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Roby and Rogers Critical of VA Backlog

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Friday, May 2, Representative Martha Roby (R) from Montgomery released a statement concerning the backlog situation at the Veterans Administration and efforts to correct the abusive system which has seen some veterans die while waiting for medical care; care that was promised to them when they enlisted.  Congressman Mike Rogers (R) from Saks has also recently commented on the VA crisis.

Rep. Roby said, “There is no greater duty we have as a nation than to care for our veterans. Thousands of doctors, nurses, and public servants at the VA work hard to give veteran patients the best healthcare we can offer. But, too often, our system fails those it was created to help.  An outrageous backlog at the VA has caused veterans to wait months for answers on disability claims.”

Rep. Roby continued, “The same is true of VA medical services, where waiting lists for some critical services are terribly long. In some instances, veterans may have died waiting for health services from the VA.  That is simply unacceptable in the United States of America, and we need to do something about it. That’s why I’m pleased the House of Representatives on Thursday passed an appropriations bill providing critical funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs, while also seeking systemic changes to improve service.”

Rep. Mike Rogers said, “The recent reports of preventable deaths of Veterans while waiting for VA care are appalling and inexcusable. It is also greatly disturbing to learn that some senior executive managers at these specific VA centers received massive bonuses, and those bonuses were never tied to their performance. These senior managers have the duty and responsibility to make sure our Veterans get the care they deserve on time. If they can’t do their jobs, then they should be fired.”

Rep. Roby said, “This bi-partisan bill increases funding for veterans programs by $1.5 billion for fiscal year 2015 while remaining in line with recently enacted budget caps. Specifically, the bill provides funding for medical care, mental health services, suicide prevention activities, traumatic brain injury treatment, homeless services and job training. The bill also contains more than $344 million to modernize the VA electronic health record system and more than $173 million to update the paperless claims processing system – both of which are badly needed to deal with the claims backlog.”

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Rep. Roby continued, “As a member of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, I was proud to work with my colleagues on this funding measure that will ensure proper resources for our veteran assistance programs. I’m also proud that the bill passed the full House of Representatives by an overwhelming 416-1 vote.”

Rep. Rogers said that he supports HR 4031, the “Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act of 2014,” which would give the Secretary of Veterans Affairs the authority to remove employees of the Senior Executive Service based on performance.  Rep. Rogers said, “The senior leadership at the VA must be held accountable for their management performance. Once they are, then hopefully they will start to address the massive backlog of cases at the VA. I fully support House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller’s call for an inspector general’s investigation on these recent reports of preventable deaths and lavish bonuses.”

Rep. Roby said, “Of course, money alone won’t solve the backlog problems, which is why the bill contains important measures increasing oversight of and accountability within the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

Rep. Roby said, “One way I believe we can greatly improve the timeliness and quality of veteran health services is to further develop the Patient-Centered Community Care program, which allows the VA to contract with local health providers. Some services that our veterans need aren’t always offered at their local VA hospital, or if they are, the waiting list for service might be really long. In these cases, it only makes sense for the VA to contract out services through local providers and get the veteran patients the care they need.”

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Rep. Rogers said, “Our veterans answered the call of duty when our nation needed them. Our nation in turn must keep our promise we made to them.”

Congresswoman Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District.  Congressman Mike Rogers represents Alabama’s Third Congressional District.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Vaccines should protect against mutated strains of coronavirus

Public health experts say it will be some time before vaccines are available to the wider public.

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Multiple vaccines for COVID-19 are in clinical trials, and one has already applied for emergency use authorization, but how good will those vaccines be against a mutating coronavirus? A UAB doctor says they’ll do just fine. 

Dr. Rachael Lee, UAB’s hospital epidemiologist, told reporters earlier this week that there have been small genetic mutations in COVID-19. What researchers are seeing in the virus here is slightly different than what’s seen in the virus in China, she said. 

“But luckily the way that these vaccines have been created, specifically the mRNA vaccines, is an area that is the same for all of these viruses,” Lee said, referring to the new type of vaccine known as mRNA, which uses genetic material, rather than a weakened or inactive germ, to trigger an immune response. 

The U.S. Food And Drug Administration is to review the drug company Pfizer’s vaccine on Dec. 10. Pfizer’s vaccine is an mRNA vaccine, as is a vaccine produced by the drug maker Moderna, which is expected to also soon apply for emergency use approval. 

“I think that is incredibly good news, that even though we may see some slight mutations,  we should have a vaccine that should cover all of those different mutations,” Lee said. 

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Wisconsin-Madison found in a recent study, published in the journal Science, that COVID-19 has mutated in ways that make it spread much more easily, but the mutation may also make it more susceptible to vaccines. 

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In a separate study, researchers with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation found that while most vaccines were modeled after an earlier strain of COVID-19, they found no evidence that the vaccines wouldn’t provide the same immunity response for the new, more dominant strain. 

“This brings the world one step closer to a safe and effective vaccine to protect people and save lives,” said CSIRO chief executive Dr. Larry Marshall, according to Science Daily

While it may not be long before vaccines begin to be shipped to states, public health experts warn it will be some time before vaccines are available to the wider public. Scarce supplies at first will be allocated for those at greatest risk, including health care workers who are regularly exposed to coronavirus patients, and the elderly and ill. 

Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, speaking to APR last week, urged the public to continue wearing masks and practicing social distancing for many more months, as the department works to make the vaccines more widely available.

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“Just because the first shots are rolling out doesn’t mean it’s time to stop doing everything we’ve been trying to get people to do for months. It’s not going to be widely available for a little while,” Harris said.

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Tuberville looks forward to public service “probably for the rest of my life”

Tuberville’s term as senator will begin on Jan. 3 when the 117th Congress is sworn in.

Brandon Moseley

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Senator-elect Tommy Tuberville during an interview with Sean Spicer on Newsmax.

U.S. Senator-elect Tommy Tuberville, R-Alabama, told Newsmax’s Sean Spicer that he looks forward to the opportunity to give back to this country.

“After winning this and after being up here a couple of weeks and seeing how much of a difference we have made just to this point in the Senate has been gratifying,” Tuberville said. “I look forward to doing public service probably for the rest of my life.”

Tuberville said that he was 18 years old when the Vietnam War was coming to a close and then got into coaching so never served in the military and looks forward to the opportunity to give back to the country.

“As I went around the state of Alabama for those two years though I learned the respect of the people and how much that they want this country to remain the United States of America that we know and grew up in to go by the Constitution and those things. As I went through the campaign I got more and more fond of that I want to give back,” Tuberville said.

“I never served, I never gave back, but God was so good to me and my wife my family,” Tuberville said. “Giving back means so much to me after I was given so much for many, many years.”

Tuberville said that education will be a priority for him, getting education back to fundamentals like reading, writing, history and math. Tuberville said that unless the country gets back to fundamentals in education, “This country is not going to make it. We have got to get back to fundamentals and we are getting farther and farther every day.”

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Tuberville was the only Republican on Nov. 3 to defeat an incumbent Senate Democrat when he unseated Sen. Doug Jones.

“I want to be the voice for the people of Alabama,” Tuberville explained. “The previous Senator was a voice for his party, the Democratic party.”

Tuberville, a career college football coach, reiterated his position that we should play sports and send kids back to school despite the coronavirus global pandemic.

“I think we are doing a lot better in sports than we are doing in a lot of other areas,” Tuberville said. “I was keeping my fingers crossed back in August that we would let our young kids go play high school sports, number one, and then we get into college sports. There are so many people throwing negatives on why we should not do that. But I can tell you, you can see many more positives if we go back to school and we play sports. It’s important that we attack this virus as it has been attacking us. If it gives us an inch, we gotta take it.”

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Tuberville reiterated his opposition to shutting down restaurants, schools and businesses to fight the virus.

“We have to get back to everyday life,” Tuberville said. “You can’t keep shutting people down. Freedom is a power that we have. A power that we have earned because of our forefathers. We can’t give that up.”

Tuberville is an Arkansas native. He was the head football coach at Auburn University where he won an SEC championship, Ole Miss, Texas Tech, and Cincinnati. Prior to that, he was a national championship defensive coordinator at the University of Miami. He was also the defensive coordinator at Texas A&M.

Tuberville’s term as senator will begin on Jan. 3 when the 117th Congress is sworn in.

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UAB cancels third game

The only remaining game on UAB’s schedule is a game at Rice on Dec. 12.

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The UAB Department of Athletics on Thursday announced that it is canceling its final home game of the season. UAB was scheduled to play Southern Mississippi on Friday at Legion Field, but the game was canceled due to continuing problems with COVID-19.

UAB has said that it will “continue to work with Conference USA on the remaining regular-season schedule.”

The only remaining game on UAB’s schedule is a game at Rice on Dec. 12.

UAB currently has a record of just four wins and three losses.

A win at Rice would guarantee the Blazers a winning season, but in this COVID altered season, a four and three or four and four record is probably good enough to be bowl eligible.

Southern Miss has had a dreadful season. They are two and seven and have two remaining games, against UTEP and Florida Atlantic. Both of those games were postponed from earlier in the season.

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Unless the season is extended a week to the 19th, there is no way for UAB and Southern Miss to make up the canceled game.

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Official state Christmas tree was delivered

The approximately 35-foot tree will be displayed on the front steps of the state Capitol building.

Brandon Moseley

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The 2016 state Christmas tree in front of the state Capitol.

Alabama’s official Christmas Tree was delivered to the state Capitol this week.

This year’s tree was donated by Robbins Taylor Sr. It is an Eastern Red Cedar that was grown in Letohatchee, Alabama.

The approximately 35-foot tree will be displayed on the front steps of the state Capitol building.

The tree will be adorned with lights and decorations ahead of the Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Friday, Dec. 4. Gov. Ivey’s Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at the Capitol in Montgomery.

Alabama became the first state in the nation to make Christmas an official government holiday in 1836. Christmas was declared a federal holiday in the United States on June 26, 1870.

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