01-05-2017 Letters and Commentary

GOP wants to repeal ACA but offers no alternative

Dear Editor,

Do you value your health?  Of course you do.  So how do you pay for your health care?

Most of us, hopefully, are insured, many under “Obamacare”.  Paying for health care out of your pocket leads to disastrous health care and financial ruin all too often.  You may think you’re healthy and won’t need care, but you know that’s not a safe approach.  So it would be a good idea to pay attention to the proposed changes from the new administration- Mr. Trump and his friends.

Obamacare isn’t perfect, and needs improvements, but watch out if it is thrown out! Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans have promised to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA, Obamacare). Their current plan (i.e. scam) is to vote on repealing the ACA as soon as possible after Trump is sworn in as president, but delay the actual repeal until after the 2018 mid-term elections. This is clearly a political ploy to protect themselves from the rage that millions of people will feel about the Republicans taking away their health insurance.

What do the Republicans offer as a replacement for the ACA? Representative Tom Price of Georgia, Trump’s nominee to head the Department of Health and Human Services, has proposed a so-called replacement plan, which has been carefully analyzed by the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The headline of the Center’s report is: “HHS Secretary Nominee Price’s Health Plan Would Severely Weaken Health Coverage and Consumer Protections.”  (by Edwin Park, online, Dec. 1, 2016)

The report details the many ways Price’s plan would harm middle and lower income individuals and families, leaving many of the 20 million people who have obtained health insurance under the ACA either without coverage or with inadequate coverage that would make it very difficult for them to obtain needed care.

The Republicans, however, have not settled on either the details or the timing of their replacement plan. This has been going on since the ACA became law – they want to repeal it but can’t define any effective alternative. If the Price plan is any indication of what they are going to present, their alternative is likely to be extremely inadequate and very harmful.

Audrey Lester, RN, MS

St. Joseph

Thank you Roy Davis

Dear Editor,

I thought (Roy Davis’) article “Christ’s birthday” was right on the mark.  (The) column not only captured the essence of Christmas but also tied in nicely with Karl’s 40th Annual Christmas Column which is always a delight to read.

(Roy) Thank you for your excellent work.  My brother, Tad Minor, had you for l0th grade English Lit. (W.H.S.) and says you were a great teacher.


Rev. Dan Minor

Therapeutic Equestrian Center (TEC) honors two special people for generous gift

 On Saturday, December 10, 2016, the Therapeutic Equestrian Center (TEC) held a small ceremony to honor Sarah Damaske and Bob Egan for their generous gift to TEC.  Thanks to these wonderful people, TEC now has heat over the barn’s arena that will allow them the opportunity to provide year-round riding lessons and warmth to participants and volunteers when temperatures are cool.

As presented by Sarah Damaske’s parents, Bill and Jane Damaske, at the Heat Dedication, “Sarah enjoyed riding horses; especially, when it was warm. She was an accomplished equestrian who spent many hours, year-round, working with her horses.”

Sarah also enjoyed sharing her knowledge and talent with others; especially, with those who were not physically able as herself. From a young age she volunteered with the therapeutic riding program.  Because of Sarah’s caring spirit, she wanted any memorials made when she passed away to be given to TEC. Her mother mentioned “she would be pleased to know that because of the warmth of her heart, your hearts as well as your fingers and toes are also warmed.”

Robert Egan’s family had this to share, “to dedicate this system in part to the memory of Robert Egan, fills our family with joy.”

A legendary Hunter Jumper trainer recognized in the Hunter Jumper Hall of Fame, Robert Egan understood clearly the human-equine connection, how it brought delight, raised self-esteem, and created learning. He loved the horses in his life unconditionally, from famous jumpers, to the ever-patient school horses. In later years, he became convinced that therapeutic riding brought the connection to both horses and riders with disabilities in a profoundly moving way.

The family of Robert Egan is so proud of the dedication to him for the heaters in the arena. TEC riders and horses will enjoy the warmth and benefit from the connection they give and receive every day from one another.  The TEC Board would like to sincerely thank these families for their continued support to TEC and its programs.

The Therapeutic Equestrian Center (TEC) is a non-profit 501(c)3 that was founded in 2005. TEC provides year-round therapeutic horseback riding as well as other equine assisted activities to individuals with special needs. TEC collaborates with Blossomland Learning Center, a local school, to provide Saddle STARS, a school-based program using horses as a theme. TEC also provides a free program to veterans through the TEC With VETS programs.  These programs are possible because of TEC’s team of donors and volunteers.  You can contact TEC by e-mail at info@tecfarm.org visit our website www.tecfarm.org, or by phone at 269-429-0671.

Naloxone can save a life

Dear Editor,

Naloxone, also known as Narcan is an opioid antagonist used in opioid overdoses to counteract the life-threatening depression of the respiratory system. It allows an overdose victim to breathe normally.

Although traditionally administered by emergency response personnel, naloxone can be administered by lay people or public, making it ideal for treating heroin and other opioids overdoses. The training is simple and use of Naloxone results in a life saved.

Here is what occurs in an opioid overdose. When too much of any opioid, like heroin goes into too many receptors, the respiratory system slows and the person breathes more slowly, then not at all.  Because Naloxone basically knocks the opioids out of the opiate receptors in the brain, the overdose is reversed and the person is able to breathe again.

However, it is a temporary drug that will wear off in 30-90 minutes and the person should be watched for signs of continued overdose. The overdose victim must seek medical assistance or call 911.

Lack of oxygen from opioid overdose may lead to brain injury in as little as 4 minutes, yet the average EMS response time is 9.4 minutes. Seconds can count during an opioid overdose so it is vital if you have a loved one or friends who use, you need to have a plan in place. Most life threatening opioid emergencies occur in the home, witnessed by friends or family.

Brand names of Naloxone are Evzio, Narcan injection, Narcan Nasal Spray.  They all come with simple, lifesaving directions and are easy to administer. Upon purchase, read and know how to use these devices and keep them readily available.

Some states have a third-party law where a concerned parent, employee or nurse at a school can obtain Naloxone and administer it without facing legal repercussions (known as the Good Samaritan Act).  If you come in contact with a high-risk individual, you should have this lifesaving overdose antidote.

For more information and the availability of naloxone, go to narcononnewliferetreat.org/blog/naloxone-availability. If you are in need of a referral to a treatment center, call us at 1- 800-431-1754.

Ray Clauson, Denham Springs, LA

Republicans do not represent the working class

Dear Editor,

Never let anyone get away with telling you that the Republican Party represents the working class. Anyone who makes that claim is either deluded by conservative fake-news/history propaganda or they’re blatantly lying to lure you to the party of corporate greed.

When was the last time the GOP supported a bill to help unions? Or increased the minimum wage? Or regulated corporations? No time in recent memory. Why? Because Republicans support corporate earnings over working-class well-being.

Since the 70s, workers have been affected by corporatism; an increasingly UNREGULATED capitalist system where a few can afford to buy-out our legislators, kill collective bargaining rights bills, and crush the middle class to increase profits. These DEREGULATIONS have shrunk the middle-class and expanded income inequality by sending would-be worker’s earnings into the pockets of the 1%.

When unregulated capitalism breeds a corporate elite who prefer to outsource jobs and to slash wages, safety regulations, sick leave, maternity leave, overtime pay, vacation time, and healthcare benefits (but continue to make campaign contributions to Republican legislators to keep it that way); the working class becomes financially and mentally stressed. As the middle-class’s annual income falls; poverty, crime, addictions and an angry society grows.

Donald Trump’s only coherent campaign speech (a tele-prompted policy speech) in Detroit on the economy spewed the Republican’s deplorable “more of the same” and “status-quo” economic plan for DEREGULATING and PRIVATIZING everything! Precisely the same game that’s been happening since Reagan! When history and facts no longer mean anything to voters, the Republican “trickle down economics” scam will continue to resonate; allowing corporations to maximize capital by treating their employees as expendable commodities rather than people.

Millions of Trump’s voters gobbled up his bombastic fear-mongering that played on their emotions as opposed to their intellect. If they understood why his policies are a con, they certainly wouldn’t have voted for him. So if we all can finally recognize this, “we the people” will be able to resist corporatism by electing candidates who will truly represent working class Americans.

Damon Wolf

To the community of Watervliet

Dear Editor,

Representing our community over the last eleven months has been an incredible honor, since being crowned Miss Watervliet last January.

I have had the opportunity to do some amazing things because of the support that I had received. During my rein, I was able to sit in on a Lion’s Club meeting and listened in on the preparation for the big Easter Egg Hunt that takes place at Hays Park. I was also invited to a City meeting, where I was able to learn about what goes on behind the scenes to make Watervliet the great place that it is. Throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at Hays Park for the girl’s little league tournament was such an honor. I remember participating in that softball tournament when I was younger. Finally, the Fourth of July Festival in town was amazing this year! I really enjoyed seeing the familiar faces of the community in the crowd during the parade.

The opportunities were too numerous to mention each one. However, I want to express my gratitude for all the wonderful experiences I was offered.

I would like to thank each and every one of you for holding me in your hearts this year, and for all of the support you have shown me and my court. We are so blessed to live in such a supportive community!

Karlee Liles

Miss Watervliet 2016

HO HUM, ANOTHER YEAR… If the national news broadcasts of December 31, 2016 and January 1, 2017 are to be believed, there is no difference from one year to the next.

2016 closed with murder, mayhem, and political chicanery. 2017 opened with murder, mayhem, and political chicanery.

Indeed, some of the news footage and stories looked familiar… Hmmmmmmmm.

Where is the last place the New Year is celebrated, Anne asked, the morning of New Year’s Day (as we watched celebration coverage, reported hourly on the news)?

Probably somewhere near New Zealand, a half dozen hours from now, I replied. Unless if you are in China. Then you have to wait for New Year’s, sometime in February I think.

Intrigued by the question, I researched it on the internet. There are 39 time zones around the world, beginning at the International Date Line in the Pacific Ocean near Samoa. Hence, the New Year’s Eve observation begins there.

In the order of time zones, the Tri-Cities (Eastern Time Zone) are 31st in line to celebrate.

Folks in American Samoa are 38th in line and are in the last inhabited location to welcome the New Year. The last (latest) location is an uninhabited atoll called Baker Island. That begs the question, if nobody is there to celebrate the New Year, does it arrive?

COUNTY IN PECULIAR POSITION…  For all the reasons stated in the story, (on the front page) I do not believe an elected official should hold another public office.

What I found interesting was County Commissioner Jon Hinkelman decrying Bill Hodge actions of using taxpayer resources to sue the County to keep his seat on the road commission while remaining the Bainbridge Twp. Supervisor.

Hinkelman says Hodge is also misusing the public trust in the action, while Hinkelman and the rest of the commissioners, abused the public trust to the tune of more than a million dollars.

The commission has continued to ignore wishes of Coloma Township and the State Supreme Court to keep an illegal gun range open by legal maneuvering and delay.

I know why it is wrong for Bill Hodge to keep two public offices in conflict with each other.

I know why it is wrong for the County to ignore local ordinances.

What I do not understand is why it is wrong for Bill Hodge to sue the County commission (and commissioners) but not wrong for the Country to sue the citizens of Coloma Township to force them to allow a gun range that does not conform to local zoning.

NEW YEARS DREAM… In that twilight just before waking New Year’s morning, I was dreaming.

I was hiding cigars in the shrubbery in front of Our Lady of LaSalette Elementary School in Berkley, Michigan.

I had been selling them in the school store, alongside the giant pencils and ruled pads and erasers when the fire bell rang.

The fire bell was loud enough to cow the most recalcitrant 6th grader. From years of regimentation, the uniformed pupils quietly and quickly fell into line; each one knew the drill. All were more terrified of the unseen clanging bell and the black robed nuns patrolling halls than of any fire and smoke that could appear.

Outside in the fresh air, all were in straight lines facing the school. All but me, I was in the bushes hiding my cigars (did you forget this was a dream?).

I was stacking them on a window ledge and one kept rolling off when this fire chief grabbed me by the back of my shirt and lifted me out of the bushes, dropping and leaving the cigars behind. At that, I woke up.

Later it dawned on me that it is a year ago that I gave up smoking cigars. (Perhaps you smelled the difference.) I honestly do not miss the stogies, but for a rare occasion when I am fishing. But the afternoon of New Year’s Eve, I was on the river with my fly rod dreaming of catching a big steelhead when I caught a whiff of a cigar and I was the only one there.

Practical wisdom

 There is not a lot we can do about the news. Things happen over which we have no control. We cannot control international politics, or terrorist attacks, or the economy or the weather. We may be interested in all of these things, but none of them are in our sphere of influence or responsibility. On the contrary, our lives are defined by what actually is within those spheres, and no more. A lot that seems important is not relevant.

It comes as no surprise then that for wisdom to be useful, it must help us with life right where we live it. Proverbs 27:23-27 is like that: “Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds; for riches do not last forever; and does a crown endure to all generations? When the grass is gone, and the new growth appears, and the herbage of the mountains is gathered, the lambs will provide your clothing and the goats the price of a field; there will be enough goats’ milk for your food, for the food of your household and maintenance for your maidens”. (RSV)

Mind your responsibilities without laziness. Provide for your family with legitimate work. God does His part; you do your part.  Exchange your honest time and labor for food and clothing. Be responsible and invest your time and money wisely.

It is all there. Take care of business; forget entitlement; God did not design us for the welfare state, but for work with profitable reward. So do that. Fix your world and do not worry about fixing everyone else’s. Make this a year of personal growth so that you will progress along the practical path of a skillful, profitable life. Go, and do well. A productive life produces a less frustrating and happier New Year.

New way to check the status of Social Security applications

 Social Security is always innovating and improving our technology to better serve you. In an effort to meet our goal to deliver innovative, quality services, we are improving how you can check the status of your Social Security benefit application online.

Placing the “Application Status” feature behind our my Social Security portal provides a secure service delivery channel that will allow the Agency to provide detailed status information without requiring a confirmation number.

Our first service improvement will include status information for Social Security and SSI benefit applications and appeals, but future modifications will allow you to check the status of medical and non-medical redeterminations.

With the new Application Status, you will see: the Re-entry number for in-progress online applications; detailed information about the current status of the application or appeal; the location where your claim is being processed; and scheduled hearing information for appeals.

Log into my Social Security to see what other personalized features are available to you at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Vonda VanTil is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan.  You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525 or via email at vonda.vantil@ssa.gov.