final bill—delivered remarks on the Senate floor applauding passage of the legislation and thanking the conference committee leadership for including important provisions he authored.

While highlighting how important the farm bill is to Arkansas, Boozman praised the bipartisan leadership of the conference committee for its efforts to finalize a bill that will bring certainty and predictability for farmers, ranchers and all rural Americans. Boozman also thanked his colleagues for including provisions he authored, addressing a number of his priorities, in the final text.

“Sending this bill to the President is about as important as it gets for my state,” Boozman said. “I commend Chairmen Roberts and Conaway, as well as Ranking Members Stabenow and Peterson, for their commitment to making this bill fair and equitable to the diverse needs of producers across all regions of the country. It was a heavy lift. They worked hard to ensure we would get this done before adjourning this Congress. I would also like to thank them for their willingness to include provisions that I advocated for in the conference report.”

Click here to watch Boozman’s floor speech

Boozman priorities included in final version of 2018 Farm Bill

Providing a workable safety net for farmers and ranchers: The farm bill strengthens and reauthorizes many programs important for producers, including Price Loss Coverage (PLC), Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) and crop insurance. The improvements made to these programs ensure that producers across the country have a meaningful safety net with reduced regulatory and paperwork burdens.

Eliminating waste and abuse within Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): The federal government partners with states to administer SNAP and currently pays bonuses to states that administer the program satisfactorily. Unfortunately, states have exaggerated performances to receive bonuses. The conference report includes language championed by Boozman to eliminate all state performance bonuses in SNAP. This will save taxpayers $48 million per year.

Trade promotion funding for agriculture products in Cuba: This provision, championed by Boozman and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), is a big win for Arkansas farmers and ranchers, who have consistently been working to open up more access to the Cuban market. Cuba imports 80 percent of its food, and our farmers and ranchers produce the highest quality, lowest cost and safest food in the world. U.S. commodity exporters will now be able to use U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) market promotion funding in Cuba. These federal programs, which offset the high cost of market promotion, will no longer treat Cuba differently from other markets.

Promoting jobs for veterans in agriculture: The Veterans and Beginning Farmers Technical Assistance Act (S.2573), introduced by Boozman and Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT), was included in the farm bill. It reauthorizes the Appropriate Technical Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA) program, which has a regional headquarters in Fayetteville, Arkansas and helps veterans who want to get started in agriculture by providing specialized training through its “Armed to Farm” program. Boozman also secured language to ensure that USDA’s Military Veterans Agriculture Liaison better serves veterans who want to be involved in agriculture.

Regulatory reform: The farm bill includes two provisions that will provide much needed clarity to regulations. One, included at the behest of Boozman and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), adds live fish, crawfish, llamas and alpacas to the definition of livestock used by the Department of Transportation to bring more clarity for livestock producers and haulers. A second provision authored by Boozman protects USDA’s BioPreferred regulations, which aim to assist in the development and expansion of markets for biobased products, from unnecessary overreach by other agencies.

Research and development in crop insurance: Boozman secured a provision in the farm bill that directs USDA to conduct research and development to include innovative irrigation practices for rice, like alternate wetting and drying and furrow irrigation, under the current rice crop insurance policy.

Honoring multi-generational family farms: The Century Farms Act, introduced by Boozman and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) to recognize farms that have been in continuous operation for 100 or more years, was included as a provision in the farm bill. This provision directs USDA to establish a program to recognize farms that have been in continuous operation by the same family for one hundred or more years.   

 

December 17, 2018

Boozman, Tester Intensify Call for Better VA Care for Women Veterans
Senators Urge VA to Take Action to Improve Culture, Services for Women

 WASHINGTON— U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Jon Tester (D-MT) are pushing the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) to immediately take steps to improve the quality of VA care for women veterans.

Following VA Secretary Robert Wilkie’s September presentation of the “State of the VA” to the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee that showed that strides must still be made to improve services for women veterans, Tester and Boozman are urging Wilkie to implement low-cost and common sense reforms from their bipartisan Deborah Sampson Act.

“As you note, the number of women veterans using VA health care services has tripled since 2000, yet 52 percent of women veterans surveyed believe they are not entitled to, or eligible for, VA care,” the Senators wrote to Wilkie. “This disconnect clearly necessitates a more aggressive outreach campaign, targeted at women veterans, with the goal of better connecting them with access to what can often be life-saving services.”

Tester and Boozman are urging Wilkie to implement reforms from their Deborah Sampson Act such as expanding the Women Veterans Call Center to include text message access to counselors and VA staff, partnering with community organizations on a pro-bono basis to help women veterans with legal issues that are contributing to their homelessness, and expanding women veteran mini-residency programs while the VA works to hire more dedicated women veteran clinical providers. They are also urging the department to begin to track women veterans’ utilization of VA services and experiences at VA facilities to learn from current shortcomings and to fully staff and put in place strong leadership at the Center for Women Veterans.

Boozman and Tester’s letter to Wilkie can be read online here.

 

December 14, 2018

New Farm Bill Will Bring Certainty and Predictability

This summer, I embarked on the #ARisAG tour, traveling the Natural State to highlight the importance of agriculture to Arkansas and to hear firsthand the concerns and ideas of our farmers and ranchers. During that tour, I heard one message over and over again–pass a meaningful farm bill.

It took some heavy lifting, but we have delivered for our farmers and ranchers. Congress has approved a final five-year reauthorization of the farm bill law. This is very good news for production agriculture and rural communities across our nation.

First and foremost, the farm bill will bring much-needed certainty and predictability to farmers and ranchers over the next five years. This is especially important given the intense pressure our agriculture producers are under.

If you look at the numbers across the nation, net farm income is approximately half of what it was when we passed the last farm bill. Farm bankruptcies are up by 39 percent since 2014, financing has become more expensive, commodity prices have plummeted, input costs are rising and the trade outlook is volatile and uncertain.

Farmers across the country—regardless of where they call home or which crops they grow—are hurting. The farm bill that Congress approved delivers meaningful and real relief for our farmers and ranchers in these difficult times.

Along with strengthening key risk management tools for our farmers, this legislation also helps our rural communities by authorizing crucial economic development and job creation programs along with provisions that range from combating the opioid crisis to home financing to high-speed internet access.

The farm bill is vital to our continued economic growth in Arkansas. Agriculture is a driving force of the Natural State’s economy, adding around $16 billion to our economy every year and accounting for approximately one in every six jobs. That’s why agriculture advocacy groups in Arkansas were very excited when we passed the final version.

The Arkansas Farm Bureau said it was “pleased that Congress has recognized how important a new farm bill is to the hard-working farmers and ranchers of this country” and expressed gratitude that we came together to pass “this critical legislation before the new year.”

The Agricultural Council of Arkansas said it “cannot stress enough the importance of the farm bill and the need for it among Arkansas farmers.” The Council went on to add, “a farm bill with meaningful support is critical in preventing significant harm to Arkansas farms.”

And the Arkansas Rice Federation said the farm bill will provide “certainty in such a variable agricultural climate.”

The farm bill would not have been as beneficial to Arkansas farmers and ranchers without the diligent efforts of the conference committee leadership who worked to ensure that harmful, arbitrary policy changes were excluded from the final conference report. As a result of these efforts, family farms are protected from additional regulations and unnecessary paperwork.

This would not have been possible without the steadfast leadership of the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees. Their commitment to making this bill fair and equitable to the diverse needs of producers across all regions of the country. They worked hard to make certain we would get this done before adjourning the 115th Congress. I look forward to ensuring its successful implementation.

 

December 11. 2018

Boozman Statement on Farm Bill Conference Report 

WASHINGTON— U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and a farm bill conferee, released the following statement on the final version of the 2018 Farm Bill:

“This is welcome news for farmers, ranchers, rural Americans and consumers. Farmers and ranchers across the country have been dealing with low commodity prices, high input costs, volatile weather events and an uncertain trade environment. This farm bill will bring much-needed certainty and predictability to farm policy for the next five years.

We worked hard, in a bipartisan manner, to reach consensus on a final version that will deliver for those who earn their livelihood in the agricultural economy, protect key risk management tools and maintain strong farm policy for producers of all stripes.

I commend Chairmen Roberts and Conaway, as well as Ranking Members Stabenow and Peterson, for their commitment to finishing this bill, and their diligence to ensure that harmful policy changes were excluded from the final conference report. As a result of their leadership, we are well on our way to sending a farm bill to the president’s desk that meets the diverse needs of producers across all regions of the country.”

 

December 10, 2018

Forever GI Bill Housing Payment Fulfillment Act Introduced in the Senate

 WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Brian Schatz (D-HI), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, introduced a bipartisan bill to ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reimburses veterans for missed or underpaid Forever GI Bill housing benefits.

The legislation was introduced to address the VA’s failure to fully comply with reimbursement rates set by the Forever GI Bill. The improper payments resulted from IT systems that had not been properly updated and lack of internal processes to get the VA the necessary information about payment rates.

The VA should have used the Department of Defense’s 2018 Basic Allowance for Housing rates which should have been calculated based on the zip code where the student takes the majority of classes, rather than on the zip code in which the school’s main campus is located. Instead, some GI Bill recipients have been receiving housing stipends at the 2017 rate and based on the school’s zip code. In all cases, the 2018 rate is higher than the 2017 rate.

Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) joined Boozman and Schatz to introduce the Forever GI Bill Housing Payment Fulfillment Act, which would require the VA to:

  • End improper payments as soon as possible;
  • Establish a team of specialists who will be responsible to report to Congress a detailed plan to correct this egregious error;
  • Provide a report to Congress by July 2020 that identifies how many beneficiaries were impacted and to what extent, aggregated by state; and
  • Certify the department is fully compliant with the law.

“Secretary Wilkie has acknowledged the VA’s error and promised that all affected recipients would be compensated, but the department’s plans to remedy the situation fall short. This bill aims to hold the department accountable to its promise and ensure that veterans are fully repaid for errors they did not cause,” Boozman said.

 “Secretary Wilkie may be saying the right things, but until the VA has a plan and invests money to address the ongoing staffing and IT challenges facing the claims backlog, our veterans will remain robbed of the benefits they were promised,” said Schatz. “Our bill will hold the VA accountable and make sure every veteran that was short-changed is made whole.”

 “When folks volunteer to serve, our nation makes them a set of promises,” Tester said. “This bipartisan bill ensures that we live up to those promises.  It holds the VA accountable for taking the necessary steps to ensure that every student veteran receives every penny they are entitled in a timely manner, and that efforts on behalf of these veterans will not impact the Department’s ability to deliver timely benefits for other veterans.”

 “VA’s contemptible incompetence and inability to provide Post-9/11 GI Bill beneficiaries with timely housing payments is inexcusable. Students using the Post-9/11 GI Bill still don’t have a clear understanding of when – and if – they will receive the benefits they have earned. Our legislation will ensure VA takes immediate corrective action to address this crisis while enabling proper oversight to prevent this from ever happening again,” Blumenthal said.

 “Reports of veteran students receiving delayed or inadequate GI Bill payments are concerning, and this misstep should be corrected as soon as possible,” said Tillis. “While the VA has already started taking important steps to address this ongoing issue, it is important for Congress to continue exercising rigorous oversight to ensure that all GI Bill beneficiaries are made whole.”

 “The VA must make every effort to restore confidence with veterans by delivering the care and benefits they have earned,” said Moran. “The significant problems with the implementation of the Forever GI Bill must be resolved immediately – any further delay is unacceptable and will burden those veterans impacted. This legislation will make certain the VA is working to earn back GI Bill beneficiaries’ trust. I’m proud to be a part of efforts to make the VA worthy of the service and sacrifice of our nations heroes.”

 

December 7, 2018

Members of Arkansas & Missouri Congressional Delegations Announce $25 Million Grant for Critical Segment of I-49

WASHINGTON –U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO), John Boozman (R-AR) and Tom Cotton (R-AR), along with U.S. Representatives Billy Long (MO-07) and Steve Womack (AR-03), announced that $25 million in funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has been awarded to complete work on a critical segment of Interstate 49 that will connect Arkansas and Missouri.

The Arkansas/Missouri connector, often referred to as the Bella Vista Bypass, is the only portion of the more than 290-mile route between Kansas City, Missouri and Fort Smith, Arkansas that is not interstate quality. Traffic signals in Bella Vista and just across the state line in Missouri cause major traffic congestion and dramatically slow travel time.

The states have worked to complete this 18.9-mile section of I-49 at the Missouri-Arkansas line for more than 25 years. Funding for the project is being awarded from the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) program which is allocated for nationally and regionally significant projects.

“Completion of the critical stretch of the I-49 Arkansas-Missouri Connector is 25 years in the making and I’m thrilled we’re one step closer to getting it done,” said Blunt. “Completing this project will increase safety, improve the quality of life, and strengthen local economies in Southwest Missouri and Northwest Arkansas. Missouri’s transportation networks are our greatest competitive advantage, and I appreciate the partnership of our Arkansas colleagues in moving this project forward.”

“This is exciting news for Northwest Arkansas and Southwest Missouri. Securing these funds for this shovel-ready project has taken years of vigorous and persistent advocating from my team. Our hard work has finally resulted in funding for a project that will yield dividends when it comes to economic growth and quality of life in the region,” Boozman said. “I appreciate Secretary Chao’s leadership in recognizing the importance of a project that I have championed throughout my time in Congress.”

“Interstate access heralds the continued economic growth of any area, which is why completing the Bella Vista bypass is vital for Northwest Arkansas and Southwest Missouri. Many businesses and future infrastructure projects depend on its finalization, and this funding will allow that project’s construction finally to move forward. I am grateful to Secretary Chao and the Trump Administration for their dedication to improving Arkansas infrastructure,” said Cotton.

“The completion of the I-49 corridor is long overdue,” Long said. “Today’s announcement is great news for individuals and businesses in southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas who have been waiting for this for more than 25 years. I am incredibly thankful for my colleagues in both Missouri and Arkansas who have long been strong advocates of I-49’s completion, and their understanding of the numerous benefits it will bring to local economies in both states.”

“Today’s funding announcement is a game changer that will do more than just upgrade the I-49 corridor – it will transform and modernize our local transportation system to support Arkansas families and the growth of our state. This investment, which I have tirelessly advocated for, will increase travel safety, decrease congestion, create jobs, and enhance the economic vitality of our region. I am grateful to Secretary Chao for listening to the concerns I brought to USDOT, and for moving this important and long overdue project forward,” said Womack.

 

November 28, 2018

Senate Committee Advances Boozman, Cardin Bill to Empower Women-Led Enterprises Around the World

 WASHINGTON—The Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced legislation introduced by U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) that aims to eliminate global gender-related barriers and empower female entrepreneurs around the world.

 The Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment (WEEE) Act passed with a committee amendment.

“This is an important step to reducing financial hurdles that women in developing countries face. Providing access to economic tools will put more women in control of their financial success and facilitate improvements in their homes and communities. I appreciate the leadership of Chairman Corker to advance this legislation and help level the playing field for women around the world,” Boozman said.

“Investing in women creates a positive cycle of change that can lift women, families, communities and entire countries out of poverty,” said Cardin, ranking member of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee and a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “When women are able to be fully engaged in society and hold financial and decision-making power, they are more likely to invest their income in food, clean water, education, and health care for their children. I thank my colleagues for moving this important bipartisan legislation forward.”

Specifically, the WEEE Act seeks to:

  • Establish a development cooperation policy of the United States to reduce gender disparities related to economic participation and opportunity, strive to eliminate gender-based violence, support women’s property rights and increase the capability of women and girls to determine life outcomes.
  • Require the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to ensure that all strategies and projects of the agency are shaped by a gender analysis and that gender equality and female empowerment are integrated throughout USAID’s programs;
  • Expand USAID’s microenterprise development assistance authority to include small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), with an emphasis on supporting SMEs owned, managed and controlled by women; and
  • Modernize USAID’s development assistance toolkit to include innovative credit scoring models, financial technology, financial literacy, insurance and actions to improve property and inheritance rights.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a companion bill in July.

 

November 21, 2018

Boozman Encourages Support for Local Retailers, Highlights Small Business Saturday

 WASHINGTON— U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement encouraging Arkansans to support small businesses in their communities this Saturday, November 24 as part of “Small Business Saturday”:

“Small businesses drive our economy in Arkansas and across the country. They employ our family, friends and neighbors and provide in-demand goods and services all while giving back to the communities they operate in. I hope Arkansans will join me in patronizing these economic engines this holiday season, beginning on Small Business Saturday,” Boozman said.

Boozman is a cosponsor of the Senate-passed resolution that designates Saturday, November 24, 2018 as Small Business Saturday. The measure urges consumers to shop locally and highlights the importance of small businesses to our economy. Last year, 108 million Americans shopped or dined at independently-owned businesses for Small Business Saturday.

 

November 21, 2018

Recycling’s Benefits Significant and Widespread

Every year in November, our nation renews its commitment to reduce waste and preserve our limited resources on “America Recycles Day.” The day of recognition serves as a timely reminder as we approach the holiday season—a period when used envelopes, wrapping paper, shipping material and gift boxes quickly pile up— that we all have a role to play in reducing our landfill input. 

Recycling is an easy way to do our part. It is a win-win solution, as it allows us to be responsible stewards of our environment while creating needed resources for U.S. manufacturers, valuable export commodities and jobs for over 500,000 Americans. Recycling truly does help build a stronger America.  

This is the message Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) and I routinely share with our colleagues as the co-chairs of the Senate Recycling Caucus. Through the caucus, we work with our colleagues and stakeholders to raise awareness of recycling’s impact on advancing our nation’s environmental and economic interests and to support public policies that increase the practice across the country.

The caucus, which was formed in 2006, is committed to educating our colleagues on new and innovative ideas to make recycling practical for all stakeholders. With that in mind, we held a briefing on the eve of “America Recycles Day” to promote the benefits of recycling and help find ways we can work together to turn challenges into opportunities.

Zach Freeze, Senior Director for Sustainability at Walmart Stores Inc, was one of the expert panelists at this briefing. Given that the large majority of recycled material is generated outside of the household, it is vital that we encourage businesses, large and small, take a proactive, conscientious approach to sustainability.

Walmart’s innovative efforts to reduce waste in its operations and increase sustainability are ideas that can translate into bigger benefits for the industry. I appreciate that Zach made the time to share how Walmart is carrying out its vision by increasing focus on product sustainability efforts, more sustainable packaging solutions and it’s bold “Project Gigaton,” which seeks to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions produced by the company and its suppliers by one billion metric tons by the year 2030.

The Senate Recycling Caucus aims to raise the visibility of the importance of recycling from a conservation standpoint as well as the important role the industry plays in our economy. Events such as this are a good way for us to listen, learn and share ideas. We need to take the best of those ideas and turn them into action. 

Recycling is one of the few solutions to a problem that is truly bipartisan. Waste reduction is not a red state issue or a blue state issue. Nor is it a big city problem or a rural problem. We all can do our part, and share the benefits, by recycling.

With the holiday season upon us, I encourage everyone to make a concerted effort to recycle. When you recycle, you literally reinvest in American manufacturing, providing raw materials for America’s factories and economic opportunity for your community. Recycling doesn’t take much effort, but it makes all the sense in the world. 

 

November 16, 2018

Support for Curing Alzheimer’s

Gabbie, a 10-year-old Bentonville resident, has been raising money for the last three years for Alzheimer’s and dementia research. She recently wrote to me about her dedication and support in the quest to find a cure for her father’s dementia. Her tremendous efforts are inspiring and I am proud to say that Washington is supporting the search for a cure. This Congress, we dedicated record-level funding to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease research in hopes of helping Gabbie and others whose loved ones have been devastated by this cruel disease.

More than 50,000 Arkansans are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It is estimated that just as many are living with the disease but are undiagnosed. This is our nation’s deadliest and most expensive disease, costing $277 billion a year including $186 billion to Medicare and Medicaid. Without a breakthrough, it’s projected that by 2050 the cost will balloon to more than $1 trillion a year to treat the 16 million Americans predicted to be diagnosed with the disease.

As a member of the Bipartisan Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease, I’m fighting to reverse this trend. In September, Congress increased funding for Alzheimer’s research at the National Institutes of Health to $2.34 billion. I was proud to support the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill that prioritizes investments in medical research to fight Alzheimer’s. This funding level is above the $2 billion goal established for research by the Department of Health and Human Services’ National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease and will allow for expanded research to develop prevention, treatment and a cure.

Additionally, this Congress I was proud to support the Building Our Largest Dementia (BOLD) Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act, introduced by Sen. Susan Collins, Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee. This legislation would create a public health infrastructure to combat Alzheimer’s disease similar to the successful framework that has helped us prevent once-deadly communicable diseases. Replicating this comprehensive approach is a step in the right direction.

The bill would establish Centers of Excellence in Public Health Practice dedicated to promoting effective Alzheimer’s disease and caregiving interventions, as well as educating the public on the disease. These centers would implement the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Healthy Aging Public Health Road Map and empower communities to improve the quality of life for patients and caregivers as well as aid social services on the frontlines of this battle. There is an urgent need to respond to this crisis. It’s clear that more assistance is necessary.

President Ronald Reagan first announced November as National Alzheimer’s Disease Month in 1983. Sadly, this disease robbed him of his memories and his independence, and today too many Americans are facing the same prognosis.

It’s likely that we all know someone who is touched by Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. I am committed to providing resources and creating policies that will help find a cure and help provide families like Gabbie’s hope for a bright future.

 

 

November 9, 2018

OUR POLICIES ARE MOVING THE U.S. ECONOMY IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

Ten years ago, the global financial crisis roiled the economy in the United States and elsewhere. The way our economy is performing right now means it might be easy to forget how dire the situation was then, but reflecting on this contrast helps us appreciate how far we’ve come and how we got here.

October’s jobs report was widely celebrated, and for good reason. The economy exceeded expectations and added 250,000 jobs. The unemployment rate remains at a nearly 50-year low.

Wages grew by 3.1 percent – the best year-over-year gain since 2009. Additionally, real disposable personal income is up 3.5 percent so far in 2018.

The U.S. economy grew by 4.2 percent in the second quarter and by 3.5 percent in the third quarter of 2018, according to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce. We’re growing the economy at the fastest pace in nearly four years.

These are all positive indicators that our economy is healthy and that federal policy is helping to create a climate where businesses are positioned to capitalize and flourish.

When I travel across Arkansas speaking with business people and local leaders, I hear an unmistakable sense of optimism and excitement in their voices as they explain how businesses feel empowered to grow and expand. This didn’t happen by accident or coincidence. It’s the result of thoughtful, deliberate policies that are designed to boost confidence, relieve unnecessary burdens and spur growth.

Tax reform is at the top of the list of reasons why our economic indicators are moving in the right direction. Reforming America’s tax code for the first time in 31 years was long overdue and something that businesses were desperate for in order to make them more globally competitive. The changes we made to the tax code not only sought to help individuals and families, but by lowering the tax rate for pass-through businesses to 21 percent we’ve incentivized them to use their resources to hire new employees or invest further in their operations.

More than 1.8 million jobs have been created since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act became law.

We have also used the Congressional Review Act to roll back harmful regulations from the Obama era. I, like most Arkansans, agree that there are some regulations and safeguards that we need in place to ensure safety and fairness. At times, though, the federal government tends to create regulations for regulation’s sake which often hinder businesses, forcing them to divert resources to comply with overburdensome rules that stifle growth and hiring.

By removing excessive red tape, Republicans in Congress and this administration have saved Americans at least $50 billion in regulatory costs in the last 1.5 years.

These policies are working for Americans and for our economy. Consumer confidence is now at a 17-year high. Optimism from small business owners is at historic levels. Business investment is up. Median household incomes are at an all-time high and the percentage of Americans living in poverty is at the lowest level since 2006.

We are moving in the right direction and people across Arkansas and America can feel it. They know that when Washington gets out of the way and frees businesses and entrepreneurs to do what they are capable of doing, the benefits reach far and wide.

We’ve seen the results for ourselves. Now we must commit to keep working toward solutions that help build on the strong fundamentals of this economy and improve the lives of people across our state and throughout the country.

 

October 31, 2018

Boozman Welcomes Director of Veterans History Project to Arkansas

 WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) will join Col. (ret) Karen Lloyd, National Director of the Veterans History Project, to visit Arkansans participating in the Library of Congress’ program on Thursday, November 1.

The VHP is a nationwide initiative to collect the stories of America’s veterans. The memories of more than 1,300 Arkansas veterans are included in the project. Over the last three years, Boozman’s office has conducted more than 50 veteran interviews for the Library of Congress. In addition, Col. (ret) Anita Deason, Boozman’s military and veterans liaison, has trained more than 400 Arkansans on how to participate.

More information on the VHP and samples of interviews conducted with Arkansas veterans are available on Boozman’s website.

Media is invited to the following on Thursday, November 1:

Event:             Visit Doomsday Coffee

Time:              8 a.m.

 Location:        1378 N College Avenue

Fayetteville

 Senator Boozman and Director Lloyd will visit this veteran-owned business in Fayetteville.

Event:             Meeting with VA Medical Center Leadership

Time:              8:30 a.m.

 Location:        Mount Sequoyah 

150 N. Skyline Drive 

Fayetteville

Boozman and Lloyd will join leaders from the VA Medical Center at their annual strategic leadership summit. The Medical Center is set to begin participating in the VHP with a new program to conduct interviews with local veterans for submission.

Event:             Visit to University of Central Arkansas

Time:              1:30 p.m.

 Location:        Board of Trustees Conference Room

Wingo Building

UCA Campus

Donaghey Avenue

Conway

Boozman and Lloyd will visit with students and faculty who have been participating in the VHP through interviews with local veterans.

Event:             Visit to AETN

Time:              2:30 p.m.

 Location:        350 S. Donaghey

Conway

AETN is a leader in collecting stories of Arkansas veterans and highlighting their service and sacrifice through interviews and special programming. Boozman and Lloyd will get an update on its efforts and discuss the interviews AETN previously collected that are being prepared for submission to the Library of Congress.

Schedule is subject to change.

 

October 26, 2018

A Passenger-First Approach to Air Travel Reform

 Hidden fees in ticket purchases, delays on the tarmac and seats that feel smaller every time you a board a plane. These are just a few of the common frustrations we all encounter when taking a commercial flight these days.

While we are far from the smiling faces that graced the advertisements in the “golden age” of air travel, progress has been made since the dawn of commercial air travel. Flying is by far less dangerous and much more affordable than it was during that time. It is, however, also a more frustrating experience.

There can be a middle ground. Flying can be safe, affordable and comfortable.

In recent years, Washington has taken steps toward fixing the problems that plague commercial air travel by including much-needed, commonsense reforms when we reauthorize funding for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). These reforms put passengers first, taking on the most visible—and often most egregious—practices of airlines.

The most recent passenger protections set to be enacted were just included in a comprehensive, five-year reauthorization of the FAA that was signed into law by President Trump. Once implemented, the new rules will ensure that passengers who have boarded their flight aren’t forced off the plane due to airline overbooking and that commercial airline seats do not continue to shrink to the point of absurdity. The new reforms also ensure that airlines promptly return fees paid for services, including seat assignments and early boarding, that were not delivered and baggage fees will be refunded when items are lost or unreasonably delayed.

One additional provision in the new law hasn’t received much attention, but could have a big impact. The new law directs the Department of Transportation (DOT) to establish an aviation consumer advocate to help usher in positive changes in how airlines treat consumers. The office will monitor enforcement of issues, including deceptive ticketing practices and tarmac delays; help customers resolve carrier service complaints; and identify and recommend policies that can more effectively resolve carrier service complaints. It requires the DOT to report certain consumer complaint statistics to Congress to ensure lawmakers can address any shortcomings. If the new office does its job properly, the aviation consumer advocate could dramatically reduce the stress of air travel for customers.

These important consumer protection reforms build off those instituted in the 2016 FAA reauthorization, which one Washington Post columnist called the “most passenger-friendly” ever. The 2016 reauthorization required airlines to disclose fees to consumers and provide families with information about the availability of seats together at the time of booking. It also directed the DOT to review how airlines provide information on decisions to delay or cancel flights that may be fully or only partially due to weather.

Taking a “passenger-first” approach—coupled with modernizations to airport infrastructure and enhancements to aviation security—can help transform the flying experience into something travelers enjoy again. That would be a win for consumers and a welcome relief for us all.

 

October 27, 2018

Boozman to Attend Events in Central Arkansas on Saturday

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman will be in Little Rock and Hot Springs on Saturday, October 27, for the following events:

Event:        Arkansas Take Back, Prescription Drug Return event
Time:              10 a.m.
Location:        Walgreens, 14820 Cantrell Road, Little Rock

Senator Boozman will drop by to support this annual effort – organized by the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office – and encourage local residents to participate.

Event:        Little Rock Air Show
Time:              11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. (approximate)
Location:        Little Rock Air Force Base
Senator Boozman will attend this public event.

Event:        Arkansas Military Veterans Hall of Fame induction
Time:              Reception – 5 p.m.
                        Dinner – 7 p.m.
Location:        Horner Hall and Ballroom
                        Hot Springs Convention Center, 134 Convention Blvd., Hot Springs

 Senator Boozman will attend the reception and dinner to honor this year’s inductees. Among the honorees are two with ties to Senator Boozman’s office: Col. (ret) Anita Deason is currently Boozman’s Senior Military and Veterans Liaison, and Lt. Col. (ret) Stephen Gray worked in that same role for Senator Boozman for many years until he retired in 2015.

October 25, 2018

Boozman Congratulates Arkansas Black Hall of Fame Class of 2018

 WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized the lives and legacies of six individuals who will be inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame on Saturday, October 27.

In a speech on the Senate floor in early October, Boozman celebrated the accomplishments of the distinguished group of men and women with Arkansas roots who will join the Hall of Fame as its 2018 class:

  • Kevin Cole – renowned mixed-media visual artist
  • Brent Jennings – accomplished actor and educator
  • Lt Gen Aundre Piggee – Deputy Chief of Staff in the U.S. Army overseeing logistics at the Pentagon
  • Darrell Walker – former University of Arkansas basketball player who played in the NBA and now coaches the University of Arkansas-Little Rock men’s basketball team
  • Mary Louise Williams – education advocate and political activist
  • Florence Price (posthumous induction) – award-winning composer

Watch Boozman’s full speech

“We can be proud of these men and women. Their lives and legacies are important to the history of our country and the fight for equality. The honor being bestowed upon them later this month is just one more tribute to their significant contributions to Arkansas and America,” Boozman said.

The Arkansas Black Hall of Fame was established in 1992 and celebrated its first class of inductees the following year.

Congressman French Hill (AR-02) also delivered a speech before the House of Representatives honoring the 2018 inductees.

 

October 24, 2018

President Signs Water Infrastructure Law that Includes Boozman Initiative

 WASHINGTON—A new policy initiative authored by U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) that takes an innovative approach to modernizing critical water infrastructure—especially in rural areas often unable to afford upgrades to aging water systems—became law when President Donald Trump signed the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018.

The new approach—based off the Securing Required Funding for Water Infrastructure Now (SRF WIN) Act introduced by Boozman earlier this year—was included as a provision in the comprehensive reauthorization of our nation’s water infrastructure programs. Boozman stood with the President in the Oval Office of the White House when he put his signature on the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018.

“I was proud to join President Trump as he signed the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 into law. I’m particularly pleased that it includes my innovative solution to updating our water and wastewater infrastructure. With this new tool in the toolbox, we will be able to help state and local governments overcome the barriers that have stalled water infrastructure improvements for far too long. Fixing our crumbling infrastructure is a national priority and this new policy initiative I authored creates another option for any community, including those in rural America, to address overdue water infrastructure upgrades,” Boozman said.

Specifically, Boozman’s provision included in the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 will:

  • Combine the best aspects of State Revolving Funds (SRFs) with the leveraging power of the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) to make the process easier and more affordable for states to meet their underserved or unmet water infrastructure needs.
  • Increase access to previously unavailable funding sources for small and medium-size communities, while removing high application fees which often prevent access to funds for rural communities.
  • Provide a direct and politically viable path to providing dramatic increases in funding for our nation’s SRF programs that will help address the backlog of long-awaited local infrastructure projects.
  • Allow thousands of vetted water and wastewater projects to receive funding without the Environmental Protect Agency (EPA) having to process thousands of additional applications.

Boozman’s efforts have garnered praise from Arkansas and national water infrastructure advocates.

Dennis Sternberg, Executive Director of Arkansas Rural Water Association, applauded the policy update to extend these authorities to states.

“We are very pleased a version of Senator Boozman’s bill was included in the package. Small and rural communities have more difficulty affording public wastewater service due to lack of population density and lack of economies of scale. Rural America is very appreciative for the help,” Sternberg said.

President of the American Society of Civil Engineers Kristina Swallow, P.E., said the benefits of this approach will be felt nationwide.

“The SRF WIN provision secures a significant increase in investment for water infrastructure, which is sorely needed given our nation’s ‘D’ grade for drinking water and ‘D+’ grade for wastewater in the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card. Sen. Boozman’s leadership and vision led to this new funding option that will improve our nation’s water infrastructure,” Swallow said.

 

October 23, 2018

Boozman Recognizes Retired Conway Airman 

Click here to watch excerpts of the interview with Lt Col (retired) James Hudson

 WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized the service and sacrifice of Vietnam veteran and decorated airman Lieutenant Colonel (retired) James Hudson in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series recognizing the military service of Arkansans.

Hudson, who resides in Conway, grew up in Dover, New Jersey as the youngest of four children. He was raised in a family rooted in strong military history. His dad served in the Navy and his brother served in the Army in WWII. Hudson followed in this family tradition initially as a member of the Delaware National Guard.

“I always had this idea of what it might be like if I could get up in that sky around those clouds, so I started doing some research.” Hudson said. He discovered the Air Force’s Aviation Cadet Program and passed the written and physical tests required for acceptance.

Hudson’s goal was to become a pilot, but it would be two years before he could join a class so he participated in observer, pre-flight training at Lackland Air Force Base.  He continued his training at Harlingen Air Force base for navigation. He says the training he got there was the foundation for his career.

He completed radar observer training at Connally Air Force Base in Waco, Texas where he flew B-25s and then at Otis Air Force Base in Massachusetts to fly the F-94C.

“One of the things I learned real quick right at Otis is that this is a risky business. I lost four of my best friends from the original crew at Otis,” Hudson said. “There was no fanfare. That was the way it was” he said of the sacrifices that he and his fellow airmen made for the job.

Hudson continued to hone his skills as a pilot. He shared his expertise in the cockpit as an instructor pilot, flight examiner and test pilot. In these roles, Hudson evaluated the F-106, taking this new plane to Mach 2. “Going to Mach 2 in an F-106, I’m not going to say it’s a thrill,” he said. “Most of the time I could get to Mach 2 but there were a number of times when I got to .85 or .9” before the plane’s shuddering would force him to ease back on the throttle.

Hudson was called on to support air operations in Vietnam. Although he was trained in air-to-air combat, this assignment required additional training. He calls his preparation for flying the F-4 “wonderful.”

During his deployment, he was stationed at Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam and flew 224 missions. He preferred to work and stay busy because he “didn’t want any time off.”

He is critical of the restrictions placed on him and his fellow aviators, believing they prevented them from protecting more people. “We developed an attitude that we’re not going out to kill as much as we are going out to save.”

Hudson earned the Distinguished Flying Cross on one mission and remains humble about this recognition. “It just happened that that was a special place and a guy took a little notice,” Hudson said. “You weren’t there for medals.”

Following his tour in Vietnam, Hudson was assigned to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base where he became involved in reviewing and analyzing proposals, including the F-15, for modernizing air superiority. “My deduction was the F-15 was the airplane to go with.”

Hudson’s military memorabilia includes a certificate of the maiden flight of the F-15. “I consider that one of the greatest honors I ever had.” He is quick to point out that this plane is still part of the Air Force fleet today, more than 40 years after his retirement from military service.

“James Hudson’s memories offer a unique perspective of the selfless sacrifice of the airmen who put their lives on the line in duty to our country in combat. His efforts helped strengthen our air power superiority which continues to this day. I am pleased to honor his military service and preserve and share his memories of his time in uniform for future generations,” Boozman said.

Boozman submitted Hudson’s entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans. 

 

October 19, 2018

Recognizing Arkansas Veterans

Arkansas has a long and proud history of supporting our nation’s defense. Our state is home to military installations, businesses and jobs that contribute to our national security and the protection of our nation’s servicemembers. It’s also where brave men and women learn to serve a cause higher than themselves.

Sergeant Major (retired) John Canley a native of Caledonia, Arkansas in Union County was inspired to join the Marine Corps after watching the WWII movie the “Sands of Iwo Jima.” Using his brother’s birth certificate, he enlisted in the Marines, as a 15-year-old.

At a White House ceremony earlier this month, President Donald Trump praised Canley’s “unmatched bravery” for saving “the lives of more than 20 marines” during the 1968 Battle of Hue in Vietnam.

Canley recently received the Medal of Honor, the military’s highest and most prestigious decoration, for his valiant actions and courage in combat while serving as gunnery sergeant assigned to Company A, First Battalion, First Marines.

While those who wear our nation’s uniform do not often seek recognition, awards or honors, they deserve nothing less than our public and private displays of appreciation for their service. They are often unassuming individuals who have done great things under extraordinary circumstances. Their stories of immense sacrifice, courage and service should be preserved as we can all learn from them.

The Arkansas Military Veterans’ Hall of Fame (AMVHOF) was created in 2011 to honor the service, sacrifice and accomplishments of Natural State veterans. The achievements of inductees are preserved in the Hall of Fame display in the state Capitol. This exhibit is a testament to the willingness of Arkansans to do their part to serve and defend our country and serves as inspiration for future generations.

The 15 inductees of the 2018 class come from all corners of the state and have served in conflicts from WWII through Operation Iraqi Freedom. This distinguished group of men and women have demonstrated selflessness in uniform and continued service to their communities.

As the son of a Master Sergeant in the Air Force, I’m committed to veterans’ outreach. Members of this year’s class, including both current and former members of my staff, have demonstrated that devotion throughout their lives. Col (retired) Anita Deason’s hard work has led to hundreds of Arkansans being trained to collect the memories of our veterans for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project. Lt Col (retired) Steve Gray’s tireless devotion to veterans as a member of my team was known for, among other things, the many medal presentations he conducted throughout Arkansas. In retirement, he continues his commitment to his fellow veterans through his work as an active member of Arkansas’s veteran service organizations.

Honoring the service, sacrifice and commitment of veterans with commendation medals, induction into the AMVHOF and other special events shows our appreciation for their immeasurable sacrifice. Emphasizing the stories of sacrifice and bravery exhibited by Arkansas veterans really is about preserving the people and the values that make the Natural State the best place to call home.

 

October 12, 2018

A New Approach to Funding Water Projects

The Senate added one more very important bill to its list of bipartisan accomplishments this Congress, passage of the America’s Water Infrastructure Act.

This bill authorizes critical water infrastructure projects across the country for the next two years, which will help ensure our nation’s continued growth and maintain our position as a leader in the global economy. It is in lock step with President Trump’s vision for modernizing our infrastructure which will lead to more economic growth, less red tape, stronger personal property protections and improved transparency—all while being fiscally responsible.

Included within the America’s Water Infrastructure Act is an innovative approach to modernizing critical water infrastructure—especially in rural areas often unable to afford upgrades to aging water systems—that is based off legislation I authored with Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ).

The new program will combine the best aspects of two existing funding programs to make the process easier and more affordable for states to meet their underserved or unmet water infrastructure needs. It will increase access to previously unavailable funding sources for small and medium-size communities, while removing high application fees which often prevent rural communities from applying for funding.

This policy change is the result of months-long negotiations. It blends the best ideas available to ensure this common sense, bipartisan approach will work effectively and efficiently while providing millions, and potentially billions, in project dollars to communities that have traditionally not had access to these types of funds. Making this change will allow a multitude of vetted water and wastewater projects to receive funding without the Environmental Protect Agency having to process thousands of additional applications.

With support from a diverse group of senators, ranging from Jim Inhofe (R-OK) to Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), this new initiative to address overdue water infrastructure upgrades has the opportunity to yield dividends across the country. The fact that this new policy has cosponsors from across the country, with vastly different political ideologies, underscores an important point. Infrastructure investment is not a rural issue, or a big city issue. It is not a red state problem or a blue state problem. This is a national emergency, and it is time we put partisanship aside and work together to provide safe and reliable drinking and wastewater services to every part of our country.

This message is echoed by the diverse voices in the industry and advocacy community, on both a national and state level, who have put their support behind my idea. Kristina Swallow, President of the American Society of Civil Engineers, praised our new funding option “that will improve our nation’s water infrastructure.” Dennis Sternberg, Executive Director of Arkansas Rural Water Association, applauded the policy update to extend these authorities to states and localities, noting that “small communities have more difficulty affording public wastewater service due to lack of population density and lack of economies of scale.” He agrees that this new program will be a real help to rural America.

Passage of the America’s Water Infrastructure Act is in itself a bipartisan victory, as it cleared the Senate 99-1 in the final vote, a strong show of support that is not often seen with a bill of this magnitude. It will soon become law, setting a great example of the good policy outcomes that can be accomplished if we work together.

 

October 10, 2018

Boozman’s Water Infrastructure Investment Legislation Included in Comprehensive Bill on Way to President for Signature

 WASHINGTON—An innovative approach to modernizing critical water infrastructure—especially in rural areas often unable to afford upgrades to aging water systems—is one step closer to reality as a result of a new policy initiative authored by U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR).

The new approach—based off the Securing Required Funding for Water Infrastructure Now (SRF WIN) Act introduced by Boozman earlier this year—was included as a provision in the final version of a comprehensive bill that reauthorizes funding for the nation’s water infrastructure programs. That bill, the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, has been approved by both chambers of Congress and is expected to be signed into law.

Boozman’s provision combines the best aspects of State Revolving Funds (SRFs) with the leveraging power of the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) to make the process easier and more affordable for states to meet their underserved or unmet water infrastructure needs. It increases access to previously unavailable funding sources for small and medium-size communities, while removing high application fees which often prevent access to funds for rural communities.

“This is an innovative solution to updating our water and wastewater infrastructure in a way that communities of all sizes can afford. I appreciate that my colleagues who finalized this comprehensive bill saw it fit to include the language I authored to help state and local governments overcome the barriers that have stalled water infrastructure improvements for far too long. Fixing our crumbling infrastructure is a national priority and my provision creates another option for any community, including those in rural America, to address overdue water infrastructure upgrades,” Boozman said.

The policy changes put forward by Boozman will provide a direct and politically viable path to providing dramatic increases in funding for our nation’s SRF programs that will help address the backlog of long-awaited local infrastructure projects. It will allow thousands of vetted water and wastewater projects to receive funding without the Environmental Protect Agency (EPA) having to process thousands of additional applications.

In a speech on Tuesday, Boozman called this provision “a critical component to future water infrastructure financing.”

Boozman’s efforts have garnered praise from Arkansas and national water infrastructure advocates.

Dennis Sternberg, Executive Director of Arkansas Rural Water Association, applauded the policy update to extend these authorities to states.

“We are very pleased a version of Senator Boozman’s bill was included in the package. Small and rural communities have more difficulty affording public wastewater service due to lack of population density and lack of economies of scale. Rural America is very appreciative for the help,” Sternberg said.

President of the American Society of Civil Engineers Kristina Swallow, P.E., said the benefits of this approach will be felt nationwide.

“The SRF WIN provision secures a significant increase in investment for water infrastructure, which is sorely needed given our nation’s ‘D’ grade for drinking water and ‘D+’ grade for wastewater in the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card. Sen. Boozman’s leadership and vision led to this new funding option that will improve our nation’s water infrastructure,” Swallow said.

 

October 6, 2018

Boozman Statement on Confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh

 

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement after the Senate voted to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh to serve on the United States Supreme Court:

“I voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to be an Associate Justice on our nation’s highest court. He is eminently qualified and has earned the respect of the legal community by virtue of his distinguished record on the bench. I am confident Judge Kavanaugh will continue to be the fair and thoughtful jurist he’s demonstrated himself to be over the past 12 years on the D.C. Circuit Court.

“The process by which Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination was considered in the Senate makes clear that this institution has been damaged considerably. This body has a constitutional duty to offer its advice and consent to the President of the United States on nominations to the federal judiciary. When that obligation is so overcome by partisanship and political gamesmanship––as this nomination has been––we must recognize how detrimental that is and commit to hold ourselves to a standard worthy of this institution and to the vision of the founders. Clearly, we have missed the mark in this instance.

“I remain hopeful that the Senate, and our country as a whole, can elevate our political discourse and actions in order to live up to the ideals that define us. One of those ideals is fidelity to the constitution and the rule of law. I look forward to Judge Kavanaugh’s tenure on the Supreme Court where I believe he will champion those principles universally. Our nation will be the better for it.”

 

October 5, 2018

Strengthening the Federal Response to the Opioid Crisis

 The opioid epidemic took the lives of 72,000 Americans last year. Opioid abuse doesn’t discriminate, it threatens nearly every community across the United States.

Congress is aggressively working to combat this problem by expanding prevention efforts, empowering law enforcement and increasing access to treatment. President Trump recently signed into law added opioid crisis response funding and now additional legislation aimed at turning the tide is headed to his desk.

In early October, the Senate joined the House and passed a comprehensive opioid response package. It contains a wide array of avenues to counter the crisis, including ways to get individuals the help and support they need to recover. The bill focuses on prevention, treatment, providing additional law enforcement tools and expanding research into non-addictive pain treatments.

The legislation also enhances a grant program to train first responders administering naloxone, the drug that can be used to block the effects of opioids and prevent deaths from an overdose.

Since 2017, the Arkansas Naloxone Project has trained more than 3,300 first responders to administer the drug. This effort has saved at least 142 lives. The program continues to grow. Other states can replicate the success of Arkansas by utilizing these grant funds to train first responders.

Not only does this legislation help those already impacted by this crisis, it also aims to stop even more lethal drugs like fentanyl from getting into the country by improving detection of prohibited drugs being illegally imported through the mail.

The opioid epidemic has been keenly felt within our veteran population. During a bipartisan forum on opioid abuse last month, I highlighted the work we’ve done and continue to do to help veterans living with substance abuse.

We’ve established a drug take-back program in coordination with the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA); promoted flexibility in pain management by encouraging alternative treatments such as therapies that involve animals, outdoor activities and meditation; as well as provided more funding to Veterans Treatment Courts. We also improved VA policy to require practitioners to consult the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) database when prescribing medication in order to more closely monitor a veteran’s prescription history.

The opioid epidemic directly touches veterans and virtually all Arkansans. We all have a stake in this fight. If individuals are living healthier lives they will be able to be more productive citizens, and help their communities thrive.

In recent weeks, Arkansas has received millions of dollars in additional federal funding to combat this crisis. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is investing more than $150,000 to convert the former Jackson County jail into the White River Women’s Shelter to provide prevention, recovery and treatment services to individuals recovering from opioid misuse. Additionally, nearly $3 million was awarded to several Arkansas Community Health Centers to help these facilities that are on the frontlines of the opioid epidemic.

Additional funding and policy updates are just a small piece of the puzzle. Together we can make a real difference and change the conversations we have around opioid abuse and addiction to focus not on the lives taken, but on the lives saved.

 

October 4, 2018

Boozman Statement Following Review of Supplemental FBI Background Investigation on Judge Kavanaugh

 

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement regarding Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to serve on the Supreme Court:

“The FBI’s seventh background check into Judge Kavanaugh found nothing new. I read the FBI report and there is no corroboration of the allegations made against him and no findings of misconduct. I appreciate the leadership of Chairman Grassley to ensure a thorough and fair review of these serious allegations, and trust that the career professionals at the FBI have conducted a non-partisan assessment. At the end of the day—after multiple background checks, five days of Judiciary Committee hearings and a supplemental FBI investigation—the allegations raised against Brett Kavanaugh remain uncorroborated. After 12 years serving on the D.C. Circuit Court, he has been praised for his temperament, fairness and impartiality. It’s time for the Senate to vote on his nomination. I will support Judge Kavanaugh, a well-respected and well-qualified jurist, to serve as Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court.”

 

October 3, 2018

Boozman Supports Important Consumer Protections for Air Travelers

FAA Reauthorization includes important provisions for Arkansas

 WASHINGTON –U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) today joined his Senate colleagues to pass a comprehensive, five-year reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The bill delivers big reforms for air travelers—including protections from being bumped after boarding and from shrinking airline seat sizes—while modernizing airport infrastructure and enhancing aviation security.

The final version of the bill has now cleared both chambers of Congress and is headed to the White House where it is expected to be signed into law by President Donald Trump.

“This bill puts passengers first, taking on some of the most frustrating issues air travelers encounter when flying. It continues to build off the consumer protection reforms we instituted in the last reauthorization by ensuring that passengers who have boarded their flight aren’t forced off the plane due to airline overbooking and that commercial airline seats do not continue to shrink to the point of absurdity,” Boozman said.

Included within the bill are provisions important to Arkansas, including a reauthorization of the Essential Air Service (EAS) program and the Small Community Air Service Development Program (SCASDP) which help ensure that Arkansas’s rural airports can deliver quality service. It also includes language that will help economic development in central Arkansas by authorizing the relocation of a piece of FAA navigational equipment from its current site.

Boozman praised the efforts of U.S. Representative French Hill (AR-02) to secure the language to relocate the FAA’s Very High Frequency Omnidirectional Range cone from its current location between two large parcels of Little Rock Port Authority land, which has long hindered redevelopment efforts in the region.

“The FAA reauthorization will help Arkansas’s large urban areas and smaller rural communities. Along with programs that are vital to our state’s large airports, I am particularly pleased that the bill includes language championed by Congressman Hill that will open new avenues for economic development in central Arkansas. I appreciate his tireless effort to make that a reality,” Boozman said. “For our rural communities, the EAS and SCASDP programs are particularly important to ensuring that Arkansas’s smaller airports have an opportunity to succeed as they are as vital to our continued economic growth as airports in our larger, metropolitan areas.”

Boozman, who serves as co-chairman of the Senate General Aviation Caucus, also highlighted policy improvements that include increased investments in infrastructure, transparency and pilot education designed to help general aviation companies succeed. 

“General aviation is important to our state’s economy. It supports jobs for thousands of Arkansans and more than $500 million annually in economic activity in the Natural State. The general aviation portion of this bill will allow those contributions to continue to grow,” Boozman said.

 

October 1, 2018

Boozman Statement on New Trade Deal with Canada & Mexico

 WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement regarding President Trump’s announcement that negotiators from the United States, Canada and Mexico have reached a new trade accord.

“The announcement that a trade agreement has been reached with Canada and Mexico is very promising news and creates a sense of certainty for Arkansas’s manufacturers, small businesses and agriculture industry. Our neighbors to the north and south are our natural allies and trading partners, but that partnership must be mutually beneficial. I am pleased that Canada and Mexico came to the negotiating table, and together we were able to come to an agreement.

America can compete with any nation in the world when the playing field is level. I welcome this announcement and look forward to reviewing the details of the agreement in depth to ensure it can achieve that goal.”

 

September 28, 2018

Bipartisanship is Not Dead

Given the intense acrimony surrounding the Supreme Court confirmation hearings, it would be understandable if you missed all that Republican and Democrat senators have been able to accomplish by working together. The list has grown recently and deserves to be highlighted.

The return to regular order for appropriations bills is a perfect place to start. Passing the 12 bills that fund the government had become unmanageable given the years-long buildup of gridlock in Congress. Washington has come to the verge of government shutdown repeatedly for the past decade.

Now, under the leadership of Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Vice-Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), all 12 of the spending bills have been reported favorably out of the Appropriations Committee at the fastest pace in thirty years. Half of these bills have now become law.

I am pleased the bill I authored, which determines allocations for military construction projects and veterans’ benefits, was among the first ones President Trump signed into law. My bill, in coordination with the legislation that funds the Department of Defense becoming law, marks the first time Congress has funded our military on time, through regular order, in a decade.

The bipartisan work isn’t focused solely on funding bills either. The Senate has come together to pass a number of measures that will help Americans get ahead in today’s economy, keep our communities safe and deliver on promises to our veterans.

That last point, working to keep our promises to our veterans, is a particular point of pride for me. As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that oversees our veterans’ programs, I have long noted how these committees are unique in the manner in which members put aside partisan issues to help our veterans. This commitment extends to the full Senate, which approved a landmark bill that improves the Department of Veterans Affairs current healthcare delivery system by providing veterans with more choices and fewer barriers to care.

During the 115th Congress, the Senate has also passed bipartisan legislation that will help our economy continue to grow, including enacting a law that invests in career and technical education programs to help Americans get the skills they need to succeed in a modern economy, as well as passage of critical bills to reauthorize the Farm Bill and the Water Resources Development Act.

Republicans and Democrats have come together to pass legislation to strengthen the federal response to our nation’s opioid crisis by expanding prevention efforts, empowering law enforcement and increasing access to treatment. We have taken threats from Iran, North Korea and Russia head-on with tough sanctions and also enacted a new law to combat sex trafficking.

We’ve worked together to address issues in our health care system, reauthorizing an essential program that provides low-cost health coverage to children and passing legislation to prevent health insurers and drug companies from masking the lowest possible cost of prescription drugs.

The country is divided. Media coverage of the Senate reflects that in many ways, but the stories you don’t see as often paint a different picture. We can get a great deal accomplished when we work together. I hope we continue to proceed in that direction.

 

September 26, 2018

Boozman Presses for Quality Care for Veterans

WASHINGTON– U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, helped introduce the Ensuring Quality Care for Our Veterans Act.

“The VA is undertaking a full review of the care any veteran has received by a physician who previously had their license revoked by a state medical board. I’m pleased to join my colleagues in introducing this bill to ensure that the VA maintains a focus on this critically important issue. This is a commonsense measure to protect the health and wellbeing of our nation’s veterans. After working with the VA as it reviews records of a physician removed for cause in Arkansas, I can attest to the hard work, keen focus and determined effort the VA is making to understand the full impact on patients so it can provide the appropriate care,” Boozman said.

The legislation was introduced by Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA). In addition to Boozman, original cosponsors include Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

“It should go without saying that those hired to treat and care for our veterans should have a proven record of providing quality health care. The Ensuring Quality Care for Our Veterans bill makes sure that a third party reviews each case where any veteran was treated by a VA provider who was later found to have a revoked license,” Ernst said.

“Our nation’s veterans answered the call of duty when we needed them and have earned high quality health care. Ensuring that providers are thoroughly vetted, and that veterans and their families have the information needed to make informed decisions, is crucial to ensuring that the VA delivers the world-class care veterans deserve,” Grassley said. 

“Caring for our veterans is among my top priorities. That’s why today I am pleased to join Senators Ernst, Grassley and Boozman on theEnsuring Quality Care for Our Veterans Act. This commonsense legislation improves care for our veterans by mandating third-party clinical reviews of providers whose licenses have been revoked. It also holds the VA accountable for the quality of care the agency provides. This bill seeks to protect our veterans, just as they have protected us and our way of life,” Hatch said. 

Following a December 2017 report in USA Today that the VA hired providers with revoked licenses, Boozman led a bipartisan group of Senators in a letter to then-VA Secretary David Shulkin, calling on the Department to conduct a nationwide review of its providers. In addition to beginning the nationwide review, the VA took appropriate, corrective human resources action and issued new guidance to prevent health care providers with revoked licenses from being hired in the future.

The Ensuring Quality Care for our Veterans Act goes one step further by ensuring that every VA health care provider with a revoked license undergoes a third party clinical review of their patient care. If the review determines that a standard of care was not met, the veteran will be notified.  

 

September 21, 2018

Transparency Will Help Drive Down Health Care Costs

Our health care system is in desperate need of some sunlight. Patients are kept in the dark about the true cost of their care, which often unnecessarily leads them to accept higher costs without question. That needs to change.

Senate passage of the Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act— which will prevent health insurers and drug companies from masking the lowest possible cost of prescription drugs—is a good place to start.

The bill takes on the health plans and pharmacy benefit management service providers that include “gag clauses” in contracts. This practice prohibits pharmacists from telling patients when a prescription drug would cost less if they paid out of pocket rather than using their health insurance.

Overpayments for prescription drugs happen far more often than one would think. A recent study published the Journal of the American Medical Association found that nearly one in four patients paid too much for their prescriptions. The study cast a large net, and found 2.2 million instances of overpayments in the 9.5 million claims that were analyzed. According to its findings, patients pay more than they need to approximately 23 percent of the time they pick up a prescription.

Karen Van Nuys of the University of Southern California, the study’s lead author, said she was shocked by “how common these overpayments appear to be.”

The fact that agreements to conceal the true cost of medication are legal is upsetting—especially considering that insurance is supposed to save consumers money. The Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act will ensure that health insurance issuers and group health plans do not prohibit pharmacy providers from delivering drug price information to enrollees.

Transparency is a key component of a free market, and more reforms that usher it into the health care marketplace are desperately needed. Empowering patients with information will encourage accountability and fairness in the system.

While Washington seeks additional ways to promote transparency, we can be proud that Arkansas was the first state to sign price transparency into law. This leadership from Little Rock helps increase Arkansans’ understanding of the true cost of health care procedures and services.

Arkansas is one of fifteen states to maintain an All-Payer Claims Database (APCD). APCDs are large-scale databases that systematically collect and analyze medical and pharmacy claims from private and public payers. Cost and quality data become available to consumers through APCDs which, in turn, raises public awareness of price differences and makes lower-cost options more visible to consumers.

Research supports the notion that the transparency provided by APCDs helps make health care more affordable. One study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association documents the benefits of employer-sponsored private price transparency platforms. After detailing its impact on three common medical services, researchers established that the “use of price transparency information was associated with lower total claims payments.”

It is clear that simple, commonsense approaches to promote transparency can effectuate positive change in the system. Eliminating barriers that prevent Arkansans from fully understanding the costs of their health care is a mechanism that will force market changes. We must continue to do more to make health care costs transparent, sensible and fair.

 

September 20, 2018

Boozman Recognizes Searcy County WWII Veteran

 

WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized the service and sacrifice of Cecil Blair, a WWII veteran, in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series recognizing the military service of Arkansans.

When Blair was born on February 28, 1923 his hometown was named Magic Springs; today it’s called Witts Springs. The lifelong Searcy County resident grew up on his family’s farm.

As a teenager, Blair worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps before being drafted into the Army in May 1943.

Blair was first sent to Camp Robinson where he received his initial issue of uniforms. He still laughs about his shoe fitting. “The ole boy there was telling me to ‘stand that way, stand that way.’ He had his finger under my foot and I stepped on his finger. I thought I was in trouble.”

Blair trained stateside at Fort Custer, Michigan and Camp Reynolds, Pennsylvania before deploying to the European Theater. He was assigned to Battery “B” 551st Field Artillery. “We landed in Scotland and rode a train to England,” Blair said.

He didn’t know it at the time, but the training that he and his fellow troops were undergoing was in preparation for D-Day.

“We got on a boat and went across, but I didn’t make land. They hit the ship I was on and had to pull us back,” Blair said. It was another three days after D-Day before Blair landed in France. “That’s when all hell broke loose.”

Blair remembers the danger of combat wiping out most of his unit. The inexperience of a replacement soldier cost even more lives. “They had sent me down there to tell him to get in his foxhole and stay. Before I got back, he shot and that’s when they started dropping the bombs.” Blair was in the line of fire but escaped by jumping into a foxhole, a move that saved his life, but injured his neck.

During the Battle of the Bulge, Blair was briefly captured. “The Germans told us to put our hands behind our head and get out. The ole boy sitting in front of me, I guess he forgot. He reached down on the seat buckle and they just blew his head off.” Blair and the two surviving soldiers were forced out of the truck while the Germans continued their attack. “They came around and went through to see if we were all dead. I knew I was going to have to do something.” Blair was still armed with hand grenades and a small rifle which he used to escape his captors.

Blair earned five campaign stars in five major battles in the European Theater. He was discharged from military service on December 1, 1945. After being released from the military, he returned home and continued farming.

“Cecil Blair humbly served our nation in uniform, fighting on the frontlines to defend the world against tyranny. His memories offer a unique perspective of the selfless sacrifice of the men and women who put their lives on the line in duty to our country. I am pleased to preserve and share his memories of military service for future generations,” Boozman said.

Boozman will submit Blair’s entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans. 

 

September 19, 2018

Arkansas Community Health Centers Awarded Nearly $3 Million to Combat Opioid Addiction

WASHINGTON –U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton along with U.S. Representatives Rick Crawford, French Hill, Steve Womack and Bruce Westerman announced that Arkansas is the recipient of nearly $3 million for Community Health Centers to advance substance abuse and mental health treatment. The funds are awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through its Expanding Access to Quality Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health Services program.

“Community Health Centers have long been on the frontlines of the opioid epidemic. Throughout this escalating crisis, they have played a vital role in addressing the mental and behavioral health needs of those seeking treatment, no matter the circumstances. In spite of the growing number of patients with opioid use disorder, they have expanded services to meet the needs of the communities they serve. Their efforts to implement effective treatment, recovery and prevention methods are critical in addressing this crisis. This funding will support the implementation of care that will help turn the tide of opioid epidemic,” Boozman said.

“Improving access to treatment and recovery services must be a component in our strategy to defeat opioid addiction in Arkansas. This welcome funding will allow our Community Health Centers to continue administering critical treatment for substance abuse and often-associated mental health problems,” Cotton said.

“Opioid addiction is a nationwide crisis that knows no geographic or demographic boundary. Addiction treatment is often difficult to access and administer in rural America due to lack of infrastructure and funding. Our Community Health Centers serve some of our most vulnerable populations and this critical grant will bolster and expand the work they are already doing to battle this epidemic,” Crawford said.

“Across Arkansas, tearful families have told me their stories about how the opioid crisis has personally affected them, which is why I’m especially pleased to hear that our Arkansas Community Health Centers will receive more funds to combat this epidemic. We can’t let another Arkansas family be devastated by this crisis, and with legislation and community-wide effort, we can help fight this tragedy hurting the ones we love,” Hill said.

“The opioid abuse epidemic knows no boundaries. This deadly crisis requires aggressive action on all fronts, and these grants will support those struggling with addiction to find recovery. By equipping our local, on-the-ground experts with the resources they need to implement treatment and rehabilitation programs, we will help save lives and end this scourge,” Womack said.

“Access to treatment and recovery is vital in our fight against the opioid epidemic in the Natural State. These grants to Community Health Centers across Arkansas help meet the needs of patients in all corners of the state, saving lives and giving those suffering with addiction hope for a brighter future,” Westerman said.

Facilities in the following Arkansas communities are recipients of funding:

  • Augusta – ARcare                                                                  $298,250
  • Clarendon – Mid-Delta Health Systems, Inc.                            $284,904
  • Corning – 1st Choice Healthcare, Inc.                                     $285,000
  • Hampton – Cabun Rural Health Services, Inc.                         $285,000
  • Marshall – Boston Mountain Rural Health Center, Inc.              $285,000
  • Mena – Healthy Connections, Inc.                                           $285,000
  • Pine Bluff – Jefferson Comprehensive Care System                 $110,000
  • Portland – Mainline Health Systems, Inc.                                 $285,000
  • Ratcliff – River Valley Primary Care Services                            $285,000
  • Springdale – St. Francis House NWA, Inc.                                $285,000
  • West Memphis – East Arkansas Family Health Center, Inc.       $285,000

 

September 17, 2018

Boozman Supports Comprehensive Opioid Package

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) voted for a comprehensive package to respond to the opioid epidemic that is devastating communities across America.

This latest step taken by Congress to address the nation’s opioid crisis provides law enforcement with additional tools to combat the spread of opioids, helps Americans struggling with addiction and expands research into non-addictive pain treatments.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Boozman said “the comprehensive response to this crisis shows how committed we are as a nation to combatting opioid addiction.”

Boozman specifically praised the bill’s expansion of a grant program to train first responders administering naloxone—the drug that can be used to block the effects of opioids and prevent deaths from an overdose—by highlighting the lives it has saved in Arkansas.

“Since 2017, the Arkansas Naloxone Project has trained more than 3,300 first responders to administer the drug. This effort has saved at least 142 lives. The program continues to grow. It is working. Other states can replicate the success we’ve seen in Arkansas by using grant funds to train first responders,” Boozman said.

Among the highlights of this package are provisions that:

  • Combat illegal drugs at the border, including additional measure to crack down on the shipment of synthetic opioids;
  • Encourage recovery by supporting states’ efforts to address substance use disorders by increasing access to medication-assisted treatment, health professionals, long-distance care and recovery housing services;
  • Support caregivers and families by improving plans of safe care and support for substance-exposed babies and their mothers and increasing family-focused treatment and recovery; and
  • Drive innovation and long-term solutions aimed at spurring development of new non-addictive painkillers and ensuring parity in mental health and substance use disorder benefits.

 

September 14, 2018

Acting to Prevent Suicides and Treat Mental Health Crises

This year, the reality that many Americans face serious crises of mental health and wellness has been impossible to overlook or ignore. Not only have several high-profile celebrities tragically taken their own lives, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found the suicide rate in Arkansas increased by about 37 percent from 1999 to 2016.

This is sobering, but the good news is that our state and the country are taking steps to confront the challenges of mental illness and suicide head-on. Through a variety of treatment programs and public awareness campaigns, we’re turning our attention and resources toward solutions that help address this crisis and save lives.

Earlier this year, I toured the new Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU) in Sebastian County. The first of four CSUs scheduled to open across Arkansas, this facility is equipped to provide services to Arkansans experiencing mental health crises. In the past, such individuals would have been transported to county jails that are already experiencing overcrowding in addition to being unsuited to diagnose, treat and respond to those who find themselves in need of specialized care relating to mental health.

Intervention and treatment are the keys to avoiding outcomes like suicide and helping individuals feel supported and find hope. The central Arkansas CSU began accepting patients in July and two more CSUs will open their doors in northwest and northeast Arkansas to help our loved ones, friends and neighbors in need of these life-saving services.

It’s not just CSUs that are helping confront mental health issues and prevent suicide. Congress and the federal government are acting as well. This year, Congress passed the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act. The president signed the bill into law, requiring the Federal Communications Commission to evaluate the effectiveness of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and study the feasibility of creating a three-digit phone number – akin to 911 – intended to be a resource for those in a mental health crisis.

Mental health struggles and suicidal thoughts or feelings reach across every demographic, but one group that is particularly susceptible is our veteran population.

We know that 20 veterans commit suicide each day. In Arkansas, veterans account for about 20 percent of all suicides. Congress is working to provide the personnel, services and tools to help veterans facing mental illness struggles by improving the Veterans Crisis Line and enhancing screening and assessment of those at risk.

Arkansas ranked 14th in the nation for deaths by suicide in 2016. Our response to this problem cannot be delayed or downplayed. Governor Hutchinson has proclaimed September as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and state agencies are working together to provide resources and treatment.

These are all indications that suicide prevention is now a priority. Arkansans in need of mental health treatment and support are depending on us to treat this situation with the seriousness, empathy and action it requires. Together, we can support those at risk of suicide and help them believe that tomorrow is worth living for.

 

September 13, 2018

Boozman Bill to Fund Military Construction & Veterans Programs Headed to President’s Desk to be Signed into Law

 WASHINGTON- Legislation introduced by U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) that supports critical housing, infrastructure and facilities for U.S. military forces and their families, as well as increased funding for veterans’ health care and benefits, is headed to President Donald Trump’s desk to be signed into law. The bill is part of a larger package that funds Fiscal Year 2019 appropriations bills for Energy and Water Development, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and the Legislative Branch. The Senate approved the bill on Wednesday and the House of Representatives passed the package on Thursday.

“Passing appropriations bills is a basic responsibility of Congress. The return to regular order lets us make better decisions about how we spend hard-earned taxpayer dollars. This bipartisan effort produced legislation to fund critical veterans’ programs and maximize readiness for the warfighter. I’m pleased that we can fund these critical programs by working through the traditional process and I appreciate the leadership of Chairman Shelby to help get us across the finish line,” said Boozman, Chairman of the Senate Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MilCon-VA) Appropriations Subcommittee and author of this portion of the funding package.

Boozman urged his colleagues to support the bill in advance of Senate passage. Click here to watch the floor speech.

The bill includes a provision that requires the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) to submit a departmental response plan to Congress that can be applied at the Fayetteville VA Medical Center and all future cases of clinical disclosures and provide recommendations about changes necessary to prevent such incidents.

It also contains $14 million for improvements to the hydrant fuel system at Little Rock Air Force Base in addition to a measure to move forward with improvements to the base’s runway.

Military Construction – Resources to fund 190 military construction projects including construction and renovation projects on military bases within the United States and around the globe.
Veterans Affairs– The record level of funding for the VA will provide the health care, benefits and memorial services earned by U.S. service members and veterans.

  • VA Medical Care – Funding to support medical treatment and health care for approximately 9.3 million enrolled patients in FY2019.
  • Veterans Homelessness – $1.8 billion for VA Homelessness programs including $380 million for the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program. 
  • Claims Processing – Funding to ensure that proper staffing and resources are utilized to reduce the wait time and backlog of disability decisions on appeal, and to meet the demand for other benefit programs.
  • Construction – Funding for major and minor construction associated with VA hospital replacement, correction of seismic deficiencies, scores of projects to improve access to VA health care, and the VA’s National Cemeteries.
  • VA Mandatory Funding  The bill fulfills mandatory funding requirements, including veteran disability compensation programs for 4.9 million veterans and 432,000 survivors; education benefits for nearly one million veterans; guaranteed home loans for 519,000 veterans; and vocational rehabilitation and employment training for more than 149,000 veterans.
  • Advance Appropriations – $75.6 billion in FY2020 advance discretionary funding for veterans’ health care, and $123.2 billion in FY2020 advance mandatory funding for veterans’ benefits.
  • Electronic Health Records – The bill provides $1.1 billion for the Veterans Electronic Health Record system and management to improve the efficiency and quality of veterans’ health care.
  • Related Agencies – The legislation also includes funding for:
  • American Battle Monuments Commission 
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims 
  • Arlington National Cemetery 
  • Armed Forces Retirement Home 

The bill provides additional resources for the Veterans History Project, an initiative that builds an archive at the Library of Congress of oral histories and personal documents of the men and women who served our country in uniform. Boozman and his staff have conducted nearly 50 interviews of Arkansas veterans for inclusion in the archive and have trained more than 400 people across the state to participate in the project.

September 10, 2018

Boozman Bill to Fund Military Construction & Veterans Programs One Step Closer to Becoming Law

Package Includes Measure to Protect Veterans from Clinical Errors at VA Facilities and Funding for Improvements at Little Rock Air Force Base

 WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) joined fellow Senate and House conferees in introducing a final conference agreement on the Fiscal Year 2019 appropriations bills for Energy and Water Development, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Legislative Branch.

“This bill is the result of a bipartisan commitment to return to regular order. The critical investments included in this package fund construction of national defense facilities and family housing for our Armed Forces in addition to upholding our promises to our veterans by supporting their health care and benefits. I appreciate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby’s leadership which has provided all members a voice in determining how taxpayer dollars are spent,” said Boozman, Chairman of the Senate Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MilCon-VA) Appropriations Subcommittee and author of this portion of the funding package.

The bill includes a provision that requires the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) to submit a departmental response plan to Congress that can be applied at the Fayetteville VA Medical Center and all future cases of clinical disclosures and provide recommendations about changes necessary to prevent such incidents.

It also contains $14 million for improvements to the hydrant fuel system at Little Rock Air Force Base in addition to a measure to move forward with improvements to the base’s runway.

Military Construction – Resources to fund 190 military construction projects including construction and renovation projects on military bases within the United States and around the globe.

Veterans Affairs– The record level of funding for the VA will provide the health care, benefits and memorial services earned by U.S. service members and veterans.

  • VA Medical Care – Funding to support medical treatment and health care for approximately 9.3 million enrolled patients in FY2019.
  • Veterans Homelessness – $1.8 billion for VA Homelessness programs including $380 million for the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program. 
  • Claims Processing – Funding to ensure that proper staffing and resources are utilized to reduce the wait time and backlog of disability decisions on appeal, and to meet the demand for other benefit programs.
  • Construction – Funding for major and minor construction associated with VA hospital replacement, correction of seismic deficiencies, scores of projects to improve access to VA health care, and the VA’s National Cemeteries.
  • VA Mandatory Funding  The bill fulfills mandatory funding requirements, including veteran disability compensation programs for 4.9 million veterans and 432,000 survivors; education benefits for nearly one million veterans; guaranteed home loans for 519,000 veterans; and vocational rehabilitation and employment training for more than 149,000 veterans.
  • Advance Appropriations – $75.6 billion in FY2020 advance discretionary funding for veterans’ health care, and $123.2 billion in FY2020 advance mandatory funding for veterans’ benefits.
  • Electronic Health Records – The bill provides $1.1 billion for the Veterans Electronic Health Record system and management to improve the efficiency and quality of veterans’ health care.
  • Related Agencies – The legislation also includes funding for:
  • American Battle Monuments Commission 
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims 
  • Arlington National Cemetery 
  • Armed Forces Retirement Home 

The bill provides additional resources for the Veterans History Project, an initiative that builds an archive at the Library of Congress of oral histories and personal documents of the men and women who served our country in uniform. Boozman and his staff have conducted nearly 50 interviews of Arkansas veterans for inclusion in the archive and have trained more than 400 people across the state to participate in the project.

September 7, 2018

Supporting Arkansas Sportsmen and Wetlands Conservation

Arkansas, with its abundant natural resources, offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy nature. Hunting – a favorite tradition of Arkansans – also attracts people from around the globe to our state. Earlier this month, sportsmen and women kicked off the annual dove hunting season, and following on its heels will be duck hunting season. These pastimes are important to our state’s economy and play a crucial role in conservation efforts. This is why I’m proud to serve as a member of the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission and fight to protect and preserve habitats that are integral in fostering a healthy ecosystem that benefits both wildlife and sportsmen.

The commission doesn’t receive a lot of media attention, but the work it does is vital to the conservation of wetlands for waterfowl in Arkansas. Nationally, it strengthens the environment that sportsmen and women rely on for some of their favorite recreational activities while simultaneously improving local economies. At the commission’s biannual meeting earlier this month, we approved funding to restore nearly 135,000 acres of wetlands and habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife.

Established in 1929, the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission was created to acquire wetlands and other areas for purchase or easement by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), as well as establish new waterfowl refuges. Since the commission’s establishment, more than 5.6 million acres have been acquired by FWS and added to the National Wildlife Refuge System. In recent years the commission authorized the addition of more than 1,800 acres to Arkansas’s Cache River National Wildlife Refuge, which is popular among duck hunters.

Serving on the commission allows me to be a voice for Arkansas wetlands. As a duck hunting destination, it’s critically important that we protect waterfowl habitats in Arkansas so we can continue attracting sportsmen and women to our state. In 2016, the commission approved $1 million in grant funding to protect, restore and enhance nearly 2,000 acres of critical wetlands and floodplain habitat in the basin of the Lower White and Cache Rivers to benefit waterfowl including redhead and wood ducks.

As good stewards of the environment, duck hunters have proven their commitment to the preservation of waterfowl habitat. One way the commission obtains funding to expand conservative efforts is through the sale of the Duck Stamp. Duck hunters in Arkansas are familiar with this successful initiative since it’s a requirement of their annual license, but any outdoor enthusiasts can also voluntarily purchase a Duck Stamp. For every dollar spent on Duck Stamps, FWS estimates that 98 cents go toward protecting the National Wildlife Refuge System.

I’m pleased to partner with our hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts to protect the resources that enhance and enrich our state. Arkansas is nicknamed “The Natural State,” and by working together we can ensure that our wildlife and environmental resources continue helping us live up to that standard.

September 6, 2018

Boozman Advocates for Arkansas Agricultural Producers in Farm Bill Conference Committee Meeting

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) —a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry— delivered remarks during the first meeting of the 2018 Farm Bill Conference Committee.

Boozman stressed the importance of providing certainty and predictability for farmers, ranchers and all rural Americans.

“A few weeks ago, I traveled across Arkansas and heard firsthand from farmers. For Arkansans, the message was clear – pass a meaningful Farm Bill. We must do right by our farmers, ranchers, foresters, rural Americans, taxpayers, tribes, retailers, and consumers, and hammer out the remaining differences to send a workable Farm Bill to the President’s desk,” Boozman said.

Click here to watch Boozman’s opening statement

The following are Boozman’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

Chairmen, Ranking Members, and fellow Conferees, I am pleased to be here at the first meeting of the 2018 Farm Bill Conference Committee. Several months ago, many folks doubted that we would actually be here finalizing the 2018 Farm Bill. But here we are, working in regular order, in a bipartisan fashion to provide certainty and predictability for our farmers, ranchers, and rural Americans.

With net farm income half of what it was five years ago, farmers and ranchers are experiencing the most fragile farm economy since the 1980s. In both chambers, we have crafted policies, not to make the good times better, but to make the tough times bearable.

But, we are not without our differences.

I am deeply concerned that the ‘actively engaged’ eligibility provisions included in the Senate bill will only exacerbate the pain being felt throughout rural America by arbitrarily excluding some farmers from Title I programs.

This is often characterized as a regional difference, but let me be clear – this provision does not discriminate against regions, it discriminates against farmers and those who feed and clothe this nation. It will hurt family farms across the country and in each one of your states and districts.

‘Actively engaged’ requirements have been around since 1987, and in the 2014 Farm Bill, Congress included provisions that further tightened program eligibility. We have not yet seen the full effects from that.

I have concerns that this is a policy that no farmer has asked for, that has not been publicly debated, nor thoroughly vetted. I think that the House did a much better job in this regard.

Throughout this bill, there are several areas where we have the opportunity to truly make a difference.

  • We have the opportunity to pass commonsense, bipartisan provisions to provide meaningful regulatory relief to folks like agriculture aviators.
  • We must pass a robust forestry title that gives our rural communities the tools to actively manage our timberlands.
  • We must ensure that our nutrition programs are serving the most vulnerable while also maintaining program integrity and support of the general public.
  • Both bills work to advance voluntary, incentive-based conservation. As we resolve differences between the bills, we must ensure that both our livestock and row crop producers maintain access to robust and flexible working lands programs like EQIP, as well as retain increased funding and positive policy changes for programs like WRE, which is important to waterfowl in Arkansas.

A few weeks ago, I traveled across Arkansas and heard firsthand from farmers.

For Arkansans, the message was clear – pass a meaningful Farm Bill. We must do right by our farmers, ranchers, foresters, rural Americans, taxpayers, tribes, retailers, and consumers, and hammer out the remaining differences to send a workable Farm Bill to the President’s desk.

I look forward to working with you to achieve this goal.

 

August 31, 2018

Update from the Southwest Border

Our country’s porous southwest border is a national security liability. It leaves us vulnerable to threats from avowed enemies who seek to harm us at home and is easily exploited by drug smugglers and human traffickers.

The severity of the crisis at the border calls for a serious legislative solution. In order for that response to be effective, it must be based off an understanding of the challenges we face along the border and include input from those on the ground who are responsible for protecting and securing it.

That’s why I recently traveled with Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), chair of the Senate Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee, to several sites along the Pacific coast and U.S.-Mexico border. Getting a first-hand view of the challenges that we face in controlling illegal immigration, human trafficking and drug smuggling will help us create and promote policies and provide resources to fight these crimes.

Our Border Patrol and air interdiction agents, ICE officers, field operations officers and Coast Guard men and women are on the frontline of this battle. During our visit, we were accompanied by U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Commandant Admiral Karl L. Schultz—as well as Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel—who all helped shine a light on the security strategies that are working.

Over the course of three days, we participated in river patrols, toured processing and detention centers, learned about the USCG’s off-shore interdiction capabilities and more. It was a very insightful look into the ever-evolving and often dangerous challenges presented to those working to secure our borders and protect our waterways.

The need for more infrastructure—including roads for access, electronic devices for surveillance and fencing for deterrence—was a common refrain at each border stop. Crossings are down significantly in the areas where we have good infrastructure in place. However, the areas along the border most highly traveled by drug smugglers and human traffickers are the very same areas where our infrastructure is lacking.

We are working in Washington to make resources available to build that infrastructure. Earlier this year, I supported the bipartisan Homeland Security subcommittee funding bill which included an increase in funding to better meet these needs. Constructing a wall where feasible, and coupling that with fencing, manpower and electronic surveillance, will provide a strong deterrent to those who seek to illegally enter our country.

Along with a renewed commitment to border security, Congress must work to expedite the legal proceedings for those accused of entering the U.S. illegally. The agents at the processing and detention centers we visited are working very hard to ensure those apprehended or who voluntarily surrender to authorities are treated in a dignified, humane manner. It’s important for the system to work fairly and efficiently, which is why a significant increase in judges is necessary to tackle the backlog of 750,000 cases that remain to be adjudicated.

The men and women working on the front lines of the fight to secure our borders are handling a very difficult situation in a manner in which all Americans can be proud. Congress needs to give them all the resources they need to safely execute their mission. That must remain a top priority for lawmakers in Washington; it certainly is for me.

 

August 28, 2018

Boozman Welcomes Announcement of New Trade Deal with Mexico

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement regarding the announcement of a preliminary agreement between the United States and Mexico that stands to strengthen the two nations’ trading relationship:

“Solidifying our partnership with Mexico while improving the terms of our trade agreement is a positive, welcome development. It moves us one step closer to ensuring Arkansas’s businesses and agriculture industry maintain access to this crucial market. I congratulate the president and his team and look forward to a comprehensive deal being reached quickly. America can compete with any nation in the world when the playing field is level, so continued pursuit of fair trade agreements with our partners across the globe must remain a priority.”

August 24, 2018

Arkansans at the White House: A Dialogue with the Administration

No matter where they call home, there is one thing leaders across Arkansas share in common – wanting to help our state and its citizens. As I travel around the state, I hear many of the same issues and concerns from community leaders who are finding solutions to problems and laying the groundwork for future development. Resources for improvements to roads, bridges, railways and water infrastructure are key components to economic growth. These are common themes in every corner of our state. Arkansans recently traveled to Washington to deliver that message directly to the Trump administration.

The White House invited community leaders from across the state to talk about issues important to Arkansas. It’s great to see this outreach by the White House to connect with local leaders who provide the essential services we all rely on from education, roads and utilities. Making this connection helps develop relationships with federal agencies and advance shared priorities. The meeting is part of a two-year initiative to welcome elected officials and community leaders from each state for a personalized briefing with federal officials. 

As infrastructure is an issue that I often hear about from Arkansans, I’m pleased that this topic was a focus of discussions. Administration officials also talked about workforce development, trade policies and agriculture. Together with Congress, we have made progress on these issues.

This summer, Congress passed, and the president reauthorized legislation to support workforce development andtrain students and workers to learn technical skills to meet the needs of 21st century jobs. We are making progress on important infrastructure priorities like the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 while also funding important infrastructure needs through the appropriations process. The Senate and the House of Representatives each passed a version of the Farm Bill. Now, I’m working with my colleagues to create a bill that will provide Arkansas farmers and ranchers with the certainty and predictability they need to feed and clothe the world.

Agriculture is our state’s largest industry, which makes it important for Arkansans to have an opportunity to share their ideas with U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. The secretary spoke about his support for rural communities including policies like the Farm Bill, trade and expanded broadband access.

Closing the rural broadband gap has been a priority for me. That’s why I helped launch the Senate Broadband Caucus. Working together at the local, state and federal level, we can improve access to broadband. This connectivity is just as essential today as having roads and bridges. I’m pleased the administration is joining us to accomplish this.

While I was able to participate in the forum at the White House, I visited with many of the elected leaders in advance of their meeting and visited with them after the discussion. It’s always great having friendly Arkansans in Washington.

Launching a dialogue between community leaders and the administration develops a working relationship with federal agencies and offers another voice to share the priorities of our state. Having the support of the administration will go a long way to achieve our goals.

 

August 23, 2018

Boozman Heads to Southwest Border

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), a member of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, will leave Thursday, August 23 to tour locations along the Mexican border in California and Texas known to be highly traveled by illegal immigrants, human traffickers and drug smugglers.

These sites include:

  • Underground tunnels
  • Physical barriers
  • River crossings
  • Ports of entry which are often used to smuggle narcotics
  • Processing centers for illegal immigrants

“One of the top priorities of the federal government must be to secure our border. Having the opportunity to see first-hand the challenges that we face in controlling illegal immigration and narcotics trafficking will help us create and promote policies and provide resources to fight these crimes. Our Border Patrol and air interdiction agents, field operations officers and Coast Guard men and women are on the frontline of this battle. I look forward to showing my appreciation for their sacrifice and hearing how we can help them accomplish their mission and keep them safe,” Boozman said

Boozman will also receive briefings aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf whose crew is responsible for interdicting millions of dollars in narcotics annually.

 

August 17, 2018

Listening to Arkansas Farmers and Ranchers

One of my summer traditions is traveling across Arkansas talking with agricultural producers and seeing the great work being done in our state to feed and clothe the nation and the world. The Ag Tour is a cornerstone of my work during the August in-state work period. I spend several days crossing the state to visit farms, ranches and agri-businesses to see firsthand how Washington’s decision-making is impacting their operations.

From Fayetteville to Dermott, the 2018 Ag Tour covered hundreds of miles to visit diverse operations such as livestock ranches, ag research stations, row crop farms, orchards and more.

Agriculture is an economic driver for our state. It accounts for nearly one-quarter of our state’s economic activity, making it Arkansas’s largest industry. This is one of the reasons I am proud to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee, and why I am committed to traveling across the state to listen to people involved in the industry.

With many issues that directly affect the agriculture community front and center in Washington right now, the tour was very timely.

We are in the process of reconciling the differences between the versions of the Farm Bill passed in the Senate and the House of Representatives. As a member of the conference committee that will determine the final bill, it is vital that I have input directly from producers to ensure it meets the needs of Arkansas’s agriculture community.

The farm economy and rural America have been struggling for the past few years. Passage of a Farm Bill would protect key risk management tools and provide certainty for our agricultural producers. I look forward to delivering this certainty and predictability to our farmers and ranchers.

The current trade environment was also heavily discussed. There is an understandable anxiety amongst farmers and producers over the rising tensions between the U.S. and some of our trading partners.

No one wants a trade war. However, the producers I spoke with agreed action was needed to push back on unfair trading partners like China. While every farmer we met with said they appreciate President Trump’s efforts to support the producers caught up in the standoff, they stressed that “trade over aid” is what is needed for a long-term solution. Farmers want Washington to protect the markets they have and work to open new ones. Given a level playing field, our agricultural producers can compete with anyone.

The farmers and ranchers I visited with were also very supportive of our efforts to reduce the regulatory burdens family farmers and producers were saddled with by the previous administration. Sensible regulations benefit every American, but excessive rules that defy commonsense hurt the agriculture industry. More work remains to rollback unnecessary regulation, but the progress we have made is having a positive effect.

As we continue our work in Washington to help create an environment that allows our farmers and ranchers to succeed, it is important that we take direction from those whose livelihoods are directly impacted. There simply is no substitute for visiting with the hardworking Arkansans who work the land. I look forward to taking what I learned from them during my agriculture tour to craft smart and effective policies that will benefit them and help our entire state.

August 14, 2018

Boozman Recognizes Arkansas Veteran of Korean and Vietnam Wars 

WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized the service and sacrifice of Edwin ‘Pete’ Ross, a veteran who served during the Korean and Vietnam Wars, in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series recognizing the military service of Arkansans.

Ross graduated from Perryville High School in 1949. He enlisted in the military shortly after graduation.

“We went to Russellville, Arkansas to see the Navy recruiter who said he couldn’t take us this week because he was going to be gone,” Ross said. Instead of waiting for the following week, Ross and his friend walked across the hall to the Army recruiter. The next day Ross was headed to Camp Chaffee in Fort Smith for basic training.

Ross was assigned to battalion supply after volunteering information about his typing ability. “It was my job to coordinate and take care of the paperwork for the battalion,” Ross said. He did this until spring when he received orders to deploy to Okinawa.

He worked his way up to chief clerk in the unit. After nearly two years of his deployment he was expecting to be discharged, but at the last minute, things changed. “I had my bags packed. The very day that I was supposed to go and get on the ship to be discharged,” Ross’ first sergeant told him that his orders were extended another year.

Ross enjoyed military service and wanted to rejoin after he was discharged from the Army. In early 1953, he went to inquire about the Air Force. He was able to retain his rank as an E-5 and was assigned to Barksdale Air Force Base.

During his 20 years of service in the Air Force, Ross was stationed around the country including at Little Rock Air Force Base and played a critical role in maintaining personnel records, counseling on survivor benefits and assisting retirees with their benefits. In addition, he served as the base career advisor with the responsibility of reenlisting the airmen or helping them transition to civilian life.

He served as the senior non-commissioned personnel officer during his time at Binh Thuy Air Base, Vietnam in 1969 and 1970. While the comprehensive records were kept at another base, Ross maintained basic records such as changes to rank and salary.

Ross retired from the Air Force in 1973 as a Senior Master Sergeant. He lived in Shreveport, LA before moving back to Arkansas in 1991 where he bought a farm and raised horses. Today he calls Conway home.

“Pete Ross humbly served our nation in uniform, and in doing so, earned our appreciation and respect for his selfless sacrifice. His memories of his military career are an important part of our history and I am pleased to preserve and share his stories for future generations,” Boozman said.

Boozman submitted Ross’ entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans. 

August 3, 2018

Delivering Resources to Prepare Arkansas’s Workforce for 21st Century Jobs

As the summer draws to a close, students and workers alike will experience a renewed focus on the development of workforce-readiness skills with teachers and industry leaders working to create a job-ready and career-bound workforce. Arkansas is eager to continue building a strong foundation to meet the needs of modern businesses. Recent efforts in Congress will help advance this effort even further.  

Communities across Arkansas have been ready to welcome new workers to meet the demands of local manufacturers and industry. In recent years, Arkansas has implemented measures to identify the skills necessary to fill these roles. It has become clear that tailored educational programs and occupational skills training are essential to hardworking Arkansans’ ability to thrive.

This is happening in the classroom where traditional coursework like computer science equips students with the skills needed to meet the demands of 21st century employers. Universities, along with vocational and technical schools across Arkansas, are collaborating with local businesses to advance local economic interests and help create innovative curricula to match the needs in the community and region. Initiatives like the Associated Industries of Arkansas Foundation’s Be Pro Be Proud were launched in response to the need for highly-skilled labor for businesses and manufacturers across the state that require specialized training, not a traditional four-year degree.

Career and technical education is increasingly important to Arkansas. State officials say it is part of the key to prosperity in the Natural State’s future. A wide range of interests from education to industry have repeatedly requested for Congress to modernize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Act to help support students and adults going back to school to gain the education and training they need to find high-skill, high-wage or in-demand jobs. In July, with my support, Congress passed the reauthorization of CTE funding and the president signed it into law.

This is the first reauthorization of Perkins CTE in more than a decade. It makes important updates to the law that funds career and technical education programs. We made reforms to limit the role of the federal Department of Education, an important step that will provide states with greater authority to determine the best ways to help their students learn and workers remain competitive. This flexibility strengthens Arkansas’s control over its goals and programs to best prepare and develop its workforce.

States and local school districts will have more freedom to spend the limited program dollars they receive to benefit students rather than on complying with expensive and burdensome federal reporting requirements. 

Providing resources for workforce education is vital to the economic growth and prosperity of Arkansas. Training students and workers to learn technical skills or a trade will help fill well-paying jobs today and in the future.

August 1, 2018

Boozman Supports Judge Kavanaugh’s Nomination to Supreme Court  

(Senator Boozman meets with Judge Brett Kavanaugh)

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) met with Judge Brett Kavanaugh and released the following statement in support of his nomination to serve on the Supreme Court:

“The first thing that stood out when Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination was announced was his exceptional record on the bench and the high level of respect his peers hold for him. After having an opportunity to visit with him, I find Judge Kavanaugh to be even more impressive than his resume and reputation alone suggest. I am confident that he is a fair and thoughtful jurist who will respect the Constitution and refrain from legislating from the bench. He is the exact type of judge we need on the Supreme Court.

I encourage my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to spend some time with Judge Kavanaugh and discuss any concerns they may have with him, rather than spend all their energy attempting to stall and obstruct the confirmation process of this highly-qualified candidate for the Court.”

 

August 1, 2018

Boozman Statement on Being Named Farm Bill Senate Conferee

WASHINGTON–U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement after being named a Senate conferee to the Farm Bill conference committee between the House and Senate:

“I’m honored to be named as a Senate conferee to the Farm Bill conference committee and I look forward to sitting down with our counterparts in the House to ensure we finalize a bill that works for Arkansas. The farm economy and rural America have been struggling for the past few years, so timely passage of a Farm Bill would be welcome news to those who feed and clothe our country and the world.

“Now, Congress must get to work to find consensus and produce a final bill that both chambers can approve and the president will sign. Our farmers and ranchers deserve certainty and predictability and I look forward to contributing to that effort.”

 

July 31, 2018

Boozman, Tester & Heller Introduce Bill to Address Physician Staffing Shortages at VA

Aim to attract best & brightest doctors to VA system

 WASHINGTON—The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has long struggled to recruit and retain highly qualified physicians, but legislation introduced by a bipartisan group of senators would change that trend and level the competitive playing field for the VA.

Currently, the department is at a disadvantage when it comes to recruiting medical students as the hiring process begins much earlier for private sector providers than it does for the VA. This results in the VA missing out on opportunities to compete for available residents.

The VA Hiring Enhancement Act—introduced by Sens. John Boozman (R-AR), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Dean Heller (R-NV)—aims to align the department’s hiring processes with private sector organizations to allow the department to compete for the best and brightest doctors coming out of medical school by allowing it to extend contingency offers to residents earlier than currently authorized.

“There are some incredible people working to deliver the best care to our veterans, but the VA simply does not have enough of them. For years, the VA has struggled to compete with the private sector to attract the best and brightest doctors. An answer to this problem has long eluded Congress, but we believe this bill can help make great strides to address the problem,” said Boozman.

“The VA must have qualified medical professionals on staff to serve veterans,” said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “The VA Hiring Enhancement Act addresses workforce shortages by making the VA more competitive with the private sector when it recruits talented doctors, clinicians, and medical students.”

“As a senior member of the U.S. Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I’m working to see that every veteran has access to the quality care that they deserve. That’s why addressing the doctor shortage is a top priority of mine because it continues to particularly affect Nevada’s rural areas such as Elko, Gardnerville, and Pahrump, where the clinic that opened its doors two years ago still doesn’t have a full-time doctor,” said Heller. “I’m proud to join Senators Boozman and Tester to co-author this bipartisan legislation that aims to close the physician gap by making it easier for the VA to hire and retain skilled doctors to serve our nation’s heroes, and I look forward to continue working with them to send it to the President’s desk.”

The VA Hiring Enhancement Act is among the bills which will be discussed during the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing Wednesday. The bill has the support of key Veterans Service Organizations including the American Legion, Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Veterans & Military Families for Progress.

Specifically, the VA Hiring Enhancement Act seeks to:

  • Allow the VA to release physicians from non-compete agreements, provided they commit to VA services for at least one year, which makes it easier to hire local doctors since non-compete contracts are often designed to prevent doctors from competing with their previous employer in the same local area;
  • Grant the VA authority to make binding job offers up to two years prior to completion of residency which would help the VA become more proactive in its healthcare provider hiring practices and is particularly important to attracting specialists; and
  • Set the minimum education requirement for VA doctors as completion of residency.

The VA believes that portions of the bill “solves a problem known to medical facility Chiefs of Staff across the country,” and that the “legislation should make it easier to hire physicians.”

 

July 27,  2018

Leveling the Economic Playing Field for Women Worldwide

Women make up the majority of the world’s poor. They are often held back by gender-specific constraints to economic empowerment, such as lack of access to financial services and credit. In many corners of the world, these barriers make it difficult for women to start businesses, build savings and make meaningful economic contributions to their communities.

I am coordinating a bipartisan effort in the Senate to change this dynamic. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) and I have introduced legislation that aims to eliminate global gender-related barriers and empower female entrepreneurs around the world.

The Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment (WEEE) Act is a strong bill that aims to help over one billion women who are left out of the formal financial system and to close the nearly $300 billion credit gap that exists for women-owned small and medium-sized businesses. A companion to the Boozman-Cardin bill has already passed the U.S. House of Representatives by voice vote.

The key to our bill is that it taps into the proven abilities of existing United States Agency for International Development (USAID) programs. The WEEE Act would require USAID to ensure that all strategies and projects of the agency are shaped by a gender analysis and that gender equality and female empowerment are integrated throughout its programs.

Additionally, it expands USAID’s microenterprise development assistance authority to include small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), with an emphasis on supporting SMEs owned, managed and controlled by women. The Boozman-Cardin bill also modernizes USAID’s development assistance toolkit to include innovative credit scoring models, financial technology, financial literacy, insurance and actions to improve property and inheritance rights.

USAID, especially under the leadership of Administrator Mark Green, does an exceptional job of stretching a finite amount of resources into meaningful results in some of the world’s most impoverished nations. I have complete confidence that should our bill become law, Administrator Green and his team would turn our ideas into successful programs that will help advance economies around the globe. 

Everyone benefits from this approach. As Senator Cardin—a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee—noted when we introduced the bill, “investment in women creates a positive cycle of change that can lift women, families, communities and entire countries out of poverty, and this legislation will help us make inroads toward that important goal.”

Our colleagues who joined Senator Cardin and I in this effort agree. WEEE Act cosponsors touted the larger impact that eliminating gender-related barriers will have on developing economies. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) called a reduction of the impediments women face “critical for economic growth” and Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) said “empowering women around the globe is the key to unlocking the economic and social potential that so many nations strive to reach.”

I couldn’t agree more. The goal of this bill reflects U.S. values and promotes real economic opportunities around the globe. It will change lives, as well as communities on the larger scale.

In some parts of the world, women are pushed so far to the sidelines that they are denied access to even the most basic of financial services, much less business loans. Leveling the playing field is the right thing to do and the world economy stands to grow substantially if we can achieve that goal.

 

July 27, 2018

Boozman Encouraged by Return of American Servicemen Remains from North Korea

WASHINGTONU.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement after the White House announced that North Korea has transferred to the care of the United States the remains believed to be those of 55 American servicemen:

“The families of the brave servicemembers who fell during the Korean War and whose remains languished in North Korea have suffered for decades, hoping and waiting for the day when their loved ones might return home and be laid to rest where they belong. This revelation means that day may be closer for some and I join with them in welcoming the conclusion of this tragic and heart-wrenching episode and hope it brings them some degree of comfort and closure.

“The United States has and continues to make every effort to bring home those who fall in combat and the tireless efforts of public sector agencies and private organizations have helped make this day a reality. I am confident the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency will work diligently to identify these heroes and notify their families. It is my hope that North Korea will expeditiously return any additional remains in its possession.”

Background

The remains, aboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster, landed at Osan Air Base south of Seoul, South Korea. They were met by American servicemembers and a military honor guard. They will eventually be transferred to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency in Hawaii for identification.

Approximately 5,300 of the 7,700 American troops whose remains are unaccounted for as a result of the Korean War are thought to be in North Korea. President Trump had asked North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to return to the U.S. the remains of Americans who had perished in the conflict. Friday, July 27 marks the anniversary of the armistice that halted the Korean War in 1953.

July 25, 2018

Boozman Statement on US-EU Trade Announcement

 WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement after President Donald Trump and European Union (EU) Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced an agreement to work toward easing trade barriers.

“I congratulate President Trump and EU Commission President Juncker in taking a very promising step forward for American manufacturers, innovators and agricultural producers. The US and EU can build off this positive momentum to make our robust economic relationship even stronger. Working together, we can make goals like zero tariffs and zero subsidies on non-auto industrial goods a reality.”

 

July 23, 2018

WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized the service and sacrifice of WWII Army veteran Paul Lux in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series recognizing the military service of Arkansans.

Lux was born on December 21, 1917 and raised on his family’s farm in Subiaco where they grew cotton, corn, wheat and grain. Wanting to experience more than what farm life had to offer, he joined the military and embarked on an adventure he still reflects on with humor and gratitude.

In 1939, Lux enlisted in the Army. “I just thought I’d like the Army. And I did. I loved the Army,” Lux said.

He wasn’t fond of the drilling so he sought a cooking position and was assigned to be first cook. “I never cooked a day in my life. I couldn’t boil water,” he laughed. His on-the-job training taught him well as he worked his way up to mess sergeant.

Lux has great memories of the friends that he made while serving in uniform. He fondly recalls the fun he had with his pal Joseph McNamara, a supply sergeant. “He and I had a party every night,” he laughed.

Letting loose was necessary to cope with the reality of the situation Lux and his fellow troops were in. “I could hear the guns shooting and going off. I was writing a letter home. I figured that’s probably my last letter. The next day we went into combat. That was rough.”

Lux recalled the generosity of a Belgium woman and her daughters who gladly accepted coffee from the mess truck. In exchange for this rare luxury, the family gave Lux and his friends a private bed to sleep in.

The enthusiasm Lux had for his time in uniform continues to show more than seven decades after he was discharged. He laughed a lot as he recalled his memories with McNamara and his fellow service members, including a friend from Jonesboro who made the mistake of taking off his shoes before falling asleep on a train. “While he was asleep I sold his shoes,” Lux laughed.

After his discharge, Lux returned to Subiaco where he met his wife Ann. The couple raised six children in Fort Smith where Lux worked for Railway Express.

“I appreciate Paul Lux’s service to our nation. Military service has a different effect on every servicemember, but Paul’s attitude about his time in uniform and the experiences he had still resonate with him strongly over a half-century later. His memories of his military service are an important part of his own legacy as well as our country’shistory and I am pleased to be able to collect, preserve and share his stories,” Boozman said.

Lux’s entire interview was submitted by Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s office to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans. 

 

July  20, 2018

Preserving a Piece of Arkansas History

Modern technology affords us the opportunity to communicate with people from all over the world at the touch of a button, but for most of our nation’s history, mail has been the heart and soul of communication. The American entrepreneurial spirit created methods to improve and accelerate the delivery of mail which became more critical as the country expanded westward.

It’s important to remember that the early postal routes to the west crossed through Arkansas. These historic trails help tell the story of the development of the Natural State and the settlement of our country.

U.S. Mail contracted the Butterfield Overland Mail Company to transport mail and passengers between St. Louis and Memphis to San Francisco on the Butterfield Overland Trail, which was more commonly referred to as the “Ox-Bow Route” due to its curved path that ran approximately 3,553 miles. It was the first overland transcontinental route by stagecoach.

The stagecoaches traveled through much of Arkansas, making stops in St. Francis, Prairie, Lonoke, Faulkner, Conway, Pope, Yell, Logan and Franklin counties. The northwestern route included stops in Benton, Washington and Crawford counties. The routes merged in Fort Smith before continuing all the way to the Pacific coast.

From 1858 through 1861, the Butterfield Overland Trail served as the connector between the East and West, providing reliable mail service, transportation of goods and a route for settlers to the western frontier.  Its significance is evident today. Four segments of the trail in Arkansas have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places in addition to the Potts Inn in Pottsville and the Fitzgerald Station barn in Springdale–two of the original buildings along the trail that are still standing.

We are blessed to have a state filled with many areas of historical significance. This piece of our national history is also a tool for educating future generations and an opportunity to attract tourists interested in learning more about the settlement and growth of our country. Preserving these pieces of history is important to our future. We are on our way to recognizing the Butterfield Overland Trail as a national historic trail.

The National Park Service (NPS) recently approved the Butterfield Overland Trail’s designation as a national historic trail. This is the result of more than a decade-long effort. In 2007, as a member of the House of Representatives, I introduced the Butterfield Overland Trail Study Act to study the historical Ox-Bow Route for potential addition to the National Trails System. This was passed by Congress and signed into law in 2009. The NPS thoroughly analyzed its historical relevance and incorporated public meetings along the proposed route including in Fort Smith and Fayetteville.

This puts us one step closer to recognizing the Butterfield Overland Trail for what it is, a national historic trail. Now it’s up to Congress to approve the designation. I will be working with my colleagues to ensure this path that our ancestors took to expand our country is appropriately preserved for future generations to visit and learn about, because it will help them gain a better appreciation for and understanding our state’s history and its role in our nation’s development.

 

July 17, 2018

Boozman, Warner Encourage Certain Combat-Injured Veterans to File With IRS to Recover Money

 WASHINGTON—The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is advising veterans who have been separated from service for combat-related injuries and received a severance payment that was improperly taxed to take advantage of the relief offered to them by the Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act (P.L. 114-292), a law based off a bill authored by U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Mark Warner (D-VA).

Under federal law, veterans who suffer combat-related injuries and who are separated from the military are not supposed to be taxed on the one-time lump sum disability severance payment they receive from the Department of Defense (DoD). However, for years DoD improperly withheld taxes on these payments from thousands of qualifying veterans, who were typically unaware that their benefits were being improperly reduced.

The Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act rights that wrong, but affected veterans only have a short window in which to seek restoration. The IRS is advising qualifying veterans to file Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, to claim a credit or refund of the overpayment attributable to the disability severance payment.

“When we introduced this bill, it was apparent that some combat-injured veterans had been unjustly deprived of their full severance upon separation by DoD despite federal law and clear Congressional intent that this not happen. When we started the process of fixing this legislatively, we believed that we would be helping several thousand veterans. We have now learned that number is much higher and there still may be more than 130,000 veterans who have yet to claim refunds. I encourage qualifying veterans to make sure they receive the benefits they are rightfully due by filing the proper paperwork with the IRS,” Boozman said.

“When we introduced this bill, it was estimated that there were only about 13,800 veterans who had been affected by a longstanding problem with DoD’s payroll system that resulted in taxes being improperly withheld from their separation payments. We’ve now learned that in fact more than 130,000 combat-injured vets may be eligible for refunds. DoD, the IRS, and Congress should do everything possible to make sure these vets know they are eligible, and I encourage any Virginia veteran with questions about the process or their eligibility to contact my office for assistance in getting their money back from the government,” Warner said.

The National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP), which identified the problem in 2014 and notified Congress of the error so legislation could be passed, is continuing to help potentially affected veterans.

“Congress did the right thing in passing this legislation so thousands of combat-injured veterans could recover the money that was wrongly taken from them by the government. However, we are not at the goal line yet. NVLSP will issue advice to help veterans and their families in the coming weeks through its website at www.nvlsp.org and social media accounts,” NVLSP’s executive director Bart Stichman said.

Most veterans who received a one-time lump-sum disability severance payment when they separated from their military service will receive a letter from the DoD with information explaining how to claim tax refunds they are entitled to, including an explanation of a simplified method for making the claim. The IRS has worked closely with the DoD to produce these letters, explaining how veterans should claim the related tax refunds.

The IRS has posted an announcement with the steps to be taken to recover improperly taxed income and links to Form 1040X.