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Submitted by Dave Stone, Colorado Springs, CO

About H. R. 4457

Overview: H.R 4457 "Veterans Empowerment Act" is a bill that will "amend title 38, United States Code, to establish the Veterans Accountable Care Organization and to provide veterans access to private health insurance plans, and for other purposes."  The Veterans of Foreign Wars has stated that the bill "would dismantle the VA health care system, require veterans to pay for care they need to recuperate from military injuries and illnesses and reduce VA’s role to an insurance program for veterans."  In essence, H.R. 4457 would transform the VA's health care system to an insurance program for veterans.  Under this plan the VA would continue to operate "centers of excellence" as care facilities.  Veterans would choose between continuing to use the centers and enrolling in the "VetsCare" health insurance program for non-service connected care.

What you can do 

Help us voice our concern to congress that this bill will dismantle our VA health care system and require veterans to pay for the care that they have already earned defending our country.  Read the bill and use the URL to the VFW Action Alert to tell your Congressman that they were elected to improve, not dismantle, the health care America provides her veterans and that veterans do not want this bill!

Key points of H.R 4457

Excludes nursing home and domiciliary care.

Creates the "Veterans Accountable Care Organization", governed by a Board of Directors (see page 3 of bill for details).

All VA assets and staff will be transferred to the organization.

Permits reduction in force.

Terminates all functions of the current VA Health Administration directly relating to furnishing of hospital care, medical services and other health care.

VA will continue to administer "centers of excellence" relating to service-connected injuries and other medical issues under the direction of the organization Board of Directors.

 Creates the "Veterans Accountable Care Organization Fund" to fund "centers of excellence" and related costs of health care or medical services furnished to a veteran at the organization's facilities.

Establishes the "Veterans Health Insurance Program" also referred to as the VetsCare Federal program and VetsCare Choice program.

Establishes secondary payer, i.e. TRICARE, Medicare, for non-service connected care provided under the program.

Cost of care, including copayments, will be determined by the organization.

About VetsCare Choice

All veterans currently eligible VA services under 38 U.S.C 1705(a) are eligible participate in VetsCare and may elect health insurance support in lieu of eligibility for hospital care, medical services, and other health care.

Veterans may continue to use the Department (VA) pharmacies.

Health Insurance Support - paying or reimbursing eligible veterans for costs associated with health insurance support.. in a manner similar to Medicare and Medicaid Services.  There are four types of health insurance support:

Premium support will be tiered based on eligibility (percent disabled), ranging from full acutarial value (premium) of benifits (no copay) for for Priority Group 1 veterans who are 100% disabled to 70% acturarial value (premium)  of benifits (30% copay).  See About HR 4457.pdf below or the bill for tier details.

Premium Support Based on Need - tiered support for veterans with an annual gross household income that is less than 400 percent of the poverty line.  See pages 20 - 21 for details and https://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty-guidelines for poverty guidelines.

Cost Sharing Support - Support for copayments, deductibles, or other health insurance provider charges in order to ensure that the effective minimum actuarial value of benefits a prescribed percentage, based on income.  See 21 - 22 for details.  

Alternative Support - Veterans who obtain a high deductible health plan that includes a health savings account are eligible for alternative support.  See pages 22-23 for details.

VetsCare Senior program - for Medicare eligible veterans - Medicare or a Medicare supplement policy will be responsible for non-service connected disability health care costs.

 References

URL to bill status: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/4457

URL to bill text (pdf): https://www.congress.gov/115/bills/hr4457/BILLS-115hr4457ih.pdf

URL to Title 38, US Code:  http://codes.findlaw.com/us/title-38-veterans-benefits/#!tid=NB92F0A440A044393BB3F1A4B1CC409B9

URL to US Poverty Guidelines: https://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty-guidelines

URL to Congressman Lamborn: https://lamborn.house.gov/

URL to VFW Action Alert:  http://capwiz.com/vfw/utr/1/IAJGBARZHWP/ISJQBARZJIV/11612121316

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by Walter E. Williams

   I'm approaching my 82nd birthday, and my daughter will occasionally suggest that modernity is perplexing to me because I'm from prehistoric times. As such, it points to one of the unavoidable problems of youth -- namely, the temptation to think that today's behavioral standards have always been. Let's look at a few of the differences between yesteryear and today.
    One of those differences is the treatment of women. There are awesome physical strength differences between men and women. To create and maintain civil relationships between the sexes is to drum into boys, starting from very young ages, that they are not to use violence against a woman for any reason. Special respect is given women. Yesteryear even the lowest of lowdown men would not curse or use foul language to or in the presence of women. To see a man sitting on a crowded bus or trolley car while a woman is standing used to be unthinkable. It was deemed common decency for a man to give up his seat for a woman or elderly person.
    Today young people use foul language in front of -- and often to -- adults and teachers. It's not just foul language. Many youngsters feel that it's acceptable to assault teachers. Just recently, 45 Pennsylvania teachers resigned because of student violence (http://tinyurl.com/yacmn5dz). Back in what my daughter calls prehistoric times, the use of foul language to an adult or teacher would have meant a smack across the face. Of course, today a parent taking such corrective action risks being reported to a local child protective service and even being arrested. The modern parental or teacher response to misbehavior is to call for "time out." In other words, what we've taught miscreants of all ages is that they can impose physical pain on others and not suffer physical pain themselves. That's an open invitation to bad behavior.
    It has always been considered a good idea to refrain from sexual intercourse until marriage or at least adulthood. During the sexual revolution of the 1960s, lessons of abstinence were ridiculed, considered passe and replaced with lessons about condoms, birth control pills and abortion. Out-of-wedlock childbirths are no longer seen as shameful and a disgrace. As a result, the rate of illegitimate births among whites is over 30 percent, and among blacks, it's over 70 percent.
    For over a half-century, the nation's liberals -- along with the education establishment, pseudo-intellectuals and the courts -- have waged war on traditions, customs and moral values. Many in today's generation have been counseled to believe that there are no moral absolutes. Instead, what's moral or immoral, right or wrong, is a matter of convenience, personal opinion or what is or is not criminal.
    Society's first line of defense is not the law but customs, traditions and moral values. Customs, traditions and moral values are those important thou-shalt-nots, such as thou shalt not murder, shalt not steal, shalt not lie and shalt not cheat. They also include respect for parents, teachers and others in authority, plus those courtesies one might read in Emily Post's rules of etiquette. These behavioral norms -- mostly transmitted by example, word of mouth and religious teachings -- represent a body of wisdom distilled over the ages through experience, trial and error, and looking at what works and what doesn't.
    The importance of customs, traditions and moral values as a means of regulating behavior is that people behave themselves even if nobody's watching. There are not enough cops. Laws can never replace these restraints on personal conduct in producing a civilized society. At best, the police and the criminal justice system are the last desperate lines of defense for a civilized society. Unfortunately, customs, traditions and moral values have been discarded without an appreciation for the role they played in creating a civilized society, and now we're paying the price -- and that includes the recent revelations regarding the treatment of women.
    Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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by John Stossel

  Laura Pekarik bakes cupcakes and sells them from a food truck. Her truck provided a great opportunity, letting her open a business without having to spend big to hire a staff and rent space in a building.
    "Instead of renting a whole brick and mortar and managing a team of people, it was just me and one baker," she explains.
    But increased regulations, such as new rules that forbid trucks to park near established restaurants, make life hard for people like Pekarik.
    "It became ever more difficult to find parking locations when we went to the city (Chicago) to try to sell our cupcakes," she says. "I would have customers calling me trying to find us and I was like, I'm trying to find a parking spot! I'll post as soon as I land."
    Jumping through hurdles like that forced her to waste gas, money and time, so she cut back her business and rarely, if ever, drives to Chicago. "Every moment that we're driving around and not parked in a location with our window open meant that we couldn't sell."
    Food truck operator Joey Vanoni is tortured by regulations, too. He sells pizza in Baltimore.
    That rescued him from unemployment. After serving in Afghanistan, he couldn't find a job. But then he learned about food trucks. "It really started taking off right around the recession ... 2008," he told me for my YouTube video this week. "A lot of restaurant entrepreneurs -- capital they had was not enough to go out and start a restaurant on their own. Banks weren't willing to give loans. So the food truck phenomenon really took off."
    But now Baltimore's anti-food truck rules make that harder. Vanoni is not allowed to park within 300 feet of any established restaurant selling the same product. Since there are pizza restaurants all over town, that leaves him few places to park.
    Why do bureaucrats create hurdles like that?
    People who trust government assume it's to reduce congestion, or something like that.
    But the real purpose is to protect already-established restaurants. They don't like competition. No business does.
    They shouldn't have to face such competition, argues Chicago Alderman Tom Tunney. He sets food truck parking rules in his district.
    "A brick and mortar is a much more stable enterprise," he says. "I'm going to be prejudicial towards those kinds of businesses."
    Tunney has another reason "to be prejudicial." He owns brick and mortar restaurants in the area. At least he discloses that.
    Regulations that limit food truck operations are a protectionist scam, says Dick Carpenter of the libertarian law firm Institute for Justice. Carpenter says such rules are "a bottleneck" that established businesses use to kill competition.
    The rules, like demands for licensing of florists, moving companies, hair dressers, tour guides, etc., are passed by politicians. But often these politicians are in cahoots with owners of established businesses.
    "But in the case of food trucks, is the competition fair?" I asked Carpenter. "The guy who opened the restaurant and had to pay real estate taxes -- and pay for his building. Isn't he getting ripped off by these new guys?"
    "That assumes the food truck operator doesn't pay expenses of the same type," answered Carpenter, but they do. "Food truck operators pay taxes, they pay rents, and through their rents they pay property taxes."
    With the help of the Institute for Justice, Pekarik and Vanoni are suing Chicago and Baltimore, arguing that it's unconstitutional for regulators to favor one industry over another.
    It's been a long battle, says Carpenter. "This case with Laura: five years and going." Food truck owners face very organized opposition, he adds. "The restaurant association has so much influence over those who are elected officials."
    All these battles against "bottleneckers" are important, argues the Institute, because Americans have a right to economic liberty -- the right to earn a living in an occupation of their choice, free from excessive government interference.
    Getting rid of that interference will give us all more choices, even if it's just one cupcake and pizza slice at a time.
    John Stossel is author of "No They Can't! Why Government Fails -- But Individuals Succeed." For other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
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by Walter E. Williams

    Officials in Catalonia, Spain's richest and most highly industrialized region, whose capital is Barcelona, recently held a referendum in which there was a 92 percent vote in favor of independence from Spain. The Spanish authorities opposed the referendum and claimed that independence is illegal. Catalans are not the only Europeans seeking independence. Some Bavarian people are demanding independence from Germany, while others demand greater autonomy. Germany's Federal Constitutional Court ruled: "In the Federal Republic of Germany ... states are not 'masters of the constitution.' ... Therefore, there is no room under the constitution for individual states to attempt to secede. This violates the constitutional order."
    Germany has done in Bavaria what Spain and Italy, in its Veneto region, have done; it has upheld the integrity of state borders. There is an excellent article written by Joseph E. Fallon, a research associate at the UK Defence Forum, titled "The Catalan Referendum, regional pressures, the EU, and the 'Ghosts' of Eastern Europe" (http://tinyurl.com/y8dnj6s6). Fallon writes that by doing what it's doing in Bavaria, "Berlin is violating international law on national self-determination. It denies to Bavaria what it granted to the 19 states that seceded from Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. In fact, Germany rushed to be first to recognize the independence of Slovenia and Croatia." It did that, according to Beverly Crawford, an expert on Europe at the University of California, Berkeley, "in open disregard of (a European Community) agreement to recognize the two states under EC conditionality requirements."
    The secessionist movements in Spain, Germany and Italy have encountered resistance and threats from the central governments, and in Catalonia's case, secessionist leaders have been jailed. The central governments of Spain, Germany and Italy have resisted independence despite the fact that they are signatories to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which holds that "all peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development."
    Fallon notes the hypocrisy of Spain, Germany and Italy, as well as the entire European Union. Back in 1991, the EC -- the precursor to the EU -- "issued its conditions for recognizing the unilateral declarations of independence by states seceding from Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union." Fallon argues that these same guidelines should be applied to the states of Catalonia, Bavaria and Veneto. Isn't it double talk for members of the EU to condemn independence movements today, given that they welcomed and supported independence movements for states that were members of the communist bloc?
    Catalonia, Bavaria and Veneto are relatively prosperous jurisdictions in their countries. They feel that what they get from the central governments is not worth the taxes they pay. Each wants the central government off its back. They think they could be far more prosperous on their own. That should sound familiar. Some of the motivation for secessionist movements in Europe is similar to the motivation found in the Confederacy's independence movement of the early 1860s.
    Throughout most of our nation's history, the only sources of federal revenue were excise taxes and tariffs. In the 1830s, the North used its power in Congress to push through massive tariffs to fund the government. During the 1850s, tariffs amounted to 90 percent of federal revenue. The Southern states were primarily producers of agricultural products, which they exported to Europe. In return, they imported manufactured goods. These tariffs fell much harder upon the export-dependent South than they did upon the more insular North. In 1859, Southern ports paid 75 percent of federal tariff revenue. However, the majority of the tariff revenue generated was spent on projects that benefited the North.
    Tariffs being a contributing cause of the Civil War is hardly ever mentioned. Using the abolition of slavery as an excuse for a war that took the lives of 620,000 Americans confers greater moral standing for the Union.
    Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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by John Stossel

  My hometown paper drives me crazy.
    I read The New York Times because it often has good coverage. The newspaper pays to send reporters to dangerous places all around the world.
    This weekend, the Times Magazine did a surprisingly fair profile of Sean Hannity, although they chose photos that make him look evil.
    But mostly I read the Times because my neighbors read it, and I need to understand what they think.
    Sadly, many think dumb things because most every day the Times runs deceitful, biased stories and headlines that mislead.
    Opinion columns have license to do that, but these days, Times' smears extend to "news" stories.
    A recent headline said that that President Trump's tweets had "united Britain in outrage." Wow. Really? The whole country?
    Only if you read the entire story would you learn that the outraged people include "the opposition Labour party," "several" Conservatives and comedian John Cleese.
    That's a whole country "united in Trump outrage"? Please.
    Another headline said ending President Obama's net neutrality bureaucracy would be "hastening the Internet's death."
    Ridiculous. I understand that many statists like the regulation, but all the net neutrality repeal really will do is restore some of the permissionless innovation that allowed the internet to blossom in the first place.
    Yet the continuation of the Times story carried the headline "So long to the internet."
    Give me a break. That's just irresponsible scaremongering.
    Now that the Republicans' tax bill passed the House and Senate, some legislators say they will try to reform entitlements.
    Yes! Finally! This is a responsible thing to do. But Times reporters hate Republicans so much that they twisted this new effort at reform into a headline that said: "Next objective -- cut the safety net."
    That is just a smear.
    Billions in entitlement dollars go to relatively rich people. The Times once applauded entitlement reform. But if Republicans support it, then it's bad. Apparently, Republicans' "objective" is not delaying America's bankruptcy; it's "cutting the safety net."
    No wonder President Trump keeps shouting, "Fake news!"
    But Trump gets plenty wrong, too. He often talks about "the failing New York Times."
    But the Times isn't failing. In fact, they gained readers since he was elected -- 300,000 new subscriptions last quarter.
    The Times also makes money selling ads. I find it funny that so much of that money comes from glitzy ads directed at the rich people who Times reporters constantly criticize. The newspaper's magazines are filled with expensive ads for lavish apartments, $2,000 purses and dubious beauty treatments that many people could never afford.
    This weekend's fluff included a worshipful feature on Jay-Z by Times' executive editor Dean Baquet. Baquet didn't criticize the rapper for living in an $80 million mansion but instead asked him penetrating questions like, "Would you rather be a trend? Or Ralph Lauren?"
    But this week's most disgusting feature was a nearly full-page "Style" section profile of black-clad antifa thugs. The Times made them sound fashionable and fun as they punch people who aren't looking for any physical fight, just spouting their beliefs.
    The headline: "What to Wear to Smash the State."
    The Times explained what a stylish vandal wears: "Black work or military boots, pants, balaclavas or ski masks, gloves and jackets, North Face brand ... makes it easier for saboteurs to take the offensive against storefronts..."
    Gee, thanks, New York Times. I doubt that you'd be so enthusiastic about property destruction if the "saboteurs ... take the offensive against" your storefront.
    Fortunately, Times readership is relatively small -- probably less than 1 percent of Americans. Unfortunately, that readership matters because many of those readers work for other media, so what the Times prints gets imitated.
    Sometimes that's good. Much of what's in the "paper of record" is important and fact-checked.
    Unfortunately, much of it is mean-spirited and absurdly biased.
    I'll keep reading it, hoping to separate the good from the bad.
    John Stossel is author of "No They Can't! Why Government Fails -- But Individuals Succeed." For other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.

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