North Star Newsletter: Cutting Wait Times at the VA

Senator Al Franken
2015-03-18 12:22:13
North Star Newsletter | March 2015 Cutting Wait Times at the VA We know that the battles for returning veterans in Minnesota and across the country don't always end when they get home. Too many return with mental and physical disabilities that they sustained while protecting our freedoms. All that veterans expect in return for their service is for us to keep our promises and get them the VA benefits they've earned. That's why I have once again joined with Minnesota Congressman Tim Walz to reintroduce bipartisan legislation to help the VA speed up the claims process that is forcing hundreds of thousands of veterans to wait 125 days or more to get the help they need. While the problem is improving, significant work remains to cut the current VA backlog and prevent future problems. Our bill will allow veterans to see local, qualified doctors for medical examinations that now require long waits at a VA facility for the same exam. This change will cut the long wait times at VA hospitals, enable quicker diagnoses of disabilities, and help eliminate unnecessary trips to the VA for veterans in rural communities. The goal is simple: we must uphold the promises that our nation has made to our veterans. Protecting Consumers from Unfair Corporate Practices Forced arbitration is the fine print in everything from your cell phone bill to your employment contract that says if you have a dispute with that company, you have waived your right to take them to court. Now, I have no problem when both parties voluntarily agree to use arbitration, but I think it's outrageous for big corporations to use these clauses to insulate themselves when they break the law. That puts Minnesotans who are victims of wrongdoing at a huge disadvantage. So I'm pleased that last week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—or CFPB—released a study that helps expose this abusive practice. It found that mandatory arbitration clauses are trampling the rights of tens of millions of consumers, often without their knowledge. I've long thought this problem needed to be fixed, which is why I authored the Arbitration Fairness Act—a bill that would put an end to these kinds of agreements—and why I'm now pressing the CFPB to issue commonsense rules to address this issue. Because when consumers are wronged, I believe they should be able to have access to justice. Working to Ensure Rail Safety The resurgence of American energy that we've seen in recent years has created new opportunities, but also new challenges. Every day, trains carrying highly volatile oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota pass through Moorhead, Saint Cloud, Rochester, and large portions of the Twin Cities metro area. To prevent devastating accidents, we need to make sure there are measures in place to protect our communities. For some time, I've been working hard to ensure the safety of the trains carrying this type of oil. That's why I backed new federal safety standards for these trains, and pressed for the creation of a new fund to manage issues related to oil transportation. And after hearing from people all over Minnesota, just this week I made a major push to require that this crude oil be treated to make it less volatile before being shipped. These trains need to be held to the highest safety standards possible to prevent disaster, and I intend to continue shining a light on this increasingly important issue. New Net Neutrality Rules: Big Victory for Free Speech The Internet is a vital part of our daily lives, and net neutrality—a term you may have heard me talk about before—is at the core of how the Internet operates. Net neutrality, put simply, is the principle that all legal content online is treated equally. That means the website for a blogger in Duluth travels to you at the same speed as an article from the New York Times' website or a video on FoxNews.com. Net neutrality is the reason the Internet has been such a powerful engine for economic growth and an important tool for democracy and free speech. Recently, the Federal Communications Commission—or FCC—successfully voted to put in place new, strong net neutrality protections. This is an enormous victory, and is the result of years of hard work by countless Americans, including myself, who believe the Internet must remain free and open. But the fight isn't over. Some of my colleagues are already working on legislation to undo all of this. So in the weeks and months ahead, I will continue to make sure that everyone understands what's at stake, and why we need to stand by the action the FCC took. To unsubscribe from these newsletters, please visit the unsubscribe page here: franken.senate.gov/

North Star Newsletter | March 2015

We know that the battles for returning veterans in Minnesota and across the country don't always end when they get home. Too many return with mental and physical disabilities that they sustained while protecting our freedoms. All that veterans expect in return for their service is for us to keep our promises and get them the VA benefits they've earned.

That's why I have once again joined with Minnesota Congressman Tim Walz to reintroduce bipartisan legislation to help the VA speed up the claims process that is forcing hundreds of thousands of veterans to wait 125 days or more to get the help they need.

While the problem is improving, significant work remains to cut the current VA backlog and prevent future problems. Our bill will allow veterans to see local, qualified doctors for medical examinations that now require long waits at a VA facility for the same exam. This change will cut the long wait times at VA hospitals, enable quicker diagnoses of disabilities, and help eliminate unnecessary trips to the VA for veterans in rural communities.

The goal is simple: we must uphold the promises that our nation has made to our veterans.

Forced arbitration is the fine print in everything from your cell phone bill to your employment contract that says if you have a dispute with that company, you have waived your right to take them to court. Now, I have no problem when both parties voluntarily agree to use arbitration, but I think it's outrageous for big corporations to use these clauses to insulate themselves when they break the law. That puts Minnesotans who are victims of wrongdoing at a huge disadvantage.

So I'm pleased that last week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—or CFPB—released a study that helps expose this abusive practice. It found that mandatory arbitration clauses are trampling the rights of tens of millions of consumers, often without their knowledge.

I've long thought this problem needed to be fixed, which is why I authored the Arbitration Fairness Act—a bill that would put an end to these kinds of agreements—and why I'm now pressing the CFPB to issue commonsense rules to address this issue. Because when consumers are wronged, I believe they should be able to have access to justice.

The resurgence of American energy that we've seen in recent years has created new opportunities, but also new challenges. Every day, trains carrying highly volatile oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota pass through Moorhead, Saint Cloud, Rochester, and large portions of the Twin Cities metro area. To prevent devastating accidents, we need to make sure there are measures in place to protect our communities.

For some time, I've been working hard to ensure the safety of the trains carrying this type of oil. That's why I backed new federal safety standards for these trains, and pressed for the creation of a new fund to manage issues related to oil transportation.

And after hearing from people all over Minnesota, just this week I made a major push to require that this crude oil be treated to make it less volatile before being shipped. These trains need to be held to the highest safety standards possible to prevent disaster, and I intend to continue shining a light on this increasingly important issue.

The Internet is a vital part of our daily lives, and net neutrality—a term you may have heard me talk about before—is at the core of how the Internet operates. Net neutrality, put simply, is the principle that all legal content online is treated equally. That means the website for a blogger in Duluth travels to you at the same speed as an article from the New York Times' website or a video on FoxNews.com.

Net neutrality is the reason the Internet has been such a powerful engine for economic growth and an important tool for democracy and free speech. Recently, the Federal Communications Commission—or FCC—successfully voted to put in place new, strong net neutrality protections. This is an enormous victory, and is the result of years of hard work by countless Americans, including myself, who believe the Internet must remain free and open.

But the fight isn't over. Some of my colleagues are already working on legislation to undo all of this. So in the weeks and months ahead, I will continue to make sure that everyone understands what's at stake, and why we need to stand by the action the FCC took.

To unsubscribe from these newsletters, please visit the unsubscribe page here: