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IRS Attempting to Audit Veteran Service Organizations
In May, revelations surfaced of the Internal Revenue Service's intentional targeting of applications for groups seeking tax-exempt status, behavior that is not only offensive but damaging to our Democracy. Following this scandal, more evidence of misconduct came to light when it was revealed that the IRS was handing out bonuses to executives, even as they furloughed lower-level employees. It is hard to imagine another agency less entitled to receive bonuses, at a time when so many Americans are struggling to make ends meet while managing the increasing burden of tax hikes from Washington.
On the heels of Americans' anger over the numerous IRS scandals that have accumulated in recent months, it appears the IRS is now turning their sights toward our nation's veterans. Last week, it was brought to my attention that the IRS intends to audit veteran service organizations by requiring the local American Legion or other veteran service organization to provide DD-214 Forms from every post member. If an organization is unable or not willing to turn over this personal information, they could face a fine of $1,000 per day.
I am concerned about this news, and am reaching out to Acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel to insist on answers. It appears this policy was published as part of a January 2011 IRS Manual under the leadership of Lois Lerner, and yet veteran service organizations were never specifically notified of the new changes and requirements. At an absolute minimum, the IRS should cease carrying out this mandate until further review, as we must make certain the IRS is not overstepping its bounds of privacy and respect for our nation's heroes. Surely the IRS has higher priorities than targeting our servicemen and women and our country's veterans.
Monitoring Veterans' Treatment at Walter Reed Medical Center
I've heard from several Kansas veterans concerned with recent reports detailing the difficulties for severely wounded service members at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. A building at Walter Reed, which provides care for multiple amputees and long-term recovery care no longer accepts meal tickets, forcing these patients to go to another building that does. In response, I have requested information from the Pentagon to explain this new policy that is unnecessary and adversely impacts our heroes as they convalesce. While Pentagon leadership has reacted to these reports by rescinding this policy, it must take effect immediately. Each service member who may be impacted needs to be informed through their respective chain of command as soon as possible to resume receiving meals without undue hardship. I will continue to monitor this situation to ensure our heroes receive the care they deserve.
Meeting with Leadership Kansas in KCK
Thursday evening I had the opportunity to speak to and took questions from the 2013 Leadership Kansas Class and alumni in Kansas City. The program is an opportunity for individuals across the state to further develop their leadership skills and learn more about communities, businesses and issues impacting our state. As Kansans, we have a special way of life which these leaders will continue to foster one person at a time. Thank you to Clint Robinson and Steve Troester for the invitation to speak to the class. Here, I'm pictured with Kansas Leadership Alumnus Clint Robinson of Overland Park.
Visiting with Kansas Cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy
I enjoyed getting to reconnect with Kansas Cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs this week who I first met during the nomination process. Listening to these young men and women served as a reminder that Kansas produces intelligent, hard-working and patriotic individuals who want to give back to their country. During the visit, I also had the opportunity meet with the U.S. Air Force Academy's recently appointed first female Superintendent, Lieutenant General Michelle Johnson. She also has Kansas ties, as she commanded the 22nd Air Refueling Wing at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita from 2002-2004. Lt. Gen. Johnson expressed great memories of her time in Wichita.
The Kansas Cadets pictured with me here are Charles H. Apt IV of Iola, James R. Carney of Overland Park, Jacob A. Helm of Norcatur, Christopher (Chris) S. Haley of Wichita, Courtney Keplinger of Overland Park, Taylor Pearce of Wallace, Eric Ruth of Johnson, and Eric Timpe of Paola.
Traveling Across Northwest Kansas
I enjoyed traveling and catching up with Kansans who live in the Northwest portion of our state this week. My first stop was in Saint Francis, where I was a guest of the Cheyenne County Development Corporation and City Council. We walked Main Street and met with local business owners who shared with me the great rewards and challenges of operating a business in a small town. Saint Francis is a good example of a rural community that continues to stick together to make certain it survives and flourishes.
Next, I stopped in Atwood for lunch at one of my favorite grocery stores, Williams Brothers Supermarket--they have one of the best deli counters around! It was good to see owner Mike Braxmeyer and talk through the issues facing him and his community.
After lunch, I made my way to Main Street in Logan where I visited with folks at the Logan Republican, City Hall, Baird Oil Company, 1st National Bank, Farmers National Bank, the Logan Post Office, Hansen Foundation Museum and finally the Co-op. It was a great way to hear from everyone and get a good dose of Kansas Common Sense before I head back to Washington in a couple weeks.
Patriot Outfitters Grand Opening
On Friday, I helped veteran-founded Patriot Outfitters celebrate the grand opening of their world headquarters in Saint Marys. Patriot Outfitters, which employs 130 individuals, is one of the leading suppliers of tactical gear and equipment for members of our military with 26 retails stores around the country.
The company is a good example of hardworking entrepreneurs who have taken risks and consequently seen their business grow. Since 2006, Patriot Outfitters has expanded their business in more than 11 states and is likely to continue growing in the coming years, evidenced by their impressive new headquarters building. It's our job in Washington to support entrepreneurs like Patriot Outfitters and create an environment that helps them succeed. I look forward to their continued success and support of our service members.
FHSU Schmidt-Bickle Indoor Training Facility
On Saturday, I joined Fort Hays State University (FHSU) faculty, staff, students and alumni for a dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Schmidt-Bickle Indoor Training Facility. The 50,400-square foot facility will be used year-round by all athletic programs at FHSU. It houses a 65-yard multi-sport practice field, batting cages, 70-yard three-lane synthetic track and jump pits, 5,000-square foot state-of-the-art weight room, and a team meeting room. The facility was named in honor of Don and Chris Bickle and Bob and Pat Schmidt, whose combined gifts of $2 million toward the training facility helped to significantly jump-start this project for the university three years ago.
The Bickle Family, the Schmidt Family, and the long list of donors whose contributions funded this project are to be commended. Congrats to FHSU President Dr. Hammond and his administration, the FHSU Foundation President/CEO Tim Chapman, and FHSU Athletic Director Curtis Hammeke and the athletics department on a job well done.
Visiting Hutchinson Regional Medical Center
Sunday evening I visited Hutchinson Regional Medical Center/Reno County EMS. I enjoyed touring the facility with CEO Kevin Miller and CFO Ken Johnson. We had a good discussion about the Affordable Care Act and other financial pressures on health care in Kansas. Even so, it's evident great things are happening here to provide quality care to the residents of South Central Kansas.
In the Office
Last week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office, including the Kansans listed below:
Honored to Serve You in Washington
It is an honor to serve you in Washington, D.C. Thank you to the many Kansans who have been calling and writing in to share their thoughts and opinions on the issues our state and country face. I appreciate the words of Kansans, whether in the form of a form of letter, a Facebook comment or a phone call, who wish to make their voice heard.
Please let me know how I can be of assistance. You can contact me by email by clicking here.
Very truly yours,