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Congressman Bob Filner's Congressional Update - June 2009

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Congressman Bob Filner's Congressional Update

Helping End Abusive and Predatory Housing Practices
Celebrating Jewish American Heritage Month

Being Recognized for Perfect Voting Record by the Alliance for Retired Americans

Memorial Day: Putting Our Troops and Veterans First

Fully Supporting President Obama's Nominee, Judge Sotomayor, for the U.S. Supreme Court

Hosting a Veterans Town Hall at SDSU!

Roundtable Addresses Issues Confronting Women Veterans

Honoring UPS Carrier, Community Volunteer, Brian Ormand as Citizen of the Month

Constituent Mail Bag

Useful Website: Thomas--Legislative Information on the Internet

Helping End Abusive and Predatory Housing Practices

Last month, I joined my colleagues in passing the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act, H.R. 1728. This legislation will prevent the types of predatory and irresponsible mortgage loan practices that played a major role in the current financial and economic meltdown.

I worked to include a provision in the final bill that provides protection for renters. My amendment requires landlords to provide notice to their renters when they go into default and are in danger of foreclosure.

Too often renters pay their rent on time and assume their landlord is paying the mortgage, only to find out later this is not true. Sadly, in some cases they only discover the owner wasn't paying the mortgage when the property is foreclosed upon. Even worse, in some cases, landlords will rent a house when they know they can't pay the mortgage. They will rent these homes knowing they are going to be foreclosed on, and never say a word to the potential tenants.

We need to ensure renters have all the information. If their landlord is not able to pay the mortgage, they need to know this as soon as possible, and definitely before they sign the lease agreement.

Celebrating Jewish American Heritage Month

Last month, I released the following statement, calling on all Americans to join in celebrating Jewish American Heritage Month, which began on May 1st:

This month is a special opportunity to pay tribute to the contributions of American Jews throughout the history of the United States.

When the first Jewish settlers came to this land, they sought a place of promise where they could practice their faith in freedom and live in liberty. During this month, we celebrate the rich history of the American Jewish community and honor the great contributions they have made to our country.

As a nation of immigrants, the United States is better and stronger because Jewish people from all over the world have chosen to become American citizens. Since arriving in 1654, American Jews have strengthened our country and helped shape our way of life. Their commitment to excellence in science, public service, law, medicine, athletics, literature and countless other fields has enriched our nation and enhanced our culture. In addition, through strong ties to family and community, American Jews reflect a compassionate spirit and set a positive example for others.

My father's life reveals a powerful example of the spirit and values of the Jewish American Community. As an American soldier who could speak Yiddish, he was selected from the ranks to help liberate the Dachau concentration camp during World War II. Having viewed such painful and flagrant suffering, he became an advocate for all human rights and a strong supporter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He understood the devastation that is caused by discrimination and hatred, and he decided to do everything in his power to stop the spread of prejudice. I was fortunate to grow up under his positive influence, and I am proud that many Jews, and many Americans of all faiths, share his love of freedom and equality.

Jewish American Heritage Month provides us with an opportunity to reflect on all the diverse ways in which our families and American Jews in general have enriched our culture and enhanced our way of life over the last 353 years.

Being Recognized for Perfect Voting Record by the Alliance for Retired Americans

The Alliance for Retired Americans, a nation-wide organization of over 3 million members focusing on issues affecting seniors, has released their annual Congressional Voting Record for the 2007-2008 Congressional Session, and congratulated me for my 100% score.

The score for Members of the U.S. House of Representatives was based on ten votes on important issues for retired Americans. Included were votes on an increase in the cost of Medicare Part D, privatizing Social Security, background checks of long term care workers, and drug re-importation, among others.

The scorecard of the Alliance for Retired Americans is a way for seniors to judge for themselves how their legislators vote on issues of vital interest to them. I am very pleased that they have recognized my firm support of senior citizens by giving me a perfect score on my votes in the last two years.

I applaud the work of The Alliance for Retired Americans to ensure social and economic justice and full civil rights for all citizens.

For more information about issues and opportunities affecting retired Americans, visit the Alliance for Retired Americans' website at

Memorial Day: Putting Our Troops and Veterans First

Each year on Memorial Day, Americans come together to remember those who have sacrificed their lives on behalf of our country in the name of freedom and democracy around the world. The debt owed to them is immeasurable. Their sacrifices and those of their military families are freedom's foundation. Indeed, without the brave efforts of all the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines and Coast Guardsmen and their families, our country would not stand so boldly, shine so brightly and live so freely.

On this Memorial Day, we continue to be engaged in hostilities, and young men and women may pay the ultimate price while wearing the uniform of the nation. Let us support and pay tribute to our courageous troops currently serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the globe, who are the veterans of tomorrow.

All Americans honor the memory of the more than 4,000 Americans who have died in Iraq and more than 600 who have died in Afghanistan. We will also honor the wounded: more than 31,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and nearly 3,000 in Afghanistan.

As we honor the fallen, we must take this opportunity to renew our efforts to keep our promises to the troops of today and the 24 million American veterans of today and tomorrow.

To honor our troops and veterans during this economic crisis, Congress has enacted and implemented critical measures to expand economic opportunity and relief. Many of our troops have served multiple tours of duty, with great strain on their families and often at a cost to their financial futures. We are now implementing a new Post 9‐11 GI Bill to restore a full, four‐year college education, to allow up to 2 million warriors of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to be part of a new American economic recovery, just like after World War II. The original GI Bill launched millions of families on a course of prosperity and toward achieving the American Dream and we can do that again with this New GI bill that takes effect in August. Troops and veterans can begin to sign up now. Veterans coming home facing double-digit unemployment, so this Congress has worked for job creation for veterans with incentives for businesses to hire unemployed veterans, while providing nearly 2 million disabled veterans a $250 payment to help make ends meet, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Also, with the strong support of the veterans' organizations, this Congress has made an unprecedented commitment to veterans' health care. This year's veterans' budget, hailed as a "cause for celebration," provides veterans' health care and other services the largest funding increase ever requested by a President - even more than veterans' organizations requested. Not only will this expand mental health screening and treatment, vital to the many veterans suffering from PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury, it will end the Bush Administration ban on enrolling modest‐income veterans for VA health care and pave the way for sufficient, timely and predictable funding. This year's veterans' budget builds on the 40 percent increase for VA since January 2007 - including the largest single increase in the 78‐year history of the VA - which has strengthened quality health care for more than 5 million veterans - adding more than 8,000 new doctors and nurses - and has been critical to meeting the needs of the 363,000 veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan in need of care over the last two years.

Returning troops need better care to successfully rebuild their lives here at home. In 2007, Congress enacted the Wounded Warriors Assistance Act to address the problems and gaps in care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and other military health care facilities. This measure is being carried out with the recently announced implementation of electronic health records to give service members a single, accurate, paperless health records to smooth the transition from the Armed Forces to the VA system.

The New Direction Congress is also strengthening our military and addressing the worst military readiness crisis since the Vietnam War. Last year's bipartisan defense authorization boosted our force strength and bolstered our readiness so we can defend our national interests anywhere around the globe - and we can provide the best training and equipment for the men and women serving in our Armed Forces. Congress is working on a supplemental war funding bill that provides our troops in harm's way in Iraq and Afghanistan with everything they need, including much needed Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles to protect our troops.

Under Democratic leadership, Congress is also keeping our promises to our troops and their families. Last year, we increased military pay by 3.9 percent - more than President Bush's request; kept health care cost down for military retirees and their families by preventing TRICARE fee increases; and made progress in reducing the backlog and waits for veterans to access earned benefits. This year, we are providing payments for more than 170,000 service members and veterans forced to serve under stop‐loss orders since 2001, while investing in building new transition centers for wounded warriors returning from combat, more military child care centers, and better barracks and military family housing. And for the survivors of those who have served our country, we are taking steps to end the Military Families Tax, which reduces survivor benefits for 55,000, mostly widows of those who died from service‐connected injuries.

Politics and partisanship should never be a factor in our support for American veterans or troops. On the battlefield, the military pledges to leave no soldier behind. As a nation, let it be our pledge that when they return home, we leave no veteran behind.

Let us honor their service with actions that fulfill our commitment to our troops, their families, and our veterans - and that are worthy of our grateful nation. We must celebrate, honor, and remember these courageous and faithful men and women by restoring the promise of the GI Bill, strengthening our military, keeping our promises to our troops and families, and improving veterans' health care. That is our moral obligation as we honor those who have fallen on this Memorial Day.

Fully Supporting President Obama's Nominee, Judge Sotomayor, for the U.S. Supreme Court

Federal Appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor is an amazing Latina woman. I fully support President Obama's decision to nominate her for a seat on the United States Supreme Court. She had a modest upbringing, worked hard to succeed, and receives strong, bi-partisan support. I hope she will have the opportunity to put her sharp intellect and balanced judgment to good use as our new Supreme Court Justice

Hosting a Veterans Town Hall at SDSU!

As Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, I recently hosted a Veterans Town Hall at San Diego State University (SDSU) to discuss the impact of the new post-9/11 GI Bill on our veterans and military families. SDSU is leading the way in helping veterans feel welcome and honored on campus, including taking part in the Troops to College state-wide initiative. Research indicates that students who are veterans have a lower drop-out rate and high grade point averages than students who are not veterans.

Roundtable Addresses Issues Confronting Women Veterans

On Wednesday, May 20, 2009, I held a roundtable to address and assess the ability of the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide the right services to the country's 1.8 million women veterans. The roundtable format allows participants from veteran service organizations, representatives of the VA, and interested stakeholders to come together to indentify the specific issues facing women veterans.

Today we are on the forefront of embracing the needs of all veterans - not just the men. We know that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have seen the unprecedented call up of the National Guard and Reserve components. Today, women serve in the Guard and Reserve at a rate of over 17 percent which is 3 percent higher than that of the active duty military. We also know that women are serving in combat conditions right along side their male counterparts, which raises a whole new set of issues for these veterans.

Participants discussed a number of issues that solely affect women or impact female veterans differently than male veterans. Broadly, the need was raised for a coordinated and national effort to provide programs and services for women throughout the VA. Although new services are being developed and implemented, the need is immediate for newly returning female veterans.

Secondly, there was a call for increased training for administrative and medical VA personnel. According to Anuradha K. Bhagwati, Executive Director of Service Women's Action Network, "Many women veterans receive inferior treatment at hospitals run by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Attending a VA medical appointment as a women veteran can be a traumatic experience. VA employees sometimes fail to acknowledge the prevalence of servicewomen throughout the armed forces, forcing women to ‘prove' their veteran status."

Further, Grace After Fire Boardmember Kayla Williams described the misconception that women do not participate in combat, and therefore, are not eligible for service-connected benefits. Ms. Williams said, "Being in combat is linked to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but since women are supposedly barred from combat, they may face challenges proving that their PTSD is service-connected. One of my closest friends was told by a VA doctor that she could not possibly have PTSD for just this reason: he did not believe that she as a woman could have been in combat. It is vital that all VA employees, particularly health care providers, fully understand that women do see combat in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom so that they can better serve women veterans."

Participants also discussed the prevalence of military sexual trauma and the difficulty women continue to face as they transition from military to civilian life. Women detailed a perceived threat to a successful military career if they report military sexual trauma. They also shared the emotional and bureaucratic difficultly of receiving service-connection for mental health care as a result of the trauma they endured. A 2008 VA study reported that 15% of women in Iraq and Afghanistan experience sexual assault of harassment, which presents not only a retention issue, but clearly undermines the readiness of troops in the field and poses a threat to national security.

Also noted was the need to increasingly represent women in VA research, the reality that many female veterans have families and small children, the fact that many women veterans are married to men in the military, and the difficulty to rely on peer support because there are fewer women that have served in combat than men.

I referred to H.R. 1211, a bill introduced by Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin that would direct the VA to study barriers encountered by women veterans, assess all health care services and programs provided by the VA for women veterans, and provide graduate education, training and certification for mental health professionals who provide counseling, care and services to women veterans suffering from sexual trauma and PTSD, among other things.

Last month's roundtable brought together experts with a range of different experiences to identify the specific issues facing women veterans. Now, with this better understanding, it is our job to work to provide better treatment and more accessible services. My hope is that these discussions will lead to bold and bi-partisan legislation that will effectively tackle the needs of our brave and honored women veterans.

Brawley Senior Wins Congressional Art Competition!

I was recently joined by Fox 5 San Diego Meteorologist Chrissy Russo to honor Sergio Guieb, a student at Brawley Union High School, for winning the 51st District Congressional Art Competition. Sergio and two guests will be flown to Washington, DC in June to compete in the National Congressional Art Competition, courtesy of Southwest Airlines and the Barona Tribe of Mission Indians. Sergio also received San Diego Padres tickets courtesy of AT&T, which were presented by AT&T's External Affairs Director, Christine Moore. Sergio's winning piece, entitled "Melissa," will be displayed at the U.S. Capitol for one year.

Pictured here with Sergio and me is Chrissy Russo and AT&T's External Affairs Director, Christine Moore.

Constituent Mail Bag

From Chula Vista:

Our current health care system costs too much, wastes too much, makes too many mistakes and gives us back too little value for our money.

Skyrocketing health costs are forcing millions of Americans to choose between paying for health care or food, housing, and other necessities. In fact, millions of Americans are just one medical emergency away from bankruptcy and financial ruin.

With so many people looking at their health care premiums nearly doubling in the next 10 years, the time for action on health reform is NOW.

America needs you to take action to ensure that everyone has a choice of health care they can afford. I urge you to commit to working on a bipartisan basis to pass legislation that will provide all Americans with affordable health care choices and strengthen Medicare and improve long-term services.

Congressman Filner replies:

Thank you for contacting me about prioritizing health care reform.

I wholeheartedly agree! Millions of Americans cannot afford health insurance. We must provide comprehensive health care for all Americans as soon as possible! You will be glad to know that I have co-sponsored H.R. 676, the United States National Health Insurance Act. Rest assured, you can count on me to continue fighting to improve access to health care for all!

I appreciate your advocacy on this important issue.

Useful Website: Thomas--Legislative Information on the Internet

THOMAS, a Web site maintained by the Library of Congress, makes federal legislative information freely available via the Internet. Users can search for information on federal legislation, see what's happening in the House of Representatives, search or browse the Congressional Record, and view the text of historical documents. The THOMAS Web site answers frequently asked questions about how to use the site and the best ways to find the information that's available.

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