Weekly Newsletter: March 22nd, 2015
Well, it's officially March Madness! I made some Final Four picks this year, which you can see over on my Facebook page. We'll have to wait and see if my bracket holds out! But in the meantime, it's been a busy week in Washington, and I have a lot to share with you below. On top of all of that, I had the opportunity to join Speaker Boehner, President Obama, and the Prime Minister of Ireland on St. Patrick's Day this Tuesday, which was an incredible experience. As always, if you have questions or want to share thoughts on anything happening at home in South Jersey or in DC, please email me by clicking here.
- Update on FEMA Accountability
- Calling for VA Transparency
- Quality Education for Our Military Families
Update on FEMA Accountability
I shared a few weeks ago the news that thousands of Superstorm Sandy survivors may have been wrongfully denied flood insurance claims due to fraud or corruption. Since then, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and FEMA have promised to take steps to reconsider damage claims.
I joined others from the New Jersey delegation and met on Wednesday with FEMA Deputy Associate Administrator for Insurance Brad Kieserman, who explained the steps FEMA is taking to fix this problem.
But I think there are still many unanswered questions. We need to know who directed the actions that defrauded so many Sandy victims and how long FEMA knew this was going on. I will continue to call for oversight hearings so we can get to the bottom of these questions and stop this from happening again. It's not enough to fix it after the fact – we have to prevent it in the future.
Calling for VA Transparency
First FEMA, now the VA again… It seems like our federal agencies have been the subject of too many national media exposes lately. USA Today reported last week that the Department of Veterans Affairs has not publicly released the findings of 140 health care investigations since 2006. While there may be good reasons to keep some findings private, there's also a chance that there are further problems preventing our veterans from getting access to the high quality care they deserve.
Congress needs to have appropriate oversight over federal agencies, and that requires the VA to release results of their investigations. Last week, I led a coalition of my colleagues in calling on the VA Secretary to make these investigations public. You can read my letter by clicking here.
Quality Education for Our Military Families
Every student deserves access to a high quality education. While we're fortunate to have great schools in New Jersey, there are still a number of obstacles towards making this goal a reality.
Last week, I visited a school district that's running up against one of those problems. Seventy (70) percent of students at the North Hanover Township School District in Burlington County come from military families. Most NJ schools are funded primarily through property taxes, but districts like North Hanover, which are next to tax-exempt military bases need other sources of funding to be able to educate their students.
The solution is federal impact aid. But while 70% of North Hanover's students are from military families, only 40% of its funding comes from impact aid, and the amount has been dropping in recent years. This mismatch is not only unfair to the children in this district, but it will make this district less attractive to military families at a time when the ever-present threat of BRAC should make us do everything in our power to enhance the quality of life for military families. I will continue to fight for fairer funding for schools like North Hanover. Read more about this in the Burlington County Times