Issue: Defense and National Security

Walorski Sends Letter to President Obama Urging Declassification of Intelligence of Five Afghan Nationals

WASHINGTON D.C. – Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (IN-02), member of the House Armed Services Committee, along with six of her House colleagues, sent a letter to President Obama today requesting the declassification of intelligence related to the five Afghan nationals transferred from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to Qatar last month.

“I’m extremely concerned that releasing these individuals presents a grave threat to our national security. I urge the president to justify his reasoning for releasing these men by declassifying information so that the American people can learn what these men were being held for in Guantanamo and what they were accused of,” Walorski said. “It’s also important to determine if their transfer undermined Congressional authority when the president failed to notify us of this prisoner swap.”

The full text of the letter is below:

Dear Mr. President:

We write to urge you to declassify as much intelligence as possible related to the five Afghan nationals transferred from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (GTMO) to Qatar on May 31, 2014: Khairullah Khairkhwa, Nurullah Noori, Mullah Mohammad Fazl, Abdul Haq Wasiq, and Mohammad Nabi Omari. We oppose this transfer because of the threat these detainees pose and believe the American people need more information to be able to evaluate fully the risk involved in their release.

We formally request you declassify, to the greatest extent possible, the 2009 Guantanamo Review Task Force assessments and any other relevant intelligence surrounding the five transferred GTMO detainees. Although we certainly understand that some of this material needs to remain redacted, much of this intelligence is over a decade old and does not present a threat to current U.S. sources and methods.

The law is clear that any transfer from Guantanamo must be undertaken only after consultation with Congress. We are concerned that this legal requirement was not met in this transfer. Though Secretary Hagel cited an “acute and urgent danger to the life of Sergeant Bergdahl” as justification for failing to notify Congress, we have not yet seen any evidence of a danger so urgent as to preclude the required notification.

No American should be left behind. However, larger national security issues cannot be overlooked or ignored.

Thank you for your urgent attention to this matter, and we look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Jackie Walorski

Walorski Votes to Subpoena Department of Veterans Affairs

WASHINGTON D.C. – Due to reports of continuing consult delay problems and patient deaths at numerous VA Medical Centers (VAMC) around the country, Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (IN-02), met with fellow members of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs this morning and voted to subpoena records from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“This morning, I joined my Republican and Democratic colleagues on the House Veterans’ Affairs committee to issue a subpoena to the Department of Veterans Affairs for information regarding the VA’s admitted destruction of a document department officials have speculated may be the ‘secret’ list cited by Phoenix VA Health Care System whistleblowers,” Walorski said. “This may be the list which the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system used to cover up the long wait times in which at least 40 veterans died waiting for care.”

Additional information regarding the list and the circumstances regarding its destruction were requested at the briefing. To watch the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee meeting click here. It begins at 9:37.

According to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, the subpoena duces tecum (for documents) compels production of all documents, including emails and correspondence, sent from April 9th to the present time, involving Secretary Shinseki, Under Secretary for Health Petzel, Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Clinical Operations Lynch, General Counsel Gunn, Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Legislative Affairs Mooney, and VA Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs Officers Mauer, Huff, and Bhatt pertaining to the maintenance and destruction of any alternate wait list for the Phoenix VAMC.

Recent reports have linked many Veterans Affairs patient care problems to widespread mismanagement within VA facilities, including dozens preventable deaths, 13 in Indiana, at VA medical centers nationwide that were all completely preventable. Several examples of this trend can be found on the VA Accountability Watch portion of the HVAC website.

Last month, Walorski joined Speaker Boehner and fellow GOP lawmakers to join in supporting greater VA accountability.

Walorski has co-sponsored H.R. 4031 the “Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act of 2014” in the House of Representatives to address widespread problems currently plaguing the VA.

STATEMENT: Walorski Supports American Legion Call for Resignation of Veteran Affairs Secretary Shinseki

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (IN-02) released the following statement after today’s announcement from American Legion National Commander, Daniel M. Dellinger, calling for the resignation of senior Veteran Affairs (VA) administration officials.

“There is no excuse of delayed care for the millions of men and women who have fought and defended our country. Unfortunately, it has taken dozens of wrongful deaths due to VA negligence, including 13 in Indiana, for the mismanagement at the VA to get the attention it rightfully deserves,” Walorski said. “Nowhere else in the country would this lack of accountability and transparency be allowed. The American people deserve better and I will continue to fight for increased accountability in our government.”

Recent reports have linked many Veterans Affairs (VA) patient care problems to widespread mismanagement within VA facilities, including at least 31 preventable deaths at VA medical centers nationwide that were all completely preventable. Several examples of this trend can be found on the VA Accountability Watch portion of the HVAC website.

Last month, as part of her efforts to bring accountability to the Department of Veterans Affairs, Walorski participated in a House Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing entitled, “A Continued Assessment of Delays in VA Medical Care and Preventable Veteran Deaths.” Walorski, a member of the committee, heard heartbreaking testimony from Barry Coates, a terminally ill veteran, who spoke of the gross negligence and crippling backlog within the VA medical system.

Also last month, Walorski joined Speaker Boehner and fellow GOP lawmakers to join in supporting greater VA accountability.

Walorski has co-sponsored H.R. 4031 the “Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act of 2014” in the House of Representatives to address widespread problems currently plaguing the VA.

Walorski Votes to Increase Funding for Veterans

House passes funding bill that includes Walorski amendment to protect veterans with diabetes

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. House of Representatives today passed the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 4486), by a vote of 416-1.

This bill, which is the annual funding bill for military construction and veteran’s affairs, increases funding for veterans programs by $1.5 billion dollars while still spending $1.8 billion less than last year’s funding bill.

Specifically, this provides funding for housing, education facilities, and medical facilities for active duty service members. It also boosts funding to address the long-standing backlog issues at the Department of Veterans Affairs and provides support for mental health, suicide prevention, and homeless veterans programs.

“We are indebted to our service members, veterans and their families, all who have sacrificed so much for our country,” Walorski said. “Today, we’ve given every veteran, marine, soldier, sailor, airman, along with their spouses and children, the opportunity to thrive and have a better life. As a member of the House Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Committees, it’s unacceptable to me that the backlog at the Department of Veterans Affairs continues to grow. These men and women deserve the best quality of life and I hope we have the attention of the VA that this dysfunction won’t be tolerated.”

Walorski also offered an amendment to protect veterans with diabetes by ensuring the VA continues to offer diabetes patients a variety of supplies through the competitive bid process. That amendment was adopted by a voice vote.

“Right now, 25 percent of veterans in the VA healthcare system have diabetes, compared to about 8.3 percent of the general public,” Walorski said. “As a result, diabetes care places a significant cost burden on the VA’s budget—accounting for almost 4 percent of the overall VA health care budget and costing almost $1.5 billion annually.”

The amendment would provide healthy competition both for the patient and the marketplace—allowing the VA to utilize significant purchasing power. Because of this competition, vendors would be forced to reduce costs and innovate.

The bill now heads to the Senate for further action.

Walorski Presents Military Service Awards To Wabash Veteran Roger Panning

Walorski honors Roger Panning with seven military service awards

WABASH, IN –Congresswoman Jackie Walorski today presented Wabash veteran Roger Panning with seven military service awards at a ceremony in the Wabash County Courthouse, joined by Veteran Service Officer Cam Lochner, American Legion Post 15 Chaplain Jim Black, and the Wabash County Honor Guard.

“When our nation calls, Hoosiers are amongst the first to respond,” said Walorski, a member of the House Armed Services Committee. “I am deeply humbled to award Mr. Panning with these much deserved military awards, and extend my sincere gratitude to his family for their support.”

Mr. Panning completed basic training at Fort Knox in Kentucky, and went on to serve as a crewchief and gunner on a “Huey” helicopter in Vietnam as a member of the 35th Engineer Group. After flying over 329 hours for over eight months, he returned safely home.

Congresswoman Walorski presented Mr. Panning with the following awards:

  • Air Medal with Numeral “3”
  • National Defense Service Medal
  • Vietnam Service Medal with one Bronze Service Star
  • Meritorious Unit Commendation
  • Expert Badge with Rifle Bar
  • Marksman Badge with Auto Rifle Bar
  • Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with “60” Device
  • Walorski Awards Legion Of Merit To Peru Native Colonel Gregg Hammond

    Walorski honors Col. Gregg Hammond for over 30 years of military service

    PERU, IN – In recognition of over 30 years of military service, Congresswoman Jackie Walorski awarded Colonel Gregg K. Hammond with the Legion of Merit at the Miami County Courthouse this afternoon, joined by Mayor Jim Walker, Veteran Service Officer Jay Kendall, and the Miami County Honor Guard. The Legion of Merit is awarded for outstanding distinguished conduct for exceptional achievements and service.

    “Colonel Gregg Hammond is an exemplary Hoosier war hero who has dedicated his life to the defense of our nation at home and abroad,” said Walorski, a member of the House Armed Services Committee. “It is a privilege to present the Legion of Merit to Colonel Hammond in his hometown of Peru today, and I would like to extend my deepest appreciation to his family for their support and sacrifice over the past three decades.”

    During the ceremony, Congresswoman Walorski pinned the Legion of Merit Medal on Col. Hammond after reading the formal award citation and provided remarks to highlight his distinguished service record.

    Col. Hammond completed 33 years of military service in the United States Army, completing multiple deployments during the Vietnam War and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Awarded for his distinguished meritorious service to our nation during times of peace and war, Col. Hammond served many roles ranging from a Navy Corpsman in Vietnam to a senior Civil Affairs Officer in Iraq. Notably, the U.S. Army recognized him as instrumental to the implementation of the United States Department of State initiative for a Provincial Level Government. Over the course of his accomplished career, Col. Hammond has served with distinction in Combined, Joint, and Interagency positions.

    Walorski Presents Family of Fallen Solider U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jesse Williams with Purple Heart Award

    Honored posthumously during a medal ceremony at Granger Community Church

    GRANGER, IN – Congresswoman Jackie Walorski today presented the mother and daughter of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jesse Williams with one of the military’s highest honors, the Purple Heart award, for his honorable service, including assignments during his deployment to Afghanistan.

    An Elkhart native, Williams was killed in the line of duty in December 2013, when he and his fellow soldiers were involved in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. Williams was deployed three times, once to Iraq from 2007 to 2008, twice to Afghanistan from 2010 to 2011, and in July 2013.

    “Staff Sgt. Williams represents the best of the United States. Not just our military, but who we are, and why we are so proud to be Americans,” said Walorski, a member of the House Armed Services Committee. “Williams was a citizen soldier whose bravery should be a model for us all. He continually stepped forward and answered the call. Both he and his family understand what sacrifice means and I cannot thank them enough for his service to our country.”

    Walorski was joined at the ceremony by Veteran Service Officer Ron Lundy, Elkhart Superior Judge Evan Roberts and Pastor Mark Waltz from Granger Community Church.

    Williams attended Elkhart Central High School and in 2006, completed the U.S. Army basic training course. For the past six years, he worked in the electronics warfare shop, graduated from Air Assault School and traveled around the world completing assignments for the U.S. Army.

    A Purple Heart is awarded to any member of the U.S. armed forces wounded, killed or who has died after being wounded. The medal is the oldest military award that is still given to members of the U.S. military, dating back to the later years of the Revolutionary War and was originally designed as the Badge of Military Merit.

    WALORSKI JOINS SPEAKER BOEHNER, CHAIRMAN MILLER AND SENATOR RUBIO TO ADDRESS VA ACCOUNTABILITY LEGISLATION

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (IN-02) joined House Speaker John Boehner and GOP leaders at a press conference to discuss legislation bringing greater accountability to the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA).

    Watch Walorski provide comments here or click on the image below.

    Walorski

    Recent reports have linked many Veterans Affairs (VA) patient care problems to widespread mismanagement within VA facilities, including at least 31 preventable deaths at VA medical centers nationwide that were all completely preventable. Several examples of this trend can be found on the VA Accountability Watch portion of the HVAC website.

    “Millions of America’s veterans depend on the VA for care and support and there is no excuse for delayed benefits to those men and women who have so bravely fought for our country,” Walorski said. “By providing authority to the VA Secretary to eliminate ineffective management and burdensome staff, we can begin to restore the faith in the VA for our nation’s courageous men and women.”

    H.R. 4031 the “Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act of 2014”, which Walorski co-sponsored in the House of Representatives, would address widespread problems currently plaguing the VA.

    The legislation would provide the VA Secretary greater authority to fire employees and remove them from Senior Executive Service (SES) due to poor performance in the same manner a Member of Congress can remove a member of their staff.

    “This straightforward measure would provide greater accountability in the VA by giving the secretary the authority to fire those responsible for historic failures within Department. I look forward to working with my colleagues to see this bill passed into law.”

    The Department of Veterans Affairs released reports detailing the extent of the situation including Pennsylvania and Georgia.

    WALORSKI MILITARY SEXUAL ASSAULT PROVISIONS SIGNED INTO LAW

    Freshman HASC Member Authors Measures in NDAA to Encourage Reporting

    MISHAWAKA, IN – Earlier today President Obama signed bipartisan provisions into law, authored by Congresswoman Jackie Walorski, to extend whistleblower protections to military sexual assault victims as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

    “This year’s defense bill contains historic provisions to combat the growing military sexual assault epidemic and create an environment for safe reporting. I am pleased to see these bipartisan measures signed into law to begin eradicating this horrific problem,” said Walorski, a freshman member of the House Armed Services Committee.

    Walorski’s military sexual assault provisions specifically designate reports of sexual assault as a form of communication under existing whistleblower protections. Her provisions also require an Inspector General investigation into allegations of retaliatory personnel actions taken against victims who have reported alleged instances of rape, sexual assault, or other forms of sexual misconduct in the military.

    Earlier this year, H.R. 1864 was passed as a standalone bill in the House by a vote of 423-0. Companion legislation was introduced by Senators Amy Klobuchar and Claire McCaskill and included in both the House and Senate versions of the NDAA.

    WALORSKI SUPPORTS LEGISLATION HONORING THE FAMILIES OF FALLEN SOLDIERS ACT

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Jackie Walorski, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, released the following statement after House passage of H.J. Res. 91, the Honoring the Families of Fallen Soldiers Act:

    “Our brave servicemembers and families selflessly devote their lives to the defense of our nation—in some cases making the ultimate sacrifice. These individuals deserve the utmost care and respect from Washington, regardless of this disappointing government shutdown that is now causing excruciating heartache and pain for grieving military families.

    “The denial of death gratuities and benefits for families who have tragically lost a loved one in the line of duty is entirely unacceptable and must be remedied immediately. I urge the president and Senate to approve this resolution as soon as possible to assure members of the military and their families that they are wholeheartedly supported by the federal government.”

    Summary of today’s House-passed legislation:

    Honoring the Families of Fallen Soldiers Act (H.J.Res. 91): Provides immediate availability of Treasury funds for death gratuities and related benefits for survivors of deceased military service members.

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