News from Representative Luria

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Dear Friend,

This past week has been difficult for our nation, as the wrongful murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery reminded us of the systematic racism that is still real and alive in America. Last week, I joined our community in solidarity as we voiced the need for real change to combat racism and police brutality.


Remembering George Floyd & Demanding Justice


Like many in our community, I am appalled by the inhumane and ruthless killing of George Floyd. No man should be pinned to the ground and strangled by someone’s knee in broad daylight.

I mourn the loss of George Floyd and condemn the senseless act of violence, which took a life far too soon. Sadly, this is not a unique experience for so many Black Americans who face the dire reality of what this truly means every day. We as a nation must come together and begin to heal the divisive wounds left by years of systematic racism in order to move forward together.

The protests emerging across the country stemmed from the wrongful killing of George Floyd are a sign that we need to listen to our fellow Black citizens and hear their pleas for equity, respect, and justice. The struggle for equality is far from over, and we must continue to be an ally by advocating for the needs of the Black community in order to effectively bring about real change. 

 

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Last week, I participated in the Virginia Beach Interdenominational Ministers Conference’s prayer vigil at Mount Trashmore. During this vigil, I listened to members of our faith and Black communities as they spoke about the pain and injustices they have suffered. I stood with them as we prayed for the unity and healing of our nation. As we condemned these atrocities, we all vowed to do better as a nation.

 

Holding the IRS Accountable to Coastal Virginians

 

One of my top priorities is ensuring that the federal government works for Coastal Virginians. Recently, many constituents told me that they had not received their tax refunds. Some have waited over a month, despite the IRS website claiming that it issues “9 out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days."

It concerns me that many Coastal Virginians have not received answers from the IRS about when they will receive their refunds. In the best of times, these delays would create hardships for taxpayers. During this economic crisis, these delays are especially challenging.

In these trying times, Americans are counting on their tax refunds to make ends meet. That is why I am urging the IRS to take all actions necessary to process all outstanding tax refunds quickly. This week, I led an effort outlining steps that IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig should take to expedite tax refund processing. Examples include updating information technology infrastructure, making it easier for taxpayers to contact the IRS by telephone or online, and working with public health experts to determine how the IRS can rapidly and safely resume in-person operations for tasks that cannot be done remotely.

 

Advocating for Reliable Internet Access for Students

 

As schools adapt to online instruction, we must ensure that all students have reliable internet access. A lack of internet access puts low-income and rural students at a significant disadvantage. To assist these students, I joined nearly 90 of my colleagues in the House of Representatives in an initiative to help them receive reliable broadband access.

The Emergency Educational Connections Act pushes for the creation of a designated fund, administered by the E-Rate program to equip students with online access for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency. It would allocate $2 billion to the Emergency Connectivity Fund to help close the homework gap during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill strives to give federal support for elementary and secondary schools and libraries to provide Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, and internet-enabled devices to students, staff, and patrons. These actions would ensure that schools and libraries can support those in need.

With roughly 12 million students across our country lacking reliable internet access, Congress must take action to make sure that they do not fall behind. The Emergency Educational Connections Act is a much-needed investment in our students during this difficult time.

 

Questioning Navy Experts on Critical Readiness Issues

 

On Thursday, I joined my colleagues from the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee for a hearing. We examined how the Navy can best use future force structure requirements and models to bolster its readiness and capabilities. During the hearing, I pressed several witnesses on the number of ships the Navy can oversee under its current manning capabilities and industrial base. I also questioned witnesses about the Navy’s utilization of Military Sealift Command (MSC) vessels and Frigate-Guided Missile (FFG) firepower.

It is vital that we have the most up to date information on our Navy’s ship, their capacities to deploy, and how we can provide them with the necessary firepower to accomplish their missions. While we have an over-fixation with numbers when it comes to readiness, it is clear we are getting mixed information. With various force generation models producing numbers ranging from a 340 to a 473-ship fleet, it is crucial to investigate if the Optimized Fleet Response Plan (OFRP) is effective and sustainable.

 

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Click above to watch me question witnesses during the Seapower & Projection Forces Subcommittee hearing.

 

Calling on TRICARE to Provide Mental Telehealth Services

 

Telehealth is a valuable tool to keep patients and health care providers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. With so many servicemembers seeking mental health treatment through telehealth during this national health emergency, we must expand access to this service.

Despite the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), making telehealth services widely available through Medicare, TRICARE only allows servicemembers and their families battling serious mental illnesses to access more intensive outpatient treatment. This forces many to choose between their physical health and their mental health and wellbeing.

That is why I joined a bipartisan effort to call on Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Thomas McCaffery to allow mental telehealth services to be covered under TRICARE during the COVID-19 pandemic. Telehealth services covered under TRICARE would include elemental health services at all outpatient levels of care, such as intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) and partial hospitalization programs (PHPs), and ensure payment parity for telehealth visits.

 

In the News

During this trying time, my team and I stand ready to serve our community. For helpful resources to help you and your family navigate through this public health emergency, please see here. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to our offices via the numbers below.

Sincerely,

 

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