Dan Benishek

Dan Benishek

MICHIGAN's 1st DISTRICT

Benishek Votes to Increase Funding for Local Harbor Maintenance

2015/05/01

Washington, D.C- On Friday, May 01, 2015 the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2028, the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016.  This legislation supports funding for the United States Army Corps of Engineers to dredge and maintain federal harbors, as well as larger projects like the Soo Locks.

"Every year since I have come to Congress, I have worked to ensure that our federal taxpayer dollars are spent appropriately.  Ensuring the ports and waterways of the Great Lakes are adequately maintained is a vital use of taxpayer resources.  Maintaining these ports and harbors creates jobs and commerce in our region and across the nation," said Dr. Benishek, Michigan's only member of the Natural Resources Committee. 

H.R. 2028 provides funding for national defense nuclear weapons activities, the Army Corps of Engineers, various programs under the Department of Energy, and other related agencies.  Of note to Northern Michigan, the legislation provides for $5.6 billion for certain programs within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, $142 million above FY 2015. This program is responsible for activities in support of coastal and inland navigation, flood and coastal storm damage reduction, environmental protection and restoration, hydropower, recreation, water supply, and disaster preparedness and response.

Since being elected to Congress, Dr. Benishek has been working to ensure that activities like dredging and maintenance are eligible for reimbursement from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF).  The HMTF is used to fund infrastructure projects for the Nation's ports, which are typically cost-shared programs between the Federal government and non-federal sponsors, often local or regional port authorities. The operation and maintenance of these projects are federal responsibilities and are funded as reimbursements from the HMTF, which is supported by an ad valorem tax[4] on the value of imported and domestic cargo. Expenditures from the trust fund are subject to annual appropriations. The balance of the HMTF at the beginning of FY 2016 is estimated to be approximately $8.99 billion.

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Benishek Votes to Increase Funding of Department of Veterans Affairs

2015/05/01

Washington, D.C- Yesterday, the House voted to pass the Milcon VA Appropriations Act which funds the Department of Veterans Affairs and Military Construction for the Fiscal Year 2016.  In this bill, language requested by Dr. Benishek has been incorporated to improve care at the VA by:

  • Directing the Department to research the effects of Toxic Exposure
  • Requiring the VA Office of the Inspector General to meet a high standard of transparency
  • Directing the Department to work with the local community when a VA Chapel is found to be in violation of a national policy regarding religious symbols
  • Directing the VA and the DEA to resolve regulatory issues concerning the ability of VA physicians to prescribe controlled substances

"Every year since I have come to Congress, we have increased the funding levels for the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Now it is incumbent upon the VA to deliver on the needs of our veterans.  The time for excuses is over," said Dr. Benishek, who worked at the VA for over 20 years as a surgeon. 

This bill funds the VA at the level of 163.2 billion, an increase of $4.1 billion over the 2015 level.  Specifically, the bill will fund 770 new employees to assist in eliminating the backlog of VA disability claims.  The bill provides $48.6 billion to support VA medical services for 6.9 million patients.  $233 million has also been appropriated to create a modernized, digital health record system for the VA. This is in addition to the $15 billion provided to the VA in the Access, Choice, and Accountability for Veterans Act, passed in August of 2014.

Additionally, because of the work of Dr. Benishek, this bill will improve the way the VA handles issues like the Chapel at the Iron Mountain facility, the prescription of addictive drugs, the treatment of toxic exposure, and the transparency of the Inspector General. 

"These improvements at the VA have been a long time in coming, but they are critical for our veterans who have earned a VA that is responsive, accountable, and effective," Dr. Benishek said.  

Dr. Benishek spent 20 years as a VA doctor treating patients at the Iron Mountain VA facility.  As Chairman of the Veterans Health Subcommittee, he played an integral role in creating and helping to pass the landmark reform legislation, leading many of the hearings that uncovered the VA's incompetency.  Dr. Benishek was also successful in getting a new law enacted based on an idea from a local veterans that provides Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) greater access to federal surplus property, such as spare vehicles and equipment, for use at their facilities.  You can learn more about Dr. Benishek's Veterans Action Initiative here.    

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Benishek Committee Moves Key Veterans Bills

2015/04/23

Washington, D.C-  Dr. Dan Benishek, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Veterans Health, held a hearing today on several pieces of legislation to help veterans, including three introduced by Dr. Benishek.  The bills included draft legislation to collect important information on the Veterans Health Administration, H.R. 627, to ensure that veterans fleeing domestic violence qualify for homelessness programs, and H.R. 1769, the Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2015.  This hearing is a necessary step in the legislative process in order to ensure that these bills will receive future consideration.

"These pieces of legislation are a critical part of our efforts to improve the care of veterans at the VA.  These problems were a long time in the making, and they will take a long time to fix, but I believe that we are making progress for veterans, and I am committed to continuing to push for common-sense solutions that improve veterans care," said Dr. Benishek, a former VA surgeon.  

At the hearing, testimony was given by Members of Congress, VA officials, and VSO leaders.  This legislative hearing is a continuation of previous work on the issues of toxic exposure and VA transparency that Congressman Benishek has led in recent months.   

Dr. Benishek spent 20 years as a VA doctor treating patients at the Iron Mountain VA facility.  As Chairman of the Veterans Health Subcommittee, he played an integral role in creating and helping to pass the landmark reform legislation, leading many of the hearings that uncovered the VA's incompetency.  Dr. Benishek was also successful in getting a new law enacted based on an idea from a local veterans that provides Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) greater access to federal surplus property, such as spare vehicles and equipment, for use at their facilities.  You can learn more about Dr. Benishek's Veterans Action Initiative here.    

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Dr. Benishek Meets Upper Peninsula Vets at WWII Memorial

2015/04/22

Washington, D.C-   Over a hundred veterans from Michigan's Upper Peninsula flew to Washington, D.C. today from Escanaba to visit the World War II Memorial and other sites in Washington, D.C.  Upon arrival, they were greeted by their Congressman, Dr. Dan Benishek.  

"These veterans put their lives on the line when our country needed them most.  It is always moving to see them visit for the first time the monuments that were created in their honor," said Dr. Benishek.  "It is great that we can provide this opportunity to those who have served as a small way of saying 'thank you."

Today's Honor Flight was the 8th mission flown from Escanaba in a tradition that began in 2011.  The airfare and meals are all provided at no cost to the veteran thanks to private donations.

Dr. Benishek spent 20 years as a VA doctor treating patients at the Iron Mountain VA facility.  As Chairman of the Veterans Health Subcommittee, he played an integral role in creating and helping to pass the landmark reform legislation, leading many of the hearings that uncovered the VA's incompetency.  Dr. Benishek was also successful in getting a new law enacted based on an idea from a local veterans that provides Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) greater access to federal surplus property, such as spare vehicles and equipment, for use at their facilities.  You can learn more about Dr. Benishek's Veterans Action Initiative here.    

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Dr. Benishek Celebrates National Park Week

2015/04/21

Washington, D.C. - Across the country, April 18-26th marks National Park Week, an opportunity to recognize the important role these areas play in our region.  The five National Parks in Northern Michigan provide boundless opportunities for recreation and beauty, but also contribute significantly to our regional economy.  Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the most visited NPS unit in Michigan, has been voted one of "America's most beautiful places." 

"Every year, people come from all over the United States to visit these treasures that are right out our front doors.  From Sleeping Bear Dunes to the Pictured Rocks of the Upper Peninsula, this tourism funds an entire industry of restaurants, hotels, entertainment, and sporting equipment.  The parks are an important part of our outdoor economy here in Northern Michigan, and I hope everyone has the chance to get out to visit this summer!"

Besides the Sleeping Bear Dunes and the Pictured Rocks, Michigan's First District is also home to the North Country Scenic Trail. the Keweenaw Historical Park, and Isle Royale.  According to the National Park Service, these parks bring over 2,500 jobs to Michigan and are responsible for $166 million in consumer spending every year.  

Congressman Dan Benishek is a doctor and native of the Upper Peninsula.  He is an avid outdoorsman and has fought to protect Michigan's National Parks since coming to Congress in 2011.  In the 113th Congress, Dr. Benishek's bill to protect the Sleeping Bear Dunes as wilderness successfully passed the House of Representatives and was signed into law by the President.  

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Benishek Votes to Repeal Death Tax

2015/04/16

Washington, D.C. - Following the passage H.R. 1105, the Death Tax Repeal Act, Congressman Dan Benishek released the following statement:

"There are over 7,000 family farms in Northern Michigan with an average size of 167 acres. These farms are a way of life for many and provide thousands of jobs to our community. But the Death Tax is putting the family farm out of business. I voted in favor of repeal, because family farms and businesses in Northern Michigan should not face an excessive bill from the IRS when they experience a tragedy."       

 The Death Tax, also known as the Estate Tax, is a tax on property and assets that are passed on following an individual's death.   Under the current tax code, family owned businesses and farms are frequently hit with excessive tax bills after the death of a family member, forcing the survivors to sell assets or take out loans in order to settle with the IRS.  H.R. 1105 eliminates the Death Tax entirely in order to protect these family farms and businesses.  

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Sens. Moran, Blumenthal and Reps. Benishek, Honda Introduce Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2015

2015/04/14

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), along with U.S. Representatives Dan Benishek, M.D. (R-Mich.) and Mike Honda (D-Calif.), introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation focused on supporting the research of health conditions faced by descendants of veterans who were exposed to toxins during their military service. The Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2015 (S. 901) - which is supported by the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), AMVETS, the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Rolling Thunder - would establish a national center at a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facility for research on the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions of the descendants of individuals exposed to toxic substances during their time in service. These include Agent Orange in Vietnam, Gulf War neurotoxins, Iraq and Afghanistan chemical weapons and burn pits as well as other chemicals and toxins.

"The Toxic Exposure Research Act is about addressing the painful, residual wounds of war that may impact a service member's family long after the military operation is over - wounds that may not be evident until decades later when passed on to children and generations to follow," said Sen. Moran. "This bipartisan legislation is a necessary step toward making certain our military men and women and their descendants will be properly cared for in the future. We must keep our promise to our veterans and their families, who have made great sacrifices for the sake of our country's security and our freedom."

"When servicemembers raise their right hand, they willingly risk life and limb to defend their country. However, few probably ever contemplate that this noble action would have serious and sometimes grave consequences for their children and grandchildren," said Sen. Blumenthal. "These children and grandchildren did not sign up, but they may bear the wounds of war. Declassifying documents and disclosure are critical and the least the government owes our veterans so they can better understand the impact these indirect exposures have to guarantee their children and grandchildren receive appropriate treatment. The Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2015 will ensure this. We as a nation have just as much of a responsibility to the families as to those who actually wear the uniform."

"Having served veterans as a surgeon at the Iron Mountain VA for over 20 years, I have seen far too many patients who suffer from unexplained, service connected ailments," said Dr. Benishek. "These conditions can even be passed down to their children. We owe it to our vets to find answers to illnesses caused by toxic exposure, and this bill will be a strong start to that process.

"Medical and scientific studies have shown that there are long term negative effects not only on the soldiers who served, but also in their children, their grandchildren, and subsequent generations," Congressman Honda said. "Many suffer from various forms of birth defects. It is time for us to take care of not just those who served, but also their children, whose diseases can be linked to their parent's exposure to toxins. This is about the sacred pact with members of our military: if you serve our country in uniform, we will look after your family during your service to this country and after."

The Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2015 would also authorize the Department of Defense to declassify certain incidents of exposure of members of the armed forces to toxic substances. Additionally the bill would create a national outreach campaign on potential long-term health effects of exposure to toxic substances by members of the Armed Forces and their descendants.

"The information identified by the Institute of Medicine, as a result of the Agent Orange Act of 1991, regarding the negative impact on the health of Vietnam veterans resulted in a long list of ailments approved as 'presumptive' diseases by the Dept. Of Veterans Affairs," said VVA National President John Rowan. "Many Vietnam veterans have already succumbed to these ailments and more will in the future. While we are concerned, we understand that we raised our right hands and agreed to serve our country in a time of war. Our progeny did not. It is dismaying that it is possibility that these diseases have carried over to our children and grand-children. The Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2015 will hopefully enable us to determine how long these health problems will continue to haunt our families"

"The American Legion believes in treating the veteran first, funding the necessary research, and ensuring that servicemembers are not exposed to chemical hazards again," said Ian de Planque, American Legion Legislative Director. "This legislation would help address the need to better understand the toxins that many veterans have been exposed to, and enhance the understanding that the effect of exposure may have on veterans' descendants."

"All too often, we have failed to extend the proper recognition to veterans and their descendants for debilitating health conditions they suffer from, due to the veterans exposure to toxic substances," said Aleks Morosky, Deputy Director of National Legislative Service for VFW. "This bill would begin to address that issue by directing VA to properly study all those affected by service-related toxic exposure, and the VFW thanks Senator Moran for bringing it forward."

Many of the symptoms from toxic exposure are frequently misdiagnosed in descendants of veterans due to a lack of understanding and scientific proof. However, veterans have observed increased levels of cancers, birth defects and other conditions in their subsequent generations. The evidence of these wounds of war afflicting the children and grandchildren of service members exposed to toxins is growing and research is warranted to collect data and study this issue. The goal of this medical research is to determine the conditions that result from debilitating toxins and hopefully lead to the appropriate support and benefits veterans and family members deserve. 

Click here to view full text of S. 901, the Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2015.

Click here to view the full text of H.R. 1769, the Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2015.

Dr. Benishek spent 20 years as a VA doctor treating patients at the Iron Mountain VA facility.  As Chairman of the Veterans Health Subcommittee, he played an integral role in creating and helping to pass the landmark reform legislation, leading many of the hearings that uncovered the VA's incompetency.  Dr. Benishek was also successful in getting a new law enacted based on an idea from a local veterans that provides Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) greater access to federal surplus property, such as spare vehicles and equipment, for use at their facilities.    

Contacts: Garrette Turner (Sen. Moran) - 202-224-6521

Josh Zembik (Sen. Blumenthal) - 202-224-6452

Philip Christofanelli (Rep. Benishek) - 202-225-4735

Ken Scudder (Rep. Honda) - 202-308-4005

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Benishek Comments on Veterans Hearing to Protect Whistleblowers

2015/04/14

Washington, D.C. - Yesterday evening, the House Committee on Veterans Affairs held a hearing on the treatment of whistleblowers at the VA.  At the hearing, several witnesses who work at the VA testified to the retaliation they received after reporting scheduling issues, backlogs, and other failures.  Retaliation included demotions, reassignments, verbal attacks, and other actions.  This hearing is a follow up to a similar hearing one year ago. 

"Sadly, it appears that issues we brought to light one year ago continue to occur.  While there is some progress being made, it is disappointing to see some of the same faces return to tell stories of more retaliation.  Our VA employees are the first line of defense to report problems at the agency, and they must feel comfortable doing so if we are to improve the quality of care for our vets."

Last year, Congressman Dan Benishek introduced the Demanding Accountability for Veterans Act, a bill that would better allow the Secretary of the VA to dismiss employees who engaged in retaliation to whistleblowers and other practices that harmed the quality of veterans care.  Given these testimonies, Dr. Benishek is currently investigating a legislative approach for the 114th Congress that would prevent future retaliations from occurring.

Dr. Benishek spent 20 years as a VA doctor treating patients at the Iron Mountain VA facility.  As Chairman of the Veterans Health Subcommittee, he played an integral role in creating and helping to pass the landmark reform legislation, leading many of the hearings that uncovered the VA's incompetency.  Dr. Benishek was also successful in getting a new law enacted based on an idea from a local veterans that provides Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) greater access to federal surplus property, such as spare vehicles and equipment, for use at their facilities.    

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Dr. Benishek Responds To Threatened Listing for Bats

2015/04/01

Washington, D.C.-  Following the announcement from the US Fish and Wildlife Service of their intention to list the Northern Long Eared Bat as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act, Congressman Dan Benishek said the following:

"Since the beginning of this process, my focus has been on ensuring that all stakeholders, from business owners to those who manage our public transportation and utilities here in Northern Michigan have an opportunity to voice their concerns about how this listing will affect their ability to make a living.  While it is important to protect this bat species, we must recognize that human activity is not the primary driver of the population decline.  I am pleased that, at a minimum, the USFWS decided to continue gathering public input in order to find a solution that balances environmental protection with reasonable economic development."

In addition to listing the bat as threatened, the USFWS also released an interim special rule that will provide temporary guidance for the many land owners, government agencies, and others in the range of the bat.  The public will have an additional opportunity to provide input on the final management process (known as the final 4d rule) until July 1, 2015.  

Previously, Dr. Benishek penned a bi-partisan letter to the USFWS urging them to extend the public comment period in order to allow additional time for input.  This letter came in the wake of reports that construction would be delayed in Traverse City in order to protect the bat, despite the fact that the USFWS had not even ruled on the species' status yet. 

Congressman Benishek is a native of Michigan's Upper Peninsula and Michigan's only member of the Natural Resources Committee.  Prior to joining Congress, he served as a doctor in both private practice and the VA.  

 

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Dr. Benishek Votes in Favor of Fix to Patient Provider Payments

2015/03/26

Washington, D.C- Following the successful passage of the "Doc Fix" to the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) that occurred in the House of Representatives today, Congressman Dan Benishek released the statement below:

"Having served as a doctor in Northern Michigan for over thirty years, I understand the need for patient-centered reforms to our healthcare system that ensure reliable access to affordable care.  This bill is a bipartisan compromise that will help keep Medicare solvent and ensure that seniors are able to get the medical care that they deserve.  It will put an end to the piecemeal patches and finally provide long-term health care stability and security for seniors in Northern Michigan."

H.R. 2, the "Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015" passed by a vote of 392-37.  This bipartisan legislation has been endorsed by medical providers and senior advocacy groups, and will now move to the Senate in hopes of passage before the March 31st deadline.  

The Sustainable Growth Rate was enacted in 1997 in a misguided attempt to slow the rise of Medicare costs.  The SGR formula has called for drastic cuts for reimbursements given to health care providers who treat Medicare patients.  Since 2003, the SGR has been patched with 17 short-term bills to avert drastic Medicare cuts.  These short-term bills have cost the taxpayers almost $170 billion, more than it cost to permanently repeal and replace the SGR today with H.R. 2.

Congressman Dan Benishek is a native of Iron Mountain, MI where he served as a doctor for over thirty years, both in the private sector and at the VA.  Since coming to Congress, he has advocated for patient-centered reforms to our nation's healthcare system. 

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Contact Information

514 Cannon HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Phone 202-225-4735
Fax 202-225-4744
benishek.house.gov

Dan Benishek’s story is like that of many people from Northern Michigan.  Dan was born in Iron River, Michigan.  His family didn’t have much when he was growing up, and his father was killed in a mining accident when he was only 5 years old.  After his father’s death, Dan’s mother, with the help of family, raised Dan and his brother, Tim.

As a boy, Dan worked in his grandmother’s business—the Iron River Hotel.  Dan made beds, hauled beer, and cleaned the spittoons.  His grandmother paid him $10 a week for his efforts, but he had to save it for the future.

After Dan graduated from West Iron High School in 1970, he went on to earn a B.S. in biology from the University of Michigan in 1974.  Dan graduated from Wayne State Medical School in 1978 and completed a Family Practice internship in Flint at St Joseph’s Hospital.  He has served as a general surgeon in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in a private practice since 1983. He has worked part-time at the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center in Iron Mountain for the past twenty years.

Dan worked as a general surgeon in Iron Mountain for nearly 30 years and raised his family in Iron Mountain.  Along the way, it never occurred to him to get into politics, let alone run for Congress.  But, like many people in Northern Michigan, Dan just got tired of seeing career politicians in Washington waste taxpayer dollars our nation doesn’t have on bills they didn’t even read.

Since coming to Congress, Dan has been fighting every day to create jobs in Northern Michigan, improve services to our veterans, and renew the promise of the American Dream for our children, grandchildren and future generations.

Dan is an avid hunter and fisherman and a proud member of the NRA and the GOA.

Dan and his wife Judy live near Crystal Falls, Michigan.  They have five children and four grandchildren.  Prior to being sworn into Congress on January 5, 2011, Dr. Benishek had never sought nor held any previous public office.


Serving With

Bill Huizenga

MICHIGAN's 2nd DISTRICT

Justin Amash

MICHIGAN's 3rd DISTRICT

John Moolenaar

MICHIGAN's 4th DISTRICT

Fred Upton

MICHIGAN's 6th DISTRICT

Tim Walberg

MICHIGAN's 7th DISTRICT

Mike Bishop

MICHIGAN's 8th DISTRICT

Candice Miller

MICHIGAN's 10th DISTRICT

Dave Trott

MICHIGAN's 11th DISTRICT

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