In a telephone conference with rural Nevada newspaper reporters on May 22, Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) said he is confident the Veterans Affairs (VA) Mission Act will pass soon.
The sweeping legislation includes three bills, authored by Heller, who is a senior member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, to help Nevada’s veteran and military communities.
He said the act will allow veterans the ability to make choices as to what VA facility to go to.
The proposed legislation also includes provisions to consolidate community care programs into a single, streamlined service; provides sufficient funding to fund the program throughout the next year; expands comprehensive assistance; strengthens the ability to recruit, hire, and retain quality medical personnel; and reforms the VA’s health-care infrastructure.
In his remarks during the phone conference, Heller referred to a call he received from a veteran in Gardnerville who lives just minutes away from a local clinic, but has to go over 100 miles to Reno because the local clinic can’t provide the services he needs.
“What we are trying to do with this legislation,” he said, “is to allow the veteran to use a local doctor, or someone they are comfortable with as long as they can be certified in the system.”
Heller noted that Nevada is either number one or two in the nation on tax reform benefits. “Maybe Alaska is benefiting a little bit more, but when it comes to job growth per capita, the state of Nevada is number one.”
Taking questions over the phone, Heller said of the wild horse and burro issues, “what I want the Interior Secretary to do is look at cutting the male population down by two-thirds and slowing down the growth of young colts.
It’s going to be a 10-year program and then we can get the wild horse numbers down to a reasonable level to about one-third of what we have now in Nevada as has been determined by the Interior Department.”
Heller is running for reelection. He is the front-runner among Republican opponents in the primary election in June and may potentially face District 3 Representative Jackie Rosen from Henderson in the fall general election. He spoke on the differences they have on the future of the internet in rural Nevada.
He feels Rosen wants to go back to Obama’s Title II proposal in 2015.
“It’s a 1930s-type regulation for the internet. But I don’t think such legislation will pass in the House. I do not want the federal government to determine content or to tax the internet. I believe the internet is the last bastion of freedom in America, for, frankly, both good and bad, but it is freedom. If it is put back under Title II, eventually this government will determine content and taxation, and that’s what I am trying to avoid. Rosen thinks something different. I want there to be competition on the internet. Under Title II you lose the kind of competition that’s necessary in order for technology to advance.”
He added, “If you put too many restrictions on access to the internet all you are going to do is deprive it of its ability to grow and technology to advance and get broadband out to the more rural areas.”
On other issues Heller said he recently discussed wildfire prevention with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue during a roundtable event. As a member of the Senate Western Caucus, Heller has supported several pieces of legislation to combat fires in Nevada. Most recently, he supported legislation signed into law to provide federal funding for wildlife management and improvements to firefighting by modernizing aviation, radio, and evacuation system infrastructures and other platforms that detect and monitor fire, which include projects like AlertTahoe. The legislation also directs the Forest Service to partner with the University of Nevada on wildfire risk mapping.
Heller is the author of the Emergency Fuel Reduction Act (S.1752), which would eliminate time-consuming federal permitting for hazardous fuel reduction projects on public land and give the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service the tools to clean up dead and dying trees on federal land.
Commenting again on Rosen, Heller said, “If she had her way there would be no mining, no agriculture, no cattle operations in the state. That’s the big difference between us. I may not get out to Lincoln County as much as I would like, but I guarantee Rosen has never been to Lincoln County. I live in Lyon County, in rural Nevada, and I am well aware of the important issues in the rural counties and what the population does between agriculture, mining, cattlemen, etc. That’s a big difference.”
Discussing streamlining Medicare and Medicaid funding for rural medical facilities, Heller said what is needed is competition in the rural areas. “The Affordable Care Act is still the law of the land and the way we are running the health care system right now is devastating the rural portions of the country; it’s a system that simply doesn’t work. Right now, 14 of Nevada’s 17 counties have but a single provider and they call all the shots, including premiums and deductibles, etc.”
Heller said this will bring about, “huge spikes in premiums because of the Affordable Care Act. Until we can choose providers in other states if you don’t like the ones in your state, we are going to continue to see not only services deleted and clinics and hospitals still struggling, but higher and higher premiums to a point that people can’t afford it. The answer is there needs to be more competition in the system or we will simply see prices continue to go up and services go down.”
He concluded these remarks by saying, “Here’s the choice in America today. You either believe in socialism or you believe in federalism, and I’m a federalist.”
Heller is co-sponsor of the Graham, Cassidy, Heller, Johnson bill, an amendment in the nature of a substitute to HR 1628, the House-passed bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
The reason being, he said, “To get the one-size-fits all system out of Washington, give the money to the states and let them figure it out. Then a person could go to a provider you do like, even if it’s out of state. As long as there is no competition the problems faced by those in the rural areas will continue.”
Heller also said he returned recently from attending the historic opening of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. During the trip, he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and top Israeli national security officials to discuss counterterrorism issues critical to the U.S.-Israel alliance.