Mark Warner meets with VA, opioid crisis nominees

mark warnerU.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) met today with Jim Carroll, the Acting Director and President Trump’s nominee to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the office in charge of combating the national opioid epidemic. During the meeting, Sen. Warner and Acting Director Carroll discussed the importance of expanding substance abuse treatment programs for rural communities in Virginia that have been hit the hardest by the opioid epidemic.

“There are too many families in Virginia that have been devastated by the opioid epidemic. I appreciate the opportunity to hear how Acting Director Carroll plans to spearhead one of the Administration’s most critical offices to combat this national health crisis,” said Sen. Warner. “While I remain deeply concerned about the Trump Administration’s proposed steep cuts to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, I will closely monitor Acting Director Carroll’s nomination process to ensure he is the right candidate to tackle the national crisis on our hands.”

More Virginians died of opioid overdoses in 2017 than in any year in at least the past decade. In just five years, Virginia went from 572 annual opioid-related overdose deaths to 1,227 deaths due to overdoses. The ONDCP plays a significant role in the Administration’s effort to combat the national opioid crisis. The office is tasked with leading and coordinating the development, implementation and assessment of U.S. drug policy. It administers the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas and Drug-Free Communities grants and oversees the drug control activities of 16 federal agencies.

In his FY19 budget, President Trump proposed cutting 95 percent of ONDCP’s funding, which will force the office to shift its two main grant programs to the Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Health and Human Services (HHS). The shift could pose negative consequences on the overall effectiveness of the programs in tackling the opioid epidemic.

In February 2018, Trump nominated Carroll to serve as the Director of ONDCP. Prior to his nomination, Carroll was tapped as the Acting Director for ONDCP and served as the Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff to John Kelly. On Thursday, July 11, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Carroll’s nomination.

Warner meets with VA nominee Robert Wilkie

Warner also met today with Robert Wilkie, President Trump’s nominee to be the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). During the meeting, Sen. Warner and Wilkie discussed the need to reform the VA without privatizing the system, improve care for veterans at VA facilities, and continue reducing wait times for veteran patients.

“The VA’s mission is one of the most important, and difficult jobs of all of our federal agencies,” said Sen. Warner. “As VA Secretary, Mr. Wilkie’s leadership will be essential in continuing to reform and strengthen the VA to ensure that it provides the very best care to our veterans.”

Virginia is home to three VA medical centers that serve the Commonwealth’s veteran population: McGuire VA Medical Center (Richmond), Hampton VA Medical Center, and Salem VA Medical Center.

In the Senate, Sen. Warner spearheaded a bipartisan effort to approve overdue VA medical leases, including two new outpatient clinics in Hampton Roads and Fredericksburg, a measure which Congress approved last year. He also led a legislative effort to restore tax payments to combat-injured veterans, which resulted in more than 133,000 notifications sent to veterans by the Department of Defense (DoD). Recently, he pressed the VA on critical failures that have endangered veterans at the D.C. Medical Center and the quality of care at nursing homes in Virginia and across the country.

Mr. Wilkie, a native of Fayetteville, North Carolina, currently serves as the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, a position he was nominated to by President Trump and approved unanimously by the Senate. Wilkie previously served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs under Defense Secretaries Robert Gates and Donald Rumsfeld. He also served as Special Assistant to President George W. Bush for National Security Affairs and as Senior Director of the National Security Council under Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. In the Senate, he served as an aide to Sens. Jesse Helms (R-NC), Trent Lott (R-MS), and Thom Tillis (R-NC).

President Trump nominated Mr. Wilkie to serve as his next VA Secretary in May, a position that at the time he was filling temporarily following the firing of former VA Secretary David Shulkin. Last month, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing to consider Mr. Wilkie’s nomination and a vote by the full committee is expected later today. It is not clear when the full Senate will vote on his confirmation.


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