So I really do need to make time to blog here when I attend a hearing he speaks at. He serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of that Committee and she's from Washington State. You need to know that for the excerpt below. As he notes, he was in two hearings at once this morning, they both started at 10:00 a.m.
Senator Scott Brown: Thank you, Madam Chair, I'm bouncing back and forth between [Committee on Homeland Security] HOMESEC and this. I appreciate the opportunity. I want to say thank you, Senator [Richard] Burr for working on Camp Lejeune. It's something I'm a co-sponsor of, have many Massachusetts families affected by that so I appreciate your effort and and Madam Chair your willingness to move forward on that in a positive manner. As we know, we introduced a bill with Senator Burr last week [S. 3324], Housing for Families of Ill and Injured Veterans. It's pretty simple, gives the VA authority to award grants to the Fisher House Foundation for the construction of additional temporary lodging facilities similar to the ones which currently exist and that many people are aware of. There's even a Fisher House in Washington State -- Madam Chair, as you're probably aware of. -- and today, there are 21 states and additional projects are already planned in nine other states. If you've been to Walter Reed or visited a VA medical center back home, you know the critical role that that facility plays in helping troops and their families navigate the difficult and often painful road to recovery. Our Fisher House in Massachusetts are an incredible asset for the families seeking care in our state. And thankfully these homes create, as you all know, an instant community of support for families. Unfortunately, reality is that private and corporate charitable contributions are declining. There's real concern about what's going to happen with a lot of the so-called deduction opportunities if charitable deductions is going to be one of those on the chopping block. And this has prevented Fisher House from producing the amount of homes required by VA for the foreseeable future even as demand continues to rise. In fact, [VA] Secretary Eric Shinseki identified 19 medical centers that might desperately need a Fisher House. On the other hand, the DoD budgets about four million annually to the Fisher House Foundation to cover the costs and my point is: I don't think it's reasonable for VA, like the DoD, to put some skin in the game. And our bill gives the authority to do just that. I'd also like to make just a quick reference to the Women's Homeless Veterans Act [S. 3308] that Senators [Dean] Heller and Burr recently introduced and I was a proud to co-sponsor as well. This Committee held a hearing back in March to learn more about what the VA was doing on this epidemic and we heard from Ms. Sandra Strickland and learned first-hand about her personal experiences. [For the hearing that Strickland appeared at and Brown's questioning, see "Scott Brown (Ava)" from March -- or read below for the exchange.] She testified that she was hung up on -- by folks at the VA, felt that the VA did not go above and beyond to address her current needs. What's worse, it's not an isolated case. We reference that from the GAO reports. I want to, obviously, thank both Senators Heller and Burr and I'm hopeful that we'll be able to move these matters forward. As I mentioned, I'm back and forth between hearings and I'm going to hopefully come back and testify. If not, I'll offer questions for the record. Thank you, Madam Chair.
Okay, he was referring to the March exchange with Sandra Strickland. I'm pulling that from my earlier report for Trina. Sandra Strickland is a veteran who had a series of tragic breaks. She kept afloat and she shared her story of the struggle that was to the Committee earlier this year.
Senator Scott Brown: And how do you find that program in terms of getting you to that path of independence and obtaining your auto body shop and other endeavors? How are you moving along? How are you dealing with your financial assistance? How are things working out with your kids? Where are you in terms of the balance in your life? How's that coming along?
Sandra Strickland: Right now, I am on the path to becoming self-sufficient. I'm still working with the temp agency so I do have consistent employment. I am still fervently seeking full time employment but in the interim I just continue to press on. The program I'm in with Final Salute, it's a unique program because it's -- it's catered to the specific needs of the person. There are four females in the home and we all have unique situations so we're all told to give a plan of what we intend to do with the two years that we have at the program. And so with that, they cater to what our specific needs are, so mine, of course, was to continue my entrepreneurship, to maintain or get the physical custody of my children -- so they're providing the resources as far as obtaining a lawyer for me. As far as the entrepreneur, they're providing resources and conferences that I can attend to do that. I don't have any mental health issues but they do or they have set me up with a mentor that I can talk to as far as support. Cause like said, when you're homeless, it's one thing but when you're dealing with other emotional issues, it's another.
Senator Scott Brown: Looking at your challenges here, your being homeless and dealing with the children issues -- and that's the one issue where you can survive and you can do your thing but then you throw in the other challenges of having children and not wanting to lose them and obviously keep that family unit together and having the possible threats against your life and your safety and security.
Sandra Strickland: Right.
Senator Scott Brown: So, as I said, thank you for sharing that story. It's personal in nature obviously. And I was disturbed when I read that when you called the VA for help, they basically blew you off. And that's what we're hearing a lot -- whether it's dealing with claims, whether it's dealing with these type of assistance issues, that lack of personal touch -- sometimes is all you need. If somebody said, 'Hey, we don't have the ability to take care of you because of your situation, however, we have a group that does similar work to the work that Rev. Rogers does that's close to you in your city or town," and then give you a whole list of contacts and follow up with you maybe in a day or two or three. None of that was provided. You got a list, these are the shelters, see you later, thank you very much. Is that the way it happened?
Sandra Strickland: Correct.
Senator Scott Brown: Well that's unacceptable.
So that's where he's coming from on that issue. On Fisher House Foundation and the bill that would assist it, Senator Brown's office released the following this month:
If, like Trina, you'll be deciding whether to vote for him or not (I believe Trina's voting for him but I'll ask her to include that in her post tomorrow night), hopefully the above makes you think, "He's got/lost my vote." Meaning, hopefully, it helps you in your choice. (I can't vote in the election, I live in California. For my thoughts on Brown, you can refer to "Ava Spills Scott Brown's Dirty Secret.")
Now here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"