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President Obama Nominates New GSA Chief

GSA news releases - Thu, 05/21/2015 - 1:00am
President Obama Nominates New GSA Chief

Chabot and Small Business Committee Members Introduce Veterans Entrepreneurship Act

House Small Business Committee News - Thu, 05/21/2015 - 12:00am

Chabot, Small Business Committee Members Introduce Veterans Entrepreneurship Act of 2015

WASHINGTON –  Today, House Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) joined Reps. Hanna (R-NY), Bost (R-IL), Knight (R-CA), Curbelo (R-FL), Gibson (R-NY), and Rice (R-SC) to introduce the Veterans Entrepreneurship Act of 2015 (H.R. 2499), a bill to encourage and equip veterans in starting their own small businesses by removing barriers to capital.

“Our veterans are as entrepreneurial minded as anyone else in the world,” said Chabot. “Think about all that’s required to launch a new business:  strategic planning, tactical expertise, dogged perseverance, and the ability to adjust plans to overcome new challenges at a moment’s notice. This is the American warfighter. Making sure they can access the resources needed to start their own business and build up the communities they’ve protected will do more than just create jobs – it will help them successfully transition into civilian life.”

There are over 21 million veterans living in the United States. Sadly, the unemployment rate among those that have served in active duty since September 2001 is substantially higher than the national average.

The Veteran Entrepreneurship Act seeks to address this reality by making it easier for a veteran or spouse of a veteran to obtain the private capital needed to start a business. The legislation does this by waiving the upfront guarantee fee for a Small Business Administration 7(a) express loan – all at no cost to the taxpayer.

The bill has received praise from lenders and veterans alike:

"As a lender, a veteran, and an Air Force Academy graduate, helping veterans make a life for themselves and their families once they return home from service is very personal to me. With more veterans returning to American soil, it is essential we do everything we can to bring down barriers to obtaining access to capital as they come back from doing everything they can to protect our country.  Waiving fees for veteran 7(a) borrowers encourages them to open small businesses, create jobs, and boost the economy.”  
-Rich Bradshaw, President of Specialized Lending at United Community Bank

"The 7(a) lending industry feels compelled to be part of the answer to help the SBA loan programs become more accessible to our veterans. NAGGL applauds Chairman Chabot and members of the Small Business Committee for introducing H.R. 2499 to help improve the lives of our nation's heroes."
-Tony Wilkinson, President & CEO of the National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders

Bill Summary

Reforms Needed to Improve Workers Comp for Federal Employees

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 05/20/2015 - 4:30pm
The Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, chaired by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), today held a hearing to examine ways to reform the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act  (FECA). Members discussed the need to improve the program in order to better serve taxpayers and federal employees.
 

“When you’re talking about a program of this size and cost, making sure that it is operating as efficiently and effectively as possible is imperative,” Chairman Walbergnoted. “Concerns have been raised that FECA benefits are too generous and can discourage an employee’s return to work. So we are here today to explore how Congress can modernize the FECA program, to ensure taxpayer dollars are being used in a smart and responsible way, and to make certain this program is serving federal employees as intended.”

Witnesses agreed on the need to reform the FECA program, which has not been meaningfully updated in 40 years. They discussed a specific proposal included in the Obama administration’s fiscal year 2016 budget blueprint for the Department of Labor. The administration’s proposed reforms are intended to, among other changes, improve return-to-work procedures, streamline claims processing, and update benefits levels.

“The federal workforce comprises dedicated, hard-working women and men who are committed to serving the public,” said Leonard Howie III, director of the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP). Howie noted his office is “fully committed to seeing that all injured workers receive the medical care and compensation they deserve, as well as the assistance needed to return to work when able to do so. FECA reform will enable OWCP to achieve those goals more effectively.”

Scott Dahl, Inspector General of the Department of Labor, echoed these concerns, stating, “The department must ensure that FECA benefits are provided in a timely manner to eligible workers, but it must also strive to ensure that compensation benefits are only paid to those who are truly injured and unable to work, and medical benefits are paid for necessary services that were actually provided. We believe that the legislative recommendations we have proposed … would contribute to greater program integrity.”

Hearing participants acknowledged the need to carefully consider the impacts of proposed changes on current and future beneficiaries. “FECA continues to play a vital role in providing compensation to federal employees who are unable to work because of injuries sustained while performing their federal duties,” argued Andrew Sherrill, director of Education, Workforce, and Income Security at the Government Accountability Office. “As policymakers assess proposed changes to FECA benefit levels, they will implicitly be making decisions about what constitutes an adequate level of benefits for FECA beneficiaries before and after they reach retirement age.”

“Throughout this process,” Chairman Walberg concluded, “it’s important that we keep in mind both our responsibility to taxpayers and our commitment to the men and women who make up our federal workforce … I am hopeful that the insights and analysis of those here today will help us better understand the department’s proposal and continue to build on past bipartisan efforts to better meet the needs of a 21st century workforce and more effectively use taxpayer dollars.”

To learn more about today’s hearing, read witness testimony, or to watch an archived webcast, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.

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Senate Commerce Approves 13 Bills and Three Nominations

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation passed 13 bills and approved nominations for three agencies.
 
Bills and nominations passed are as follows:
 
1.    S. 1331, Seasonal Forecasting Improvement Act, Sponsor: Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.)
                a.  ...

Executive Session

Senate Commerce will markup thirteen bills and three nominations

Across Town, Across Oceans: Expanding the Role of Small Business in Global Commerce

House Small Business Committee News - Wed, 05/20/2015 - 11:00am

On Wednesday, May 20, 2015 at 10:00 A.M. the Committee on Small Business will hold a hearing titled,  Across Town, Across Oceans: Expanding the Role of Small Business in Global Commerce. The hearing will be held in Room 2360 of the Rayburn House Office Building. The hearing will be webstreamed live HERE.

The purpose of the hearing is to

Opening Statement:

Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH)
 

Witnesses and Testimony: 

  •  Mr. Brian Bieron, Executive Director, eBay Global Public Policy Lab, Washington, DC.
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  •  Mr. Dyke Messinger, President, Power Curbers, Inc., Salisbury, NC.
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  •  Mr. Michael Stanek, Vice President & Chief Financial Officer, Berea, OH.
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  •  Mr. Timothy Brightbill, Partner, Wiley Rein, LLP, Washington, DC.
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    Additional Items:

  • Hearing Notice
  • Witness List
  •  

    Walberg Statement: Hearing on "Reforming the Workers’ Compensation Program for Federal Employees"

    Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 05/20/2015 - 10:00am

    Since 1916, the FECA program has acted as a critical resource for federal employees who have suffered an injury or illness because of a work-related activity. Today, the program covers approximately three million workers and, last year alone, paid out nearly $3 billion in benefits. Despite the significance of the FECA program, it has been nearly 40 years since the law was meaningfully updated.

    When you’re talking about a program of this size and cost, making sure that it is operating as efficiently and effectively as possible is imperative. Concerns have been raised that FECA benefits are too generous and can discourage an employee’s return to work. So we are here today to explore how Congress can modernize the FECA program, to ensure taxpayer dollars are being used in a smart and responsible way, and to make certain this program is serving federal employees as intended.

    Fortunately, we’re not starting from scratch. Reforming the FECA program is something members in Congress and those in the administration have been working on in recent years. During the 112th Congress, Chairman Kline and I, along with our former Democratic colleagues George Miller and Lynn Woolsey, introduced the Federal Workers’ Compensation Modernization and Improvement Act to begin addressing reforms proposed by the administration. That bill passed the House by a voice vote in 2011 and was accompanied by a request to GAO to examine the potential impacts of certain reforms.

    Unfortunately, the bill was never considered in the Senate, but since then, we’ve continued to examine reforms the Department of Labor has put forward. Strengthening the law remains a priority for this committee, and today, we will hear from the department, GAO, and others to see what the path to reform looks like now and how the administration’s proposals would affect the program and its beneficiaries. By fully understanding the options and impacts related to reform, we will be better positioned to modernize the FECA program, improve its integrity, and enhance its efficiency.

    As with any reform process, updating the FECA program will require some tough choices, but I think we can agree that something needs to be done. Our challenge will be reforming the program in a way that will use taxpayer dollars more wisely while ensuring the programs continues to support those it was set up to assist. Throughout this process, it’s important that we keep in mind both our responsibility to taxpayers and our commitment to the men and women who make up our federal workforce. Striking a balance between the two is not easy, but I believe it can be done.

    I am hopeful that the insights and analysis of those here today will help us better understand the department’s proposal and continue to build on past bipartisan efforts to better meet the needs of a 21st century workforce and more effectively use taxpayer dollars. With that, I will now recognize the senior Democratic member of the subcommittee, Representative Frederica Wilson, for her opening remarks.

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    Improvements and Innovations in Fishery Management and Data Collection

    Witnesses will discuss how innovative data collection and scientific methods can improve fishery management.

    Chabot: TPA about "more opportunity for all Americans"

    House Small Business Committee News - Wed, 05/20/2015 - 12:00am

    Chabot: TPA about "more opportunity for all Americans"

    WASHINGTON--Moments ago, Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) made the following opening statement in the Small Business Committee's hearing entitled, "Across Town, Across Oceans: Expanding the Role of Small Business in Global Commerce:

    "This hearing will come to order. Thank you all for joining us today for this timely and important discussion on trade.

    "Very often this Committee discusses ways to grow the economy; increase the number of jobs being created; and sell more goods stamped “Made in the U.S.A.” All of these goals would help the American workforce. And all of these goals are attainable with trade.

    "Simply put, trade means opportunity for small business. After all, 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside of our borders. Yet, of the 28 million small businesses in America only 1 percent sell their goods internationally.

    "If we tear down trade barriers, we can make it easier for small business to participate in the global marketplace and unleash our nation’s most powerful economic force. One of the barriers facing small businesses looking to export is confusion about how to even do it, and a maze of federal resources only to add to the confusion. The Committee recognizes that challenge and is working on legislative solutions to better coordinate federal resources so they are more efficient, streamlined, and better able to help businesses navigate the export process.

    "Beyond that we need better trade agreements. Currently, we only have Free Trade Agreements with 20 countries and 47 percent of the goods exported from the United States went to those countries last year. Better trade agreements mean small businesses will be able to access new international customers and offer their products more easily and at a lower cost than ever before. It means that more products will be built and sold. When that happens, jobs care created, wages are lifted, and more opportunity is available to all.

    "That’s really what’s on the table with this debate: more opportunity for all Americans. We cannot get stronger trade agreements like TPP and T-TIP, without Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). Without TPA, American workers will be competing under the same unfair rules they do today. It will be the status quo. With TPA, we can create trade agreements that will level the playing field. We can remove barriers put up by foreign nations to make it more difficult for American business to sell their products.

    "Put an American worker against anyone in the world and I’ll take that bet every day of the week and twice on Sunday. But we can’t get there without TPA.

    "Trade is also an opportunity to spread American values of economic freedom and individual liberty—freedoms we understand as second nature. Without TPA—and subsequently, TPP—other nations will dictate the rules of the new economy – nations that do not respect the rule of law or the rights of the individual.

    "Trade is not a choice or luxury in our modern world. It is a necessity. It is the cornerstone of a strong, 21st Century economy.

    "Today, we will hear from small businesses who are directly impacted by whether we move forward on TPA and important trade agreements OR whether we bury our heads in the sand and wait, while China shapes the contours of the global marketplace.

    "Thanks again to all of our witnesses, and I now yield to the Ranking Member for opening remarks."

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    Witnesses Highlight Need for Stronger Oversight of Child Nutrition Programs

    Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 05/19/2015 - 4:30pm
    The Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, chaired by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN), today held a hearing to examine waste, fraud, and abuse in federal child nutrition programs. Members and witnesses discussed ways to strengthen the management and oversight of these programs to ensure they are effectively and efficiently serving those most in need.

    “The federal government has long invested taxpayer dollars in programs that provide healthy meals and snacks to low-income students and families,” said Chairman Rokita. “Congress has a responsibility to ensure taxpayer dollars are well-spent. That’s why we are here today. Recent reports from independent government watchdogs raise concerns about waste, fraud, and abuse in the administration of these programs. These concerns should be shared by every member of the committee.”

    Witnesses identified examples of misused taxpayer dollars in three of the largest federal child nutrition programs: the Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); the National School Lunch Program (NSLP); and the School Breakfast Program (SBP).

    In WIC, for example, there have been incidents of recipients and vendors fraudulently selling federal benefits to other individuals. Director of Education, Workforce, and Income Security at the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Kay Brown, stressed the negative consequences of this practice, noting, “Improper use of WIC benefits undermines the integrity of the program and its ability to provide key nutrition assistance and services to vulnerable populations.”

    Ms. Brown recognized the lack of information about how much fraud occurs in WIC and recommended “[the Department of Agriculture] collect more information to assess the national extent of attempted online sales of WIC formula benefits and determine cost-effective techniques states can use to monitor them.”

    Her colleague, Acting Director for the Forensic Audits and Investigative Service, Jessica Lucas-Judy, expressed similar concerns about the school lunch and breakfast programs, both of which have been designated as “high-error” programs by the Office of Management and Budget. In a survey conducted by GAO, nearly half “of the households that self-reported household income data and size information were not eligible for the free or reduced-price-meal benefits they were receiving because their income exceeded eligibility guidelines,” she stated.

    The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) under the Department of Agriculture has “taken several steps to implement or enhance controls to identify and prevent ineligible beneficiaries from receiving school-meals benefits,” she acknowledged.

    However, each witness concluded more work must be done. Assistant Inspector General at the Department of Agriculture, Gil Harden, said, “Overall, our audit work has shown that FNS has many opportunities to improve how it oversees NSLP, SBP, and WIC. In some cases, it needs to strengthen its own controls directly. In other cases, it needs to improve how it communicates requirements to local authorities that operate the program.”

    “We need to get limited funds to those children who need it the most,” Chairman Rokita concluded. “That’s our goal here, and that should be the goal of all of government. Please help us … so we can get these funds to the kids who desperately need them.”

     

    To learn more about today’s hearing, read witness testimony, or to watch an archived webcast, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.

     

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    Kline Praises Passage of Bipartisan Legislation to Strengthen Support for Victims of Youth Sex Trafficking

    Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 05/19/2015 - 2:00pm
    The House of Representatives today passed the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (S. 178) by a vote of 420 to 3. The bipartisan legislation will better target sex traffickers and support victims of sexual abuse. Earlier this year, the House advanced a number of proposals championed by the Education and the Workforce Committee that would strengthen protections for youth victims of sex trafficking. These proposals are embodied in S. 178, including reforms that will:

     

    • Strengthen support provided specifically to runaway and homeless youth who are victims of trafficking, which was introduced in the Enhancing Services for Runaway and Homeless Victims of Youth Trafficking Act of 2015 by Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV), along with Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN), committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA), and Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI).
    • Improve practices within state child welfare systems to identify, assess, and document sex trafficking victims, which was introduced in the Strengthening the Child Welfare Response to Trafficking Act of 2015 by Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), along with Chairman Kline.   

      Chairman Kline praised the passage of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act:

      Congress has responded to a national crisis with new tools to fight a heinous crime that affects millions of innocent individuals each year, including hundreds of thousands of youth. I applaud my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for recognizing the seriousness of this crime, reaffirming our commitment to the victims and their families, and sending this critical piece of legislation to the president’s desk.

      To learn more about the committee’s efforts to support victims of youth sex trafficking, click here.

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      WCOE Turning Point for 5/19

      Turning Point RSS - Tue, 05/19/2015 - 12:32pm

      Hearing: Examining Air Traffic Control Reform

      WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a full committee hearing entitled, “FAA Reauthorization: Air Traffic Control Modernization and Reform,” on Tuesday, May 19, 2015, at 10:00 a.m. The administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, and industry leaders are scheduled to testify.
       
      As the fifth in a series of hearings on the reauthorization of the FAA, this hearing will focus on the agency’s efforts to modernize the air traffic control (...

      FAA Reauthorization: Air Traffic Control Modernization and Reform

      The Full Committee will hold a hearing on air traffic control reform.

      Rokita Statement: Hearing on "Addressing Waste, Fraud, and Abuse in Federal Child Nutrition Programs"

      Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 05/19/2015 - 10:00am

      Last month, the Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing to discuss the importance of federal child nutrition programs, many of which need to be reauthorized by Congress later this year. Members engaged in a robust discussion about these programs, and we understand the role healthy food plays in a child’s physical, mental, and emotional development. However, tackling waste, fraud, and abuse must be a priority as we work to ensure eligible students who are most in need have access to nutrition programs.

      The federal government has long invested taxpayer dollars in programs that provide healthy meals and snacks to low-income students and families. Through the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act and the Child Nutrition Act, it is estimated Congress will spend over $21 billion this fiscal year on a number of programs that include the Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants, and Children or WIC, the National School Lunch Program, and the School Breakfast Program.

      Congress has a responsibility to ensure taxpayer dollars are well-spent. That’s why we are here today. Recent reports from independent government watchdogs raise concerns about waste, fraud, and abuse in the administration of these programs. These concerns should be shared by every member of the committee for two important reasons.

      First, taxpayer dollars are being misdirected toward individuals who do not need, or are eligible for, federal assistance. The Government Accountability Office has uncovered several troubling examples of fraud and abuse in the WIC program. Reports have also found WIC recipients and vendors reselling supplemental foods to non-WIC eligible individuals, defrauding the federally funded program for millions of dollars.

      Unfortunately, the misuse of taxpayer dollars does not stop there. In the first review of payment errors since 2007, the Department of Agriculture found that in just one school year it made $2.7 billion of improper payments under the school lunch and breakfast programs. According to the Wall Street Journal, the majority of improper payments stemmed from individuals who received benefits for which they did not qualify. American taxpayers deserve better management and oversight, especially at a time when the national debt continues to reach new heights.
      This brings me to the second reason why we are here today, and it is just as important. Each and every dollar spent on a federal program should have a direct, meaningful, and lasting impact on those it is intended to serve – not those looking to cheat the system. We must ensure federal nutrition programs effectively and efficiently serve the low-income children and families who desperately need this assistance. As a witness from last month’s child nutrition hearing so aptly put it, “When we aren’t able to give our children the nutrition they need, we fail them.”

      Again, it is Congress’ responsibility to ensure this multi-billion dollar investment in child nutrition is in fact reaching the students who need it most. This committee is committed to that goal as it works to reauthorize these important programs. We look forward to learning from our witnesses about how to improve the fiscal integrity of federal child nutrition programs in order to serve our nation’s mothers, infants, children, and students that are most in need.

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      Nelson Statement on Additional Takata Airbag Recalls

      Below is U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s statement on the DOT/NHTSA announcement today on the expansion of Takata airbag recalls.  Click here for video of Nelson’s remarks.

      “Folks shouldn’t have to drive around wondering if their airbag is going to explode in their face or if the...

      Thune Statement on Expansion of Takata Airbag Recalls

      Chairman Thune provides a statement on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s announcement to expand the Takata airbag recalls.

      Small Business Subcommittee Examines SBA Capital Access Programs

      House Small Business Committee News - Tue, 05/19/2015 - 12:00am

      Small Business Subcommittee Examines SBA Capital Access Programs

      WASHINGTON  – Today, the Small Business Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax, and Capital Access held a hearing to examine one of the greatest impediments to growth for any small business: access to capital.

      The hearing included industry witnesses from several Small Business Administration programs, who each shared their thoughts on how they can improve their respective programs. After the hearing, Subcommittee Chairman Tom Rice (R-SC) said:

      “We cannot have a strong country without a strong economy, and for small businesses, access to capital is often the deciding factor if it will expand or close its doors. We must make sure the entrepreneurs and small businesses that employ half of America’s workforce have access to the capital they need to operate their business.”

      Full Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) issued the following statement:

      “The programs Chairman Rice and the subcommittee examined this morning play an important role in our economy, bridging the capital gap for many small businesses every day.  We must continue to make sure these programs are efficient and effective so that they are able to help small businesses do what they do best: create jobs.”

      Brett Palmer, a witness testifying on behalf of the Small Business Investors Alliance, applauded Members of the Committee for introducing H.R. 1023, legislation to strengthen the Small Business Investment Company Program. He then called on Congress to move this bipartisan bill forward, emphasizing that doing so would increase the amount of private funds available to small firms by roughly $750 million.

      Rick Bradshaw, another witness testifying on behalf of the National Association of Government Guaranteed lenders (NAGGL), encouraged the Committee to work on solutions that could help SBA loan programs become more accessible to veterans and other underserved markets.  

      Testifying on behalf of the National Association of Development Companies (NADCO) was Barbara Vohryzek, who agreed with the Small Business Committee’s goal to ensure “American small businesses have the access to capital necessary to grow, and in doing so, help their local communities flourish.”

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      Nelson Wants Congress to Make Sure Amtrak Crash Victims Not Wronged by Outdated Liability Cap

      WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) today filed legislation aimed at helping victims of last week's deadly Amtrak derailment.

      Nelson's bill would replace an outdated cap on damages for passenger rail liability following such an accident – a cap set almost two decades ago in federal law at $200 million.  

      ***MEDIA ADVISORY*** Subcommittee to Discuss Reforms to Federal Employees’ Compensation Act

      Education & the Workforce Committee - Mon, 05/18/2015 - 12:00am
       On Wednesday, May 20 at 10:00 a.m., the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, chaired by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), will hold a hearing entitled, “Reforming the Workers’ Compensation Program for Federal Employees.” The hearing will take place in room 2175 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

      Enacted in 1916, the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) provides workers’ compensation benefits to federal employees who become injured or ill through work-related activity. The program covers approximately three million civilian federal workers and paid out nearly $3 billion in benefits in 2014. The law has not been meaningfully updated since 1974, and there are concerns that current, outdated benefit policies may be too generous and discourage employees’ return to work. The Department of Labor, in its Fiscal Year 2016 budget request, has proposed a series of reforms intended to improve the program.

      Wednesday’s hearing will provide committee members with an opportunity to further evaluate the administration’s proposed reforms, as well as other possible legislative changes to reform the law. To learn more about the hearing, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.

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      WITNESS LIST

      Mr. Leonard Howie
      Director of Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs
      Department of Labor
      Washington, D.C.

      Mr. Ron Watson
      Director of Retired Members
      National Association of Letter Carriers
      Washington, D.C.

      Dr. Andrew Sherrill
      Director of Education, Workforce, and Income Security
      Government Accountability Office
      Washington, D.C.

      The Honorable Scott Dahl
      Inspector General
      Department of Labor
      Washington, D.C.

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