Delmarva Now: Rep. Elaine Luria touts help for veterans, tackles Shore issues at town hall
Rep. Elaine Luria touts help for veterans, tackles Shore issues at town hall
November 13, 2019 | By Carol Vaughn
Rep. Elaine Luria highlighted her role in helping veterans while also addressing issues of concern to the Eastern Shore during a town hall Saturday in Cape Charles.
Luria, a Democrat, recognized several veterans in the audience at the packed town hall, including some who had problems getting reimbursed for medical care.
New legislation should help alleviate the problem — the old rule said veterans living within a 40-mile radius must go to a Hampton facility, but the new regulation takes into account travel time, among other factors, she said.
Luria, said her office has helped recoup $917,000 in benefits and back pay for constituents in the 2nd District since January.
Luria also spoke about other accomplishments in the area of veterans' affairs, including the passage of the Bluewater Navy Vietnam Veterans' Act, which benefits certain Vietnam-era veterans exposed to Agent Orange.
Additionally, President Trump recently signed into law a cost-of-living adjustment for disabled veterans — a measure Luria introduced.
Luria, who is vice chair of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, said, "When I talk about the issues related to sea power, Navy readiness and construction, it's not just national defense — it's jobs and livelihoods in the Hampton Roads area."
She noted 42% of the Hampton Roads economy is tied, directly or indirectly, to the Navy.
Luria also addressed issues on the Eastern Shore with visas for workers in agriculture and aquaculture industries.
"The Farm Workforce Modernization Act is a piece of legislation that has been brought up in a bipartisan way," she said, noting it came together quickly and appears to have strong support in both the House and the Senate.
"What it seeks to do is provide permanent resident status for agricultural workers," including covering 12-month farm workers like nursery workers, she said.
Luria also spoke about a regional sewer project proposed on the Eastern Shore.
Shore localities at present are considering whether to petition the courts to be included in the Hampton Roads Sanitation District, a process which does not involve the federal government.
Still, Luria said she is "tracking that very closely," even though there is no specific federal component to the project at present, in order to be able to identify whether there is any federal funding needed.
Luria answered audience questions about health care, the environment and other topics during the town hall.
Asked about her position on expanding the Affordable Care Act versus advocating for Medicare for All, Luria called the ACA "a milestone."
"Is is perfect? No. Are the premiums still too high? Yes," she said.
Luria said the expansion of Medicaid to an additional 400,000 Virginia residents has helped.
"The bottom line is, we're getting care to more people," she said.
About Medicare for All, Luria said she is "not on board" with the idea, adding, "I just don't understand how we pay for it."
Still, offering a public option could be a positive step, according to Luria.
The option "is a choice to buy into a Medicare-like program," she said, adding options could include allowing people younger than 65 to buy into Medicare.
Climate change and energy
Luria answered a question about what she will do to ensure the United States meets a deadline of 11 years to transform the nation's energy economy in order to avert the worst effects of climate change.
The deadline was mentioned in a 2018 United Nations report.
"We see the impacts of climate change across our region," she said.
Luria noted she co-chairs the New Democrat Coalition climate change task force. In that role, she is pushing the message that climate change affects national defense, especially in the Hampton Roads region.
Along with supporting expansion of and incentives for solar and wind energy, Luria said nuclear energy should be a factor.
"We need to have an ambitious goal of moving to greener, cleaner energy," she said, adding, "Renewable energy is good, but it's not going to fix everything."
"I'm also very passionate about making sure that we are making the proper investment in the next generation of nuclear power," Luria said, noting she introduced legislation to that effect in the House.
Luria also talked about test wind facilities being built off the Virginia Beach coast by Dominion Energy, and said wind energy could be "a huge economic driver" for the region.
"It can eventually be a catalyst for new jobs and new industry. As that comes about, I'd love that folks on the Eastern Shore ... can look at what kind of opportunities can happen on this side of the water," Luria said.
Northampton Board of Supervisors Chairman Spencer Murray said officials "tried very hard to get Dominion to consider Cape Charles," which has a deepwater harbor, as part of its wind project plans.
"Quite frankly, we haven't been successful," he said.
Luria said she will look at how to assist with that effort, along with state and local officials.
"I know that the governor is very focused on developing this wind (project) ... Whatever could be brought to bear from Cape Charles, because of its proximity to this work — I think we need to look at those opportunities," she said.