Press Releases

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) issued the below statement following the passage of S.J.Res.54, a joint resolution to end U.S. military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen:

“I voted for the resolution to end unauthorized U.S. military involvement in Yemen because I can no longer, in good conscience, support the current approach by the Saudi-led coalition in that conflict. As the years-long conflict drags on, the people of Yemen are suffering one of the most devastating humanitarian crises in the world. Despite stated commitments by the Saudis to improve the targeting of their air strikes, scores of innocent civilians continue to be killed by careless bombings, and deep lasting progress towards a negotiated end to the violence has remained elusive. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia remains an important partner in confronting shared threats like al-Qaeda and ISIL and in countering Iran, and we will continue to work on shared security interests, but we should be clear that the United States will not provide unconditional assistance to their operations in Yemen.

“Unfortunately, at a moment in which it is most needed, the Trump Administration has abdicated America’s moral leadership. In filling that void and in light of the actions by the Saudis both in Yemen and in Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, the Senate must send a message that America’s moral voice will not be diminished.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine praised Senate passage of a bill to rename a Charlottesville post office as the “Captain Humayun Khan Post Office.” U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan, a graduate of the University of Virginia, was born on September 9, 1976, and died on June 8, 2004, while in service to his country during Operation Iraqi Freedom.  He was killed by an improvised explosive device outside of his base in Baqubah, Iraq. His efforts that morning saved the lives of more than one hundred soldiers. 

“It’s hard to encapsulate the importance of Captain Khan’s heroic efforts, but we hope that this gesture honors his memory and service to the nation, for which we are forever grateful,” the Senators said. “We hope that President Trump will quickly sign this bill into law.”

The United States Postal Service (USPS) facility is located at 180 McCormick Road in Charlottesville, Virginia. The bill, introduced by Congressman Tom Garrett, cleared the House unanimously on November 29th and will now head to President Trump’s desk for his signature. In early December, Warner and Kaine wrote to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, the Senate Committee that oversees USPS, voicing their support for renaming the post office.

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Senate passed a compromise package that includes Virginia priorities championed by U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA). These include an increase in funding for Chesapeake Bay clean-up efforts, protections for Virginia agricultural products, increased protections to prevent animal abuse, and funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).The 2018 Farm Bill also includes a Warner-Kaine sponsored measure to legalize industrial hemp production, a crop which is already cultivated for research purposes in Virginia but which the agriculture industry cannot currently grow for commercial use.

“This compromise bill includes significant victories for Virginia, including measures to expand successful Chesapeake Bay clean-up efforts, protect Virginia commodities like dairy and cotton, and maintain funding for a nutrition assistance program that Virginia families depend on,”said the Senators. “And, after decades of waiting, states will be allowed to choose the best way to regulate production of industrial hemp. We are proud to support this bipartisan legislation that finally puts an end to a ban that has held back our farmers from participating in the emerging industrial hemp market, an industry that will help bring new business to Virginia and create new jobs.”

Warner and Kaine’s priorities for Virginia in the 2018 Farm Bill include:

  • Hemp Farming Act: a bill that would remove hemp from the federal list of controlled substances, allowing Virginia farmers to grow and sell the plant as an agricultural commodity. States would be given authority to regulate hemp, and hemp researchers will be able to apply for USDA grants. Hemp farmers would also be eligible to collect crop insurance under this provision. The 2014 Farm Bill authorized industrial hemp to be made available for agricultural research purposes. Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the University of Virginia, and James Madison University have been active in hemp research in recent years. However, Congress must act in order to legalize hemp production for commercial purposes. Hemp is distinct from marijuana in that it has a miniscule concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and thus no narcotic capability. The plant is estimated to be used in more than 25,000 products spanning agriculture, textiles, recycling, automotive, furniture, food, nutrition, beverages, paper, construction materials, and personal care.
  • Chesapeake Bay Farm Bill Enhancements Act: a bill which makes technical changes to the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) intended to bring more federal conservation funding into the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The Farm Bill triples mandatory funding for RCPP from $100 million to $300 million providing farmers with the tools they need to implement effective conservation practices within the Bay watershed. These changes will improve sustainability across the region and result in a cleaner, healthier Chesapeake Bay.
  • Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI): includes a technical change to the HFFI program that would allow both retailers and enterprises to be eligible for loans and grants under HFFI. Currently, only brick-and-mortar operations are able to receive funding through the HFFI program. This technical change could allow more non-traditional food access projects – such as mobile markets, farmers markets, and food banks to access HFFI funds. These changes closely follow Sen. Warner’s efforts in the Senate to eradicate food deserts.  
  • Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act: a bill that expands existing federal domestic violence protections to include threats or acts of violence against a victim’s pet, and provides grant funding to programs that offer shelter and housing assistance for domestic violence victims with pets. The Farm Bill authorizes $3 million a year for FY2019-2023 for a grant program that will provide emergency and transitional housing assistance for victims of domestic violence and their pets. 

In the wake of President Trump’s ongoing trade war, the Farm Bill also includes a significant investment in trade promotion programs and activities. Trade Promotion is used by the United States to pursue trade agreements that support and create U.S. jobs while helping American manufacturers, service providers, farmers, and ranchers increase U.S. exports and compete in a highly competitive, globalized economy.

In addition, the bill includes measures to protect the U.S. dairy and cotton industry. It streamlines a program that allows dairy producers to insure margins—the difference between the prices of milk and feed—and increases its funding. The bill also makes cotton once again eligible to participate in federal crop insurance programs, which are used by farmers to protect themselves against either the loss of their crops due to natural disasters, or the loss of revenue due to declines in the prices of agricultural commodities. Livestock producers will also receive assistance through a new program that will give USDA the authority to operate a disease and disaster prevention program and a vaccine bank, including for foot and mouth disease. The bill also reauthorizes full funding to help vulnerable Virginia families put food on the table through SNAP.

The bill now moves to the House for consideration. For more information on the 2018 Farm Bill, click here.

###

WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) applauded an announcement by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) will receive $20 million in federal funds to support platform rehabilitation work at seven outdoor Metrorail stations in Virginia. The funding provided through the DOT’s Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development (BUILD) Grant program, formerly known as the TIGER program, will be used to restore platforms, increase safety and improve the rider experience at the Braddock Road, King Street, Eisenhower Avenue, Van Dorn Street, Franconia-Springfield, National Airport, and Huntington stations on the Blue and Yellow lines.  

“This is a welcome federal investment in stations that serve thousands of Virginia residents and commuters every day,” said the Senators. “After years of exposure to snow, rain, wind, and other elements, many of Metro’s outdoor platforms are in need a significant rehabilitation. This money is part of a significant multi-year effort to improve safety at Metro’s outdoor stations, the majority of which are located in Northern Virginia.”  

 

###

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine announced $16,557,883 million in federal grant funding through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for Head Start programs throughout Virginia.

“We’re pleased to announce funding through the Head Start program to support young children across Virginia,” the Senators said. “The Head Start program is important to ensuring that schools and organizations have the resources they need to support early childhood development.”

The following organizations will receive funding: 

·         Lynchburg Community Action Group Inc. will receive $3,344,772.

·         Eastern Shore AAA/CAA in Exmore will receive $1,932,019.

·         People Incorporated of Virginia in Abingdon will receive $4,449,701.

·         Buchanan County Head Start in Grundy will receive $1,463,253.

·         Clinch Valley Community Action, Inc. in Tazewell will receive $1,665,748.

·         Augusta County School Board in Verona will receive $2,257,832.

·         Lee County School District in Jonesville will receive $1,444,558.

 

As Governors and Senators, Warner and Kaine have advocated for investments in early childhood education. Head Start programs promote school readiness for children under 5 years old from low-income families through health, education, family support, and social services.

###

 

 

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine announced $300,000 for Southside Business Technology Center, Inc. in Danville, a group that funds local entrepreneurs to support start-up companies. This money will support the Launch Place Seed Fund2, a non-profit that is working to diversify the Dan River region’s economy through entrepreneurship. The goal of the project is to support the region’s transition to an economy that recruits, retains, and develops start-up businesses and supports expansions.

“We’re thrilled to announce funding to drive start-up creation in Danville. These dollars will help create innovative jobs in the region and stimulate growth by diversifying the local economy,” the Senators said.

This funding was awarded through the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration’s Seed Fund Support Grants. The Trump Administration’s fiscal year 2018 budget proposed to eliminate funding for the Economic Development Administration. Following a letter from Warner and Kaine to the Senate Appropriations Committee, Congress rejected this proposal.

 

###

 

WASHINGTON – Responding to changes in the economy and the nature of work, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Congressman Jim Himes (D-CT) today released a proposal for portable accounts that would make saving for retirement easier for American workers who can increasingly expect to work multiple jobs for multiple employers over the course of a career. 

In a white paper, Sen. Warner and Rep. Himes put forward a proposal for a new type of retirement savings vehicle, the Portable Retirement and Investment Account (PRIA). The accounts – which would be universal for all Americans, and travel from job to job over the course of a lifetime in a workforce – would offer those workers who are not currently well-served by existing retirement programs a new avenue to save and manage their retirement assets. The accounts would not replace 401(k)s, IRAs, and other existing retirement accounts and would also make it easier for employees to consolidate their existing retirement accounts if they change jobs. 

“Changes in the nature of work mean that Americans are more likely to change jobs and be engaged in non-traditional forms of work than they were a generation ago, but our policies haven’t kept up with these shifts. As more and more Americans can expect to hold multiple jobs across a career, a year, and even a day, we need to provide them with access to flexible, portable benefits such as retirement savings that will carry with them from employer to employer and gig to gig,” said Sen. Warner. “Input from stakeholders will be critical as we look towards developing functional solutions that will work for employers and employees alike.”

“Millions of Americans are not properly preparing for retirement and need a mechanism that makes it easier to save throughout their lives. To achieve this, Congress should create a portable retirement account that is personalized and independent from employment status. I’ve introduced a version in the House as a first draft and am grateful to Senator Warner in joining me to develop the idea further in a bicameral way. Today’s release of our white paper is a call to partnership for all interested parties who know our system isn’t working and are committed to fixing it,” said Rep. Himes. “With input from experts and stakeholders, we’ll be able to create a new, flexible and portable plan that will be an integral part of overcoming the challenges facing our retirement system.”

American workers are increasingly likely to hold several different jobs over the course of their careers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, younger baby boomers held, on average, 12 jobs by the time they turned 50 – and current economic trends indicate that younger workers can expect to change jobs even more frequently. At the same time, fewer companies now offer traditional defined benefit pensions to their workers, and, whether by choice or necessity, a growing number of Americans are also engaged in alternative work arrangements that offer little or no access to retirement benefits. These trends all point to the need to offer workers a new option to save for their retirement in addition to or in lieu of traditional employer-based plans.

Sen. Warner and Rep. Himes are now seeking input from stakeholders regarding their proposal with an eye towards potential legislation. Submissions can be made to Sen. Warner’s office at PRIA@warner.senate.gov and to Rep. Himes’ office at Mark.Snyder@mail.house.gov by Friday, January 11.

 

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, introduced legislation to modernize our antiquated security clearance system, reduce the background investigation backlog, and ensure the government has the trusted workforce necessary to perform its national security and public safety missions. Earlier this year, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) added the government-wide Personnel Security Clearance Process to their High-Risk List of federal areas in need of either broad-based transformation or specific reform to prevent waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement.

“The current process for granting security clearances to government personnel and contractors is in dire need of reform,” said Sen. Warner. “In light of new and emerging threats, this bill reflects the changes we need to make to this 70-year-old system to adjust to the increasing availability of data, new technologies, and a more mobile workforce so that we can maintain the pipeline of trusted professionals that the nation requires.”

“PSC and the contractor community owe Vice Chairman Warner thanks for his tenacious and persistent focus on modernizing and streamlining the federal government’s security clearance processes,” said David J. Berteau, president and CEO of the Professional Services Council. “The current backlog and wait times add risk to government missions, contract performance, and the ability of both the government and contractors to recruit and hire the talent we need. Enactment of the Modernizing the Trusted Workforce for the 21st Century Act will reduce these negative impacts while maintaining integrity in the system and better protecting our national security.”

“We deeply appreciate Senator Warner’s leadership on critical security clearance reform. For our members to attract and retain technology talent, we must seriously reduce the clearance cycle time. This is crucial for our ability to serve the nation effectively,” said Bobbie Kilberg, CEO of the Northern Virginia Technology Council. 

“While the security clearance backlog is slowly getting smaller, we need urgent steps to ensure the U.S. government and U.S. companies doing critical national security work can recruit, hire, and retain talented individuals to work on classified programs. AIA supports the Modernizing the Trusted Workforce for the 21st Century Act of 2018 as a positive step towards resolving the security clearance backlog and positioning us to employ the workforce essential to ensuring our security into the future," said Eric Fanning, President and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association.

The Modernizing the Trusted Workforce for the 21st Century Act would:

  • Hold the Executive Branch accountable for addressing the immediate crisis of the background investigation backlog and provide a plan for consolidating the National Background Investigation Bureau at the Department of Defense, as the Administration has committed to doing; 
  • Implement practical reforms so that we can design policies and timelines for clearances that reflect modern circumstances. Reforms must be implemented equally for all departments, and for personnel requiring a clearance, whether they are employed by the government or industry;
  • Strengthen oversight of the personnel vetting apparatus by codifying the Director of National Intelligence’s responsibilities as the Security Executive Agent; and
  • Promote innovation, including by analyzing how a determination of trust clearance can be tied to a person, not to an agency’s sponsorship.  The bill draws on provisions that were contained in the Intelligence Authorization Act unanimously reported out of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in June 2018.

Sen. Warner has been a strong voice on security clearance reform, urging the White House to prioritize reforms to the clearance process. The Intelligence Authorization Act that was unanimously by the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this year contains similar provisions found in this bill.

For more information on this bill, click here. The full text can be found here.

###

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced that the Department of Transportation is awarding the Port of Virginia $15,500,197 to increase terminal capacity at the Virginia Inland Port (VIP) in Front Royal. The Port of Virginia built the inland port 30 years ago to extend the reach of Virginia’s ports, help distribute commerce among both highways and railroads, and spur economic development for the entire region. The funding provided through the Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development (BUILD) Grant program, formerly known as the TIGER program, will be used to help optimize the flow of traffic inside the port gate through the addition of three long loading tracks, to lengthen existing loading tracks, to purchase two hybrid straddle carriers, and to construct a new highway bridge grade separation. The improvements will increase the Port’s capacity and its ability to safely handle the largest ships in the Atlantic.

“The Port of Virginia plays a critical role in the economy of the East Coast, and we’re proud to announce these dollars to ensure the entire system, both in Tidewater and in Front Royal, remains strong,” the Senators said. “The Virginia Inland Port moves goods and materials throughout the region, extending the economic benefits of the Port and helping to keep fewer trucks off of crowded roads like I-81. These funds will allow even more cargo to move through the facility, while also making much-needed safety improvements to support the hard working men and women at the Port.”

Warner and Kaine wrote to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao asking the Department to fund these improvements. As a direct result of the VIP facility opening in 1989, nearly 40 manufacturing and distribution centers have located in the region, creating roughly 8,000 direct and indirect jobs.

 

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) secured unanimous Senate passage of the Ashanti Alert Act, legislation that will create a new federal alert system for missing or endangered adults between the ages of 18-64. Currently, the U.S. does not have an alert system for missing adults.

The Ashanti Alert Act is named after Ashanti Billie, the 19-year-old who was abducted in Norfolk, Va. on September 18, 2017. Her body was discovered in North Carolina 11 days after she was first reported missing. At the time of Ashanti’s abduction, she was too old for an Amber Alert and too young for a Silver Alert. The Ashanti Alert, like the other alert systems, would notify the public about missing or endangered adults through radio and television broadcast systems to assist law enforcement in the search.

“Ashanti’s tragic death should not be in vain,” said Sen. Warner. “We must give law enforcement agencies and communities across the country the tools they need to locate missing adults and save more lives.”

“I’m grateful to the family of Ashanti Billie for sharing her story with me and turning their grief and loss into meaningful action.  I’m proud to work with Senator Warner on this important legislation to create a real time alert system for missing adults, which will provide vital information to first responders and help save lives,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).  “I urge my House colleagues to pass this revised bill before the end of the year.” Sen. Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, teamed up with Sen. Warner on this legislation after hearing from Ashanti’s cousin, Connecticut State Representative Patricia Billie Miller. 

"Virginia led the way this past legislative session by implementing a law focused on enhancing a vital component of public safety - the Amber and Senior Alert systems," said Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran.  "Delegate Jay Jones spearheaded an effort to create an Amber Alert-like system for "critically missing" adults, upon hearing the heartbreaking story of a family whose 19 year old daughter went missing in the Norfolk area. Amber Alerts and Endangered Missing Child Media Alerts are for missing persons under the age 18; and Senior Alerts are issued for persons 60 years of age or older. This leaves a gap for adults between the ages of 18 and 60 years old. The 'Ashanti Alert', named after Ashanti Billie would address an important demographic of the population, and ensure that timely and efficient messaging is delivered to residents across Virginia to aid in search efforts. This law is a step in the right direction to ensuring a safer Commonwealth for all her residents."

“Senator Warner’s Ashanti Alert Act of 2018 will help ensure that law enforcement has the information necessary to swiftly recover missing persons and accurately inform the general public about breaking news of a missing or endangered adult,” said Bill Johnson, Executive Director, National Association of Police Organizations. “NAPO believes that the establishment of a stand-alone Ashanti Alert Network will help prevent horrible tragedies like case of Ashanti Billie.  We support the Ashanti Alert Act and thank Senator Warner for working with us on this important legislation.”

“The NAACP is proud to support Senator Warner’s legislation, the Ashanti Alert Act,” said Mr. Hilary O. Shelton, the Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and the Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy. “Upon implementation of this law, we will be expanding the Amber Alert system, which has proven to be an effective tool, to include a demographic that is currently missing from its protections, those between the ages of 18 and 65.”

“The Ashanti Alert is long overdue,” said Camille Cooper, Director Government Affairs, The National Association to PROTECT Children. “For decades, emphasis has been on finding missing children, while missing endangered adults has largely been ignored. With increases in human trafficking, murder and intimate partner violence, it’s time that the national crisis of women disappearing and being subjected to violence is met with the urgency it deserves.”

In June, Gov. Northam signed into law legislation introduced by Del. Jay Jones creating a statewide Ashanti Alert system in Virginia. In September, the House of Representatives unanimously passed its version of the Ashanti Alert Act, which was introduced by outgoing Congressman Scott Taylor.

Sen. Warner spoke on the Senate floor yesterday to urge his colleagues to work with him to ensure the Ashanti Alert Act becomes law after the House bill—in its original form—was blocked from passing. Sen. Warner worked with his colleagues to make modifications to the bill to allow for its eventual passage.  Tonight, at Sen. Warner’s request, the bill was discharged from the Senate Judiciary Committee, modified, and then passed by unanimous consent on the Senate floor. Following its passage in the Senate, the bill now heads back to the House.

The full text of the amended bill can be found here.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the below statement following the Canadian government’s arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei:

“There is ample evidence to suggest that no major Chinese company is independent of the Chinese government and Communist Party – and Huawei, which China’s government and military tout as a ‘national champion,’ is no exception. It has been clear for some time that Huawei, like ZTE, poses a threat to our national security. Now we know that Huawei, like ZTE, has violated U.S. sanctions law. It's my hope that the Trump Administration will hold Huawei fully accountable for breaking sanctions law, as it failed to do in the case of ZTE. 

“This is a reminder that we need to take seriously the risks of doing business with companies like Huawei and allowing them access to our markets. I continue to strongly urge our close ally Canada to reconsider Huawei’s inclusion in any aspect of its 5G infrastructure.” 

Sen. Warner, a former telecommunications executive and entrepreneur, has long expressed concerns about the risks to our national security posed by Chinese-controlled telecom companies.

On October 12, 2018, Sen. Warner and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) sent a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urging his country to reconsider Huawei’s inclusion in any aspect of Canada’s 5G development, introduction, and maintenance.

In September, Sen. Warner joined several colleagues to introduce the ZTE Enforcement Review and Oversight (ZERO) Act. The bipartisan bill would enforce full compliance by ZTE—a Chinese state-directed telecommunications firm that repeatedly violated U.S. laws – with all probationary conditions outlined in a Commerce Department deal with the company that lifted a denial order banning the export of U.S. parts and components.

 

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) sent another letter to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Joseph J. Simons pressing the leader of the agency to use the authorities granted to it by Congress to protect American businesses and shoppers from digital advertising fraud, which reached $7.4 billion in 2016 – costs that are later passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. Today’s letter follows an earlier Oct. 25 letter urging the FTC to do more to respond to the prevalence of digital ad fraud, in light of inaction by major industry players like Google to voluntarily curb the problem.

Sen. Warner noted that in large part because of enforcement decisions made by the FTC, Google has come to dominate the digital ad market, but has done little to crack down on fraud. Google was the only major social media company absent for a September hearing in the Senate Intelligence Committee, on which Sen. Warner serves as Vice Chairman.

Sen. Warner today criticized the FTC’s failure to take action, writing, “As long as Google stands to profit from the sale of additional advertisements, the financial incentive for it to voluntarily root out and address fraud remains minimal. It was thus enormously discouraging to read your own response to my [Oct. 25] letter, which did nothing to address the inaction of major industry stakeholders in curbing these abuses. Instead, your letter appeared to suggest that your authority to address deceptive and unfair practices does not apply to this conduct; rather, your letter portrays the FTC as successfully addressing online fraud through workshops and education campaigns. Neither suggestion inspires confidence in the FTC’s efforts as digital ad fraud has continued to proliferate.”

“In recent congressional testimony, you have urged Congress to provide the FTC with additional authority related to promoting competition and consumer protection in the digital age. Increasingly, I am not convinced the Commission is adequately utilizing the authority it already has to crack down on fraud and other misbehavior,” Sen. Warner added. “The FTC is the agency explicitly empowered to address fraud and deceptive practices, and Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act was written in broad terms precisely for this purpose. Since 1938, Congress has given your agency broad enforcement authority to protect consumers and expects you to use it. I would like to sit down with you in the next month to discuss how the FTC can ensure it does the job Congress intended it to do.” 

The full text of today’s letter is available here, and also appears below.

In October, Sen. Warner wrote a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Joseph Simons expressing concern following a report published by Buzzfeed detailing continued prevalence of digital advertising fraud and inaction by Google to curb these efforts. AccordingBuzzfeed, this scheme has generated hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent advertising revenues, with operations spanning more than 125 Android apps and websites. The FTC’s November response can be found here. 

In July 2016, Sen. Warner and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wrote to then-FTC Chairwoman Ramirez calling on the agency to protect consumers from the growing digital ad fraud phenomenon. Since then, reports have estimated that digital ad fraud has only grown to $7.4 billion in 2017 – and projected to rise to $10.9 billion by 2021.

 

The full text of today’s letter follows:

 

December 6, 2018

 

The Honorable Joseph J. Simons

Chairman

Federal Trade Commission

600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C. 20530

 

Dear Chairman Simons,

 

On October 25th, I wrote to you to express grave concerns with the growing phenomenon of digital ad fraud, and in particular my frustration with the ways that large intermediaries have turned a blind eye to, and in certain cases helped enable, this fraud. This letter followed concerns Senator Schumer and I raised in a 2016 letter to your predecessor about the negative economic impact of ad fraud on end users, advertisers, and publishers. I was deeply disappointed by your November 19th response, which failed to substantively address any of the concerns that I have been raising for two years now regarding the Federal Trade Commission’s failures to crack down on digital advertising fraud.

 

The digital advertising market has come to be largely dominated by one company,  in part because of enforcement decisions by the FTC.  The FTC’s failure to act has had the effect of allowing Google to structure its own market; through a series of transactions, the company has accomplished a level of vertical integration that allows it in effect to act as the equivalent of market-maker, commodities broker, and commodities exchange for digital advertising – in the process creating a range of conflicts of interest. While the company controls each link in the supply chain and therefore maintains the power to monitor activity in the digital advertising market from start to finish, it has continued to be caught flat-footed in identifying and addressing digital ad fraud. As we’ve seen in other contexts – such as the rampant proliferation of online disinformation – major platforms including Google have often proved unwilling to address misuse of their platforms until brought to the wider public’s attention by Congress or media outlets. As long as Google stands to profit from the sale of additional advertisements, the financial incentive for it to voluntarily root out and address fraud remains minimal.

 

It was thus enormously discouraging to read your own response to my letter, which did nothing to address the inaction of major industry stakeholders in curbing these abuses. Instead, your letter appeared to suggest that your authority to address deceptive and unfair practices does not apply to this conduct; rather, your letter portrays the FTC as successfully addressing online fraud through workshops and education campaigns. Neither suggestion inspires confidence in the FTC’s efforts as digital ad fraud has continued to proliferate.

 

In recent congressional testimony, you urged Congress to provide the FTC with additional authority related to promoting competition and consumer protection in the digital age.  Increasingly, I am not convinced the Commission is adequately utilizing the authority it already has to crack down on fraud and other misbehavior. The FTC is the agency explicitly empowered to address fraud and deceptive practices, and Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act was written in broad terms precisely for this purpose. 

 

Since 1938, Congress has given your agency broad enforcement authority to protect consumers and expects you to use it. I would like to sit down with you in the next month to discuss how the FTC can ensure it does the job Congress intended it to do.   

 

Sincerely,

 

Mark R. Warner

United States Senator

 

 

###

Washington, D.C. – Top Senate and House Democrats today sent a new letter to the Department of Justice’s Chief Ethics Official, Assistant Attorney General Lee J. Lofthus, demanding an in-person meeting and renewing their November 11, 2018, request—to which they received no reply—to immediately be notified in writing as to whether he or any other ethics officials at the Department of Justice have advised Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker to recuse himself from the Special Counsel investigation, and to be provided with all ethics guidance Mr. Whitaker has been given to date. Despite the serious ethical considerations that should preclude any involvement by President Trump’s handpicked Attorney General Matthew Whitaker with Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation, the Democrats note that 14 months after joining the DOJ, Mr. Whitaker’s ethics review is still incomplete. 

The Democrats’ previous letter, signed by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Vice Chairman Mark Warner, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Ranking Member Adam Schiff, and House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Ranking Member Elijah Cummings, included a number of examples of Mr. Whitaker’s many conflicts of interest and hostile statements toward Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation. These examples include Mr. Whitaker’s televised statement suggesting that the investigation be defunded or subjected to strict limitations on its scope, a published online opinion piece referring to the investigation as a witch hunt, and a statement in which he clearly pre-judged the outcome of the investigation.  

Senate and House Democrats’ second letter to Assistant Attorney General Lee J. Lofthus renewing their request can be found here and below: 

 

The Honorable Lee J. Lofthus
Assistant Attorney General for Administration 

and Designated Agency Ethics Officer

Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530

 

Dear Assistant Attorney General Lofthus:

 

On November 11, 2018, we wrote to request that you immediately notify us in writing as to whether you or any other ethics officials at the Department of Justice have advised Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker to recuse himself from the Special Counsel investigation, and that you provide to us all ethics guidance Mr. Whitaker has been given to date.  A copy of our earlier letter is attached.

It is our understanding that, 14 months after Mr. Whitaker joined the Department, his ethics review is still incomplete.  The Department has offered no public explanation for this extraordinary delay, nor have we received any reply to our letter.  This is unacceptable.

We therefore write to renew our November 11, 2018 request, and we ask that you also make yourself available to brief us and answer our questions in person.  Our staff will contact you to schedule a time for this meeting.

 

Sincerely,

 

Charles E. Schumer

Democratic Leader

U.S. Senate

 

Nancy Pelosi

Democratic Leader

U.S. House of Representatives

 

Dianne Feinstein

Ranking Member

Committee on the Judiciary

U.S. Senate

 

Jerrold Nadler

Ranking Member

Committee on the Judiciary

U.S. House of Representatives

 

Mark R. Warner

Vice Chairman

Select Committee on Intelligence

U.S. Senate

 

Adam B. Schiff

Ranking Member

Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

U.S. House of Representatives

 

Elijah Cummings

Ranking Member

Committee on Oversight & Government Reform

U.S. House of Representatives

 

 

                                                                ###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) secured unanimous Senate passage of the Ashanti Alert Act, legislation that will create a new federal alert system for missing or endangered adults between the ages of 18-64. Currently, the U.S. does not have an alert system for missing adults.

The Ashanti Alert Act is named after Ashanti Billie, the 19-year-old who was abducted in Norfolk, Va. on September 18, 2017. Her body was discovered in North Carolina 11 days after she was first reported missing. At the time of Ashanti’s abduction, she was too old for an Amber Alert and too young for a Silver Alert. The Ashanti Alert, like the other alert systems, would notify the public about missing or endangered adults through radio and television broadcast systems to assist law enforcement in the search.

“Ashanti’s tragic death should not be in vain,” said Sen. Warner. “We must give law enforcement agencies and communities across the country the tools they need to locate missing adults and save more lives.” 

“I’m grateful to the family of Ashanti Billie for sharing her story with me and turning their grief and loss into meaningful action.  I’m proud to work with Senator Warner on this important legislation to create a real time alert system for missing adults, which will provide vital information to first responders and help save lives,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).  “I urge my House colleagues to pass this revised bill before the end of the year.” Sen. Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, teamed up with Sen. Warner on this legislation after hearing from Ashanti’s cousin, Connecticut State Representative Patricia Billie Miller.  

"Virginia led the way this past legislative session by implementing a law focused on enhancing a vital component of public safety - the Amber and Senior Alert systems," said Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran.  "Delegate Jay Jones spearheaded an effort to create an Amber Alert-like system for "critically missing" adults, upon hearing the heartbreaking story of a family whose 19 year old daughter went missing in the Norfolk area. Amber Alerts and Endangered Missing Child Media Alerts are for missing persons under the age 18; and Senior Alerts are issued for persons 60 years of age or older. This leaves a gap for adults between the ages of 18 and 60 years old. The 'Ashanti Alert', named after Ashanti Billie would address an important demographic of the population, and ensure that timely and efficient messaging is delivered to residents across Virginia to aid in search efforts. This law is a step in the right direction to ensuring a safer Commonwealth for all her residents."

“Senator Warner’s Ashanti Alert Act of 2018 will help ensure that law enforcement has the information necessary to swiftly recover missing persons and accurately inform the general public about breaking news of a missing or endangered adult,” said Bill Johnson, Executive Director, National Association of Police Organizations. “NAPO believes that the establishment of a stand-alone Ashanti Alert Network will help prevent horrible tragedies like case of Ashanti Billie.  We support the Ashanti Alert Act and thank Senator Warner for working with us on this important legislation.” 

“The NAACP is proud to support Senator Warner’s legislation, the Ashanti Alert Act,” said Mr. Hilary O. Shelton, the Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and the Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy. “Upon implementation of this law, we will be expanding the Amber Alert system, which has proven to be an effective tool, to include a demographic that is currently missing from its protections, those between the ages of 18 and 65.”

“The Ashanti Alert is long overdue,” said Camille Cooper, Director Government Affairs, The National Association to PROTECT Children. “For decades, emphasis has been on finding missing children, while missing endangered adults has largely been ignored. With increases in human trafficking, murder and intimate partner violence, it’s time that the national crisis of women disappearing and being subjected to violence is met with the urgency it deserves.”

In June, Gov. Northam signed into law legislation introduced by Del. Jay Jones creating a statewide Ashanti Alert system in Virginia. In September, the House of Representatives unanimously passed its version of the Ashanti Alert Act, which was introduced by outgoing Congressman Scott Taylor.

Sen. Warner spoke on the Senate floor yesterday to urge his colleagues to work with him to ensure the Ashanti Alert Act becomes law after the House bill—in its original form—was blocked from passing. Sen. Warner worked with his colleagues to make modifications to the bill to allow for its eventual passage.  Tonight, at Sen. Warner’s request, the bill was discharged from the Senate Judiciary Committee, modified, and then passed by unanimous consent on the Senate floor. Following its passage in the Senate, the bill now heads back to the House.

 

The full text of the amended bill can be found here.

 

###

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine are celebrating new progress in their efforts toward securing a much-deserved pay raise for federal employees in Virginia Beach and Norfolk starting in January of 2019. In November, the Federal Salary Council confirmed its recommendation for these raises, a process that was started in 2015, and tomorrow the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) within the Trump Administration will formally publish in the Federal Register the final rule that includes these raises, indicating that they will be set by the President. Kaine and Warner have pushed OPM to take the necessary steps to implement a pay raise for federal employees in the region. In Virginia Beach and Norfolk, the cost of living has greatly outpaced federal salary increases, and while federal employees in the region could have been receiving higher pay for the last year, OPM’s delay in implementing the pay scale adjustment exacerbated the situation for Virginia families who had been long-expecting a raise. 

“We are thrilled that the hardworking federal employees in Virginia Beach and Norfolk will finally receive the long-overdue pay raise we’ve pushed for to counter the high cost of living,” the Senators said. “These individuals work hard every day to serve our country, and it’s a shame that many of them have struggled to get by as the cost of living has outpaced federal salary increases. We hope that President Trump will quickly set these pay rates to offer Virginians peace of mind as they head into the holiday season.”

Last year, Kaine and Warner wrote to the Acting Director of OPM concerned that federal employees in the Hampton Roads region were led to believe they would see a pay raise for calendar year 2017 and asked that the agency take quick action to implement the pay scale adjustment. And earlier this year, Kaine and Warner spoke out against President Trump’s threat to deny all federal employees a 1.9 percent cost of living adjustment in 2019, his latest attack on hardworking public servants. If authorized, this pay scale adjustment for federal employees in Virginia Beach and Norfolk would be on top of the 1.9 percent cost of living adjustment for all federal employees nationwide, which is awaiting Congressional approval as part of the end-of-year spending package.

 

###

 

Warner meets GSA Administrator
Sen. Warner at a meeting
with GSA Administrator Murphy

CLICK HERE FOR HIGH QUALITY PHOTOS

CLICK HERE FOR BROADCAST QUALITY VIDEO

WASHINGTON — At a meeting with the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) pushed GSA Administrator Emily W. Murphy and GSA Public Building Service Commissioner Daniel Matthews to provide an update on the agency’s efforts to begin construction of a new VA medical facility in Hampton Roads. The 155,000 square foot outpatient facility—which is meant to alleviate demand in the region—is the result of a successful bipartisan effort spearheaded by Sen. Warner last year to approve 28 overdue VA medical facility leases, including an additional outpatient clinic in Fredericksburg.

Veterans in Hampton Roads have been waiting for far too long for a new outpatient clinic that will expand access to care and speed-up the process through which they receive medical treatment,” said Sen. Warner. “At our meeting, I urged GSA to take all necessary steps to ensure veterans in the region can receive the best care available to them, and I vowed to keep a close eye on the process so we can guarantee this building is ready to serve our veterans as soon as possible.”

Hampton Roads has one of the fastest-growing veterans populations in the country. From 2012 to 2016, patient visits in Hampton’s service area increased by 21.4 percent, while the national average across the VA system was 7.3 percent.

WASHINGTON – In a letter to President Donald Trump, Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Mark Warner (D-Va.), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, expressed their serious concerns regarding the Administration’s expressed intention to pull the United States out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.  

“While we understand the challenges of getting Russia to reverse its violation of the INF Treaty, the Administration’s sudden decision to withdraw unilaterally is a political and geostrategic gift to Russia,” wrote the Senators. “It takes the focus away from Russia’s transgressions and malign behavior and instead feeds a narrative that the United States is willing to shred our commitments unilaterally without any strategic alternative.  Additionally, it allows Russia to expand the production and deployment of its intermediate range missile system, the 9M729, which will further menace Europe.  

The senators’ letter comes on the heels of a scheduled NATO Foreign Ministerial later this week, which presents the Trump administration with an opportunity to consult with European allies on the INF treaty and show the United States will not take unilateral steps to the detriment of European security and stability.  

“Moving forward, before taking steps to withdraw or suspend participation in the INF Treaty, we urge you and your administration to engage with Congress on the implications of this step for strategic stability and our relations with European and Asian allies,”concluded the Senators.

A copy of the letter can be found HERE and below.

 

The Honorable Donald J. Trump

President of the United States of America

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500

 

Dear Mr. President:

 

We write to you to express our serious concerns regarding your announced intention to pull the United States out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.  

 

Withdrawal from the INF Treaty, which has been a cornerstone of the European security architecture for over thirty years, was announced without any notice or consultations with the Senate, much less a path toward Senate advice and consent to the withdrawal.  This was despite multiple opportunities to explain the rationale for this decision, including a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on arms control and Russia held only a few weeks prior to your announcement.  In that hearing, senior officials from the Department of State and the Department of Defense provided no indication that a decision to withdraw was even imminent, nor that U.S. forces envisioned any military operational benefit from near-term withdrawal. 

 

We are concerned about Russia’s ongoing violation of the INF Treaty, and believe Russia must return to compliance and fulfil its obligations.  While we understand the challenges of getting Russia to reverse its violation of the INF Treaty, the Administration’s sudden decision to withdraw unilaterally is a political and geostrategic gift to Russia.  It takes the focus away from Russia’s transgressions and malign behavior and instead feeds a narrative that the United States is willing to shred our commitments unilaterally without any strategic alternative.  Additionally, it allows Russia to expand the production and deployment of its intermediate range missile system, the 9M729, which will further menace Europe.   

 

The United States withdrawal from the INF Treaty also threatens to exacerbate tension in relationships with our European allies, particularly those in NATO.    This decision, taken without coordination with foreign partners, once again shows an eagerness to take unnecessary unilateral actions over the objections of our closest allies to the serious detriment of European security and stability.  A spokesperson for EU High Representative Federica Mogherini condemned the U.S. withdrawal from INF noting “the world doesn’t need a new arms race that would benefit no one and on the contrary would bring even more instability.”  Other leaders from major European allies echoed these sentiments, expressing deep concern that in withdrawing from the INF Treaty the United States was moving toward an unconstrained nuclear arms race with Russia.

 

Given the lack of strategic forethought and planning apparent in the hasty decision to withdraw from the INF Treaty, we believe it is important for the U.S. government to re-emphasize the integral nature of effective arms control as a part of nuclear deterrence and strategic stability.   In fact, our nuclear defense planning and modernization programs are contingent on the arms control architecture the United States has diligently built over many decades.  The decision to withdraw from the INF Treaty suggests that you may take a similarly dangerous approach and renege on other key arms control agreements, such as New START, which would only serve to diminish international security further and potentially necessitate vast increases in nuclear spending.  We do not believe that the degradation of our arms control agreements that have provided strategic stability for decades serves U.S. security interests or those of our allies and partners.

 

Moving forward, before taking steps to withdraw or suspend participation in the INF Treaty, we urge you and your administration to engage with Congress on the implications of this step for strategic stability and our relations with European and Asian allies.  We also ask you to consider once again the importance of arms control within the context of U.S. and international security.

 

                                                                        Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement on the passing of President George H.W. Bush:

“George H.W. Bush was a class act -- a person of tremendous strength and moral character who exemplified the values of public service. There can be no question that his highest commitment was always to our country and to our values -- to justice, freedom, and the rights of human beings everywhere.

"My thoughts are with the Bush family at this time of loss."

###

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and co-founder of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, released the following statement on Marriott’s disclosure of a data breach affecting up to 500 million guests:  

“It seems like every other day we learn about a new mega-breach affecting the personal data of millions of Americans. Rather than accepting this trend as the new normal, this latest incident should strengthen Congress’ resolve. We must pass laws that require data minimization, ensuring companies do not keep sensitive data that they no longer need. And it is past time we enact data security laws that ensure companies account for security costs rather than making their consumers shoulder the burden and harms resulting from these lapses.”

 

###

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) met with Virginia University Presidents to discuss shared priorities in federal higher education legislation soon to be before Congress. The meeting, which took place in Sen. Warner’s Washington office on Capitol Hill, included Virginia Tech President Tim Sands, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) President Michael Rao, and Virginia State University (VSU) President Makola Abdullah. The Presidents expressed their support for increased funding and accessibility of student aid, teacher preparation programs, and workforce pathways, which are all governed by the Higher Education Act (HEA). Efforts to update the HEA, which is the main federal law governing student financial aid and other key postsecondary education policies, stalled earlier this year. A renewed effort to reauthorize the outdated statute is expected in 2019.   

“Virginia is home to some of the nation’s premier colleges and universities. As such, their leaders should have a say in legislation that will affect how higher education institutions can help students succeed,” said Sen. Warner. “I look forward to having more of these meaningful discussions with Virginia college and university leaders so we can guarantee that the federal government is doing everything it can to improve opportunities for every student in our Commonwealth.”

Sen. Warner has introduced several bipartisan bills to improve transparency, accountability and affordability in higher education, and help borrowers better manage their student loan debts. The Dynamic Student Loan Repayment Act would make income-based repayment the default option for borrowers. The Employer Participation in Repayment Act would allow employers to apply pre-tax income to help their employees with student loan payments. Finally, the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act would promote financial literacy by providing students who are recipients of federal financial aid with comprehensive counseling services. Last month, Sens. Warner & Kaine called on Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to release more information about the Department’s flawed handling of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.

 

###

WASHINGTON – A recent national poll released by The Pew Charitable Trusts shows the vast majority of Americans believe Congress should pass bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) to address the $12 billion maintenance backlog at the National Park Service (NPS). The poll found that 76 percent of respondents favor a plan outlined in the Restore Our Parks Act to set aside billions of dollars to help tackle deferred maintenance at the Park Service. The bill currently has 32 bipartisan cosponsors and is supported by the Trump Administration and more than 100 groups. The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources passed the bill on a bipartisan 19-4 vote last month and it currently awaits consideration by the full Senate.

“These results are clear. Americans want Congress to move forward on our commonsense, bipartisan solution to clear the backlog caused by years of chronic underfunding at our National Parks,” said Sen. Warner. “The Senate should take note of this growing national momentum and move forward to pass this legislation before the end of the year.”

Due to years of chronic underfunding, NPS has deferred maintenance for a year or more on visitor centers, rest stops, trails and campgrounds in Virginia, as well as transportation infrastructure operated by NPS such as Blue Ridge and George Washington Memorial Parkways. In the last year, the maintenance backlog at Park Service sites in Virginia grew by $250 million, to over a billion dollars and the Commonwealth now ranks third among all states in total deferred maintenance, trailing only California and the District of Columbia. That figure includes roughly $80 million of overdue maintenance at Shenandoah National Park, one of the crown jewels of our nation’s park system.

Virginia contains 22 national parks and affiliated areas that are spread throughout the Commonwealth. In addition, the Park Service maintains over 120 National Historic Landmarks throughout Virginia, including Mount Vernon, Montpelier, Monticello, and the State Capitol Building. In 2017, over 24 million individuals from around the world visited national parks in Virginia, spending over $1 billion. National parks in Virginia helped support more than 15,000 jobs and contributed over $1.4 billion to the Commonwealth’s economy. 

To see the complete results of this poll, click here. For more information on the Restore Our Parks Act or a list of NPS operated sites in Virginia, click here.

###

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate Banking Committee, released the following statement after the Senate voted to advance the nomination of Kathy Kraninger to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB):

“Director Mulvaney has been a disaster for consumers as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He has dramatically reduced enforcement against banks and other financial institutions, weakened the law that protects servicemembers and their families from predatory lending, and rendered the Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity quite toothless, to name just a few examples. 

“In her hearing before the Senate Banking Committee, Ms. Kraninger testified that she ‘cannot identify any action’ that Director Mulvaney ‘has taken with which I disagree.’ The CFPB is responsible for making sure that banks and big corporations can’t rip off American consumers. It should have a Director who shares that mission.”

 

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement on Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen's guilty plea on charges of lying to the Intelligence Committee and other Congressional investigators about his involvement in the Trump Tower Moscow project during the 2016 election:

“This is yet another example of the President's closest allies lying about their contacts with Russia. With each indictment and each guilty plea, we learn more about the President’s connections to Russia in the midst of Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election. Special Counsel Mueller's investigation must continue — free from political interference by the President — until the truth is out, and Congress should pass legislation immediately to make sure that happens.” 

 

###

 

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and the President’s response to Saudi Arabia:

“The President’s failure to hold Saudi Arabia responsible in any meaningful way for the death of Jamal Khashoggi is just one more example of this White House’s retreat from American leadership on issues like human rights and protecting the free press. It’s hard to imagine that the Saudis would have taken this action under a Reagan, Bush, Clinton or Obama Administration without facing serious repercussions.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine called on Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie to address the lack of timely payments of housing stipends to veterans through the Post-9/11 GI Bill, causing undue financial burden on veterans and their families. Warner and Kaine explained that the failure to ensure prompt payments has caused some veterans to be displaced from their homes, hurt their ability to afford basic necessities, and prevented them from pursuing educational goals. 

“We are greatly concerned that the lack of prompt payments will cause some veterans to lose the opportunity to pursue their educational goals…Due to the delays, some veterans have been unable to afford basic necessities, and in some cases, even displaced from their homes. The VA’s inaction on this issue is causing far-reaching harm, not only to veterans, but to their families as well,” the Senators wrote in the letter. “Veterans are one of our nation’s greatest assets; these payments were promised to them in order to ease the financial burden of higher education after military service, and they deserve to have those benefits delivered in a timely manner.”

“We urge you to quickly resolve these payment issues so that our veterans receive the benefits that they deserve,” the Senators concluded.

In the Senate, Warner and Kaine have prioritized efforts to ensure every transitioning servicemember has the tools needed for success. Last year, Warner and Kaine pushed for efforts to pass the expanded Post-9/11 GI Bill through the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act to ensure veterans receive the benefits they deserve.

A full copy of the letter can be found here and below: 

November 19, 2018

 

The Honorable Robert Wilkie
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20420

Dear Secretary Wilkie:

Many Virginians have contacted our offices expressing concern that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been unable to provide the timely delivery of housing stipends to veterans using the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The VA has pointed to information technology system problems coupled with a change in housing processing requirements mandated by recent legislation as the reason for the delays. Tens of thousands of Virginia veterans and their families rely on the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

We are greatly concerned that the lack of prompt payments will cause some veterans to lose the opportunity to pursue their educational goals. Further, without the housing stipend payments, some veterans and their families are experiencing undue financial burdens. Due to the delays, some veterans have been unable to afford basic necessities, and in some cases, even displaced from their homes. The VA’s inaction on this issue is causing far-reaching harm, not only to veterans, but to their families as well. Veterans are one of our nation’s greatest assets; these payments were promised to them in order to ease the financial burden of higher education after military service, and they deserve to have those benefits delivered in a timely manner.

We are further troubled by this incident given your testimony to the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee during your nomination hearing. During this process, you asserted that a priority of yours would be to improve the VA’s information technology systems. We are worried that this incident indicates that the VA has made little progress in this area since you became Secretary and may reduce the public’s confidence that the VA is able to process requests and claims in a fair and timely manner. Additionally, in your prepared statement for the Committee, you wrote that given Congress’ recent decision to increase the level of resources at the VA, there are “no more excuses” regarding the VA’s performance. The VA needs to provide solutions, not excuses, if our country is to uphold the commitment made to those who have sacrificed so much to protect and defend the nation.

One of our priorities in the Senate has been to provide every transitioning servicemember the tools needed for success in the civilian world. We are proud that last year Congress expanded the Post-9/11 GI Bill program through the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act. If our veterans are to realize the promise of this legislation, the VA needs to implement the provisions of this bill efficiently and comprehensively. We urge you to quickly resolve these payment issues so that our veterans receive the benefits that they deserve.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We are ready to work with you to help provide veterans and their families affected by these payment delays the support needed to continue their education. In order to provide clarification for Virginians who may be experiencing delays in payments, we expect a timely response in the next few weeks.

 

Sincerely,