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Roe visits Mountain City

By Meg Dickens

Congressman Phil Roe, M.D., visited the Johnson County area shortly before Veterans Day to hear from the community.
Roe, who serves on the Veterans Affairs (VA) and Education and Labor committees in Washington, D.C., started the Wednesday, November 6 meeting by updating the crowd on current problems and possible systemic issues.
Roe reported that a chairperson prevented votes on certain bills and amendments, one involving criminals in VA daycares.
The amendment would cause criminals charged with child abuse, drug abuse, etc. to lose their jobs at the VA. Currently, these employees are banned from daycare but keep their VA employment.
Under the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, the VA provides records on those with appointed fiduciaries to the FBI. These parties are placed on the NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) list, which prohibits the purchase of firearms. Anyone treated for PTSD can potentially be turned in to the NICS list as well. The NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007 demands that these patients be informed of the consequences and given a chance to appeal. Roe hopes to change that.
“I’ve had veterans all across this country telling me they will not get treatment because they’re afraid to lose their right to bear arms,” Roe said. “We could not get a vote. It absolutely infuriated me.”
The third bill Roe is currently fighting for focuses on reducing Veteran suicide. According to Roe, 14 out of 20 veterans that commit suicide daily cannot go to the VA due to personal income. This bill would allow veterans to receive treatment at nonVA hospitals.
Roe switched gears from Veteran Affairs to rural economy improvement. According to Roe, a rural community such as Johnson County needs three things to grow: education and skills training, a comparative wage index, and technology availability.
“We’re having economic problems in rural America, he said. “There’s no question. It’s more of a challenge where we live. It’s a challenge because of infrastructure. That would be whether you have high-speed internet, roads, and those types of things to attract people.”
Tennessee is one of the best states in the union working towards improvement. Not only does Tennessee have a free community college, but also the University of Tennessee President Randy Boyd says that if your family makes less than $50,000 annually, any student tuition not covered by scholarships will be supplemented.
Steps are currently being made towards a comparative wage index and making high-speed internet more accessible. Similar areas are already seeing results.