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Gabbard-Backed Bill to Expedite Veterans Claims Process Passes House

Legislation cosponsored by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) to streamline the veterans claims process unanimously passed the House today. The bipartisan WINGMAN Act (H.R.512), which would allow congressional offices to directly access information on behalf of a constituent without having to go through a middle-man at the VA bureaucracy, now moves to the U.S. Senate for consideration.

In a speech on the House floor, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said:

“One of the things I appreciate most about the job that I have to represent Hawaiʻi’s Second District is to be able to respond to and provide assistance to the hundreds of veterans from across my state that contact our office every single year. They call to ask for help with things like compensation and pension issues, healthcare, mileage reimbursement—especially for our veterans who live on the neighboring islands where they don’t have a VA clinic on island—education, home loan benefits, and more. This is a responsibility as a Member of Congress and as a fellow veteran that I take very seriously.

“Right now, if a veteran contacts my office for assistance, we are required to go directly through the Congressional Liaison at the VA. We act as veterans advocates to try to get answers for them on things that they haven’t been able to get answers on and things they haven’t heard back on.

“Too often, we’re faced with bureaucratic layers within the VA and a slow turnaround that leaves congressional staff, like mine and my colleagues’, jumping through hoops to access basic but critical information on behalf of our veterans and their families. At times, we have waited for months to get answers from the VA on behalf of a Hawaiʻi veteran for something that should be a quick turnaround, like a status update.

“This is unacceptable, and it’s why I’m proud to cosponsor the WINGMAN Act, legislation introduced by my friend and colleague Ted Yoho of Florida, which allows us to cut through the red tape and ensure that our certified caseworkers within our offices can provide quicker, more efficient and effective service to our veterans. It would help streamline the veterans claims process by allowing congressional offices, on behalf of our veteran constituents, to directly access the status of pending claims, rating decisions, statement of the case, and more.

“I urge my colleagues to support this common sense legislation, so that all of us working here in the people’s house can better serve our veterans who have sacrificed so much for our communities and our country.”

Background: The WINGMAN Act would streamline the veterans claims process between congressional offices and their constituents by eliminating the requirement to use the VA as a middle-man. Under WINGMAN, certified constituent advocates would be able to directly access the status of pending claims, medical records, rating decisions, statement of the case, supplementary statement of the case, notice of disagreement, and Form-9 files within a reasonable amount of time, without having to go through a middle-man at the VA.

Each year, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s office helps hundreds of veterans get assistance from the VA and other federal agencies. Constituent advocates are located in every county, and hold regular “office hours” to help constituents, including veterans, with federal agency casework. For a list of upcoming office hours, click here. For information on how the congresswoman and staff can assist constituents, click here.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Address U.S. Nursing Shortage

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02), a co-chair of the House Nursing Caucus, joined fellow lawmakers in introducing the bipartisan Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act (H.R.959). The bipartisan legislation would reauthorize federal funding for nursing workforce and education programs to help grow and support the nursing workforce in the United States.

“Nurses are the heart of our healthcare system, and one of the fastest growing professions in the United States. As Hawaiʻi and states across the country face serious nursing shortages, it’s critical we support Title VIII nursing programs that help recruit, train and retain our nurses, especially in our rural and underserved communities,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “This bill will help ensure that Hawaiʻi’s nurses and future nurses get the support they need to continue to serve our communities across the state.”

“In Hawaiʻi, nurses are the largest licensed healthcare profession and work in all healthcare settings, from hospitals to home health to school nursing, and work in all areas of the state. As the healthcare needs of the state grow, including the increased demand for primary care, extended care, long term care, and geriatric nursing, nurses can serve to meet these changing demands. Educational pathways, tuition support and loan repayment programs for nurses and nurse faculty, and recruitment and retention programs are critical to ensuring that our nursing workforce in Hawaiʻi is adequate and nimble to the needs of our changing healthcare environment,” said Laura Reichhardt, Director of the Hawaiʻi State Center for Nursing.

Background: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of Registered Nurses (RNs) is projected to grow 19 percent from 2012 to 2022. At the same time, the Bureau predicts there will be over 1 million job openings for RNs in 2022 due to the increasing demand for nurses.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has consistently prioritized Title VIII nursing workforce programs in annual appropriations bills. Administered through the Health Resources and Services Administration, Title VIII programs have supported the recruitment, retention, and distribution of highly-educated professionals who comprise our nation’s nursing workforce for more than 50 years. Title VIII programs bolster nursing education at all levels, from entry level preparation through graduate study, and provide support for institutions that educate nurses for practice in rural and medically underserved communities. These programs are designed to address specific needs within the nursing workforce and America’s patient population, and are, therefore, a direct investment in the nation’s health.

The legislation is endorsed by the American Nurses Association, the American Association of the Colleges of Nursing, and more than 50 other national nursing organizations.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Cosponsors Bill to Expedite Veterans Claims Process

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) announced support today for the bipartisan WINGMAN Act (H.R.512), legislation that would streamline the veterans claims process between the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and congressional offices that process claims on behalf of veterans and their families.

Tulsi Gabbard at Hawaii County Civil Defense

“It’s my honor to serve the hundreds of Hawaiʻi veterans that contact my office each year for help. However, slow turnaround and thick layers of bureaucracy at the VA too often leave certified congressional staff jumping through tedious hoops to access critical information on behalf of veterans and their families. At times, we have waited for months to get a simple answer from the VA on behalf of a Hawaiʻi veteran. This is unacceptable. The WINGMAN Act would cut through the red tape and allow congressional offices to provide quicker, more efficient service to our veterans,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

Background: The WINGMAN Act would streamline the veterans claims process between congressional offices and their constituents by eliminating the requirement to use the VA as a middle-man. Under WINGMAN, certified constituent advocates would be able to directly access the status of pending claims, medical records, rating decisions, statement of the case, supplementary statement of the case, notice of disagreement, and Form-9 files within a reasonable amount of time, without having to go through a middle-man at the VA.

Each year, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s office helps hundreds of veterans get assistance from the VA and other federal agencies. Constituent advocates are located in every county, and hold regular “office hours” to help constituents, including veterans, with federal agency casework. For a list of upcoming office hours, click here. For information on how the congresswoman and staff can assist constituents, click here.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Announces She Will Personally Reimburse Cost of Trip to Syria

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) announced today she will personally reimburse the cost of her trip to Syria.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has stated that she will personally cover the costs of her Syria trip.

Though the trip has met every requirement of the House Ethics Committee, the congresswoman has decided to reimburse AACCESS-Ohio for the trip because it has become a distraction from the important issue at hand—do the American people want their taxpayer dollars to continue to be used in support of militant groups working hand-in-hand with al-Qaeda and ISIS in the effort to overthrow the Syrian government? Contrary to baseless claims in the media, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is beholden to no one in the region, her views on the situation are her own, and her determination to seek peace is beyond question.

Background: As a member of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard traveled to Aleppo, Damascus, and Beirut from January 14-22, 2017 to see and hear firsthand the impact of the war in Syria directly from the Syrian people. For more information on the trip, click here. Earlier this year, the congresswoman introduced the Stop Arming Terrorists Act (H.R.608), legislation that would prohibit U.S. government funds from being used to support al-Qaeda, ISIS, or other terrorist groups.

Veterans For Peace Endorses Gabbard’s Stop Arming Terrorist Act

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) released the following statement today after Veterans For Peace announced endorsement for the Stop Arming Terrorists Act (H.R.608):

Tulsi Gabbard in Puna after Tropical Storm Iselle

“Those who have seen and experienced war firsthand share a unique appreciation for the need for peace. From Iraq to Libya and now in Syria, the U.S. has and continues to wage wars of regime change, each resulting in unimaginable suffering, devastating loss of life, and the strengthening of terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS. I am grateful to have the support of Veterans for Peace for the Stop Arming Terrorists Act, and for their work to prevent the United States from continuing to pursue counterproductive, interventionist wars,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

“As veterans we took an oath to preserve and defend the Constitution of the United States. The threat to the Constitution comes not from Russia, China or ISIL but from within the walls of Washington D.C. where the Congress and the Executive branch have enmeshed the country in ongoing unnecessary, illegal and unconstitutional wars. As Veterans For Peace we seek to restrain our government from intervening, overtly or covertly, in the internal affairs of other nations,” said Barry Ladendorf, President of Veterans For Peace. “Certainly, the U.S. government should not be supporting regime change wars nor directly or indirectly supporting known terrorist organizations, proxy groups and their allies to violently overthrow established governments. We also thank Rep. Gabbard, a veteran of the Iraq War, for introducing this important bill, Stop Arming Terrorist, which Veterans For Peace proudly supports and for her recent important fact finding trip to Syria,” continued Ladendorf, who served as a naval officer during the Vietnam War.

Background: Veterans For Peace is a global organization of Military Veterans and allies whose collective efforts are to build a culture of peace by using their experiences and lifting their voices. The network is comprised of over 140 chapters worldwide whose work includes: educating the public, advocating for a dismantling of the war economy, providing services that assist veterans and victims of war, and most significantly, working to end all wars.

The bipartisan Stop Arming Terrorists Act (H.R.608) is cosponsored by Reps. Peter Welch (D-VT), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Walter B. Jones (R-NC), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Ted Yoho (R-FLY), and Garrett Thomas (R-VA), and endorsed by Progressive Democrats of America, the U.S. Peace Council, and Veterans For Peace.

The legislation would prohibit U.S. government funds from being used to directly or indirectly support terrorist groups like al-Qaeda, ISIS or those working with them. In the same way that Congress passed the Boland Amendment to prohibit the funding and support to CIA backed-Nicaraguan Contras during the 1980’s, this bill would stop CIA or other Federal government activities in places like Syria from using U.S. funds to directly or indirectly support al-Qaeda, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, ISIS, or other groups working with them. It would also prohibit the Federal government from funding assistance to countries that are directly or indirectly supporting those terrorist groups. The bill achieves this by:

  1. Making it illegal for any U.S. Federal government funds to be used to provide assistance covered in this bill to terrorists or groups working with terrorists. The assistance covered includes weapons, munitions, weapons platforms, intelligence, logistics, training, and cash.
  2. Making it illegal for the U.S. government to provide assistance covered in the bill to any nation that has given or continues to give such assistance to terrorists.
  3. Requiring the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to determine the individual and groups that should be considered terrorists, for the purposes of this bill, by determining: (a) the individuals and groups that are associated with, affiliated with, adherents to or cooperating with al-Qaeda, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, or ISIS; (b) the countries that are providing assistance covered in this bill to those individuals or groups.
  4. Requiring the DNI to review and update the list of countries and groups to which assistance is prohibited every six months, in consultation with the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees, as well as the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
  5. Requiring the DNI to brief Congress on the determinations.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard Returns From Syria with Renewed Calls: End Regime Change War in Syria Now

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) returned to Washington, DC after a week-long visit to Damascus, Aleppo, and Beirut to see and hear firsthand the impact of the war in Syria directly from the Syrian people. She heard stories of suffering, pain, courage and hope from people all across the country.

Tulsi Gabbard meets with Syrian religious leaders in Aleppo, led by Archbishop Denys Antoine Chahda of the Syrian Catholic Church of Aleppo, and joined by Archbishop Joseph Tabji of Maronite Church of Aleppo, Rev. Ibrahim Nseir of the Arab Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Aleppo, and others. Each called for peace, and an end to foreign support of terrorists who are trying to rid Syria of its secular, pluralistic, free society. Photo courtesy of Abraham Williams.

She met with refugees, Syrian opposition leaders who led protests in 2011, widows and family members of Syrians fighting alongside groups like al-Qaeda, as well as those fighting on the side of the government.

Tulsi Gabbard visits with Syrian Arab Red Crescent and other humanitarian workers at the Jibreen shelter, housing nearly 1,400 families who fled mostly the eastern part of Aleppo City. Photo courtesy of Abraham Williams.

The Congresswoman also met with Lebanon’s newly-elected President Aoun and Prime Minister Hariri, U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard, Syrian President Assad, Grand Mufti Hassoun, Archbishop Denys Antoine Chahda of Syrian Catholic Church of Aleppo, humanitarian workers, students, small business owners, and more.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard met these women at the Barzi Community Center. Many of these women have husbands who are fighting on opposite sides of the war, but who find friendship and empowerment together in their daily sewing classes. They have hope to be able to provide for their family and take care of their children. When asked, “Where is your husband?” many reply, “He is lost.” Photo courtesy of Abraham Williams.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard released the following statement upon her return:

“My visit to Syria has made it abundantly clear: Our counterproductive regime change war does not serve America’s interest, and it certainly isn’t in the interest of the Syrian people.

“As I visited with people from across the country, and heard heartbreaking stories of how this war has devastated their lives, I was asked, ‘Why is the United States and its allies helping al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups try to take over Syria? Syria did not attack the United States. Al-Qaeda did.’ I had no answer.

“I return to Washington, DC with even greater resolve to end our illegal war to overthrow the Syrian government. I call upon Congress and the new Administration to answer the pleas of the Syrian people immediately and support the Stop Arming Terrorists Act. We must stop directly and indirectly supporting terrorists—directly by providing weapons, training and logistical support to rebel groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and ISIS; and indirectly through Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and Turkey, who, in turn, support these terrorist groups. We must end our war to overthrow the Syrian government and focus our attention on defeating al-Qaeda and ISIS.

“From Iraq to Libya and now in Syria, the U.S. has waged wars of regime change, each resulting in unimaginable suffering, devastating loss of life, and the strengthening of groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS.

“Originally, I had no intention of meeting with Assad, but when given the opportunity, I felt it was important to take it. I think we should be ready to meet with anyone if there’s a chance it can help bring about an end to this war, which is causing the Syrian people so much suffering.

“The U.S. must stop supporting terrorists who are destroying Syria and her people. The U.S. and other countries fueling this war must stop immediately. We must allow the Syrian people to try to recover from this terrible war.”

Background: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) is a twice-deployed combat veteran who has served as the United States Representative for Hawaiʻi’s 2nd congressional district since 2013. As a member of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard traveled to Lebanon and Syria as part of a delegation led and sponsored by the Arab American Community Center for Economic and Social Services (AACCESS)–Ohio. The 7-day trip was approved by the House Ethics Committee, as required by House rules, and was not taxpayer funded. The trip included visits to Aleppo, Damascus, and Beirut from January 14-22, 2017. Other members of the delegation included former Congressman and Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich and his wife, longtime peace advocates Elie and Bassam Khawam, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s husband, Abraham Williams.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard met these children at a shelter in Aleppo. Their families fled the eastern part of the city. Many of these children have only known war, loss and hardship. Their families’ only wish is for peace. Photo courtesy of Abraham Williams.

Earlier this year, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard introduced the Stop Arming Terrorists Act (H.R.608), legislation that would prohibit U.S. government funds from being used to support al-Qaeda, ISIS or other terrorist groups. In the same way that Congress passed the Boland Amendment to prohibit the funding and support to CIA backed-Nicaraguan Contras during the 1980’s, this bill would stop CIA or other Federal government activities in places like Syria by ensuring U.S. funds are not used to support al-Qaeda, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, ISIS, or other terrorist groups working with them. It would also prohibit the Federal government from funding assistance to countries that are directly or indirectly supporting those terrorist groups. The bill achieves this by:

  1. Making it illegal for any U.S. Federal government funds to be used to provide assistance covered in this bill to terrorists. The assistance covered includes weapons, munitions, weapons platforms, intelligence, logistics, training, and cash.
  2. Making it illegal for the U.S. government to provide assistance covered in the bill to any nation that has given or continues to give such assistance to terrorists.
  3. Requiring the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to determine the individual and groups that should be considered terrorists, for the purposes of this bill, by determining: (a) the individuals and groups that are associated with, affiliated with, adherents to or cooperating with al-Qaeda, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, or ISIS; (b) the countries that are providing assistance covered in this bill to those individuals or groups.
  4. Requiring the DNI to review and update the list of countries and groups to which assistance is prohibited every six months, in consultation with the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees, as well as the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
  5. Requiring the DNI to brief Congress on the determinations.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Reintroduces Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Clear Human Trafficking Victims’ Criminal Records

Bill Would Provide Post-Conviction Relief to Victims of Sex Trafficking, Labor Trafficking, and Other Forms of Human Trafficking

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) joined U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rob Portman (R-OH), and U.S. Representatives Ann Wagner (MO-02) and Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) in reintroducing the Trafficking Survivors Relief Act today. The bipartisan legislation would create a process for victims of human trafficking to request relief from non-violent federal crimes committed as a direct result of human trafficking.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard speaks with survivor leaders and advocates on the Trafficking Survivors Relief Act

Today, January 11, is recognized as National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Human trafficking is a modern day form of slavery affecting millions in the United States and abroad. This crime involves either the use of force, fraud, or coercion to exploit a person for labor or commercial sex, or the exploitation of a minor for commercial sex. As a result of being trafficked, victims are commonly charged with crimes such as conspiracy, money laundering, drug trafficking, and related offenses that then follow them throughout the duration of their lives. These charges make it difficult for human trafficking victims to find jobs and housing, leaving them vulnerable to being exploited and trafficked again.

“Tens of thousands of men, women, and children are victims of human trafficking each year. Too often, they are charged as criminals, thrown in prison, and shackled with a criminal record the rest of their lives instead of being free to get the care and assistance they need. The Trafficking Survivors Relief Act will empower human trafficking victims to escape the chains of their past and move forward with their lives,” said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.

“Because of the complexities of the criminal activity around trafficking, victims are put into situations where they may be forced to engage in other criminal acts due to their abuser. Even though they are victims of human trafficking, under current mandates, their “criminal history” can make it very difficult for them to recover and reintegrate back into society. The Trafficking Survivors Relief Act is an important key to opening the door of freedom, helping to erase the past, and empower life recovery and forward movement for the most marginalized and vulnerable population in our communities,” said Jessica Munoz, President and Founder of Hoʻōla Nā Pua.

“As an organization committed to implementing strategies and providing services that help rebuild the lives of human trafficking survivors, we believe the Trafficking Survivors Relief Act will support these uprooted individuals to reclaim dignified lives,” said Dr. Tin Myaing Thein, Executive Director of the Pacific Gateway Center.

Background:

The Trafficking Survivors Relief Act would allow survivors of human trafficking to provide supporting documentation in order to get their non-violent criminal records vacated. These documents can include the following:

  • Certified criminal or immigration court proceedings or law enforcement records demonstrating that the individual was a victim of trafficking at the time they were charged with the trafficking-related offense(s);
  • Testimony or sworn statement from a trained professional staff member of a victim services organization, an attorney, member of the clergy, a health care professional, a therapist, or other professional from whom the person has sought assistance in addressing the trauma associated with being a victim of trafficking; or
  • An affidavit or sworn testimony of the movant indicating that they were a victim of human trafficking at the time of their arrest and that they engaged in or were otherwise accused of engaging in criminal activities as a direct result of being a victim of human trafficking.

Hawaii Governor Appoints Chris Todd to Fill Late Rep. Clift Tsuji’s Seat

After careful consideration of three nominees selected by the Hawai‘i County Democratic Party, Gov. David Ige today appointed Chris Todd to the State House of Representatives, District 2. Todd will fill the seat left vacant by the late Rep. Clift Tsuji, who died on Nov. 15, 2016.

Rep. Chris Todd

Todd was born and raised in Hilo, where he earned his college degree in economics and political science from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. He held several positions at the Suisan Fish Market before becoming distribution manager for Hawai‘i Paper Products last year.

Todd coaches football at Hilo High School. His wife, Britney, is a teacher at Kalanianaole Middle School.

“I am very grateful for this opportunity to serve my community. I look forward to the hard work ahead and will always keep an open door and mind,” Todd said.

The governor is required by law to make his selection from a list of nominees submitted by the Democratic Party.

Gabbard-Cook Reintroduce Bill Encouraging Employers to Hire More Veterans

Today, Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) and Paul Cook (CA-08) introduced the HIRE Vets Act of 2017. This bipartisan bill, which was previously introduced last Congress, passed the House with unanimous support in November 2016, but did not pass the Senate before the end of the year.

The legislation would promote private sector recruiting, hiring, and retaining of men and women who served honorably in the U.S. military through a voluntary and effective program. Specifically, it would create an award program recognizing the meaningful, verifiable efforts undertaken by employers – both large and small – to hire and retain veterans. Cook and Gabbard designed the program to be self-funded.

Through the U.S. Department of Labor, the HIRE Vets Act would allow businesses to display “HIRE Vets Medallions” on products and marketing materials. These medallions would be awarded as part of a four-tiered system – Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum – associated with specific hiring and retention goals each year.

The program also establishes similar tiered awards for small and mid-sized businesses with less than 500 employees. To ensure proper oversight, the Secretary of Labor would be required to provide Congress with annual reports on the success of the program with regard to veteran employment and retention results.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said, “Roughly 500 veterans return to civilian life every single day, joining the more than 2.9 million veterans that have returned home since 9/11. While we’ve taken some important steps to encourage employers to hire more veterans, more than 400,000 veterans across the country are still unemployed today. Through their service, veterans develop unique skills, experiences, and leadership training that make them especially valuable to employers. The HIRE Vets Act incentivizes employers to hire veterans, and recognizes employers that provide a supportive work environment to retain veteran employees. I encourage our colleagues to join us in passing this bill unanimously again to move this support for our veterans and employers forward.”

Rep. Paul Cook said, “The HIRE Vets Act is an opportunity for Americans to see which companies truly live up to the employment promises they make to veterans. Veterans who serve this country honorably shouldn’t struggle to find employment, and this bill creates an innovative system to encourage and recognize employers who make veterans a priority in their hiring practices.”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is a twice-deployed combat veteran and member of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees. She continues to serve as a Major in the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard.

A member of the House Natural Resources, Armed Services, and Foreign Affairs Committees, Cook served as an infantry officer and retired after 26 years as a Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. During his time in combat, he was awarded the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.

President Signs Gabbard’s Talia’s Law to Strengthen Protections for Military Children

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard released the statement below after “Talia’s Law” was signed into law by President Obama:

“More than a decade after Talia Williams’s tragic death, there have been more than 29,000 cases of child abuse and neglect in military homes. Until now, the same gaps in the military’s reporting requirements that failed to protect Talia and so many other military children remained. Enactment of Talia’s Law closes these gaps by requiring the same protections that exist for any other child to also protect children in military families. While this cannot right the wrongs that failed to protect Talia, Talia’s Law honors her life by helping to get military children, and their families, the support and care they need and deserve,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

Tarshia Williams’s daughter Talia Williams in Orangeburg, South Carolina, United States. The acknowledged role of Delilah Williams in the abuse of her stepdaughter Talia Williams helped keep her husband Naeem Williams from receiving the death penalty after he was convicted of murdering his daughter.

“My daughter went through so much pain and agony and I am so proud that Talia’s Law will prevent other kids from experiencing what my daughter went through. I am thankful and honored that my daughter’s legacy will live on through Talia’s Law, and I am grateful for everyone who played a part in getting her law passed, moving one step forward to saving a child’s life,” said Tarshia W. Hampton, Talia Williams’ mother who wrote the original concept of Talia’s Law. Tarshia brought the concept to Rep. Tulsi Gabbard to introduce in Congress.

“Protection and early intervention can prevent situations like what Talia faced from happening again. By passing Talia’s Law, Child and Family Service (CFS) anticipates that all military personnel will become more empowered to follow all of the child welfare reporting mandates without fear of retaliation from their command, that child abuse and neglect will no longer be underreported, and that reporting will no longer be discouraged by the military’s chain of command,” said Amanda Pump, Program Administrator for Child & Family Service.

“Talia’s Law will create a further safety net to prevent a child from going through what happened to Talia. An issue of child abuse or neglect that goes unreported or underreported is a failure to allow for a child’s right to safety and a healthy childhood. Abuse of any household member is simply unacceptable. Talia’s Law will enforce early identification and response which is critical to the protection from further abuse. Thank you Congresswoman Gabbard for standing up for our children to assure that their safety and their basic needs are preserved,” said Ryan Kusumoto, President/CEO of Parents And Children Together.

Background: In 2005, five year old Talia Williams was beaten to death by her father, who was a soldier stationed at Schofield Barracks in Hawaiʻi. Leading up to her death, Talia suffered months of abuse from her father and stepmother. Despite multiple reports made to military officers, the case stayed within the military’s chain of command, and nothing was done to take Talia out of harm’s way.

Outside of the military, mandated reporters (generally, professionals that come into contact with children such as physicians, psychologists, social workers, teachers, and others) are required to report any suspected cases of child abuse and neglect directly to State Child Protective Services. However, the military’s reporting requirements do not currently require the same direct reporting requirements to state authorities.

To close the communications gap that may exist between mandated reporters and those who may report to the State on their behalf, Talia’s Law:

  • Requires servicemembers and their dependents to immediately report known or suspected instances of child abuse and neglect to their installation Family Advocacy Program Office. These offices are tasked with the prevention, education, intervention, and investigation of spouse and child abuse.
  • Additionally requires servicemembers and their dependents to report any known or suspected child abuse directly to State Child Protective Services, or another appropriate state agency.

In February, the House of Representatives unanimously passed Talia’s Law (H.R. 3894), introduced by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Senator Mazie Hirono worked to include Talia’s Law in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which was signed into law by President Obama on December 23.

Hawaii to Receive $3.1 Million to Fight Invasive Species

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard announced today that Hawaiʻi will receive $3.1 million to fight invasive species like the coconut rhinoceros beetle, coffee berry borer, Rapid Ohia Death, and fruit flies. The funding, allocated from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in accordance with Section 10007 of the 2014 Farm Bill, is part of 513 projects supported nationwide that aim to prevent the introduction or spread of plant pests and diseases that threaten U.S. agriculture and the environment, as well as ensure the availability of a healthy supply of clean plant stock.

In Hawaiʻi, invasive species like the coffee berry borer, fruit fly, and macadamia felted coccid have cost our farmers millions, and put hundreds of farms, thousands of local workers, and our agriculture industry at great risk,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “We need to provide more support to our farmers who contribute so much to our community and our economy.  This funding will provide Hawaiʻi with critical resources to combat these invasive pests.”

“The University of Hawaiʻi is very pleased to hear that a new project has been funded through USDA-APHIS on the management of the coffee berry borer in Hawaiʻi and Puerto Rico,” said Ray Carruthers, Specialist at the University of Hawaiʻi College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. “The main thrust of this effect will be to coordinate control efforts with on-going Federal, State and local projects on CBB management, along with the additional development of new insect biological control technologies. We feel that developing, testing and the eventual use of insect parasitoids will be a key for long-term sustainable management of the CBB in both Hawaiʻi and Puerto Rico.”

Background: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard introduced the Areawide Integrated Pest Management (AIPM) Act (H.R.3893) and the Macadamia Tree Health Initiative (H.R.6249) in the 114th Congress to fight invasive species in Hawaiʻi and across the United States, and to fund critical research for invasive species like the macadamia felted coccid. In August, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard conducted an agriculture tour on Hawaiʻi Island where she met with local agriculture professionals and researchers about invasive species in Hawaiʻi.

Today’s announcement includes the following funding for projects in Hawaiʻi:

  • $87,771 for emerging diseases, viral spillover, and the risk to agricultural pollinators (Academia)
  • $265,811 for the USDA Compendium of Fruit Fly Host Information (CoFFHI) (Academia)
  • $27,600 for the National Survey of Honey Bee Pests and Diseases in Hawaiʻi (State Government)
  • $148,000 for the Palm Commodity Survey (Academia)
  • $165,500 for Hawaiʻi Pre-Clearance X-ray Support (APHIS)
  • $260,000 for Genomic approaches to fruit fly exclusion and pathway analysis (year 3) (Academia)
  • $303,000 for Genomic approaches to fruit fly exclusion and pathway analysis (year 3) (Non-APHIS-Federal)
  • $42,090 for Little Fire Ant Education for Nursery Supply Stores (Academia)
  • $40,995 for Integrated and Sustainable Approach to Manage New Invasive Pests of Ficus Trees in Hawaiʻi’s Urban Landscapes – Year 2 (Academia)
  • $41,000 for Activators and Attractants for Giant African Snail (Academia)
  • $120,000 for Response to Rapid Ohia Death, a disease threatening forests (State Government)
  • $125,000 for Systems approach for the management of coffee berry borer in Hawaiʻi and Puerto Rico with emphasis on biological control (Academia)
  • $100,000 for Systems approach for the management of coffee berry borer in Hawaiʻi and Puerto Rico with emphasis on biological control (State Government)
  • $115,000 for Systems approach for the management of coffee berry borer in Hawaiʻi and Puerto Rico with emphasis on biological control (Non-APHIS-Federal)
  • $975,000 for Response to Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle in Hawaiʻi (Academia)
  • $250,000 for Response to Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle in Hawaiʻi (State Government)

VIDEO – Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Honors 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor

In a speech on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives today, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard honored the 75th Anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor:

“My heart is in Hawaiʻi today. At almost this exact time, on this very day 75 years ago, the first bombs were dropped in the attack on Pearl Harbor. More than 2,400 people perished on that fateful day that will forever live in infamy.

“We remember our brothers and sisters who paid the ultimate price, and those who answered the call to serve in the months and years that followed, including our two former Senators Inouye and Akaka, and the more than 320,000 who gave their lives in that war.

“We remember the Japanese Americans whose lives forever changed when after the attack on Pearl Harbor, they were thrown into internment camps. And the brave Nisei, who in spite of these atrocities, volunteered to serve, forming the Nisei-only “Go For Broke” 442nd Infantry Regiment, serving courageously, and sacrificing greatly.

“May we never forget what happened at Pearl Harbor, the lessons learned, and the sacrifices of all who served.”

Background: Last month, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard reintroduced a House resolution originally authored by Congressman Takai that commemorates the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and honoring the more than 320,000 men and women who gave their lives in defense of the United States during World War II.

VIDEO: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Urges President to Immediately Halt Dakota Access Pipeline

In a speech on the House floor Thursday, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard called on President Obama to immediately halt construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and announced plans to join thousands of veterans from across the country to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota this weekend.

tulsi-dakota“Growing up in Hawaii, I learned the value of caring for our home, caring for our planet, and the basic principle that we are all connected in a great chain of cause and effect.

“The Dakota Access Pipeline is a threat to this great balance of life. Despite strong opposition from the Standing Rock Sioux and serious concerns raised by the EPA, the Department of Interior, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and other Federal agencies, the Army Corps of Engineers approved permits to construct the Dakota Access Pipeline without adequately consulting the tribes, and without fully evaluating the potential impacts to neighboring tribal lands, sacred sites, and their water supply. Just one spill near the tribe’s reservation could release thousands of barrels of crude oil, contaminating the tribe’s drinking water.

“The impact of the Dakota Access Pipeline is clear. Energy Transfer Partners, the company constructing the Dakota Pipeline, has a history of serious pipeline explosions, which have caused injury, death, and significant property damage in the past decade. The future operator of the planned pipeline, Sunoco Logistics, has had over 200 environmentally damaging oil spills in the last 6 years alone—more than any of its competitors.

“Protecting our water is not a partisan political issue—it is an issue that is important to all people and all living beings everywhere. Water is life. We cannot survive without it. Once we allow an aquifer to be polluted, there is very little that can be done about it. This is why it is essential that we prevent water resources from being polluted in the first place.

“Our Founding Fathers took great inspiration from Native American forms of governance, and the democratic principles that they were founded on. Their unique form of governance was built on an agreement called the Great Law of Peace, which states that before beginning their deliberations, the council shall be obliged, and I quote, “to express their gratitude to their cousins and greet them, and they shall make an address and offer thanks to the earth where men dwell, to the streams of water, the pools, the springs and the lakes, to the maize and the fruits, to the medicinal herbs and trees, to the forest trees for their usefulness, and to the Great Creator who dwells in the heavens above, who gives all the things useful to men, and who is the source and the ruler of health and life.”

“This recognition of our debt to the Creator and our responsibility to be responsible members of this great web of life was there from the beginning of Western democracy.

“Freedom is not a buzzword. The freedom of our Founding Fathers was not the freedom to bulldoze wherever you like.

“Our freedom is a freedom of mind, a freedom of heart, freedom to worship as we see fit, freedom from tyranny and freedom from terror. That’s the freedom this country was founded on, the freedom cultivated by America’s Native people, and the freedom the Standing Rock Sioux are now exercising.

“This weekend I’m joining thousands of veterans from across the country at Standing Rock to stand in solidarity with our Native American brothers and sisters. Together we call on President Obama to immediately halt the construction of this pipeline, respect the sacred lands of the Standing Rock Sioux, and respect their right to clean water. The truth is, whether it’s the threat to essential water sources in this region, the lead contaminated water in Flint, Michigan, or the threat posed to a major Hawaiʻi aquifer by the Red Hill fuel leak, each example underscores the vital importance of protecting our water resources.

“We can’t undo history, but we must learn lessons from the past and carry them forward—to encourage cooperation among free people, to protect the sacred, to care for the Earth and for our children, and our children’s children. What’s at stake is our shared heritage of freedom and democracy and our shared future on this Great Turtle Island, our great United States of America.”

Background: In September, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and 18 House Democrats wrote to President Barack Obama calling on the United States Army Corps of Engineers to fulfill their responsibility of holding meaningful consultation and collaboration with the Standing Rock Sioux over the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Full text of the letter is available here.

Gabbard-Stewart Bill to Expand Veterans’ Healthcare Passes House

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard released the statement below after the House unanimously passed the Veterans TRICARE Choice Act (H.R.5458). The congresswoman introduced the legislation with Rep. Chris Stewart (UT-02) in 2015. The bill expands veterans’ healthcare options by allowing veterans to temporarily pause their TRICARE benefits to participate in an employer’s Health Savings Account (HSA) program if they so choose. Under current federal law, it is illegal for a TRICARE-eligible veteran to participate in an HSA program.

gabbard-health-bill“As a soldier and a veteran, I have seen firsthand the tremendous sacrifice our veterans and their families make in service to our country. That service should never limit their access to quality healthcare, and the ability to make decisions about their own health,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “The Veterans TRICARE Choice Act gives our veterans the ability to choose the best healthcare options for themselves and their families.”

“Our veterans deserve our most profound gratitude,” said Rep. Chris Stewart. “Nothing about their military service should prevent them from accessing the same benefits as their non-veteran co-workers. The very least we can do is ensure they receive the benefits we’ve promised them, and that the process goes as smoothly as possible.  We still have a lot of work to do on that front, but the passage of this bill is a great step in the right direction.”

Background: Health Savings Accounts have proven to be an effective way to pay for medical costs and proactively save for future medical expenses. Employees invest and save tax-free money in HSAs, which are then used to pay for qualified medical expenses. These have become increasingly popular healthcare plans in the private sector.

Under current federal law, it is illegal for a TRICARE-eligible veterans to participate in an HSA program. The Veterans TRICARE Choice Act simply gives veterans the choice to voluntarily pause their TRICARE benefits in order to participate in an HSA program.

The Veterans TRICARE Choice Act is supported by the Association of the United States Navy (AUSN) and the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS).

House Passes Gabbard-Cook Bill Encouraging Employers to Hire More Veterans

The HIRE Vets Act (H.R.3286), introduced by Reps. Tulsi Gabbard and Paul Cook (CA-08), unanimously passed the House today. This bipartisan bill would promote private sector recruiting, hiring, and retaining of men and women who served honorably in the U.S. military through a voluntary and effective program. Specifically, it would create a medallion program recognizing the meaningful, verifiable efforts undertaken by employers – both large and small – to hire and retain veterans. This bill will now move to the Senate.

gabbard-vet-bill-passRoughly 500 veterans return to civilian life every single day, joining the more than 2.9 million veterans that have returned home since 9/11. While we’ve taken some important steps to encourage employers to hire more veterans, more than 400,000 veterans across the country are still unemployed today,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “Through their service, veterans develop unique skills, experiences, and leadership training that make them especially valuable to employers. The HIRE Vets Act incentivizes employers to hire veterans, and recognizes employers that provide a supportive work environment to retain veteran employees.”

Background: The bipartisan HIRE Vets Act would promote private sector recruiting, hiring, and retaining of men and women who served honorably in the U.S. military through a voluntary and efficient program. Specifically, it would create an awards program recognizing the meaningful, verifiable efforts undertaken by employers – both large and small – to hire and retain veterans. Cook and Gabbard designed the program to be self-funded.

Through the U.S. Department of Labor, the HIRE Vets Act would allow businesses to display “HIRE Vets Medallions” on products and marketing materials. These medallions would be awarded as part of a four-tiered system – Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum – associated with specific hiring and retention goals each year.

The program also establishes similar tiered awards for small and mid-sized businesses with less than 500 employees. To ensure proper oversight, the Secretary of Labor would be required to provide Congress with annual reports on the success of the program with regard to veteran employment and retention results.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard on Passing of Rep. Clift Tsuji

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) released the following statement today after the passing of Hawaiʻi State House Representative Clift Tsuji:

 “Today, Hawaiʻi lost a dedicated public servant. Born and raised in Papaikou, Representative Clift Tsuji served the people of Hawaiʻi Island throughout his life. After graduating from Hilo High School, Rep. Tsuji served as a U.S. Army Reservist with the 442nd Infantry out of Hilo, and continued to serve Hawaiʻi Island in various community organizations, as a successful businessman, and as a representative for the people of Keaukaha, Panaewa, Waiakea, and parts of Hilo. As chair of the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Tsuji helped champion legislation to fight invasive species and strengthen our biosecurity.  I saw Rep. Tsuji recently at the Hilo Veterans Parade and, as usual, he was full of aloha, as he welcomed me to the community he loved so much. Today, my heart is with Rep. Tsuji’s family, friends, and all whose lives he touched.

tulsi-straw-hat

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Encourages Opportunities for Veterans in Technology

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Future Caucus and of the Diversifying Tech Caucus, delivered opening remarks at the congressional briefing Veteran Readiness in Technology: Preparing Veterans for the 21st Century Economy, hosted by the Millennial Action Project, Engine, TwinLogic Strategies, and Amazon.

tulsi-technology1The congresswoman spoke about how veterans are largely underrepresented in the rapidly growing technology industry, and about the importance of empowering veterans as they transition to civilian life. Following opening remarks, expert panelists discussed the current challenges transitioning service members and veterans face during their path towards a career in technology, and opportunities for veterans and service members in the 21st century tech economy.

tulsi-technology2“Roughly 500 veterans return to civilian life every day, bringing with them unique experiences and skills from their military service. Our veterans are natural leaders, trained to make decisions under pressure, work together as a team, and accomplish the mission at hand,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “Veterans have been largely underrepresented in the tech community, making up just 2% the sector that drives much of our economic innovation across the country. Ensuring our veterans have access to training and opportunities that set them up for success in the 21st century tech economy is good for our economy, good for our tech industry, good for our country, and good for our veterans.”

Background: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has introduced legislation like the Veterans’ Entry to Apprenticeship Act, to enable veterans to use their GI Bill benefits for apprenticeship programs in the skilled-trade industry, as well as the HIRE Vets Act to incentivize employers to hire and retain veterans.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Recognized As Top Advocate For National Food Policy

Food Policy Action announced Rep. Tulsi Gabbard as a top advocate for improving the nation’s food system.

ep. Tulsi Gabbard has been a top advocate for a clear, transparent, uniform food labeling standard

ep. Tulsi Gabbard has been a top advocate for a clear, transparent, uniform food labeling standard

The congresswoman earned a perfect score on the recent release of the National Food Policy Scorecard for her leadership advancing good food policy in the 114th Congress.

“Fighting for sensible, transparent food policies and supporting local and domestic agriculture have been among my key priorities. This Congress, we’ve unfortunately seen numerous attempts to roll back progress on good food policy, like undermining common sense food labeling standards across the country, fast-tracking the destructive Trans-Pacific Partnership, and lifting restrictions on the use of harmful pesticides near our vital water resources,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “Food security is a critical issue for people in Hawaiʻi and across the U.S. and I will continue to work hard toward creating a more secure, safe, and healthy future for our people and our environment.”

“Tulsi Gabbard is a strong food champion who has been a steadfast advocate for measures to fix our food system, voting to protect clean water, transparency in food labeling, workers’ rights, and the long-term viability of our food supply. Her 100% score on the National Food Policy Scorecard showcases her leadership on food policy issues in Congress,” said Tom Colicchio, Food Policy Action co-founder, chef and food advocate.

Background:

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has been a strong advocate for food and production safety and transparency, and was among just 18% of House members that received a perfect score on this year’s Food Policy Action Scorecard. Food Policy Action recognized Rep. Tulsi Gabbard for:

  • Fighting against the DARK Act and “fast-track” Trade Promotion Authority (TPA)
  • Working to pass clear, easy-to-read food labeling standards
  • Protecting the Clean Water Act and upholding restrictions on pesticide use
  • Reauthorizing services for kūpuna under the Older Americans Reauthorization Act

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has introduced legislation to protect local agriculture and help local farmers fight back against invasive species, including the Macadamia Tree Health Initiative and the Areawide Integrated Pest Management Act. As an original cosponsor of H.R. 913, the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, she helped lead Congressional opposition to legislation like the DARK Act and S.764, legislation that pre-empts state and local laws that already require labeling of genetically modified foods and creates a food labeling system based solely on industry science and corporate influences. She has continued working to pass a clear, uniform national labeling standard that makes it easier for consumers to know what’s in their food.

 

Food Policy Action was established in 2012 through a collaboration of national food policy leaders in order to hold legislators accountable on votes that have an effect on food and farming. The National Food Policy Scorecard reflects the consensus of top food policy experts who select the key food policy votes each year. The scorecard considers lawmakers votes on a variety of issues relevant to food policy in the U.S., including domestic and international hunger, food safety, food access, farm subsidies, animal welfare, food and farm labor, nutrition, food additives, food transparency, local and regional food production, organic farming and the effects of food production on the environment.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Hosts Congress On Your Corner, Addresses Maritime Pilots, Supports Arts Education

This morning on Maui, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard delivered welcoming remarks and a congressional update to 250 maritime pilots who direct ship navigation in and out of Hawaiʻi, as well as the country’s twenty-four ocean-bordering states.

tulsi-maui4She spoke about Hawaii’s rich culture and history based on sea navigation; the importance of safe, environmentally responsible, and efficient maritime commerce; and the effects of dangerous trade agreements on our country. The congresswoman also met with Captain Nancy Wagner, the first female ship pilot in the United States—today, more than sixty women work in this capacity as a senior sea officer in charge of bringing a ship in and out of port and responsible for the safe navigation of huge cargo ships and tankers.

tulsi-mauiIn Congress, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard serves on the STEAM Caucus, which values the inclusion of Arts Education in conjunction with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). Today, she toured the Maui Academy of Performing Arts (MAPA) facility and met with its directors to discuss the importance of their arts programs in schools and off-campus, which support literacy through the arts for students in grades 3-12.

tulsi-maui2This afternoon, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard hosted a “Congress On Your Corner” event, where she visited with more than forty people from across Maui, listened to their ideas and concerns, and answered questions about her work in Congress and at home in Hawaiʻi. She also met with constituents and organization leaders in Makawao who are serving the needs of their community in various ways.

Gabbard Honors Legacy and Service of Hawaii Nisei Veterans – Airport Unveils New Exhibit

At the Interisland Terminal of the Honolulu International Airport this morning, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard  joined the Nisei Veterans Legacy Center and Department of Transportation officials at the unveiling and blessing ceremony of a new permanent exhibit celebrating Hawaii’s Nisei veterans.

tulsi-nisei“It’s a privilege and an honor to be here to celebrate the Hawaiʻi Nisei Veterans display and all that it symbolizes—especially with our Nisei veterans here today, representing service and sacrifice from different conflicts and different generations,” said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, a twice-deployed Major in the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard.

tulsi-nisei2“Your courage during a very difficult time says so much about the values that we strive to uphold and celebrate in this great country. To have this display here provides the opportunity for people coming through as they travel—both kama’āina and visitors from across the country and around the world—to learn more about your sacrifice and to make sure that the legacy of your service continues for generations to come.”

tulsi-nisei3The exhibit was produced by volunteers from the Nisei Veterans Legacy Center, a nonprofit organization created to preserve and perpetuate the legacy of the Americans of Japanese Ancestry who served in the United States armed forces during World War II, including the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Military Intelligence Service, and 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion. Nisei stands for second generation and represents American citizens born in the United States whose parents immigrated from Japan.