No White Flags!

I’m excited to share some big news with you: the Senate has passed my bipartisan legislation, the Steve Gleason Act of 2015.

One of the first things you hear from the families of patients diagnosed with diseases like Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is how hard it is to communicate. So if there is anything we can do as lawmakers to help ALS patients live more independently and communicate with their loved ones – we should. That’s why this bill is such a huge win.

This legislation will help patients diagnosed with diseases such as ALS by making speech-generating devices more accessible and affordable. These devices are critical for patients who have lost their ability to speak, to communicate with friends, family or doctors, or even call 911 in case of emergencies.

This legislation was inspired by Steve Gleason. As you may know, Steve is a former professional football player with the Saints, and he currently lives with ALS. While fighting the disease, he has led his foundation, Team Gleason, to raise millions of dollars and grow public awareness towards finding a cure for ALS.

Passing this legislation has been more than a year in the works. I started working on this issue in 2014—and completed the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge with my son Jack somewhere in between—and first introduced this legislation in January. That was around the time I invited Steve to come to Washington D.C. as my guest to the State of the Union this year. We also met with the Secretary of Health and Human Services about getting her help to move our legislation forward.

Just as Steve gave the city of New Orleans hope to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina, his “No White Flags” message is giving hope to the ALS community. Now, with the help of Team Gleason, we can bring this hope to patients across the country by returning their ability to communicate.

Lessons from the BP Oil Spill 5 Years Later

This week marked the fifth anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico. Although five years have passed, it’s impossible to forget how devastating it was to Louisiana—it took the lives of 11men, five from Louisiana, and severely damaged our coasts.

As we remember everything from the oil spill, and all of the lessons we’ve learned, it’s important to remember the lives we lost and keep their families in your thoughts and prayers.

-         Donald "Duck" Clark, 49, of Newellton, Louisiana.

-         Stephen Ray Curtis, 40, Georgetown, Louisiana.

-         Gordon Jones, 28, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

-         Roy Wyatt Kemp, 27, Jonesville, Louisiana.

-         Keith Blair Manuel, 56, Gonzalez, Louisiana.

-         Jason Anderson, 35, Midfield, Texas.

-         Aaron Dale Burkeen, 37, Philadelphia, Mississippi.

-         Karl Kleppinger Jr., 38, Natchez, Mississippi.

-         Dewey Revette, 48, of State Line, Mississippi.

-         Shane Roshto, 22, Liberty, Mississippi.

-         Adam Weise, 24, Yorktown, Texas.

Ever since the disaster, I’ve been working with my colleagues to ensure this kind of tragedy never happens again and to make sure the Administration doesn’t react with misguided, kneejerk responses like the offshore drilling moratorium. That only made matters worse.

While many important reforms have been made in the past five years regarding the oil industry, there’s clearly a lot we can learn from the Deepwater Horizon spill. First off, we must put the lives and safety of the men and women who work in the offshore energy industry above everything else—safety standards overseeing them should be the paramount priority.

When the spill happened, federal agencies that had the duty of overseeing and regulating the field did not communicate clearly with state and local governments and impacted industries. This cannot happen again. We also cannot allow the Obama Administration to implement destructive policies such as the offshore drilling moratorium.

One of the most pressing long-term problems for those affected by this disaster has been the difficult nature of filing and receiving claims. I’ll continue working to ensure the process runs smoothly and efficiently. And of course, we need to ensure that BP pays the full mandated fines on time.

I’ve been fighting to help Louisiana’s energy industry return to its full vibrancy. When the Obama administration implemented the drilling moratorium following the BP oil spill, I fought to reopen the Gulf of Mexico to the energy exploration. In a small victory, I successfully blocked the nomination of Interior Department nominee Dan Ashe until the Department issued fifteen deepwater exploration well permits and responded to my requests for answers on the permitting process. I also successfully blocked a nearly $20,000 pay raise for Interior Secretary Ken Salazar until Interior resumed issuing new permits at the same rate as before the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Restoring our coastlines is also still a top priority. I was an original co-sponsor of the RESTORE Act, which dedicates at least 80 percent of the Clean Water Act (CWA) penalties paid by BP and other responsible parties to the Gulf States to restore coastal ecosystems and economies damaged by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

As always, I’m proud to be a Louisianian. If the Deepwater Horizon spill proved anything, it’s that we’re the most resilient state in the nation--we can and have bounced back from this devastating tragedy.

Unacceptable Wait Times at the New Orleans VA

Last week, I was appalled to learn that the New Orleans’ Veterans Affairs facility has the longest waiting times for medical care in the state of Louisiana. The VA needs to get their act together to provide much needed medical care for Louisiana’s Veterans.

When our service members return home, it’s our duty to provide for their care – with no excuses.

But frankly, I find it pathetic that after reports of mismanagement at the Veterans Administration and VA hospitals across the country this past year, there is still no accountability at the VA. There are reports that some veterans have to wait more than 30 days for a non-emergency appointment, even though the VA’s rules dictate that patients should have to wait no longer than a month.

I know that’s not good enough, and that’s why I’m fighting for our veterans and their families.

Alongside Congressman Boustany, I’ve led to help get a new outpatient clinic in Lafayette moving forward, and we’re doing the same for one in Lake Charles. We’re regularly getting feedback, input, and ideas from our local veterans. We’ve also teamed up to work on making sure Louisiana veterans are getting their payments for medical expenses paid for effectively and efficiently.

Veterans deserve the best care out there--having to wait over a month for an appointment is just wrong. I’ll continue working not only to get wait times in order, but to have the VA clinics in Lafayette and Lakes Charles built and operational as soon as possible.

It’s been folks like you sharing stories that will continue leading to reforms at the VA. If you’ve had any issues, please click here to share your story.

From our nation’s “Greatest Generation,” to those currently serving, my wife Wendy and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Steve Gleason Act of 2015

I’m proud to report that last week the Senate unanimously passed my legislation, the Steve Gleason Act of 2015, as an amendment to the budget bill. This legislation, which I introduced in January, would help patients diagnosed with diseases such as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) live more independent lives.

My legislation was inspired by my work with Steve Gleason. As you may know, Steve is a former professional football player with the Saints, and he currently lives with ALS. While fighting the disease, he’s led his foundation, Team Gleason, to raise millions of dollars and grow public awareness towards finding a cure for ALS. Steve’s cause and tremendous work is so important to me that I invited Steve to as my guest to the State of the Union this year in Washington, and we met with the Secretary of Health and Human Services about our legislation.

The Steve Gleason Act is a tribute to those living with ALS and similar diseases—it would make the equipment necessary for ALS patients’ to live their everyday lives more accessible. This equipment includes Speech-Generating Devices, which give a voice to those who have lost their ability to speak.

I think we should all take a cue from Steve Gleason: keep persevering in the face of what seems like defeat. Steve has accomplished incredible things in spite of his illness, and I’m truly inspired by him and everyone else who is working to stop ALS in its tracks.

New report: your taxpayer dollars are supporting abortions

I’ve always voted against giving any federal funding to organizations that perform abortions. But when the government hands out funding to groups like Planned Parenthood, we could guess where it was going – they proudly admit that the majority of their pregnancy-related resources go toward abortions.

Now, thanks to a new report from the Government Accountability Office, we don’t have to guess. We know how much money groups like Planned Parenthood receive. According to the report, six abortion advocacy groups received $481 million in federal funding and $1.2 billion in combined federal and state funding over the course of three years. Planned Parenthood alone received $1.5 billion dollars through combined state and federal dollars under federal programs, an average of about $500 million each year.

Taxpayer funding should in no way support abortions. To prevent this, I’ve reintroduced my legislation to prohibit taxpayer dollars from being awarded to any organization that performs abortions. Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) has authored the companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

I hope you agree – we can’t let any federal support come at the expense of millions of unborn children. I’ll continue fighting to make sure it doesn’t.