Domestic Violence Awareness Month
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a time for all of us to recognize the terrible impact of domestic violence on families across the Nation. One in four women and one in seven men will be the victim of violence, and this is a horrific tragedy. We must all work together to prevent domestic and sexual violence and support the victims of violence so they can rebuild their lives. To get immediate help and support, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224.
Recognizing Spirit Day
I firmly believe that every child in America deserves an education free from fear and intimidation. My anti-bullying legislation, the Safe Schools Improvement Act, will help schools ensure that all young people are protected by barring harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity. On October 19th, we recognize Spirit Day by taking action against bullying and showing support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth. The importance of standing up for all children cannot be overstated, as a growing body of research and stories highlight the severity of bullying among youth in America. According to the Department of Education, nearly 1 in 3 students between the ages of 12 and 18 are affected by bullying and harassment, which results in increased absenteeism, dropout rates, and academic underachievement, all of which undermine a child’s ability to succeed in the classroom and beyond. Another study found that fewer than half of LGBT students in Pennsylvania felt very safe in school, and that 9 in 10 LGBT students were harassed in the previous school year.
The Safe Schools Improvement Act is a bipartisan bill I’ve introduced in the Senate with 41 cosponsors that will require school districts receiving designated federal funds to adopt codes of conduct specifically prohibiting bullying and harassment, including cyberbullying and bullying based on a student’s actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion. It will not have any impact on curriculum or what is taught in school, but rather seeks to ensure that every student feels safe in the classroom. This is a commonsense solution to a serious issue throughout Pennsylvania and the United States.
47 years of Medicare
This week marks 47 years since the Medicare program was created. This vital program has helped millions of older citizens and people with disabilities across Pennsylvania meet their health care needs. While some in Congress have proposed ending Medicare as we know it, I believe we need to strengthen and improve the program.
To that end, we have made some recent improvements including closing the so-called “donut hole.” When Medicare was created in 1965, prescription medication did not play the role it does today in keeping older citizens healthy. In 2003 initial steps were taken to give beneficiaries greater access to prescription drugs, but left a large gap where beneficiaries would be responsible for all the costs of their drugs, the “donut hole.” More recently Congress made improvements to that benefit to ensure the gap will be fully closed by 2020. In the meantime beneficiaries will get help. In 2011, beneficiaries who fell into the donut hole received a $250 rebate check. In 2012, beneficiaries who fall in the gap will get significant discounts on both brand name and generic drugs. Over 240,000 Pennsylvanians have benefitted from these changes and more people will continue to do so in the months and years ahead.
It is imperative that we continue to improve, strengthen and protect this important program. As we celebrate this anniversary, I commit to continuing the fight to keep Medicare strong and ensure that beneficiaries have access to the services they need.