Religious Liberty in the Military
As a strong supporter of religious liberty for our men and women in uniform and civilians alike, I was concerned when I read recent reports indicating potential disciplinary actions, including court marshal, taken by the Department of Defense (DoD) against servicemembers for their religious beliefs. I immediately reached out to DoD officials and was reassured that DoD has no plans to single out a particular religious group or individual for any disciplinary actions based on their faith. DoD provided further clarity and confirmed that servicemembers can evangelize and share their faith with other servicemembers, but without attempting to force one's faith on another. DoD provides no endorsement for any one religion or religious organization; all of our military branches include a chaplaincy with ordained chaplains from many different religious faiths. Rest assured, I will continue to monitor this situation to ensure that religious liberty is fully respected within the Department of Defense.
On Tuesday, President Obama once again announced plans to close the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The President's initial pledge to close the facility was made during his 2008 presidential campaign, and it was met with strong, bipartisan opposition. One of his early plans was to transfer some of the world's most dangerous terrorists to a facility in Illinois, a plan that was quickly thwarted by Congress. To date, the President has yet to offer a reasonable path forward on how his Administration intends to relocate the detainees after the facility's closure or how future terrorist detainment will occur.
I would like to reaffirm my strong opposition to any attempts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and import its terrorists into American communities. At the same time, I feel there is a need to alleviate the financial burden on our Nation, but not at the cost of our national security.
National Day of Prayer
On May Second, people all across this nation joined together in the National Day of Prayer. Prayer, although controversial to some, is one of the most important facets of life and has always been part of our nation's history. Benjamin Franklin began the tradition of prayer before Congressional deliberations at the Constitutional Convention. Like our Founding Fathers, we continue to rely on the power of prayer to guide our actions and strengthen our faith no matter which religion we choose to practice. I value my time in prayer, and I am blessed to be joined by several of my colleagues as we gather weekly to pray, worship and seek God's wisdom.
In the spirit of the National Day of Prayer, I would like to share with you the first prayer of the Continental Congress, 1774, which I proudly display in my Washington D.C. office
Boston Marathon Bombing
Every week, I receive thousands of letters and phone calls from constituents all across Florida's First Congressional District. Without the input of hardworking Northwest Floridians, it would be nearly impossible for me to do my job. One topic that seemed to be on the minds of many constituents last week was continuing investigation into the Boston Marathon Bombing.
In response to the concerns of many received last week regarding the events leading up to the recent terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon, I would like to inform you that the House Homeland Security Committee will hold their first congressional hearing this week. Receiving answers to the many pending questions will help us to better understand the national security issues facing our Nation.
National Stroke Awareness Month
I was reminded last month during a constituent meeting that May is Stroke Awareness Month. Since its designation in 1989, the purpose of Stroke Awareness Month is to educate the public on the enormous emotional, physical, and financial impacts that strokes have on hundreds of thousands of Americans and their families each year.
VA Performance Appraisal System
When it comes to executive bonuses, apparently there is no limit to VA's tone deafness. The department's latest unbelievable bonus was a whopping $62,895 paid to VISN 4 Director Michael Moreland in the wake of patient deaths at a hospital he oversees. On its own, this incident is egregious enough. But unfortunately we've learned in recent days that multiple VA medical center officials have received bonuses in the wake of patient deaths linked to mismanagement. That's why I am calling on VA to conduct a top-to-bottom review of its performance appraisal system to ensure outrageous bonus payments like this do not occur in the future. In the meantime, VA owes us all -- especially the families of those who died -- an explanation as to why the department awarded these bonuses.
In today's economic climate, finding meaningful employment is a challenge, and, unfortunately, this difficulty extends to our nation's veterans. I firmly believe that we must come together as a Nation to keep our promise to those who have protected not only our liberty, but the American way of life. It is our duty to welcome these men and women back into society and match their skills with jobs.
To help put many of our nation's unemployed veterans back to work, one of my highest priorities in the last Congress was the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, which was signed into law. This comprehensive package was designed to reduce unacceptably high veteran unemployment by expanding education and job training, improving the Tuition Assistance Program, facilitating seamless transitions to civilian life, translating military skills and training to the private sector, and providing tax credits for businesses that hire veterans.
Included in the VOW to Hire Heroes Act is the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP), which offers up to 12 months of training assistance to unemployed Veterans. Since the program began last year more than 99,000 applications have been approved.
Businesses in Northwest Florida are also doing their part to help hire veterans. I am pleased to inform you about an upcoming event this Friday, May 10, 2013. Veterans, members of the National Guard and Reserves, and families of Active Duty Military Personnel are invited to attend a job fair from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at JobsPlus One-Stop, located at 409 NE Racetrack Road in Fort Walton Beach. This is just another way we can better serve veterans in Northwest Florida. The Veterans' Fair will help give constituents access to prospective employers seeking to fill current vacancies.
In the District
Escambia River Electric Coop 74th Annual Meeting
As a member of the Escambia River Electric Cooperative, Inc. (EREC), I was pleased to join over 300 constituents at EREC's annual meeting last weekend in Jay. Since it's founding in 1939, residents of northern Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties have depended on EREC's efforts to bring affordable electric power to the area. I would like to once again thank EREC for their 74 years of service to Northwest Florida and congratulate Megan Flaherty of Central High School and Justin Haltman of Northview High School as this year's high school senior award recipients. Keep up the great work.
Pine Forest High School
I was asked by a highly motivated student to come speak to Pine Forest High School's Advanced Placement Government and Politics class. The group of extremely bright and hardworking students that I met at Pine Forest is a true testament to the quality of education here in Northwest Florida. I was glad to speak with these young men and women about my role as an elected representative of the people of Florida's First Congressional District and update them on some of the legislative issues that Congress is currently debating. Both Northwest Florida and our nation are in good hands with talented students like the ones I met at Pine Forest on the horizon as the next generation of American leaders.
Congressman Miller at Pine Forest High School
Escambia County School District Appreciation Luncheon
I was pleased to attend the Escambia County School District Appreciation Luncheon on Thursday. It was wonderful to help honor the teachers, staff, and volunteers that make such an immense impact on the lives of the students of Escambia County. The commitment and passion to ensuring the success of our students is inspiring and the awards for Teacher of the Year, Volunteer of the Year, and Outstanding Partner in Education are tokens of our appreciation. We are truly blessed to have these dedicated individuals educating the students of our community.
Inspiration Student Hero Awards Ceremony
For nearly 20 years, Cox Communications has awarded the Inspirational Student Heroes Award to thousands of students in Northwest Florida who have each demonstrated that, despite facing various challenges in life, success can be achieved through courage, hard work, and a positive attitude. I was honored to help recognize 75 of the extraordinary students along the Gulf Coast for the inspiration they have provided to their peers and our community.
Bar Association Law Day Luncheons
Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the Escambia-Santa Rosa and Okaloosa-Walton Bar Association Law Day Luncheons. Our Constitutional rights are what served as the bedrock upon which generations of hardworking Americans built the great nation that we are all so proud to call home. That same spirit of hard work, American ingenuity, and a steadfast commitment to upholding our Constitutional rights is alive and well today across our Nation. As we seek to solve the pressing political questions of our day, we must remember to look back to our founding documents and the legacy countless great Americans who have stood up and fought to protect and preserve the Constitutional liberties that have made the United States of America the greatest nation on Earth.
As always, I welcome your comments. To share your thoughts on legislation, votes or issues, please visit http://jeffmiller.house.gov/ to send an e-mail or call any of my offices.