Thursday, April 16, 2015

Mark Warner on Veterans, Firefighters, and Ex-Im

From U.S. Senator Mark Warner, D-VA:

I wanted to let you know about some of my work up in Washington so far this year. Click here  to sign up for my newsletter in order for me to keep you up-to-date on the issues that matter to you.
The Export-Import Bank makes sure that U.S. companies large and small have access to the financing they need to export their goods. It levels the playing field for U.S. exporters abroad by matching the financing that other governments provide to their exporters.
The Bank’s charter is currently set to expire at the end of June. I have joined a bipartisan group of colleagues – four Democrats, four Republicans – in introducing the Export-Import Bank Reform and Reauthorization Act of 2015 , which will reauthorize the Bank’s charter until September 2019. 
From 2007 to 2015, the Export-Import Bank has helped Virginia businesses export two billion dollars in goods to countries around the globe. Last year, it helped companies like Bristol Compressors International and Optical Cable Corporation in Roanoke export tens of millions of dollars’ worth of goods across the globe. 
Altogether, the Ex-Im Bank supports more than 200,000 American jobs. It also operates at no cost to the taxpayer – in 2013, the Ex-Im Bank actually returned more than $1 billion to the U.S. Treasury. As someone who’s been in business longer than I’ve been in politics, I know a good deal when I see one. Reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank just makes smart business sense.  
V-A to ease 40-mile rule
A rule change will now allow twice as many veterans to become eligible for a new V-A program, providing much-needed flexibility in how they access healthcare. At our strong and consistent urging, the Department of Veterans Affairs is relaxing eligibility in its new Choice Program, which allows qualified veterans to receive health care outside of V-A facilities if they live more than 40 away from the closest V-A facility, or have wait times of more than 30 days to see a V-A physician.  
Driving distance, as opposed to straight-line distance, will now be the determining factor in calculating the 40-mile rule. In many areas of Virginia, this straight-line approach failed to accurately reflect driving distances over mountains or bodies of water. The 40-mile rule has been a source of great frustration among veterans, and I am pleased we’ve successfully pushed the V-A to reconsider and change the way it’s been implemented.
You have my pledge that our office will continue to stay on top of efforts to improve the V-A so that our veterans receive the care they have earned.
IRS fairness for firefighters, deputy sheriffs
At the request of Virginia sheriffs and many local firefighters, our office has successfully pushed the Internal Revenue Service to make a change: firefighters and police officers will no longer be expected to pay income taxes on common clothing items they are required to wear while on duty. 
Last year, Botetourt County, Va., was audited by the IRS and found to owe  $91,000 in back taxes, stemming in part from an IRS finding that the locality made a mistake in not taxing deputies for the value of certain common clothing items that are part of their uniforms. In January, our office contacted the IRS seeking clarification on this odd tax treatment for first responders. 
I am very pleased that the IRS now has clarified its policy. Our firefighters and police officers can stop worrying about getting taxed for their clothing and concentrate on what they do best: keeping us safe.
As always, please feel free to reach out to my office if we can ever be of assistance .
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