The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) recently announced a campaign to encourage safe digging across the country. Their slogan “Call before You Dig,” encourages excavators and those doing home maintenance projects to contact 811 call centers before beginning digging. Pipeline accidents often result from failure to contact 811 call centers, which work with pipeline operators and utility companies to mark pipelines before digging projects begin. PHMSA has introduced several initiatives in support of this campaign including partnerships with national organizations, such as the Common Ground Alliance, as well as safety groups, public advocacy groups and trade organizations.
I have worked to increase pipeline safety in the past and am a co-sponsor of S. 275, the Pipeline Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2011. S. 275 would enhance existing safety and environmental regulations in pipeline transportation, particularly the transportation of energy products. Most importantly, this legislation would penalize those who fail to contact 811 call centers before beginning digging projects by levying large fines on any person found to have committed a major violation of a pipeline marking or excavation notification requirement, pipeline safety standard or regulation.
I encourage you to learn more about the importance of pipeline safety by visiting PHMSA’s website.
This Memorial Day, please join me in honoring the men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that the citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and this great nation continue to live in freedom. It is because of these brave heroes that that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are still possible in the United States of America.
On behalf of the citizens of Pennsylvania, I extend our eternal gratitude.
Today is National Bike to Work Day, an annual event that encourages commuters to forego cars, buses and trains, and instead ride their bicycles to work. Organizations throughout Pennsylvania provided bicyclists with information, hydration stations, and events to support this initiative. National Bike to Work Day is a great opportunity for people throughout the country to build some additional exercise into their routines, reduce pollution, and make new friends. I am pleased that a number of people in my Washington, DC office participated this year. I recently met with a large group of cyclists from Pennsylvania who were visiting Washington, D.C. for a summit to support bicycling. I enjoyed learning from them about the progress happening in the state to expand opportunities for safe bicycling transportation and recreation.
In Pennsylvania, biking and hiking trails are increasing in popularity, and more than 150 different trails exist that contribute to a multimodal transportation network. In fact, people can now bike all the way from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC on trails. In the past, I have supported federal programs for the development of bicycling routes and look forward to working on this issue in the 112th Congress. A day on the bike has many benefits including bettering physical health and experiencing the outdoors. Whether enjoying the solitude or recreating with friends, people feel refreshed after spending time on the bike.
Today I had the opportunity to sit down with several members of Pennsylvania’s aging community to discuss the proposed changes to Medicare in the Republican budget that was passed in the House of Representatives. As Chairman of the Joint Economic Committee I released a report that illustrated the effects this proposal would have on Medicare beneficiaries. In Pennsylvania, beneficiaries would see their out-of-pocket medical expenses increase by over $6,300. This plan would end the Medicare system as we know it by replacing the traditional Medicare benefit with a voucher to purchase insurance in the private market.
The group discussed the negative effects these changes would have on beneficiaries that are already struggling to pay their out-of-pocket expenses. We also discussed the important changes Medicare beneficiaries have seen over the past year. These include beginning to close the donut hole, free wellness visits and free preventive tests for procedures such as mammograms and colonoscopies. These benefits would also be eliminated in the Republican plan.
After meeting and discussing the problems many members of the Pennsylvania aging community are facing I will continue to oppose these far-reaching changes to our Medicare system the Republicans in the House of Representatives voted for. I look forward to continuing to meet with community members to discuss ways to strengthen and improve the Medicare program.
As our brave men and women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan return home, we are unfortunately seeing a large number of veterans suffering from symptoms associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is the most prevalent mental disorder among returning service members. Symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive recollections or re-experiencing of the traumatic event, avoidance and numbing.
I firmly believe in our commitment to helping those who have served, especially those coping with devastating physical and psychological injuries and illnesses as a result of their combat service. That is why I am so pleased to see that the PTSD Coach smartphone application (app), that was developed by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense, has already helped so many people. This app, available for smartphones, has already helped more than 5,000 people connect with the mental health services and resources they need. This program allows users to track their symptoms, teaches strategies on how to manage PTSD symptoms and provides information on support resources and crisis lines.
To learn more about the PTSD Coach app visit the VA’s National Center for PTSD Website.