WASHINGTON, DC - Sept. 21, 2010 - This week, more than 100 nonprofit home health and hospice leaders will convene on Capitol Hill for the Visiting Nurse Associations of America (VNAA) Public Policy Leadership Conference (PPLC), September 22-23, to educate lawmakers about the nonprofit home health and hospice delivery systems and the vulnerable patients they serve.

A primary focus of this year's conference is to reduce the additional case-mix creep cuts and increase flexibility in new regulatory burdens such as the face-to-face visit requirements. PPLC attendees will also welcome VNAA's 2010 Congressional Champions and Congressional staff award recipients during the Capitol Hill Reception on Wednesday evening. Congressional Champions Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Representative John Lewis (D-GA) and Representative Bruce Braley (D-IA) are planning to attend. Appearances by other VNAA Champions and additional members of Congress and their staff are also expected. A full listing of this year's Congressional Champions and Congressional staff award recipients is available on the VNAA's Website.

The PPLC exposes attendees to expert speakers on healthcare reform implementation and the CMS proposed rule for home health and hospice. Conference speakers include :

  • Jennifer Beeson, Director of Government Affairs at Families USA.
  • Dr. Mary Naylor, FAAN, RN, Medicare Payment Advisory Commissioner (MedPAC) and Professor in Gerontology at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Congressional Panel consisting of congressional staff from key committees to healthcare, such as Chuck Clapton (HELP Committee), Tony Clapsis (Senate Finance Committee), Jennifer Friedman (Subcommittee on Health, Ways and Means) and others.
  • Panel of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) officials from the Center for Medicare Management, Center for Medicaid, CHIP and Survey and Certification and the Office of Clinical Standards and Quality.

 

View a full PPLC agenda, speaker listing and the VNAA's comments on the latest home health and hospice regulations, visit www.AdvocacyConference.org.

 

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WASHINGTON - Sept 10, 2010 - Senator Chuck Grassley today said that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Division of Grants Operations Management awarded a $396,000 grant to Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport.

Palmer College will use the money to fund a research focused initiative.

Each year, thousands of local Iowa organizations, colleges and universities, individuals and state agencies apply for competitive grants from the federal government.  The funding is then awarded based on each local organization or individual's ability to meet criteria set by the federal entity administering the funds.

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Sen. Chuck Grassley today made the following comment on tax proposals from the White House that are meant to encourage business investment:

"It's the old saying, the devil is in the details. Business investment incentives sound fine, but will they be paid for in a way that hurts job creation? The White House and congressional Democrats enacted a big state aid package in August that was paid for with a permanent tax increase on companies with overseas operations. Some of the biggest employers in Iowa -- John Deere, Rockwell Collins, and IBM - opposed the August bill.  The National Association of Manufacturers said the tax increases in that bill 'will jeopardize the jobs of American manufacturing employees and stifle our fragile economy.' So if the offsets for this new package are other tax increases, then it's a non-starter.  And it's disturbing that small businesses continue to get short shrift.  According to a November 2009 study from the Government Accountability Office, most of the benefits of the research and development tax credit go to large corporations. According to the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation, 50 percent of all small business flow-through income will be subject to a tax increase in January under the White House and congressional majority's plans. Small businesses create 70 percent of new jobs.  Raising taxes on job creators is the worst thing we could do right now."

WASHINGTON - September 7, 2010 - Chuck Grassley today requested further information about the process used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture when employees at monitored farms come forward to USDA officials with food safety concerns.

"Americans have enjoyed one of the safest and most abundant food supplies in the world.  Confidence in our food supply is very important.  First and foremost is the safety of the consumer.  But, also, if the consumer doesn't have confidence in our food supply, it impacts the farmer," Grassley said.  "To maintain that confidence, it's important we evaluate and ask questions about where things might have fallen through the cracks so it doesn't happen again."

Grassley's letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack follows press reports about complaints raised by individuals at the facilities involved in the egg recall.

The letter asks if the Department received complaints and what was done to investigate the concerns.  Grassley also asks about the Food Safety Inspection Service's responsibilities at the two farms.

In addition, Grassley asked about the procedures in place when concerns are raised in areas of joint jurisdiction, such as the USDA and the FDA in this particular instance.

Here's a copy of the text of Grassley's letter.

September 7, 2010

Secretary Tom Vilsack

U.S. Department of Agriculture

1400 Independence Ave SW

Washington, DC 20250

Dear Secretary Vilsack,

The recent egg recalls due to a Salmonella outbreak at Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms in Iowa have troubled consumers and weakened confidence in our nation's food supply. When Americans visit their local grocery stores, they should be able to trust that the food they are purchasing to feed their family is safe to consume.

Recent media reports indicate that former company employees reported food safety problems they had observed while working at Wright County Egg. While I understand that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authority over shell eggs, has issued the egg recall and is involved in the investigation of the Salmonella outbreak, USDA does have primary jurisdiction over egg product safety and has non-food safety employees located at farms including Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) graders.

In light of the complaints raised by these individuals, please answer following the questions:

1) Did USDA receive complaints from company employees and if so, what was done to investigate these concerns?

2) What were the Food Safety Inspection Service's (FSIS) responsibilities in relation to these two farms?  When was the last FSIS inspection conducted?

3) Is there an established process so that USDA employees (such as AMS graders) or company employees and other individuals can report possible food safety violations to FSIS?

4) Is there an established process for USDA employees to report food safety concerns to the FDA when they fall outside of USDA's jurisdiction?

5) What is USDA doing to counter deficiencies in food safety communication within the USDA and between the two agencies?  How are USDA and FDA coordinating to best address food safety concerns and ensure that food safety problems do not fall through the cracks?

Thank you for your prompt response to this important issue.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Grassley

United States Senator

 

Q.  What are Constitution Day and Citizenship Day?

A.  Constitution Day is celebrated on September 17, because the Constitution of the United States was signed on September 17, 1787.  Constitution Day is also Citizenship Day, a day that recognizes all who have become U.S. citizens, whether by birth or immigration.

Originally, U.S. citizenship was celebrated on the third Sunday of every May, on a day known as "I Am An American Day."  In 1952, this day was moved to September 17, to celebrate citizens and the Constitution.  Until 2004, the official name of this holiday was Citizenship Day.  It is now known as "Constitution Day and Citizenship Day."

Q.  Why should we celebrate our Constitution and Citizenship?

A.  The Constitution is the framework for our democracy.   It was adopted by the Constitutional Convention 223 years ago, ratified by the original 13 states, and it continues to guide us today.  In the United States, the Constitution is the supreme law of the land.  The Constitution embodies the enduring philosophical principles in the Declaration of Independence; that the limited government created by the Constitution only exercise power by the consent of the governed.

That philosophy is clearly stated in the Declaration's second paragraph:  "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. ? That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed..."  The Constitution is a statement of this philosophical belief in limited government.  All power rests with the people, and the Constitution is a compact where the American people delegate certain enumerated powers to the government in order to "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity." 

September 17 is also a day to celebrate the honor, and reflect on the responsibilities, of U.S. citizenship.



COMMENTARY ALERT - You might be interested in a Washington Post blog this afternoon about the Securities and Exchange Commission, or the SEC.  My concern is that the SEC seems to be pursuing the classic, flawed tactic of most bureaucracies, "ignore the message and kill the messenger" when concerns about mismanagement are raised.  Instead, SEC higher-ups need to listen to different points of view from SEC employees in order to avoid the kinds of mistakes the SEC has made in recent years.  The promise of protection for SEC whistleblowers looks like it is being undercut by the reality of retaliation.  You can read the letter I sent to the SEC chairman by clicking here. - Chuck Grassley

Grassley calls SEC response on alleged retaliation 'extremely disturbing'

A senior Senate Republican is calling into question the Securities and Exchange Commission's response to allegations that top officials in the Fort Worth office retaliated against employees who raised concerns about an agency examination program.

Sen. Charles Grassley (Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, has asked for a briefing from top SEC officials about the treatment of two employees in the Fort Worth office. The senator wanted to know why that although the inspector general recommended the SEC take disciplinary action against the Fort Worth officials none had been taken.

In a letter to SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro, Grassley wrote: "These facts and circumstances are extremely disturbing and paint a picture of a culture at the SEC, which endorses retaliation against employees who attempt to improve operations by reporting mismanagement to headquarter."

The letter follows a pair of reports by the SEC inspector general and an article in The Washington Post about the problems at the Fort Worth office.

The Post article cites an SEC inspector general's report that concluded that two SEC employees, Julie Preuitt and Joel Sauer, faced "inappropriate" sanctions from their bosses in Fort Worth when they raised concerns about a new review process for financial firms.

Preuitt, who had warned presciently about a potential scam at R. Allen Stanford's Houston-based business, told superiors she was concerned that the office was more interested in boosting statistics about the number of firms the office examines rather than actually uncovering fraud.

According to inspector general reports and interviews, Preuitt was also essentially demoted after vocalizing her complaints.

Later, the program she opposed was suspended in favor of programs to verify assets claimed by investment companies in the wake of the large number of Ponzi schemes disclosed in the past two years.

Grassley tied to the agency's actions in Fort Worth to its broader desire to attract whistleblowers, who can provide regulators with inside information on wrongdoing.

"You have previously assured me that in leading the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC/Commission), you intend to value whistleblowers and ensure that they are able to make protected disclosures in order to help managers improve operations at the Commission," Grassley said. "However, it appears that this commitment to valuing dissent within the Commission is not being fully implemented."

Grassley asked the SEC to explain why it had not disciplined the Fort Worth managers. The SEC responded:

[P]rior to imposing discipline, the senior-level Ft. Worth managers had solicited advice . . . from other Commission officials responsible for disciplinary actions. It has not been alleged, nor is there any reason to believe, any of the advising parties had reason to retaliate against the two employees. Because the actions were deemed appropriate and senior-level Ft. Worth managers relied on the guidance that was provided, management determined their actions were not retaliatory.

Grassley was not pleased with this response.

"The implication ... is that a retaliatory personnel action can be laundered of its retaliatory intent by simply consulting with others who had no retaliatory intent and obtaining their concurrence," he wrote. "Such a policy would make a mockery of whistleblower protections throughout government."

By Zachary Goldfarb  |  August 30, 2010; 2:59 PM ET



WASHINGTON - August 25, 2010 - Senator Chuck Grassley said that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded four grants totaling $1,868,364 and one cooperative agreement totaling $237,597 to Iowa medical facilities.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will distribute the money as shown below.

  • St. Ambrose University in Davenport will receive a $594,000 grant for health care and other facilities from the Division of Grants Management Operations

  • Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines will receive a $495,000 grant for health care and other facilities from the Division of Grants Management Operations· Mercy Foundation in Des Moines will receive a $495,000 grant for health care and other facilities from the Division of Grants Management Operations

  • The University of Iowa in Iowa City will receive a $284,364 grant for pharmacology, physiology, and biological chemistry research from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences

  • The University of Iowa in Iowa City will enter into a $237,597 cooperative agreement for human genome research with the National Human Genome Research Institute

Each year, thousands of local Iowa organizations, colleges and universities, individuals and state agencies apply for competitive grants from the federal government.  The funding is then awarded based on each local organization or individual's ability to meet criteria set by the federal entity administering the funds.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

WASHINGTON --- Senator Chuck Grassley and Representative Darrell Issa have asked Inspectors General from 29 government agencies to review whether federal agencies are taking new steps to limit responses to Freedom of Information Act requests from lawmakers, journalists, activist groups and watchdog organizations.

The request from Grassley and Issa is based on what was reported earlier this summer about Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano requiring FOIA requests to be given more scrutiny, depending on who the requestor was.  The Inspectors General also have been asked to determine the extent to which political appointees are systematically made aware of FOIA requests and their role in decision-making.

"The question is to what extent an effort has been made to inhibit the accountability that's established through the Freedom of Information Act with new hurdles or by making politically appointed officials part of the FOIA review process within the various federal agencies.  These requirements could delay disclosures, and that's a disservice to the public," Grassley said.

"Getting through a non-partisan bureaucracy to obtain information through FOIA is difficult enough without political appointees inappropriately injecting partisan political considerations into the process," said Rep. Issa.  "There's a clear public interest in finding out if what happened at Homeland Security is also taking place in other federal agencies.  This inappropriate interference by political appointees in FOIA requests further undermines President Obama's promise to create an unprecedented level of openness in government."

Click here to read a copy of the letter that was sent to the 29 Inspectors General, including those from the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Elections Assistance Commission, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the Federal Trade Commission, the General Services Administration, the Government Accountability Office, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Archives and Records Administration, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Office of Personnel Management, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Small Business Administration, the Social Security Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Department of Interior, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Treasury, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

WASHINGTON - Senators Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin today announced that the United States Senate Youth Program has begun its statewide selection process.  The two selected Iowa students will join 102 other delegates March 5 - 12, 2011, for the program's 49th Annual Washington Week, an intensive week-long program educational program.

The United States Senate Youth Program brings two students from each state, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Schools overseas to Washington, D.C.  Student delegates will visit Capitol Hill, the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department, the Supreme Court and meet with Senators, cabinet officers, government leaders and policy-makers.

"The program gives students a first-hand look at all three branches of the federal government," Grassley said.  "It's a great learning opportunity for the students."

"The Washington trip gives students a birds-eye view of American government, and I encourage all eligible students to apply," Harkin said. "When smart, talented students take an interest in government it benefits all of us."

Student delegates will each receive a $5,000 college scholarship.  The leadership program is fully funded by the Hearst Foundations.

Delegate selection is coordinated by each state's chief school officer in cooperation with high school principals.  Delegates must be junior and senior elected student officers for the 2010-2011 academic year and reside in the state where they attend school.

The selection deadline is October 4, 2010.  Interested students should visit www.ussenateyouth.org and contact:

Ms. Cheryl Mullenbach

Social Studies Consultant

Grimes State Office Building

400 SE 14th Street

Des Moines, IA 50319

515/494-5610

cheryl.mullenbach@iowa.gov

Since its establishment in 1962, nearly 5,000 students have participated in the United States Senate Youth Program


Q.  Why do we pledge allegiance to the flag? 

A.  The U.S. flag represents not just our country as a political unit, but the principles that bind us together as Americans, namely individual liberty and unalienable natural rights, endowed by our Creator, which the government shall not infringe upon.  We pledge our allegiance to the flag to show our allegiance to the founding principles of our country as expressed in the Declaration of Independence and embodied in the Constitution.  

Q.  Has the Pledge of Allegiance always been exactly as it is today? 

A.  The pledge was originally composed by Francis Bellamy in 1892.  It has been modified four times since then.  The original pledge read, "I pledge allegiance to my flag and the republic for which it stands: one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all." According to the Congressional Research Service, "my flag" was changed to "the flag of the United States of America," in 1923, because the National Flag Conference believed the word "my" could cause confusion among new immigrants, who might take it to mean the flag of their native land.  The words "under God" were added in 1954, two years before "In God We Trust" became the official motto of the United States.  Today, the pledge reads, "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." 

Q.  What is proper pledge etiquette? 

A.    According to the U.S. Code, the pledge should be rendered by standing at attention and facing the flag.  Non-uniformed men should remove any non-religious headdress and render the civilian salute, which is the placement of the right hand over the heart.  Those in uniform should remain silent, face the flag, and render the military salute.

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