Fighting Human Trafficking
Last week, the House of Representatives passed 12 bills to combat the growing problem of human trafficking, particularly child sex trafficking. Human trafficking is the fastest-growing business of organized crime, and the third-largest criminal enterprise in the world.
Tragically, it is happening right here in the United States. While attention to human trafficking may increase around special events such as the Super Bowl, it is also important to remember these types of activities are happening every day throughout the country. Sadly, human trafficking can even occur in rural communities.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) is a nonprofit organization established following action in the 1980s by Congress and former President Ronald Reagan. The organization coordinates with law enforcement, families, and professionals regarding the problem of missing and exploited children. According to NCMEC:
β’ 100,000 to 300,000 American children are at risk of becoming victims of child sex trafficking each year.
β’ Further, 1 in 6 endangered runaways reported in 2014 to the NCMEC were likely sex trafficking victims. 68 percent of these likely sex trafficking victims were in the care of social services or foster care when they ran.
β’ As part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative, the NCMEC recently partnered with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in conducting Operation Cross Country VIII. In merely 72 hours in 106 cities, 168 child sex trafficking victims (some as young as 13) were recovered, and 281 traffickers/pimps were arrested.
Disturbing statistics, to be sure. But even one victim is too many.
A number of these House-passed bills β which deal with various aspects of human trafficking including victim rehabilitation, training for government employees regarding how to properly identify and address human trafficking, greater enforcement and tools available to law enforcement, etc. β also passed the House last session, but were not considered in the Senate. I am hopeful these important, bipartisan bills will be considered by the Senate and become law. Human trafficking is a heinous crime, and it must be stopped.
As of October 2014, NCMECβs toll-free, 24 hour call center (which was created in 1984) has received more than 4,040,876 calls. Information regarding child exploitation and/or missing children can be reported to NCMECβs Tip Line at either www.cybertipline.com or 1-800-843-5678.
Veterans Access to Community Care Act
Last year, Congress passed and President Obama signed into law the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act (H.R. 3230) following reports of delays in basic medical screenings at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals or clinics throughout the country. Sadly, as you recall, those reports indicated that these delays may have caused serious injuries or led to the deaths of a number of veterans.
Among other reforms, the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act requires the VA to allow eligible veterans to receive care outside of the VA system at non-VA facilities if that veteran resides more than 40 miles from the nearest VA medical facility β as is often the case in the Ninth District β or if that veteran is unable to obtain an appointment within a 30-day timeframe.
Unfortunately, however, the Department of Veterans Affairs has misinterpreted this 40-mile rule, construing it to mean a 40-mile radius as the crow flies as opposed to the actual driving distance, which may include mountain passes, etc. This misinterpretation is significant in rural communities such as ours, in which people may live within the 40-mile radius of a VA facility, but in reality would face a far lengthier drive.
This flawed interpretation must be corrected, either by the VA or, in the absence of VA action, by Congress. I am an original cosponsor of the Veterans Access to Community Care Act (H.R. 577), which would clarify the 40-mile rule to mean 40 miles of driving. This bill also would take into account the physical needs of the veteran, allowing veterans to seek care locally if they reside more than 40 miles outside of a VA facility that provides the care they need.
Similar legislation (S. 207) has been introduced in the Senate by Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS). I agree with Senator Moran: veterans still struggling with access to health care must not be dismissed or forgotten on account of where they live.
Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives. If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.