Issue: Veterans

Walorski Statement on Budget Agreement That Fully Funds Military

Walorski Statement on Budget Agreement That Fully Funds Military

Congress Passes Long-Term Budget to Rebuild Military, Combat Opioid Epidemic, Help Hoosier Families Thrive

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) today released the following statement after voting to send President Trump a long-term budget agreement that fully funds the military, provides resources to combat the opioid epidemic, and advances evidence-based solutions to help Hoosier families thrive:

“Years of irresponsible and arbitrary defense cuts have jeopardized our national security, diminished our military readiness, and endangered our troops in the field. It’s time for that to end.

“Today we are delivering on our promise to rebuild the military and get our brave servicemen and women the tools, training, and support they need to keep our nation safe.

“We are also making critical investments to combat the opioid epidemic, as well as advancing commonsense solutions to help Hoosier families achieve the American Dream. This bill is far from perfect, but it is a necessary step as we continue working with President Trump to build a stronger and safer country.”

BACKGROUND

The House passed the Bipartisan Budget Act (H.R. 1892) by a vote of 240 to 186. The legislation, which establishes long-term funding levels and includes an extension of current funding through March 23, passed the Senate earlier Friday and now heads to the president’s desk for his signature.

Military Funding

The Bipartisan Budget Act ensures the military is fully funded at levels consistent with the fiscal year (FY) 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) so our servicemembers have the tools, equipment, and training necessary to keep the nation safe. It includes a 2.4 percent raise for our troops – their biggest pay increase in eight years – as well as an increase in active duty, national guard, and reserve forces and additional resources to close the readiness gap.

Defense funding will increase by $80 billion this year and $85 billion next year, unwinding the sequestration cuts that jeopardized our national security. The House previously passed defense funding at FY18 NDAA levels, but the legislation was repeatedly blocked in the Senate.

President Trump expressed strong support for the budget agreement, and Defense Secretary James Mattis stated it “will ensure our military can defend our way life, preserve the promise of prosperity, and pass on the freedoms you and I enjoy to the next generation.”

VA Maintenance

Includes an additional $4 billion to reduce the maintenance backlog at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities.

Opioid Epidemic

Provides $6 billion over two years to combat the opioid epidemic through grants, prevention programs, and law enforcement efforts.

Community Health Centers

Extends funding for community health centers – which take an innovative, patient-focused approach to ensure vulnerable and underserved populations have access to quality, affordable health care – for two years. In November, the House passed the CHAMPIONING HEALTHY KIDS Act (H.R. 3922) to fund CHIP, community health centers, and other important public health priorities.

Home Visiting Program

Extends the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program for five years, with additional flexibility for states and new requirements to ensure it remains an effective, evidence-based program. In September 2017, the House passed the Increasing Opportunity through Evidence-Based Home Visiting Act (H.R. 2824).

CHIP

Extends the state Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for 10 years – an additional four years beyond the reauthorization Congress recently passed into law.

Interstate Foster Care

Includes bipartisan legislation Walorski introduced to speed up interstate foster care placement. In June 2017, the House passed the Modernizing the Interstate Placement of Children in Foster Care Act (H.R. 2742), which would help states move to an electronic system for foster care placement and adoptions across state lines in order to reduce the delays and costs of paperwork.

Social Impact Partnerships

Includes the Social Impact Partnerships to Pay for Results Act (H.R. 576), legislation sponsored by Walorski to support innovative, evidence-based solutions through social impact partnership programs that deliver results.

Seniors’ Health Care

Protects seniors’ access to health care by repealing the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) created under Obamacare. In November 2017, the House passed the Protecting Seniors’ Access to Care Act (H.R. 849) to prevent the board of unelected bureaucrats from cutting Medicare.

Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

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IRS Changes Policy After Walorski Raises Concerns Over Impact on Military Retirees

IRS Changes Policy After Walorski Raises Concerns Over Impact on Military Retirees

In Response to Walorski Letter, Tax Agency Reverses Decision that Threatened Pensions of Low-Income Military Retirees

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) today applauded the reversal of an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) policy that could harm low-income military retirees after she raised concerns over its potential impact.

“All Americans have an obligation to pay the taxes they owe, but those who risked their lives for our country should be treated fairly and equally by the IRS,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “I am pleased the IRS has decided to protect low-income military retirees – many of whom spent decades serving in uniform – from unnecessary economic hardship.”

BACKGROUND

The Federal Payment Levy Program (FPLP) is an automated system that allows the IRS to levy up to 15 percent of certain federal payments to taxpayers with unpaid tax liabilities. Generally, taxpayers with incomes below 250 percent of the federal poverty level are excluded from automated levies. However, last year the IRS expanded the FPLP to include military retirement payments but decided not to apply the low-income filter to military retirees.

Congresswoman Walorski in November sent a letter to IRS Acting Commissioner David Kautter questioning the decision not to use the low-income filter for military retirees and raising concerns over its potential impact on these veterans. In a letter dated January 12, 2018, the IRS informed Walorski it will reverse its decision and move to apply the low-income filter to all military retiree payments.

A copy of Walorski’s letter is available here, and the text is below. The response from the IRS is available here.

November 17, 2017

The Honorable David Kautter
Acting Commissioner
Internal Revenue Service
1111 Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20224

Dear Acting Commissioner Kautter,

I am writing today regarding the recent Internal Revenue Service (IRS) decision to add military retirement payments to the Federal Payment Levy Program (FPLP) without also utilizing the Low-Income Filter (LIF). I believe this could unnecessarily hurt low-income military retirees who risked their lives for our country.

As you know, the FPLP is an automated system that allows the IRS to check its records for taxpayers with unpaid tax liabilities who receive certain payments from the federal government and to levy up to 15% of those payments. In order to prevent low-income taxpayers from suddenly being unable to buy food or pay for housing, the IRS generally applies the LIF to screen out taxpayers below 250% of the federal poverty level. The LIF applies to Social Security and Railroad Retirement Board benefit payments, for instance.

In May 2017, the IRS added military retirement payments from the Defense Financing and Accounting Service to the FPLP, while exempting military disability payments or payments to Medal of Honor recipients. However, according to the Taxpayer Advocate, the IRS is not applying the LIF to military retirement payments, despite a report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration indicating that the IRS would do so.

All Americans, including those who have bravely served in our military, have an obligation to pay their taxes owed, but those with unpaid tax liabilities should be treated fairly and equally by the IRS. While I support the agency’s efforts to collect unpaid tax debts, I am very concerned that the IRS’ decision not to implement the LIF for these payments will potentially cause unnecessary and significant harm for low-income military retirees.

In an effort to better understand this matter, I ask that you provide a written response by December 1, 2017 explaining the rationale for why the IRS has chosen not to apply the LIF to military retiree payments. If you have any questions, please contact Mike Dankler in my office. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

JACKIE WALORSKI
Member of Congress

Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

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2017 in Review: Delivering on Our Promises

2017 in Review:
Delivering on Our Promises

Last year, I worked with my colleagues in Congress and with President Trump to deliver on the promises we made to the American people. We made a lot of progress on the American people’s agenda. But we still have more to do, and I’m ready to get back to work. Now that 2018 is here, I couldn’t be more excited to start another year of fighting for Hoosiers and putting America on a stronger path.

As we get back to work in Congress, here are a few of the biggest wins of 2017:

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act became law.

Congress passed and President Trump signed into law the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. That means hardworking Hoosiers at all income levels will be getting a tax cut. Middle-income Americans will be able to keep more of the money they earn. And businesses will be able to grow, invest, hire more workers, and raise wages.

Obamacare’s individual mandate was repealed.

As part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the burdensome individual mandate penalty under Obamacare was repealed. That means no one will be forced to buy a health insurance plan they don’t want and can’t afford.

Our troops are getting a pay raise.

The bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act will give our troops their biggest pay raise in eight years and ensure they have the tools, training, and support they need to confront any threat. And it boosts investment in our Armed Forces after years of underfunding so the military can rebuild and keep our nation safe.

Congress took action to counter Iran and North Korea.

Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and continues to test ballistic missiles in violation of international law. North Korea is a menace that regularly threatens to destroy the United States and our allies with nuclear weapons. We have taken action to counter the growing threat these rogue regimes pose with robust and wide-ranging sanctions.

We passed reforms to hold the VA accountable.

We have a responsibility to the brave men and women who served this country in uniform. That’s why we passed the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act into law. It will give the VA secretary important new tools to create a culture of accountability and ensure employees in VA facilities across the country put veterans first.

The House passed concealed carry reciprocity.

Americans don’t lose their Second Amendment rights when they cross state lines, and they shouldn’t lose their concealed carry rights either. I voted for the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act to protect the rights of law-abiding gun owners and allow those qualified to carry a concealed firearm to do so in any state that allows it.

We rolled back burdensome regulations.

Under the previous administration, burdensome regulations were holding back our small businesses, farmers, and other job creators. Congress and President Trump worked together to roll back costly regulations, and the House passed bills like the REINS Act to rein in the bureaucracy and change how Washington works.

Walorski Testifies on Opioid Crisis Before House Subcommittee

Walorski Testifies on Opioid Crisis Before House Subcommittee

Outlines Policy Priorities for Treating Chronic Pain and Ending Epidemic of Opioid Abuse

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) today testified before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health about the nationwide opioid epidemic and the related problem of chronic pain.

“Pain is the number one reason why Americans seek health care, the number one cause of disability, and costs the U.S. economy more than $600 billion in direct health care costs and lost productivity,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “The veteran population is particularly impacted by the chronic pain crisis, with more than 50 percent of VA patients reporting chronic pain. We can reduce demand by more effectively treating chronic pain and providing better access to FDA-approved non-opioid pharmaceuticals, advanced medical devices, and integrated alternative therapies.”

At the hearing, Walorski outlined three policy priorities for addressing the related problems of opioid abuse and chronic pain: recognizing the importance of a multi-disciplinary approach to pain management; promoting cutting-edge research to encourage effective alternatives to opioids; and advancing best practices in pain management within Medicare.

Congress last year passed into law the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, bipartisan legislation to address the nationwide opioid epidemic. Congresswoman Walorski served on the conference committee that negotiated the final bill, which included two provisions she authored. One requires the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to participate in state prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs), and the other allows the VA to use FDA-approved medical devices and other non-opioid therapies to treat chronic pain.

Walorski recently questioned Medicare’s top fraud prevention official at a Ways and Means Committee hearing about how safeguards failed to prevent a doctor in Indiana from prescribing more than $1 million in opioids to 108 patients under Medicare’s prescription drug program.

Video of Walorski testifying before the subcommittee is available here, and the text of her written testimony is below.

Thank you Chairman Burgess and Ranking Member Green for holding this hearing on the opioid crisis.

America is facing two inter-related public health epidemics: chronic pain and opioid addiction, misuse, and abuse. A long-term solution to the opioid epidemic will not be achieved without addressing the challenge of appropriately treating chronic pain.

According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. Pain is the number one reason why Americans seek health care, the number one cause of disability, and costs the U.S. economy more than $600 billion in direct health care costs and lost productivity. The veteran population is particularly impacted by the chronic pain crisis, with more than 50 percent of VA patients reporting chronic pain.

Thousands of lives are lost to both opioid-related overdose and chronic pain-related suicide. Furthermore, 80 percent of heroin users started with prescription opioids. Reducing the supply of or access to opioids will not by itself solve this crisis. We can reduce demand by more effectively treating chronic pain and providing better access to FDA-approved non-opioid pharmaceuticals, advanced medical devices, and integrated alternative therapies.

As we look to develop policy, we should:

  1. Recognize the importance of a multi-disciplinary approach to pain management as a key component of overcoming the opioid crisis. Chronic pain is a pervasive and largely unaddressed public health crisis. Solving it is a crucial part of solving the larger opioid epidemic.
  2. Promote cutting-edge pain research to encourage effective opioid alternatives. High-quality evidence is urgently needed to help clinicians and patients make informed decisions about how to manage chronic pain safely and understand the causes and mechanisms of chronic pain.
  3. Advance best practices in pain management within Medicare. In 2016, one in three Medicare Part D beneficiaries received a prescription opioid. The GAO should conduct a study of the coverage options offered within Medicare for evidence-based pain management as an alternative to opioid prescriptions. Also, there should be a review of the Graduate Medical Education program’s training and education of providers on pain management and opioid prescriptions.

I hope these ideas will be helpful for in future policy discussions to reduce the abuse of opioids in our communities. Thank you for the time, and I yield back.

Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

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Walorski Presents Service Medals to Hoosier Korean War Veteran

Walorski Presents Service Medals to Hoosier Korean War Veteran

Vern Thompson Served in U.S. Army and Army Reserve from 1949 to 1953

MISHAWAKA, Ind. – U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) today presented military service medals to Army veteran and lifelong Hoosier Vern Thompson, who never received the medals after serving in the Korean War.

“Vern Thompson’s courage and unwavering patriotism never failed him as he defended our freedom in the U.S. Army,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “It was an honor to thank this brave Hoosier for his service and finally present him with the medals he earned in Korea so many years ago.”

Thompson served in the U.S. Army and Army Reserve from 1949 to 1953. After basic training in 1949, Thompson returned to South Bend to work at the Studebaker Company, but he was called to active duty a few months later. Six days before reporting for duty, he married his wife Ruth. They will celebrate their 67th anniversary next month.

In Korea, Thompson served as a pole line foreman in the Signal Corps, installing pole lines ahead of advancing troops. Thompson, a Mishawaka resident, requested assistance from Congresswoman Walorski’s office in obtaining the medals he earned. The medals include the Good Conduct Medal, Meritorious Unit Commendation, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal with three bronze service stars, and United Nations Service Medal.

Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

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Walorski Votes to Put American Security First

Walorski Votes to Put American Security First

House Passes Make America Secure Appropriations Act to Boost Defense Funding, Begin Border Wall Construction, Care for Veterans

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) today voted for the Make America Secure Appropriations Act (H.R. 3219), which provides critical resources to strengthen America’s national defense, secure our borders, and support servicemembers and veterans.

“We have to put the safety and security of the American people first, which is why we just passed a critical bill to protect our homeland,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “From boosting military personnel, training, and equipment to building the border wall and strengthening nuclear weapons security, this legislation makes the investments needed to keep our nation safe. And it supports our brave men and women in uniform by funding the biggest pay raise in eight years for our troops and providing more resources than ever before to care for our veterans.”

BACKGROUND

The Make America Secure Appropriations Act includes funding for fiscal year 2018 for security-related departments and programs, including:

  • Department of Defense ($658.1 billion)
    • Continues the rebuilding of our military by increasing defense funding.
    • Fully funds the authorized 2.4 percent pay raise for our troops.
    • Invests $84.3 billion in defense technology research and development and $149.9 billion in equipment and weapons procurement.
  • Military Construction and Veterans Affairs ($88.8 billion)
    • Provides $78.3 billion, a record level of funding, for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
    • Increases funding for the construction of military infrastructure our troops depend on by 25 percent.
  • Energy and Water Development ($37.6 billion)
    • Increases funding for the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons programs.
    • Allows the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw the burdensome Waters of the U.S. rule.
  • Legislative Branch ($3.58 billion)
    • Provides critical resources for the U.S. Capitol Police to protect the U.S. Capitol, Members of Congress, staff, visitors, and constituents.
    • Continues the pay freeze for Members of Congress.
  • Physical Barrier Construction ($1.6 billion)
    • Fully funds the president’s request for $1.6 billion to begin construction of a southern border wall.

Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

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In the News: Ripon Advance: House passes expansion of GI Bill with support from Brooks, Walters, Walorski

House passes expansion of GI Bill with support from Brooks, Walters, Walorski

The House unanimously approved a legislative package that aims to expand GI Bill education benefits for veterans and their beneficiaries on Monday with support from U.S. Reps. Susan Brooks (R-IN), Mimi Walters (R-CA) and Jackie Walorski (R-IN).

Under the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Education Assistance Act of 2017, H.R. 3218, there would be no statute of limitations on education benefits. In addition, veterans could use those benefits for non-traditional technology courses, and national guardsmen and reservists would have access to GI Bill benefits, as well.

… The Forever GI Bill also includes a provision led by Walorski directing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to review previously denied claims for benefits by World War II veterans who were subjected to mustard gas and lewisite testing.

The U.S. military secretly conducted chemical weapons testing on American troops during World War II, exposing 60,000 servicemembers to mustard agents and swearing them to secrecy until that oath was lifted in the 1990s. Since then, lawmakers said the VA failed to adequately notify affected veterans of their eligibility for benefits or to provide proper treatment for those exposed to the toxic agents. Over the last 10 years, the VA has denied roughly 90 percent of benefits claims, Walorski said.

“We owe our freedom to the American heroes who served in World War II, and it is simply unacceptable that veterans exposed to mustard gas are being denied the benefits they deserve,” Walorski said. “Today, we took an important step toward righting this wrong and taking care of these brave veterans who risked everything for our country.”

Read the full story here.

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Walorski Applauds House Passage of Benefits for WWII Veterans Exposed to Mustard Gas

Walorski Applauds House Passage of Benefits for WWII Veterans Exposed to Mustard Gas

Provisions Based on Walorski-Led Bill Would Require Reevaluation of Denied Benefits Claims Tied to Secret Mustard Gas Experiments

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) today applauded House passage of legislation that includes provisions based on a bill she introduced to ensure World War II veterans intentionally exposed to mustard gas receive the benefits they have long been denied.

“We owe our freedom to the American heroes who served in World War II, and it is simply unacceptable that veterans exposed to mustard gas are being denied the benefits they deserve,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “Today we took an important step toward righting this wrong and taking care of these brave veterans who risked everything for our country.”

BACKGROUND

Walorski and Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) in March reintroduced the bipartisan Arla Harrell Act (H.R. 1359), which requires the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Department of Defense (DoD) to reevaluate previously denied claims for benefits related to mustard gas or lewisite exposure.

The House today unanimously passed the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act (H.R. 3218), which included provisions similar to the Arla Harrell Act after the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee adopted an amendment offered by Congresswoman Rice.

During World War II, the U.S. military secretly conducted chemical weapons testing on American troops, exposing 60,000 servicemembers to mustard gas or lewisite and swearing them to secrecy.

The testing was declassified in 1975, but the oath of secrecy for servicemembers was not lifted until the early 1990s. Since then, the VA failed to adequately notify affected veterans of their eligibility for benefits or to provide proper treatment for the chronic and debilitating conditions that resulted from exposure to mustard agents. The VA has denied approximately 90 percent of benefits claims in the last decade.

The provisions passed as part of H.R. 3218 would require the VA to reevaluate previously denied claims for benefits related to mustard gas or lewisite exposure at certain military sites, with a presumption of full-body exposure in those cases unless it can be proven otherwise.

The VA and DoD would also be required to submit reports to Congress on the testing and how many servicemembers were exposed, as well as on the steps taken to contact affected veterans, high rate of benefits denials and any claims that are again denied after reconsideration.

The Arla Harrell Act is named for an affected World War II veteran from Missouri. U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) introduced the legislation in the Senate.

Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

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Walorski Votes to Give VA Secretary New Accountability Tools to Change Culture

Walorski Votes to Give VA Secretary New Accountability Tools to Change Culture

Bipartisan VA Reform Bill Makes It Easier to Fire Employees for Misconduct, Hire Qualified Leaders

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) today voted for bipartisan legislation to bring a culture of accountability to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) by giving the VA secretary new tools to punish wrongdoing, protect whistleblowers, and fill critical leadership positions. The VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act (S. 1094), passed the House by a vote of 368 to 55 and now heads to the president’s desk.

“This bipartisan bill will give the VA secretary important new tools to create a culture of accountability and ensure employees in VA facilities across the country put veterans first,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “The VA has an obligation to restore its core mission of caring for veterans, and we are giving them the tools necessary to reach that goal. This is a key step toward fixing the VA, but we still have work to do. I will be keeping up the pressure to make sure the VA follows through so all our veterans get the timely, quality care they earned.”

BACKGROUND

The VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 will:

  • Establish a streamlined process for firing, demoting, or suspending VA employees for misconduct or poor performance while protecting their due process rights.
  • Expand protections for whistleblowers and prohibit the VA from using the expedited removal process for an employee with an open whistleblower case with the Office of Special Counsel.
  • Allow the VA secretary to recoup bonuses paid after an employee engaged in misconduct or poor performance; reduce the federal pension of an employee convicted of a felony that influenced their work at the VA; and recoup relocation expenses authorized for a VA employee due to fraud, waste, or malfeasance.
  • Authorize the VA secretary to fill the positions of medical center director and director of Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) by directly appointing individuals with a demonstrated ability in medical care or health care administration.

The House also recently passed the VA Scheduling Accountability Act (H.R. 467), legislation introduced by Congresswoman Walorski to require VA facilities to follow all scheduling rules. The legislation, which passed unanimously, would codify into law the annual requirement for each VA medical facility director to certify compliance with VA scheduling practices and would withhold bonuses from facility directors who fail to do so.

Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

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In the News: ABC57: Jackie Walorski hosted job and veterans resources fair

Jackie Walorski hosted job and veterans resources fair

U.S Representative Jackie Walorski hosted the job and veterans resources fair Thursday afternoon.

The goal of the event was to connect Hoosiers with various new opportunities and options.

There were over 50 employers and 10 veteran’s service organizations that attended the event.

There were more than 175 Hoosiers attended the job fair and there were more than 1,200 job openings.

The job fair took place at Bethel College and was free and open to anyone that wanted to attend.

Read the full story here.

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