Today I attended a veterans roundtable discussion with leaders of Veterans Service Organizations to discuss ideas and solutions to better help with our nation’s veterans transition back to civilian life. As Americans we must make sure that all veterans have what they need when they return to civilian life. As a United States Senator I have been committed to working to keep our commitments to veterans on healthcare, education and employment opportunities that these brave men and women fought hard to protect. The skills, experiences and work ethic that veterans bring to the workforce will not only strengthen but grow our economy.
It is extremely important that we as United States Senators hear directly from veterans and advocates about the ideas these individuals have to put our returning service members back to work. Just last week, I was proud to cosponsor the Vow to Hire Heroes Act, which passed the Senate with a vote of 94-1. This legislation seeks to help out of work veterans use their skills to get back to work. Working together we can continue to make progress in ensuring our veterans are getting the services they need, whether it is new and innovative healthcare treatments, stronger educational support or incentives to get veterans back to work.
Two Pennsylvanians that are leaders of prominent national veteran organizations were among the veterans and advocates that attended the roundtable. These individuals expressed the ongoing struggles veterans, service members and their families are dealing with every day when it comes to employment issues. I look forward to working with these groups to come up with commonsense solutions to put these brave men and women, and their families back to work.
Yesterday, I met with members of the Families of Flight 93, Gordon Felt and Patrick White, to discuss the ongoing development of the Flight 93 National Memorial. Since joining the Senate, I helped to secure over $15.1 million for this project and will continue to advocate for funding until it is complete. The Flight 93 Memorial honors the men and women who courageously sacrificed their lives to save others. It is my hope that the Memorial will serve as a place of remembrance, healing and reflection.
On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, I was honored to participate in the dedication of the Memorial. The Families of Flight 93 have been tireless in their efforts to complete the Memorial. I stand with them in this effort and am humbled by their perseverance and perspective.
To learn more about the Memorial and the Families of Flight 93, please visit the U.S. National Park Service’s website at http://www.nps.gov/index.htm
Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that Medicare Part B premiums for 2012 will be lower than what was previously expected. The Medicare Part B deductible will also decrease by $22. Medicare Advantage premiums will be approximately 4 percent lower next year than they were this year.
I am very happy to hear this news, as today more than ever, older Pennsylvanians are struggling to cover their health care costs beyond the assistance they receive from Medicare. In these tough economic times we have a duty to support our older citizens and help them tackle the rising cost of health care. Therefore, this announcement on Medicare premiums for next year is good news for all older Pennsylvanians and people with disabilities.
October brings the peak of the apple harvest and National Apple Month. Apples are a major crop for Pennsylvanian farmers. In 2010, our State produced nearly $75 million worth and 490 million pounds of apples, ranking it fourth in the nation. Pennsylvania is an ideal place to grow apples, with hundreds of varieties grown across the State.
However, stink bugs have recently become more of a pest in Pennsylvania orchards and farms. These bugs damage crops, such as fruit, by sucking out the juice and injecting saliva. Stink bugs leave pockmarks and spots on the affected crops, making them unmarketable. As an example of their destructive nature, stink bugs cost apple farmers in the Mid-Atlantic region $37 million last year alone. It is essential to the livelihoods of Pennsylvania farmers to find ways to control the bug and alleviate its devastating impact on our food crops.
Therefore, I am pleased that Penn State University recently received a Federal research grant to identify ways to combat the Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs that are ravaging crop yields. The Penn State Fruit Research and Extension Center and its partners will use this funding to study the negative impact that stink bugs have on orchard crops, vegetables, small fruit and other crops. The research will aid in the development of control strategies designed to mitigate the pest’s impact on farms. The research is supported the by the Specialty Crop Research Initiative through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, I strongly supported the Specialty Crop Research Initiative in the last Farm Bill and will continue to do so.
Today, I join millions in remembering the extraordinary life and work of Steve Jobs. His leadership and creativity fueled innovations that reshaped multiple industries. Thanks in large part to Steve Jobs’s vision, the United States technology sector is an area of promising growth that has spurred renewal in parts of Pennsylvania and other regions nationwide. As I work in the U.S. Senate to improve access to computer science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, I keep in mind the powerful impact of Steve Jobs, an inspiration who will be missed. My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.