Christopher Smith

Christopher Smith

NEW JERSEY's 4th DISTRICT

<span class ="kicker">FEMA Grant for Ocean Co. Firehouse***</span>$455K Grant to Aid Volunteer Firefighters

2016/08/25

Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04) announced today that the Ridgeway Volunteer Fire Department of Manchester Township has been awarded a Federal Emergency Management (FEMA) Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) award of $455,910 to purchase a replacement pumper.

"This federal grant will help improve fire protection in Manchester Township for many years,” said Smith, a long-time member of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, who wrote to FEMA to support the grant. “Ridgeway members have been getting by on a three-decade old truck—which they bought used and have certainly gotten a lot of use from. Unfortunately, it costs thousands of dollars to maintain every year. A new pumper will serve the residents of Manchester for years to come. Ridgeway is an-all volunteer firehouse on a limited budget and purchasing a major apparatus is difficult if not impossible without some federal assistance.”

PICTURED: According to Chief Michael Trimarchi, the company’s existing 1987 pumper costs as much as $20,000 to maintain every year.

In 2014, Ridgeway, with Smith’s support, was awarded a $210,455 grant to replace low-pressure SCBA gear with new face pieces and high-pressure bottles. The new equipment replaced older sets that were out of compliance and unreliable. The turn-out gear, comprised of the fire suits, boots and helmets, was over 20 years old when it was replaced.

I would like to take this time to thank Chris Smith for all of his support, as well as the township and FEMA,” said Mike Trimarchi, Chief of Ridgeway Volunteer Fire Company . “These funds that were awarded to purchase a new fire truck are going to be a great help. This truck will be replacing an old 1987 pumper. As our town grows, now I will feel comfortable putting my firemen’s lives on the line knowing we will have the best equipment available.”

The award comes through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grants Operations and Safety Grant Program. It is administered by FEMA in cooperation with the U.S. Fire Administration. The purpose of AFG is to award grants directly to fire departments and non-affiliated Emergency Medical Services organizations (EMS) to protect both the health and safety of the public, and first-responder personnel as well. A competitive process overseen by fire service subject matter experts awards grants to applicants whose requests are aligned with the priorities of the AFG Program. For more about the FY 2015 AFG Program visit http://www.fema.gov/assistance-firefighters-grant.

I was pleased to work with Chief Trimarchi and reach out to FEMA to support both grant applications and help bring updated equipment to Ridgeway volunteer firefighters,” Smith said.

PICTURED: The new pumper will be similar to the pumper shown and will be purchased from the Ohio-based company Sutphen.

This is round 12—expected to be among the last rounds to be awarded this year—of the competitive FY 2015 fire grant announcements. Smith voted to create the equipment grant program in 2000. “Congress created the program to upgrade capabilities of local firefighters to respond to fires and fire-related hazards, such as vehicular accidents,” Smith said.

Congressman Smith, who represents New Jersey’s Fourth Congressional District in the House of Representatives, has offices in Mercer, Monmouth, and Ocean Counties. The Ocean County office is located at 405 Route 539, Plumsted, 08514. The phone number is (609) 286-2571.



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<span class="kicker">More than five million at risk</span>US Congressman Helps Promote Safe Environment for US and International Aid Workers

2016/08/25

Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the House Africa Subcommittee, today left on a fact-finding human rights mission to South Sudan where U.S. and international humanitarian aid workers remain at grave risk as they struggle to assist the over five million people, especially and including children, who are victims of horrific violence, malnutrition and disease in the conflict ridden region. During his trip, Chairman Smith is scheduled to meet with South Sudanese president Salva Kiir, U.N. peacekeepers, U.S. officials as well as faith-based and non-governmental organizations (NGO).

     “We have an obligation to do whatever we can to stabilize the peace,” said Smith, who has championed humanitarian relief in the U.S. Congress. I am hopeful that President Kiir will take decisive action to protect volunteers and humanitarian aid workers from around the world who are there to help the suffering people.”

     War-torn South Sudan—which became independent from Sudan in 2011—has been in the throes of a civil war since 2013, leading to over 1.6 million people displaced since the beginning of the war and an estimated 16,000 children recruited to fight. A peace accord remains fragile with a noticeable increase in violence in July of this year, prompting an increase of 4,000 U.N. peacekeepers by the Security Council.

     “Up to 4.8 million people in South Sudan – well over one-third of the population – will be facing severe food shortages over the coming months and the risk of a hunger catastrophe continues to threaten parts of the country,” stated the U.N. in a recent report. “The figure does not include some 350,000 displaced people seeking refuge at U.N. Protection of Civilians areas or other camps, who are entirely dependent on humanitarian assistance.”

     Just last week international news organizations reported three days of intense fighting in the capital city of Juba, where South Sudanese troops stormed a hotel that was known to house international aid workers. Reports indicated these soldiers focused on Americans, carried out both real and mock executions and raped several women. The U.N. peacekeepers, stationed less than a mile away, did not send aid despite urgent calls for help.

     Since 2013 South Sudan alone has accounted for approximately 14 percent of all attacks on aid workers. The country was recently ranked as the least secure country for humanitarian aid workers by Humanitarian Outcomes, an NGO that gathers data on the risks taken by foreign aid workers, overtaking all others including Afghanistan and Somalia.

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<span class ="kicker">APP Pg. 1 Article; Smith Speaks at POW/MIA Ceremony in Ocean Co.</span>'An empty seat, and a sister's tears, behind home plate'

2016/08/19

BY SHANNON MULLLEN, APP STAFF WRITER - Jan Buttler couldn’t help thinking how much her brother Ron would have enjoyed being at a ballgame like the one played here Thursday.

Balmy and breezy, it was the perfect night for baseball. The setting sun sent shafts of golden light and long, creeping shadows across the field, and from behind the scoreboard in centerfield, a low, slow full moon began to rise.

Buttler, 69, of Lake Como, had come to FirstEnergy Park to honor her brother, an Air Force navigator who disappeared in North Vietnam on Nov. 24, 1967.

As other stadiums and teams across the country have done recently, the Lakewood BlueClaws were unveiling a special, permanent tribute to America’s POWs and MIAs: a solitary, empty seat, set off by itself on the concourse behind home plate.

RELATED: Killed in Action flag takes a step forward

“This is just a solemn reminder — not just to veterans organizations but to all Americans — that we do not want these people forgotten, and we will not let them be forgotten,” said Ray Miller, 71, an executive committeeman with the Ocean County American Legion, which coordinated the event.

More than 82,000 U.S. service men and women remain unaccounted for since World War II. Air Force Capt. Ronald Mayercik, Buttler’s brother, is among the 1,618 still missing from the Vietnam war, 42 of whom are from New Jersey, according to the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

EARLIER: For Veteran's Day, table set for soldiers still missing

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, who spoke at the pre-game ceremony, said the vast majority of those missing served during the Second World War and are presumed dead, since the United States has had access to those battlefields since the fighting ended.

That's not the case with Vietnam and North Korea. In addition to those missing in Vietnam, some 7,800 Americans who served in the Korean war are still unaccounted for, he said. Among them are hundreds of military personnel from New Jersey.

“I've been to Vietnam three times on POW/MIA missions, and it's been very hard to get an accounting from the Vietnamese government, and the North Koreans won't even talk to us,” Smith said.

Smith called the empty POW/MIA chair — an idea first championed by the Rolling Thunder motorcycle club — “a tangible exhibit of devotion.”

“This is a very, very important thing for all of our people … especially our young people, to see,” he said.

As powerful a symbol as it is, monuments can only convey so much. The tears Buttler shed during the ceremony, on the other hand, speak volumes.

She and her brother grew up in Edison, where Ron developed an early fascination with flying, earning his pilot’s license at age 16.

An ROTC student, he attended aviation school at St. Louis University and entered the Air Force after graduation.

He was nearly through his tour when the military lost track of his aircraft over Laos during a reconnaissance mission.

His family never heard from him again.

Not knowing whether he was alive or dead weighed heaviest on her parents, Buttler said. Both have since died.

Buttler said she gained insight into their daily anguish when she read her mother's diary. “No one will ever know the hell I’m in,” she’d written.

“Her last words before she died were, ‘Maybe I’ll find out what happened to your brother,’” said Buttler, a psychiatric nurse practitioner with the the Monmouth County Corrections Department.

About eight years ago, a Vietnamese farmer found Ron’s dog tags, which were eventually returned to Buttler, his only sibling.

Ron’s plane has been located, as well, impacted into the side of a mountain in what was North Vietnamese territory during the war. But Tom Engkilterra, regional coordinator for the National League of POW/MIA Families, an advocacy group based in Falls Church, Virginia, said a highly specialized repelling team is needed to recover any remains.

“Ron’s case should have been resolved long ago,” he said.

Buttler and Engkilterra met each other at the league’s annual meeting several years ago and felt bonded immediately: He was wearing a POW/MIA bracelet bearing her brother’s name.

On Thursday evening, they stood solemnly side by side during the chair dedication, held behind Section 109.

“I think it's fabulous,” Buttler said of the symbolism of the empty chair. “It does my heart good to see it's not just me and my family and the National League that remembers these men.”

Her brother would be 71 today. After nearly 49 years, she was asked, is there still some part of her that dares to hope that her brother might still be alive?

In answer, her eyes welled, and she nodded her head.

This story ran one page 1 of the Aug. 19, 2016 print edition of the Asbury Park Press and can be read online at:
http://www.app.com/story/news/local/jackson-lakewood/lakewood/2016/08/19/blueclaws-pow-mia-seat/88918160/


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<span class="kicker">Tinton Falls site will host vets in need</span>Monmouth County Homeless Veterans Facility Passes Key Milestone

2016/08/17

"The veteran’s housing project to be built in Tinton Falls is the culmination of over five years of collaborative work by federal, state and local officials—under the tremendous leadership of Freeholder Lillian Burry and Soldier On’s Jack Downing—to bring a proven and effective housing model to Monmouth County that will provide services for homeless veterans and help homeless vets in the community,” said Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), who authored the Homeless Veterans Comprehensive Assistance law (P.L. 107-95) and has worked closely with the Freeholders and the non-profit organization since 2011 to bring this critical project to New Jersey.

     “There is no one in America who has earned our greater respect—individually or collectively—than our nation’s veterans and one homeless veteran a night is one too many,” said Smith, who served as the Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee and led the effort in the House last year for the reauthorization of his homelessness legislation. “Soldier On has led in the fight to help end veterans homelessness throughout the Northeast, their services are most welcomed here and I am proud to have worked with Freeholder Burry to make this project a reality. There is no doubt the project is sorely needed and will make a real difference in the lives of veterans who have fallen on hard times.”

     “This builds on the big success we had in 2012 when the VA granted $1 million to Soldier On to work in Monmouth County and other parts of central New Jersey. Until that time, many of our veterans went without access to rapid re-housing resources and homeless prevention services such as employment, healthcare and transportation. Now they are a lifeline and invaluable resource for veterans in our state. The Tinton Falls facility will allow them to reach even more veterans and help break the cycle of homelessness by providing stable, affordable housing options.”

     Click Here to read a letter Smith wrote to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki in February 2012 detailing the project and seeking VA support.

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Congressman Smith Meets with Ocean County Family Who Went Through 2015 Ordeal in Portugal

2016/08/10

Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04) meets with the Spratt family of Jackson, N.J. in August, nearly one year after their safe return from a dramatic ordeal overseas.

   Hayden, now one, was born 13 weeks prematurely on a trip to Portugal. Smith worked to get her medical transportation back to the United States. Also pictured are Hayden's mom and dad, Kim and Fred Spratt, at the Congressman's office in Freehold, N.J.

BELOW: Photos taken in Freehold, NJ, and a USA Today article and other new articles about the Spratt family's experience.

The Spratt family recently came to Congressman Smith's Freehold office to thank him
for helping bring their daughter home from Portugal where they were trapped after a medical emergency.

Hayden Grace, age 1, of Jackson, N.J.

                                                     
The Spratt family visits with Mr. Smith at the Congressman's Freehold office.

Hayden, in arms of mom Kim Spratt, 'enjoys' a Smith Newsletter.


Image result for usa today logo
Stranded parents, baby to return from Portugal
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2015/09/03/babymoon-nightmare-family-return-home/71643270/

By Shari Puterman, APP -  A couple on their "babymoon" in Portugal in May have been stranded there since the premature birth of their twins. Unable to travel commercially because their surviving child required a medical transport not covered by their insurance company, the New Jersey couple will now be returning home.

Kim Kirzow Spratt and her husband, Fred, welcomed twins into the world May 10 — 13 weeks before they were due. Since then, one twin has died, and the other remains in the hospital.

Their daughter, Hayden Grace, was too sick to fly home on a commercial aircraft. But their insurance carrier, Highmark Blue Shield, refused to cover the cost.

Thanks to an outpouring of public support from their New Jersey homebase this week, the insurer changed its mind. As a result, Highmark Blue Shield has since approved the Spratts' request to cover medical transport to New Jersey. The family is planning to return to the state later this month.

“The community has been amazing,” said Kim Spratt. “We’re not even there, and we feel so much support. Back in May, it was incredible to hear the outreach. People are reaching out — bring baby Hayden home — it’s been overwhelming. It feels really good to know so many people have been praying for us, loving us.”

Friends also set up a GoFundMe page to help the family with costs. It has raised more than $56,000 in three months.

The ordeal began in May, when — like many couples — the Spratts planned a "babymoon," or a final getaway as a family of two.

The doctor said it was OK to travel. The babies, after all, weren’t due until Aug. 25.

“The doctor gave me 100% clearance, and we got total reassurance,” Kim Spratt said. “We even got a letter for the airline in case there were any problems.”

After a sunset cruise, Kim started feeling very sick. When she arrived at the hospital, it was determined that she was in the late stages of labor.

Their son, Hudson Charles, was born weighing 1 pound, 12 ounces. He died May 24.

Their daughter, Hayden Grace, born at 1 pound, 7 ounces, fought for her life and continues to defy the odds.

“It’s been unfathomable, but we had to stay strong for Hayden,” the new mom said in a statement.

The family, who lives in Jackson, N.J., hasn’t been home in four months. Kim Spratt’s business has been closed since April. Although Hayden now weighs almost 4 pounds, but she's not cleared to fly commercially.

Late last week, Fred Spratt said, "It has to be a medical transport, and insurance won't cover it. They are saying it's not a medical necessity because she can stay in Portugal and get treatment."

 

Kim Spratt said then, “Now we’re really actually stranded. That’s what makes it bittersweet — she’s finally reached the point that we have been fighting for all this time, and we can’t even leave.”

But on Tuesday, a story published on app.com garnered the attention of politicians.

Several political figures reached out to the couple and the insurance company, urging them to help bring this family back to the Jersey Shore.

The pressure worked.

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith reached out to Highmark Blue Cross.

“Hayden Grace Spratt is quite simply a miracle,” said Smith, R-N.J.

“Her parents, Fred and Kim, have showered her with love and fought tirelessly to help her in her struggle to live and grow stronger. We are extremely grateful that her insurance company reversed the denial and now proper medical transport will be in place to safely bring her home.

“I am thrilled that the Spratts will soon be back in Jackson to be welcomed by family and friends.”

The couple, although still awaiting logistical details, are beyond grateful and can’t wait to settle into life at home.

“Once we get home and settled,” Fred Spratt said, “we are going to sit down one night, look at each other and say, ‘What the heck did we just go through?’ We can never thank everyone enough.”

The journey has been extremely emotional.

“Losing our son has made it that much more difficult,” Kim Spratt said. “There are days when we look at each other and start crying. After Hudson passed, all our hopes and faith were resting on the shoulders of Hayden, a 1 pound baby that was very, very sick. That’s a lot of pressure. Basically, our lives were resting on her — her health, her getting better. She shouldn’t have lived, but she made it through.”

If something had happened to their daughter after Hudson's death, Fred Spratt said it would have been devastating.

“Hayden had so much pressure on her to get better — she did that for us,” he said. “Now, it’s our job to get her home — to do that for her.”

Related links:
'Miracle baby' arrives home from Portugal': Asbury Park Press Sept. 6, 2015
Mom Trapped in Portugal, baby loses life, Asbury Park Press, May 20, 2015
Highmark agrees to preemies flight home from Portugal, Times Leader, Sept. 1, 2015 
New Jersey Couple Stranded on 'Babymoon', People Magazine, June 23, 2015
NJ parents ‘trapped’ in Portugal after premature birth of twins. NY Daily News, June 17, 2015
Couple perseveres with remaining twin after premature birth during 'babymoon', ABC 7 NYC, June 29, 2015
N.J. Couple Who Lost Preemie Son After Being Stranded on 'Babymoon' Say They Want to Take Surviving Twin Back to Portugal to Thank Doctors Who Saved Her, People Magazine, Nov. 10, 2016
NJ Couple Arrives Home Following 3 Months in Portugal After Premature Birth, ABC News, Sept. 7, 2015
Stranded for months in Portugal, N.J. family and infant back home, report says, NJ.com, Sept. 7, 2015
“Happy to be home:” Family finally back in New Jersey after twins came early in Portugal during “baby-moon”, Fox, Sept. 7, 2015
Update: NJ couple finally returns home with premature twin, My9NJ, Sept. 9, 2016
NJ Mom, Baby Stuck in Portugal for Months After Twin's Death
, NBC, Sept. 2 2015

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<span class="kicker">Senate must take action on HR 1150 as religion-based violence and anti-Semitism increase worldwide</span>State Dept.’s International Religious Freedom Report Shows More Resources Needed for Religious Freedom Diplomacy

2016/08/10

The somber facts delineated in the State Department’s 2015 International Religious Freedom (IRF) Report, released this week, are not reflected in the Obama Administration’s foreign policy actions and priorities.

     “The 2015 IRF Report shows that the world is experiencing a religious freedom crisis that directly challenges U.S. interests around the world,” said Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of a House panel on global human rights. “The Obama Administration has routinely de-emphasized religious freedom as a diplomatic and strategic issue and misses the mark on what can and should be done to promote religious freedom worldwide.”

     Smith added, “the decision to downplay attacks on religious believers in Vietnam, Pakistan, India, and Cuba while expanding diplomatic, economic or military ties with these countries is tragic for those who suffer abuses every day.”

     The Report shows again the need for the Senate to take up new legislation that would push the executive branch and enhance U.S. efforts to help protect victims of genocide, anti-Semitism and other acts of religious persecution, noted Smith, the author of the House-passed HR 1150, the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act. Click Here to view the bill.

     Smith also said earlier this year that the Administration took the long overdue but correct step in declaring that ISIS is committing genocide against Christians and other religious minorities. But he noted: the report would have been a perfect time to outline an action plan to protect vulnerable groups in Syria and Iraq.  Ancient Christian religious communities may soon become extinct because of ISIS action. If the U.S. government watches this exodus without acting, then it will share responsibility and the genocide declaration will have been meaningless.”

     “The report is an important tool in identifying problems, but it is only a first step in addressing religious freedom abuses worldwide,” Smith continued. The Administration must do more than occasionally raise issues of concern, they must use targeted sanctions, visa denials, and other measures to address a global crisis and hold responsible individuals accountable for religious persecution. 

     For more information on a particular country please contact Jeff Beck at (202) 225-3765.

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CECC Chairs Say Trials of Rights Advocates and Religious Leader a Mockery of Justice

2016/08/04

The chairs of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, Representative Christopher H. Smith, chair, and Senator Marco Rubio, co-chair, issued the following statements in response to the public confessions and trials involving human rights lawyers and religious leader Hu Shigen and the harassment of their families. With next month’s G-20 summit being held in China, both chairs urged the United States to lead an international effort to demand that the Chinese government drop all charges against the legal professionals and rights advocates detained during the sweeping July 2015 crackdown, cease coerced, forced, and televised “confessions” which are a mockery of justice, and stop harassing and otherwise mistreating the family members, including the wives and children, of those unjustly detained.      

“The charade of forced ‘confessions’ and show trials immeasurably damages the Chinese government’s global standing and obliterates any remaining confidence in President Xi’s ability to foster the rule of law in China,” said Representative Christopher Smith. “In a just world, Hu Shigen, Zhou Shifeng, Zhai Yanmin, Wang Yu, Li Heping and other rights advocates would be lauded for their contributions to society, not seen as security threats. These developments should come as no surprise as lawyers, Christian ‘house church’ leaders, and democracy advocates were all identified in 2012 as enemies of the state. The international community needs to admit that the expansive view of national security advanced under President Xi’s leadership has real implications for regional stability and bilateral cooperation. With the G-20 Summit opening in China next month, world leaders should jointly express grave concerns about Beijing’s blatant disregard for human rights and the rule of law. The United States must lead such an effort and work with like-minded countries who recognize the strategic consequences of China’s political repression. No one’s interests are served by China’s shift to a hard authoritarianism; a clear message must be sent, both publicly and privately, connecting the advance of liberty and the rule of law to China’s interest in its future prosperity and global influence.” 

“More than a year after Xi Jinping's sweeping crackdown on the Chinese rights community and legal profession, the situation continues to deteriorate, and no one is held to account,” said Senator Marco Rubio. “It has been a bleak several days for the cause of human rights and rule of law in China.  In the span of less than a week the wives of prominent rights defenders, including Li Heping, have been detained and held under home confinement, while esteemed lawyer Wang Yu has been paraded on television to ‘confess’ to alleged crimes, and Beijing Fengrui Law Firm director Zhou Shifeng and activists Hu Shigen and Zhai Yanmin have undergone secret trials on trumped up charges.  These unjust proceedings grossly violate the defendants' rights and they must not be tolerated. China cannot continue to benefit from the international rules-based system, while making a mockery of the rule of law at home.”

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Statements by Chair Smith, Co-Chair Rubio of U.S. Commission on China Regarding the Guilty Verdicts For Umbrella Movement Leaders

2016/07/23

"The Hong Kong government will say the court's decision was a triumph for the rule of law, but the appearance is that this was a political prosecution, further tarnishing  Hong Kong's reputation as a city built on guaranteed freedoms and rights," said Representative Chris Smith. "These student activists should never have been prosecuted in the first place, Hong Kong's Basic Law clearly protects the freedom of expression and assembly." 

   "Whether the Hong Kong government likes it or not,  Joshua Wong, Nathan Law, Alex Chow, and all those involved with the 'Umbrella Movement' have become important symbols of Hong Kong's vitality, its freedoms, and the fight to remain an autonomous and prosperous bridge between China and the West," Smith said. "They have become part of Hong Kong's unique brand and the guilty verdicts damage that brand.”

   "Joshua Wong and his fellow pro-democracy activists Nathan Law and Alex Chow represent the future of Hong Kong," said Senator Marco Rubio.  "The court's verdict regarding their protest activities in connection with the Umbrella Movement is troubling especially in light of the fact that Hong Kong's Public Order Ordinance fails to meet international standards on the right of peaceful assembly.

  "Just as important, the Hong Kong government should never have arrested and brought charges against the three to begin with," Rubio said. "The Commission will be closely monitoring their sentencing in the coming weeks, especially given the impact it could have on Nathan's ability to stand for election as a LegCo candidate. The democratic aspirations of the people of Hong Kong can not be indefinitely suppressed.  I stand with Joshua and thousands of other Hong Kong residents who refuse to abide by Beijing's denial of basic human rights."

 

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<span class="kicker">Burlington Co. Times article on Smith Efforts to Aid Base Workers</span>'Congressman: Pay disparity on joint base to be corrected by end of the year'

2016/07/19

By David Levinsky, Times staff writer -

Hundreds of civilian workers on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst can expect a boost in pay before the end of the year thanks to the impending correction of a long-standing pay disparity issue.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management plans to publish a proposed rule in the Federal Register this week to designate the entire joint base in the higher-paying New York wage area, rather than split between New York and the lower-paying Philadelphia wage area, according to Rep. Chris Smith, R-4th of Hamilton.

About 600 civilian workers on the Fort Dix and McGuire sections of the base will be impacted by the change.

The change follows years of lobbying by Smith and other members of New Jersey's congressional delegation.

Smith, who is the longest-serving member of the state's delegation, cheered the administration's move, saying it was long overdue.

"Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst is one installation and the men and women who work there are part of one workforce," Smith said in a statement Monday night. "While long overdue, OPM's move to fix this outdated policy — which pays some workers at a lower rate for the same jobs performed across the base — is a welcomed step and should be implemented expeditiously."

U.S Sen. Bob Menendez and Rep. Tom MacArthur also applauded the news.

"I am pleased that at the urging of myself and the rest of the New Jersey Congressional delegation, the Office of Personnel Management has agreed to bring long-overdue pay equity to all civilian workers at JBMDL," Menendez said Monday. "This is an important step towards, not only recognizing the hard work and contributions of all civilian employees at the Joint Base, but providing important consistency in policy that further implements the concept of joint basing."

"As a new member of Congress, I repeatedly heard about the importance of ensuring parity for wage grade workers at the base. I have actively and passionately supported this proposal, and it brings me great joy to know that hard working families in South Jersey will finally earn the pay they deserve," MacArthur, R-3rd of Toms River, said. "This is vital for morale and will ensure that military leaders have the flexibility they need in order to successfully run Join Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst."

The wage disparity was caused when the joint base was formed in 2009 from the formerly separate installations of Fort Dix, McGuire Air Force Base and Lakehurst Naval Engineering Station.

Workers at Lakehurst, which is in Ocean County, earn higher salaries or hourly wages because that portion of the base is in the New York pay area. Fort Dix and McGuire employees with the same jobs earn lower pay because their former installations are considered in the Philadelphia area.

The issue was first addressed in 2009 by Smith and other lawmakers, including Menendez; former Rep. Rob Andrews, of the 1st Congressional District; and late Rep. John Adler, of the 3rd District. The delegation pressured the OPM to agree to raise the salaries of civilians working on McGuire and Dix to the higher Lakehurst rate.

But the change was approved for salaried workers. The disparity for the "wage scale" employees remained, despite repeated requests for the administration to make the change for the remaining employees.

Last year, Smith and MacArthur sponsored legislation in the House to mandate that the disparity be corrected on the joint base and any other installation where a similar disparity occurs as a result of an installation merger or reorganization.

MacArthur also added language to the House version of this year's National Defense Authorization Act to fix the disparity, and the entire delegation continued to pressure the OPM.

A key move came in October, when the Federal Prevailing Rate Advisory Committee recommended the change. The 11-member committee is charged with studying the federal government's prevailing rate system and issuing recommendations to the Office of Personnel Management about potential changes and other related issues.

More recently, Smith sent a letter to the office's acting director requesting the change.

"These employees work on the same installation — not only as the salaried employees in the higher-pay locality area, but as the wage-grade employees on the former Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station — and they are unfairly paid 7 percent less than their counterparts for the same work," Smith said in the letter. "Again, I urge you to accept FPRAC's recommendations and issue final regulations that fix this outdated policy that pays some employees at a lower rate for the same job performed across the base."

Once the rule proposal is published in the registry this week, there will be a 30-day public comment period before final regulations can be adopted.

Smith's office estimated that the change should be implemented before the end of the year.



This article was originally published on July 19, 2016 in the Burlington County Times and can be found online at http://www.burlingtoncountytimes.com/news/local/congressman-pay-disparity-on-joint-base-to-be-corrected-by/article_ab4ae1ba-4d3d-11e6-9bbe-5370f1eb85b0.html


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<span class="kicker">Smith: 'Congress must let those suffering know that we stand with them'</span>HOPE Act to Provide Care Planning to Alzheimer’s Patients Passes 300 Co-sponsors

2016/07/18

Today, Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) announced that his bill, the “Health Outcomes, Planning, and Education (HOPE) for Alzheimer’s Act,” has earned the bipartisan support of a monumental 301 members of Congress. Smith, co-founder and co-chairman of the bipartisan, bicameral Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease, introduced HOPE to provide Medicare coverage for a care planning session for patients newly-diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, family caregivers or legal representatives. 

I am greatly encouraged that HOPE has earned the bipartisan support of 301 of my colleagues in the House. 5.4 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and countless more family members and loved ones suffer with them. It’s important for them to know that Congress stands with them and I am immensely proud of this strong showing of bipartisan support for Alzheimer’s patients. This is an important marker of congressional will in the effort to provide Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers with the care and resources they deserve, but we must continue to work diligently to ensure that Alzheimer’s patients receive a permanent care planning benefit,” Smith said.

Upon receiving an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, patients and their families are frequently at a loss for how to effectively plan for the next stage of their lives,” said Smith. “While Medicare currently covers a diagnostic evaluation for beneficiaries, the program then offers little support in terms of next steps. I believe it is vital that patients and caregivers have an individualized plan to cope, information on available resources and a path forward.”

Specifically, the HOPE Act would provide coverage of a care planning session for Medicare beneficiaries where the individual, their caregiver or legal representative will receive information about medical and non-medical treatments to plan for their future care. A similar proposal was recently proposed by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for a temporary one-year trial.

It is our moral imperative to support individuals with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. We have an obligation to care for our citizens as they age and we must support them as they struggle to face the challenges of this disease,” said Smith.

Not only would the care planning benefit authorized in the HOPE Act and now also proposed by CMS improve health outcomes for Alzheimer’s patients, it is also expected to mitigate huge, unnecessary costs associated with preventable trips to hospitals and emergency rooms. This is especially important given the state of Medicare and Alzheimer’s place as the most expensive disease in America.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in 2016 alone, direct costs to American society of caring for those with Alzheimer’s will total an estimated $236 billion, with just under half of the costs borne by Medicare. A cost estimate commissioned by the Alzheimer’s Association and conducted by Healthsperien, a Washington, D.C.-based health care consulting firm, indicated that as a result of Smith’s legislation, net federal health spending would decrease by $692 million over the 10-year period.

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Contact Information

2373 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Phone 202-225-3765
Fax 202-225-7768
chrissmith.house.gov

Committee Assignments

Foreign Affairs

Elected in 1980, Rep. Chris Smith (R-Robbinsville, N.J.) is currently in his 17th term in the U.S. House of Representatives, and serves residents in the Fourth Congressional District of New Jersey. Smith, 60, currently serves as a senior member on the Foreign Affairs Committee, and is chairman of its Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organization Subcommittee. In 2011-2012 he chaired both the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), and the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. He also serves as “Special Representative” on Human Trafficking for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and as an executive member of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. Previously, he served as Chairman of the Veterans Committee (two terms) and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Operations and the Subcommittee on Africa.

Smith has long chaired a number of bipartisan congressional caucuses (working groups) including the Pro-life (31 years), Autism (15 years), Alzheimer’s (13 years), Lyme Disease (nineyears), Spina Bifida (nine years), Human Trafficking (nine years), Refugees (nine years), and Combating Anti-Semitism caucuses, and serves on caucuses on Bosnia, Uganda and Vietnam.

According to the independent watchdog organization Govtrack, as of January 2014 Smith ranks fourth among all 435 Members of the House over the last two decades in the number of laws authored.

He is the author of America’s three landmark anti-human trafficking laws including The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, a comprehensive law designed to prevent modern-day slavery, protect victims, and enhance civil and criminal penalties against traffickers, as well as more than a dozen veterans health, education and homeless benefits laws, and laws to boost embassy security, promote democracy, religious freedom, and health care.

Smith is the author of the $265 million Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005 which established a nationwide program for ethical research and treatment using umbilical cord blood and bone marrow cells. That landmark law was reauthorized in September 2010 for another five years.
In October 2011, Smith’s bill, HR 2005, the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (CARA) of 2011, was signed into law (Public Law PL112-32), a follow-up to his Autism Statistics, Surveillance, Research, and Epidemiology Act (ASSURE) of 2000.

A lifelong New Jerseyan, Congressman Smith graduated from The College of New Jersey with a degree in business administration. Prior to being elected to Congress, he helped run a small business– his family’s wholesale sporting goods corporation. He is also the former Executive Director of the New Jersey Right to Life Committee.

The congressman is married to his wife of 35 years, Marie, and they have four grown children.


Serving With

Frank LoBiondo

NEW JERSEY's 2nd DISTRICT

Tom MacArthur

NEW JERSEY's 3rd DISTRICT

Scott Garrett

NEW JERSEY's 5th DISTRICT

Leonard Lance

NEW JERSEY's 7th DISTRICT

Rodney Frelinghuysen

NEW JERSEY's 11th DISTRICT

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