Columnists

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Window on the West
by Mary Rupert

It’s Thanksgiving, so it helps to express gratitude for whatever we feel thankful for today. Those who can be in a Thanksgiving state of mind throughout the year are very fortunate.

Here’s my top 20 list.

I am thankful for:

1. Life and health.
2. Friends and family.
3. Sunrise and sunset.
4. Teachers.
5. Our readers.
6. The hundred daily kindnesses we run across without even thinking about them.
7. Laughter.
8. The ability to think.
9. A nice Thanksgiving feast.
10. Our freedoms.
11. Those who help make sure that we keep our freedoms.
12. All of those people in our career fields and in our lives who have gone before us and made a way for us.
13. The ability of the body to repair itself.
14. The beautiful landscapes that may be discovered on earth.
15. A good book.
16. Music.
17. Modern technology and innovation.
18. A good game of Scrabble.
19. Creativity.
20. For nice weather and many other things, too numerous to mention.

If you have a list you want to share with our readers, send it to news@wyandottepublishing.com.

To reach Mary Rupert, editor, email maryr@wyandottepublishing.com.

by Mary Rupert

Cluster mailboxes, an idea that has been proposed to make the postal service more efficient, have found their way to the Highland Crest and Cathedral neighborhoods, according to a Kansas City, Kan., resident.

Joan Spero, a Kansas City, Kan., resident who has served as a district liaison with the National Association of Letter Carriers and Auxiliary, appeared before a Unified Government Committee on Monday night to talk about cluster mailboxes.

Spero said one group of cluster mailboxes is about four blocks from her residence. She expressed her belief that house-to-house mail delivery is a right of postal customers.

She said it is up to the postal customer, part of the Postal Operations Manual, whether or not his mail is delivered to his house or to a cluster mailbox. She said people who live in a neighborhood have to be asked if they want to have cluster boxes before they are installed.

Spero said she was concerned about safety and health of residents, especially elderly residents, who might have to walk a distance to get their mail. Some are not physically able to walk that distance, she said. Also, she said she was concerned about theft from cluster mailbox break-ins. There has already been a theft ring involving cluster mailboxes in Johnson County, she said, citing a news article.

In August, she said, a switch was made to cluster boxes for 28 homes in the Highland Crest area, with the reason given that a mail carrier was bitten by a dog. Spero said she had talked with the letter carrier and discovered that it was a slight injury, it did not break the skin, the letter carrier received a Band-Aid and returned to work the next day. There haven’t been serious dog bites to carriers in the Kansas City, Kan., area for more than 20 years, she said.

“We would like you to let your constituents know what their rights are,” Spero told the commissioners.

She also said residents wrote to U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder to see what they could do about it.

The postal service spokeswoman for this area, Stacy St. John, was contacted for a response and said that she had not heard what was said at the meeting, and so she could not comment on it.

Using cluster boxes is part of postal reform nationwide because it is the most efficient way to serve customers, she said.

It was part of a postal reform bill that has not been approved by Congress. At this time, district managers approve delivery mode changes, St. John said. There is no movement for customers to involuntarily change their mode of delivery. If customers wanted to change to cluster boxes, the postal service would take that into consideration, she said.

To reach Mary Rupert, editor, email maryr@wyandottepublishing.com.

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by U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan.

On Veterans Day, Americans gather to remember and celebrate the selfless acts of those who served in defense our country. We demonstrate our respect and appreciation for the liberty and safety secured by the actions of military men and women. But truly honoring their service requires action not just on Nov. 11th, but every day.

Regrettably, the recent treatment of American veterans has taken a worrisome turn. While our society has such great respect for those who have served, the organization charged with providing their care has fallen short, failing to uphold its commitments to our veterans.

The problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs reached a breaking-point this year, leading whistleblowers to shine a light on the abuse, neglect, and cover-ups within the VA. Investigations of VA medical facilities across the country made clear that these accusations were not just isolated cases of bad behavior, but rather a systemic and cultural problem that had infected the entire VA system.

Like many Americans, I was disturbed by the dysfunction and disservice to veterans under the care of the VA, an agency created to serve them. The spout of reports was especially infuriating to lawmakers and Veterans Service Organizations whose oversight was diminished and calls for action ignored by VA leadership. It was also a wakeup call for those who had simply become complacent with a VA system that settled for mediocrity.

The existing leadership at the VA proved incapable of fixing the Department’s problems. I began the rally for new leadership and accountability to make certain the wrongdoers faced consequences. A new secretary of Veterans Affairs was confirmed in August. Since then, the new Secretary Bob McDonald has shown a desire to make the difficult steps needed to reform the VA system and inspire his employees to do better.

To enhance the Secretary’s ability to keep the Department on a path of recovery, Congress passed the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act this summer to empower the VA Secretary to more readily remove employees for misconduct and poor performance. This power to easily rid the VA of its bad actors was long overdue.

To truly honor veterans, we must create an agency that is more compassionate and more caring toward the men and women it serves. The need for a functional and effective VA has never been greater. Today, the VA must tend to the needs of aging World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans, while keeping up with new challenges posed by caring for veterans of more recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In Kansas, this means increasing access to timely, quality care, especially for those living in the rural areas of our state. In the past, veterans have been required to travel hundreds of miles for appointments at VA facilities. This was an unacceptable burden for rural veterans, who compose 41 percent of the VA Health Care System. New policies passed by Congress this year will allow certain veterans to receive treatment at hometown facilities.

Improved service to rural veterans is further achieved by making certain Critical Access Hospitals, Rural Health Clinics, Sole Community Hospitals and other rural hospitals can provide quality primary and preventative care for veterans. Other positive developments include the creation Community Based Outpatient Clinics, enhancing transportation services to and from VA facilities, increasing travel reimbursement and improving Home-Health programs which bring care to a veteran’s doorstep. Despite these positive steps, there is more to be done in correcting the bad policies of the past and improving the quality of life for our nation’s veterans.

Whatever the mission, the men and women we honor on Veterans Day were ready to answer the call. We are forever grateful for your service. Our nation would not be what it is today without your strength, sacrifice and bravery.

Today military men and women are following in the footsteps of our veterans and do so at great risk. I pray that those currently serving the United States abroad return safely to the families who love them. It is our charge to welcome service members home with open arms, and make certain our promises of respect and care are kept.

Jerry Moran is a U.S. Senator for Kansas and a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

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