As the 2nd session of the 112th Congress gets underway, I wanted to update you on my first year in Congress.
In addition to focusing on the issues that will help our nation's economy recover and put Americans back to work, I have also worked to advance specific initiatives that hold particular significance to New Jersey's 3rd Congressional District.
2011 District Office Accomplishments
*New Jersey's 3rd District is home to the largest number of veterans in the state of New Jersey. I am honored to have the opportunity to serve them and express our nation's gratitude for the sacrifices they have made.
*Through my district offices in Mount Laurel and Toms Rivers, we have assisted hundreds of veterans and their families.
*We hosted two veteran's expos in Burlington and Ocean Counties in order to provide veterans with the latest information about the programs, services and benefits available to them.
*These events have also allowed veterans and their families to speak in person with representatives from key Veterans' Service Organizations, including regional medical facilities.
House of Representatives Wounded Warrior Program
*My office was selected to participate in the House of Representatives Wounded Warrior program, which is designed to provide veterans with experience and exposure to ultimately broaden their scope of transition opportunities. Applicants must have less than 20 years of service, have served on active duty since September 11, 2001, and have a 30 percent or greater service-connected disability rating.
*Through this two year grant, I was able to hire a new Veterans Caseworker to assist veterans and their families access the benefits they have earned through their service to our nation.
*She is an eight year veteran of the United States Marine Corps and plans to split her time between my Burlington and Ocean County offices to assist other veterans.
Helping Seniors Access their Medicare and Social Security Benefits
*New Jersey's 3rd Congressional District is also home to more than one hundred thousand citizens over the age of 65, many of whom rely heavily on two important federal safety-net programs: Social Security and Medicare. My District offices have helped more than 100 seniors resolve problems they've encountered with Social Security and Medicare.
*Our office has also hosted senior health fairs in Burlington and Ocean County, and convened several telephone town halls in collaboration with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services - specifically intended to answer questions about Medicare benefits, and how seniors can make sure the program is working for them.
*I have also personally visited a number of senior centers/communities throughout the district, and look forward to visiting many more over the next year.
2011 Legislative Accomplishments
* There is no issue more important to most Americans than our struggling economy, high unemployment rate, and fledging job creation. While the government is not in a position to create the kinds of jobs we need to truly achieve a robust and sustained economic recovery, there is a lot the government can do to create the kind of environment businesses need to be successful and create the jobs American workers need.
*The House of Representatives has passed more than 27 bipartisan bills aimed at creating jobs and addressing the unemployment rate, which has hovered above 8% for nearly 3 years. THESE BILLS WERE PASSED WITH BI-PARTISAN SUPPORT.
*The defense industry employs more residents in New Jersey's 3rd district than any other industry. I am honored to have been appointed to the bi-partisan House Armed Services Committee's Panel on Business Challenges within the Defense Industry (aka The Defense Business Panel).
Defense Business Panel
*The panel's goal is to provide oversight of the current defense business environment and to identify contractor and regulatory issues facing the defense industry, which stand in the way of their continued success, and their ability to grow and create jobs for our district.
*In December I hosted a Defense Business Panel discussion in Mt. Laurel. We met with local small businesses that work closely with the Department of Defense to learn what challenges they face on a daily basis.
*I have also toured more than six local small and medium sized defense companies including SeaBox, L-3, and Dynamic Defense Materials. I look forward to touring even more of these businesses that are so critical to our local economy in the year ahead.
House Armed Services Committee Work
* As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I was pleased to fight for Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JB MDL) as part of the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) process. JB MDL is the largest employer in Southern New Jersey, with active duty, Reserve, National Guard, Department of Defense Civilians, and contractors. It is not only a critical component of what makes the U.S. military the best in the world, but it is also very important to our regional economy.
Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA):
Wage grade pay parity for Department of Defense civilian employees at JB MDL.
*As part of the Armed Services Committee's work on the National Defense Authorization Act, I fought to correct pay discrepancies between employees at Lakehurst and those at McGuire and Fort Dix, which resulted from the consolidation of the base as part of the 2005 BRAC (Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission).
*I successfully added language to the NDAA that would ensure all our base's workers receive the same pay.
*This language could positively impact the pay of approximately 600 civilian employees.
*My staff and I will continue to work with the Executive branch to ensure that this important issue is brought to closure.
New Jersey National Guard Army Aviation Facility Funding
*I fought for $49 million in critical military construction funds that will help build a complex to house the New Jersey Army National Guard aviation units.
*These funds will provide a consolidated location from which to conduct missions, as well as the necessary aircraft and personnel to carry out these aviation units' missions.
*The funds will also make the JB MDL the central location of New Jersey National Guard Army aviation activities.
Veteran Affairs Committee Work
*I was very pleased that my request to sit on the Veterans Affairs Committee was granted, and to be selected as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs (DAMA), as our district is home to the largest number of veterans in New Jersey.
Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) Improvements
*As Chairman of DAMA, I have held many hearings to address the previous gross mismanagement of ANC. For too long it had been run in a manner that was disgraceful to the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice to our nation.
*It is our duty to ensure that our nation's service members are honored in death with dignified burial and gravesites, and as Chairman of DAMA, please be assured that this is among my highest priorities.
*The situation at ANC carried added emphasis after I was contacted by a constituent from Marlton who cited concerns about his parents' burial site. When I found out the mismanagement situation affected one of my own constituents, I then wondered how many more families across the country were being impacted by this negligence.
*Hearings before my subcommittee and new leadership at Arlington National Cemetery are now providing the proper oversight to ensure changes are implemented.
H.R. 1407/S. 894, the Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act
*In April of last year I was pleased to introduce H.R. 1407 to provide a cost of living increase for veterans disability benefits.
*My bill moved quickly through the committee process and garnered the support of the entire House of Representatives on May 23rd.
*Later in the year the Senate completed work on the companion bill (S. 894) to H.R. 1407, and it was signed into law by the President on November 9, 2011 (Public Law No. 112-53).
*This new law will provide veterans with their first Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) since 2009.
*It will also instruct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to increase the rates of veterans' disability compensation, compensation for dependents, and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children.
H.R. 2349, the Veterans' Benefits Act of 2011
*The huge backlog of veterans' claims is a disgrace, and one of the contributing factors is that claims are not processed correctly the first time by the Department of Veterans Affairs, leading to lengthy waits for veterans as their claims are re-processed.
*This is unacceptable and is why I introduced H.R. 2349, which creates a program to train VA employees and managers how to more efficiently process veterans' claims and pension benefits in order to clear up this massive backlog.
*We owe our veterans a VA system where bureaucratic red tape does not stand between them and the benefits they have earned through their service to our nation.
*My bill passed in the House, and is now currently working its way through the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs. It is my hope that my bill passes in the Senate as well.
Veteran Suicide Prevention Outreach
*Suicide among our veterans is a very serious program that will only increase as our men and women return home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Together with my Democratic New Jersey colleague, Rep. Rush Holt, I offered an amendment to the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act to dedicate $20 million to veteran suicide prevention outreach efforts, including direct advertising and social media outreach to help our veterans, who return home with PTSD.
Natural Resources Committee Work
*As a member on the Natural Resources Committee, I have been able to help protect New Jersey's coastal communities and their long tradition of commercial and recreational fishing.
H.R. 2772, the bipartisan Saving Fishing Jobs Act of 2011
*I sponsored this bill which aims to re-evaluate the process of instituting Catch Share programs.
*Catch Share programs have been criticized for consolidating all of the catch to the largest wealthiest fishermen, putting small fishermen out of business.
*In December, the Natural Resources Committee held hearings on my bill to discuss how it will help the fishing industry and the shore towns the fishing industry supports.
*Currently there is a Senate Companion bill to my House bill, S.1678, and it is working its way through the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
H.R.1980, the Gold Star Mothers National Monument Act
*Former Congressman John Adler led a great effort to pass this legislation in the previous Congress, and I wanted to continue his effort to recognize these women.
*I sponsored this bi-partisan bill that would authorize the Gold Star Mothers National Monument Foundation to establish a monument in or around Washington D.C. to commemorate the mothers' whose sons or daughters lost their lives in service to our country.
*In November, the Natural Resources' Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands held hearings on my bill.
*Moorestown resident Judith Young, who is the former President of American Gold Star Mothers and the chairwoman of the Gold Star Monument Fund, testified before the Subcommittee on the importance of the Gold Star Mothers National Monument.
H.R. 1646, the American Angler Preservation Act
*I sponsored this bill which would bring transparency and accountability to the fisheries management process by ending the government's overly cautious decisions based on bad science and poor statistical data.
*In December, the Natural Resources Committee held hearings to discuss the importance of my bill to our nation's fisherman.
*In the Senate, Charles Schumer (D-NY) introduced a similar bill, S. 632, the Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act; and it is my hope that both our bills will be instrumental in helping protect the livelihood of our district's anglers.
It has been my great honor and privilege to serve as your Congressman. I look forward to representing you in the second session of the 112th Congress; and I will remain committed to keeping our district and its constituents together by identifying ways to improve our state and our nation through the legislative process.
Once again, thank you for contacting me. Please feel free reach out to me in the future with any concerns or suggestions that you may have. I can be reached in my Burlington county office at 856-780-6436, my Ocean County office at 732-279-6013, or my Washington, DC office at 202-225-4765. You may also visit my website at to stay up to date on my work in Congress, subscribe to receive e-newsletters, or sign up to participate in my next telephone town hall .
Member of Congress