News from Representative Gus Bilirakis
April 2, 2017

Good for Veterans. Good for the VA. 

Last week, I introduced two key bills to support our Veterans and help reform the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA). First, the VET CARE Act (H.R. 1749) will get the ball rolling to expand access to dental care for our nation’s heroes by implementing a four-year pilot program. Right now, dental care through the VA is limited to those who are 100% disabled or have a direct service connected injury. Our Veterans have sacrificed so much on behalf of our country, they deserve access to high quality health care, and that includes dental care.

Additionally, this bill could result in lower overall health care costs for the VA. Studies have shown that regular dental care helps alleviate some chronic conditions. Since the VA, spends most of its health care costs on treating Veterans with chronic ailments, like diabetes, heart conditions, and more, dental coverage would help ensure a healthier Veteran population and bring the VA’s costs down. Not only is the VET CARE Act good for Veterans, it is good for the VA as a whole.

I also introduced the VA GORDIAN KNOT Act (H.R. 1771) to help untangle some of the VA’s core issues and improve its service to Veterans. In Greek mythology, the Gordian knot represents a complex problem that requires out-of-the-box thinking to solve. The VA’s Gordian knot is its frequent manipulation of key data and lack of accountability.

Over the years, the VA has been known to yield less than truthful data when it comes to collecting and reporting information about patient care, appointment wait-times, and employee hiring and firing practices. This behavior is an erosion of public trust, and makes it difficult to properly address the VA’s shortcomings and enhance its successes. The VA GORDIAN KNOT Act tackles the issue head on by requiring the VA to standardize their data recording mechanism, publish the average wait times for each medical facility, and streamline the agency’s organizational structure. I believe this bill is absolutely necessary to reform the agency and assist the VA in its mission to care for Veterans.

Harnessing Today’s Technology for Self-Driving Cars Tomorrow

While consumers are still years away from getting their hands on fully automated cars, we can harness technology being used today to make self-driving cars safer in the future. The House Energy and Commerce Committee, of which I am a member, held a hearing this week on how some driver assistance technologies currently available, like blind spot detection and lane departure warning, are paving the way for complete vehicle autonomy.

Specifically, I questioned officials about how the technology of self-driving cars could help elderly and disabled individuals in the Tampa Bay area. Click here or on the image below for video of the hearing.

Self-driving cars also have the potential to make vehicles safer and reduce the number of deaths on the road. I look forward to our work on the committee as we continue examining this innovative and transformative technology.

The Future of Emergency Response & Calling 911

If you see a crime or emergency occurring in real time on social media, how do you report it? How can we ensure blind, deaf, and disabled individuals can easily and reliably call 911? Those are the questions we examined at a committee hearing on the nation’s transition to “Next Generation” 911 services. We all have smartphones in our pockets capable of voice, text, video, and data services that could redefine 911 calls and how we communicate with first responders. 

Click here or on the image above for video of my questioning.

Traditional 911 involves a voice call made to a dispatch center, but soon those lifesaving calls could also take the form of text, video, or data transfer known as Next Generation 911. Currently, there is an uneven patchwork across state and local governments implementing these technologies. Our hearing focused on modernizing 911 systems nationwide to strengthen public safety and emergency response measures. 

2017 Congressional Art Competition Open for Entries 

My office is now accepting entries for this year’s Congressional Art Competition, an annual event for local high school students to showcase their artistic talents on the national stage. The overall winner from Florida’s 12th District will have their art displayed in the U.S. Capitol for one year, and they will receive complimentary roundtrip airfare for two to Washington, D.C. to attend an awards ceremony with winners from around the country.

I encourage all high school artists from Florida’s 12th district in Pasco, Pinellas, and Hillsborough counties to enter their best work. I look forward to welcoming one lucky winner to the nation’s capital to be recognized among the best student artists in the nation. Good luck to all our local young artists! Click here for submission details and additional information.

Snapshots from the Nation’s Capital

Over 30 AIPAC members from Florida stopped by my office last week for a meeting on strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship. 

Great meeting with Dr. Diaz with Florida Cancer Specialists who shared his insight on making health care accessible and affordable, especially for those battling cancer. 

On this week’s Discuss with Gus: NIH funding, President Trump’s picture in VA hospitals, and tax reform. Click here or on the image to watch my weekly video segment.

Thank you for reading this week’s update. Remember, you can always stay in touch with me via emailFacebookTwitter, and Instagram


Gus Bilirakis


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