Here’s a suggested plan of action – tweet @jfranksmw or @hammarolivia if you have questions. You can also download the entire PLAN OF ACTION as a PDF.
GLOBALLY, let’s focus on positive. Remember the word “disappointed” has a lot of power.
WHAT: We need to tweet every member of the Committee (click here for Foreign Affairs Twitter handles)
WHY: We want as many members as possible to be at the hearing so that it has maximum effect.
HOW: Something like “Pls committ to attending #PTSD Hearing on 10/1 – we cannot leave a man behind. #bringbackourmarine #marineheldinmexico”
WHAT: Get those on House Foreign Relations to PUBLICLY commit to co-sponsoring H.Res. 620
WHY: Foreign Relations controls authorization for foreign aid funding and unanimous support would send a powerful message
HOW: Tweet the below members something like “Will you stand for “leave no man behind” and co-sponsor HRes. 620? #hres620 #ptsdhearing #marineheldinmexico #bringbackourmarine”
or: “I’m really dissapointed you haven’t taken a stand for Andrew by cosponsoring H.Res. 620 – we MUST stand behind him #hres620 #ptsdhearing #marineheldinmexico #bringbackourmarine”
THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE HAVE NOT CO-SPONSORED
Brad Sherman – D – CA – @BradSherman
Gregory W Meeks – D – NY @GregoryMeeks
Gerald E. Connolly – D – VA @GerryConnolly
Brian Higgins – D – NY – @RepBrianHiggins
Karen Bass – D – CA – @RepKarenBass
William Keating D – MA – @USRepKeating
David Cicilline – D – RI – @DavidCicilline
Alan Grayson – D – FL – @AlanGrayson
Bradley Schneider – D – IL – @RepSchneider
Alan S Lowenthal – D – CA – @RepLowenthal
Grace Meng – D – NY – @RepGraceMeng
Lois Frankel – D _ FL – @RepLoisFrankel
Joaquin Castro – D – TX – @JoaquinCastrotx
Eliot Engel – D – NY – Ranking Member – @RepEliotEngel
Steve Chabot – R – OH – @RepSteveChabot
Joe Wilson – R – SC – @RepJoeWilson
Michael T McCaul – R – TX – @McCaulPressShop
Adam Kinzinger – R – IL @RepKinzinger *Vet
Tom Cotton – R – AK – @RepTomCotton
George Holding – R – NC @RepHolding
Ted Yoho – R – FL – @RepTedYoho
Williams released today the text of a letter sent to all Members of the House of Representatives calling for co-sponsorship for H.Res 620 – a non-binding Resolution expressing the sense of the House that Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, now jailed in Mexico nearly 6 months, should be immediately released so that he may get the treatment for PTSD that he badly needs.
Williams will testify October 1st before the House Foreign Affairs Committee -Western Hemisphere Subcommittee in hopes of shining a very bright light on the challenges veterans like Sgt. Tahmooressi face in combat related PTSD.
Said Williams “It’s hard to fathom how 435 Members of the House of Representatives ‘claim’ to support or troops, ‘claim’ to be concerned about PTSD yet less than 70 of them (as of this morning), have stepped up to add their support to a remarkably simple, easy to vote for Bill that does exactly what they profess to support. A previous Congress sent Sgt. Tahmooressi to war, this Congress has an obligation to do its job and stand behind him now. As this Congress apparently prepares to debate another commitment of American troops, the fact that there are not 435 co-sponsors on this Bill is disheartening.”
The text of the letter reads:
I write you today in hopes that your boss will agree to co-sponsor H.Res 620 (Poe, Salmon, Sires) if you haven’t already. As a 22 year veteran of the Marine Corps and the Navy, I have been active on military issues from the day I took off my uniform. In recent years I have fought for better mental health care for those serving and for veterans – advocacy that is clearly badly needed with an average of 22 veterans committing suicide daily. To be clear, the issue of a mentally ill United States Marine being held abroad should be held above politics – this is not a Republican or Democratic issue – it is properly simply an “American issue.”
I’d also respectfully urge your boss to support the efforts of the House Foreign Affairs Committee via the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee which has noticed a hearing for October 1, 2014 at which Mrs. Jill Tahmooressi, myself, and others will give testimony in hopes of shining a light on the issues that Sgt. Tahmooressi’s combat related PTSD raises and the urgency it must now bring as his mental health continues to deteriorate without treatment.
I waited past day 150 to take a major public position on the Tahmooressi case, both out of deference to the Mexican system and a deep concern about the anti-Mexican turn in the grassroots advocacy. It is now clear that we cannot wait any longer. As Andrew nears six months in custody, it must be ever present in our minds that he has received no treatment for his PTSD while incarcerated. Below, you will find links that will allow you to view my correspondence with the Mexican Government to date.
My view is that it’s now clear that while some might argue the Mexican system may well be working as it generally does in Mexico from a legal perspective, the Mexican Government is unable and unwilling to provide Sgt. Tahmooressi much needed mental health care while in custody – mental health care that I understand to be generally accepted by most as a basic human right.
H.Res 620 is a common sense approach, in my view, to the reality that Sgt. Tahmooressi likely still has 3-4 months left in Mexico before the process reaches its conclusion – all without treatment for his PTSD. While clearly Mexico is an important partner, the cold hard reality is his mother indicates his mental health is deteriorating and he’s becoming despondent. While I understand that sound foreign policy respects the sovereignty of partner nations, the political reality is we cannot and should not take a risk that his untreated PTSD will result in a suicide. Whatever political problems may exist now, months longer with no treatment for his PTSD raises the specter of far worse problems.
I would respectfully ask that your boss step into Jill Tahmooressi’s shoes and ask “what would I want Congress to do were it my child”. Congress has the chance to make a difference here – a past Congress voted to send Sgt. Tahmooressi to war, this Congress has an obligation to stand behind him now. I hope he can count on your support.
Please feel free to reach out to Jon in my office, the contact information is below.
Lt. Commander Montel B. Williams (USN, RET.)
Correspondence with Mexican Government (linked)
September 3, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MONTEL WILLIAMS STATEMENT:
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Statement of Jonathan Franks on behalf of Montel Williams:
“It unfortunately appears likely that Congress will not reach agreement on legislation aimed at reforming the Veteran’s Administration prior to the August recess. Mr. Williams believes it is axiomatic that the responsibility of caring for those who served is part and parcel of the cost of war, yet wonders about the wisdom of additional funding for the Veterans Administration while such serious accountability problems exist within the agency. That said, given that much of the Iraq and Afghan wars were financed with debt, it does ring hollow for some of the same Members who voted to pay for the wars with debt to now raise fiscal concerns regarding the care of those who fought them.”
“For weeks now, Mr. Williams has proposed an idea to serve as the basis for beginning to solve the problem. That idea, which went viral on social media under the hashtag #vasurge, has become the subject of a White House petition. While Mr. Williams does not claim to have all the answers, it seems that fixing the problems at the VA have become mired in election year politics with both sides dug into the blame game.”
“Mr. Williams believes veterans have already paid their due. It’s time to stop the partisan pandering and honor our end of the bargain. He calls on our elected leaders to take Veterans off the political battlefield. Veterans deserve nothing less of their Government.” “Tonight Mr. Williams will launch a new hashtag #United4VASolution.”
“How can a nation that won’t take care of the best of us care for the rest of us?”
Montel Williams is a decorated former Naval Officer having spent 22 years in the Marines and then the Navy. He is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy
Small businesses are considered the backbone of the United States’ economy. Broad legislation is sure to have an impact on these scrappy companies and it is crucial to find a minimum wage balance that small businesses can afford, while giving workers a livable income. LUCID Public Relations, who represents entrepreneurs and start-ups, has seen this topic widely effect its clients. LUCID’s CEO, Jonathan Franks, appeared on HuffPost Live alongside Oregon Labor Commissioner, Brad Avakian, this week to discuss the impact public policy has on small businesses. Take a look!
Having served 22 years in the military before beginning my career in television, words do not exist to adequately express how enraged I am at this egregious failure of leadership and breakdown of process. A delay in care for our veterans is shameful in and of itself; however, the apparent existence of a widespread scheme to avoid disclosure of the backlog is nothing short of a travesty. Veterans have reportedly died as a proximate result of this political game of hide-a-cup and the resulting national outrage is deservedly swift and fierce. We owe a lifetime commitment to those who have risked their lives for the freedoms afforded to us on a daily basis and this commitment should be a matter of national pride – a staple of who we are and what we stand for as American citizens.
Certainly, those responsible for this atrocity should be held to account. The families of those who have suffered and died needlessly deserve nothing less. Yet, as history has proven time and time again, our political system prefers to focus on finger pointing rather than solving problems. Amidst the endless debating of whether or not the Secretary should resign, what everyone seems to have missed is that we desperately need to take the patients – OUR veterans – OFF THE BATTLEFIELD, especially the political one. Convincing ourselves that stripping someone of their title or position is an actual solution to the greater problem at hand is akin to putting a Band-Aid on a freshly lost limb: it solves absolutely nothing. Instead, lawmakers need to roll up their sleeves and do some real work together.
We have been at war for nearly thirteen years, and while our troops were on the front lines receiving mortar fire and avoiding cleverly hidden IED’s, we had plenty of time to plan for the increased cumulative stress on the VA system. Yes, the VA budget has increased to “record” highs in recent years, but to suggest that it has expanded enough to account for the amplified strain placed on the system by the fighting in the Middle East is illogical at best and downright deceitful at its core. Considering this, what steps can we take to ensure that the VA receives the funding it deserves and if it does, what assurances do we have that the increased expenditures will be used to clear the existing backlog as opposed to subsidizing more waste?
I’ve not deluded myself to think that I can adequately answer these questions on my own, and at the same time – given the state of our political system – I’m not sure we ought to place any trust in Congress or the VA to answer them either. Does that mean we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place? If so, let’s be clear that it will be of our own making. Consider this thought – what if the President were to order the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, whomever it be, in collaboration with the Secretaries of Defense and HHS, to within thirty days report back with plans to execute a 90 day “surge” using the existing healthcare resources of the various Departments and such civilian support as may be necessary to entirely clear the backlog and establish a baseline such that we can accurately judge the resources needed to provide timely care to every veteran and honor the commitment that seems sadly to have been broken. If need be, Congress should appropriate such funds as may be necessary to do so.
In many ways, finger pointing is the smartest political move. It looks good to the masses and checks off the proverbial due diligence boxes. Better yet it distracts people from the far bigger task at hand: figuring out how to meet the rising demand for healthcare services at the VA. One CBO analyst predicted that it may require as much as a 75 percent increase in inflation-adjusted dollars. With many in Congress bent on indiscriminately cutting the federal budget at all costs, I seriously question whether our elected leaders have the courage in sufficient numbers to even begin to tackle this issue if they know the end result could be spending more money.
This is alarmingly contradictory, as we’ve repeatedly seen that Congress has no problem routinely wasting billions of dollars on airplanes that the military doesn’t want and funneling taxpayer dollars into any number of other ridiculously inflated and unnecessary programs – eliminating just a few would likely be sufficient to fund what I propose here. Therefore, I simply refuse to accept the notion that we lack sufficient resources to fund something so pivotal to who we all claim to be as Americans.
This problem is not new, nor is it limited to this President, this Secretary or this Congress. In fact the President’s speech this week simply illustrates the problem and the need to take veterans off the battlefield. The President’s remarks last week could have been taken to imply that the Government’s steadfast refusal to stand behind some of blue water Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange was fixed – it is not – imagine how many of the 75,000 or so veterans in that category called in thinking they would finally get help only to be heartbroken yet again? Even one is too many for me, and it’s just one example of decades of mismanagement when it comes to the care of our veterans.
One thing I know for sure is that there are few obligations more fundamentally American than the keeping our collective promise, a sacred one in my opinion, to care for those who have served and are currently serving. As you read this, whether it be while sipping your coffee or lounging in your comfortable chair, consider that at this very moment some active duty enlisted man or woman is hunkered down in a country you’ve only seen pictures of avoiding incoming fire. At the same time, an aging veteran lives every day suffering from service related injuries of wars past– that is the human cost of the freedom you’re exercising right now. How dare we not do everything in our power to hold up our end of the bargain? A powerful question and one I hope we all take time to consider with Memorial Day upon us – saying “I support the troops” used to be in vogue, it’s time we mean it.
Montel Williams served 22 years in the Military, first in the enlisted ranks as a Marine before entering the Naval Academy and being commissioned a Naval Officer – he retired a Lieutenant Commander before launching his career in television.
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