Equal Rights for Veterans

One of the best aspects of running for Congress is all of the people that I have met.  I'm a people person! Some have wonderful stories to share, others heart wrenching; most are appreciative to have the opportunity to personally meet with a candidate.  I’ve heard the incumbent and other candidates talk about Veterans, but the fact is, the urgent needs of Veterans have been ignored.  It is commendable that a number of Veterans are running for office now, but have not heard specific issues addressed.

When I ask Veterans what their number one concern is - it is about health care.  Seems their greatest needs are the same as ours.  The VA’s medical care is antiquated, slow, inefficient, nor using best practices.  We can do better for those who have served our country. 

I sat down with a Veteran over the weekend and he educated me about some of the issues.  He explained that all Veterans do not have the same rights or benefits after service.  Under federal law, a Veteran is any person who served honorably on active duty in the armed forces of the United States. 

One of his concerns was that as a combat Veteran, he could not access the BX at the local military base.  At one point in time, he was unemployed and as he stated, “it would have been nice to use the BX to shop for goods at the discounted and tax-free price because his finances were limited.”  A retired Veteran, whether they served overseas or not, is permitted to use all the benefits of a military post, which includes shopping at the BX.  Items for purchase at the BX are discounted and there’s no sales tax.  Apparently, a combat Veteran does not have the same rights as a retired military person who has never been in combat.  Apparently “combat” is the not same thing as “deployed.”

Apparently “combat” is the not same thing as “deployed.” I asked him to explain the nuances with the term “deployment”.  It seems people on active duty are deployed… they can be here in the US, they can be in Europe or anywhere in the world.  Combat is a different term.  Being in the “area of theater” is also a determination of whether or not someone was physically in the war zone.  This was a Gulf War Veteran who was in combat in the area of theater, while his cousin was also deployed in Germany.  Both are considered deployed.  It seems strange that a combat Veteran, who served in the area of theater, does not have the same rights as someone who has never been in combat.  They carry a VA identification care for healthcare only.

I did not realize there are classifications for Veterans that impact some of their benefits:

  • Retired
  • Service-connected disabled Veterans
  • Combat Veterans
  • Veterans (in the service, never in the area of theater – which means they cannot join a VFW).
  • Commissioned officers

Eligibility for Veterans benefits depends on the character of the discharge: honorable or general under honorable conditions.  What are the benefits?  Healthcare (free or low cost), disability compensation, pension programs, education programs.  Other benefits include:

  • Housing and home loan guarantees
  • Counseling
  • Small businesses loans (through SBA)
  • Burials and memorials

Disability determination is not clearly defined either.  There are cases where Veterans can receive medical care due to service-connected disability but denied financial disability benefits. 

There is a Veterans Owned Business (VOB) classification and a Disabled Veterans Owned Business (DVOB). The VOB cannot bid on contracts for the state of NJ the same as a DVOB.  The VOB does not have the same classification as a minority-owned business.

Does all of this sound confusing?  It does to me.  In fact, much of this class or caste structure makes no sense. 

My goal, when elected, is to streamline this process and make it equal for all Veterans.  I want to ensure that combat Veterans have the same rights.  I want to ensure that those who are service-connected disabled have a streamlined process of receiving medical and financial assistance without aggravation.  Our VA healthcare needs an overhaul with a focus on mental health.  I would like to see improved employment assistance, including education and training, for Veterans.  It is the least we can do for those who have pledged to defend and protect our Constitution.  Thank you for your service to our country.


Anti-Semitism and Hate in America

On April 2, 2018, the NJ Jewish News posted an OpEd that I wrote addressing the extremist views, in the name of religion, that caused me concern about my safety when I go to synagogue.  I have often thought about how easy it is to enter a house of worship, which is supposed to be a sacred and hallowed place for all to come together.  An angry or mentally ill individual could easily enter and commit heinous crimes against innocent souls.  I was in tears on Saturday, while driving to my son’s soccer game, as the tragic story from Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue was being reported.  The members of L’Simcha Synagogue went to shul to pray.  In Judaism, we pray for love, for health and always for PEACE. 

As a Jew, the Holocaust and the history of constant persecution of Jews for hundreds of years has been part of our education.  Jews make up two percent of the US population.  When I hear people speak about minority status, I always think, “Gee, I’m a minority.”  Well, you wouldn’t assume that by the way I look, but we know that race goes much deeper than skin color.  My college sociology professor explained that race was about biological differences and religion was a belief system.  Not too dissimilar from political party affiliation.  Many people identify their ethnicity by country of origin… but Jewish people in America often define themselves as being ethnically Jewish.  I often say that I am culturally Jewish, as the scientist in me is often challenged by facts and my spirituality is quite personal.

Recently, I received my 23 and Me test results and was surprised to find out that Ashkenazi Jewish was a classification for ancestry.  I had not heard of anyone getting test results saying they were Catholic or Muslim. I thought I was Russian and Polish.  I’m 99.9% Ashkenazi and 0.1% African.  I guess the Jewish people really did migrate through Egypt, and the DNA doesn’t lie.

I have felt that anti-semitism has been on the rise, and in the last 24 hours, plenty of experts have provided that data in the media.  As part of the two percent, I do understand what it is like to be a minority.  Have I been on the receiving end of anti-semitic comments?  You betcha.  Someone recently told me there is no way in hell that I can win this Congressional race because I was Jewish.  Wow.  I could not believe I heard that in 2018 from someone who lives in my town.

When thinking about who you want to represent you in the House of Representatives, do you want someone who is empathic and understands your needs, or a bully?  If you watched the two public forums from News 12 NJ and the Asbury Park Press, that is exactly what you saw.  Not polite civil discourse, no new ideas and plenty of explanations by two men about their respective pasts that leave much of the true “facts” up to interpretation.  It was a display of partisan political behavior that we have come to despise.

Here is what I am bringing to the table: someone who has lived amongst you and really understands the needs of the community.  Leadership that is non-partisan, warm, inviting, genuine, hard-working, compassionate, and collaborative.  When I spoke at the League of Women Voters CD4 Candidate Forum about the inequality of wages for women, I said, “I get it” because it’s happened to me.  When speaking about a woman’s right to reproductive rights and healthcare, again, as the only woman on the ballot, I get it.  My great grandparents and grandparents were immigrants, I get it.  As an entrepreneur and single parent who has to pay for their own health insurance, I get it.  We use the term separation of “church and state”, I get that too because everyone does not go to a church, we go to synagogues, temples, shuls, and mosques.

Want to send a message to Washington this year? Say “no” to partisan politics.  It is destroying the very framework by which this country was founded.  Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different outcome.  He was a Jewish immigrant, too.  In 2008 he was inducted in the NJ Hall of Fame.  Say “yes” to change.  Remember that 45% of our Congressional district are unaffiliated voters.  This is the majority.  Who you choose should not be about who raised the most money.  Democracy is not for sale. You have seven options on the ballot this year; five are not in the column for Democrat or Republican.

Healthcare is the number one concern for people in this country because health is the foundation for everything.  If you don’t have your health, you have nothing.  Remember, both parties have not solved our healthcare problem.  Want to see a solution that works? Then vote for me.  There are 21 committees in Congress and seven of which have oversight for nutrition and health.  There is not one nutrition professional in Congress and very few health care professionals – period. 

The areas where I bring personal and professional experience to the table are in health, small business, education, the environment, and family law.  These are issues that are of primary concern to people in New Jersey and in our district.  Is anyone else addressing what is important to YOU?  When it comes to our Veterans, they need improved healthcare.  We all need it.  We don’t need anyone else representing our district who cares more about foreign affairs.  We need someone who has lived and worked in this community, to help the people in NJ’s 4th Congressional District.  A strong economy is the best national defense.

As The Inclusion Candidate, I am for term limits, tort reform, affordable health care for all, school vouchers, sensible gun laws, the reduction of all violence, the environment, family law reform, and the federal decriminalization of marijuana.  Most importantly, I believe in the Golden Rule: “treat others the way you want to be treated.”  Let’s stop with the hateful vitriol and find a way to love one another; live in peace and harmony in the best country in the world!


#FakeNews

As someone who worked in news, I found the #FAKENEWS movement particularly troubling.  Growing up, we watched the evening news on the television every night and read newspapers.  The first amendment exists to protect the media from retribution for covering stories – good or bad.  The news media has been responsible for exposing illegal and heinous acts across the globe.  Through video, words and photographs, it allows us to see, almost immediately, what is happening.  

When I worked at ABC News, I sent out letters stating that as an impartial news organization, we could be perceived as working in association with other parties.  I also wrote for FoxNews.com.  I defended the news media for a long time about fake news, but through my experience as a legally qualified candidate for a federal office, I must admit my disappointment. 

The fact that the news media has biased its coverage of the elections to only cover Democratic and Republican candidates just destroys everything I held true about journalism and news. The FCC states, “rigging or slanting the news is a most heinous act against the public interest." The news media must report about all legally qualified candidates… including Independent or other third party candidates.  Partisan politics is destroying our country.  This is “narrowcasting” versus “broadcasting.”  Local news media has been negligent in doing the job that the public has entrusted them with: delivering the news.  Investigating facts and reporting on it.

In my heart, I do believe in journalistic integrity.  In my profession, in science, we learn about trying to minimize BIAS.  It is a hard thing to do well.  Remain neutral.  Be impartial.  However, even before the days of the internet… where clicks are counted, ratings were important for broadcast television along with sales of magazines and newspapers.

Let’s face it, our economy is driven by money.  The media earns revenue in order to continue to exist.  People’s salaries need to be paid.  So, the question remains, what is the driving force behind the news on a national or local level?  The media is quick to report about the co-mingling of money between industry and politicians, but do you know where the largest percent of campaign money is spent?  In the media.  Commercials.  Television, radio, print… even online.  Those who pay for airtime, get it. 

So, when WE THE PEOPLE complain about politics being for sale… know that it is.  This is why the media is so hesitant, if not resistant, to giving independent candidates any news coverage.  It is their way of creating bias by working with those who pay for advertising.  In NJ’s 4th Congressional District, 45% of the voters are unaffiliated with any party.  THIS IS THE MAJORITY and those people deserve equal NEWS coverage of all legally qualified candidates.  PERIOD.

Sad to say, the media is an active participant in fake news.  In fact, they may be the number one catalyst for the partisan vitriol we are experiencing right now.  I’ve been trained as a medical journalist and find it incredibly frustrating that while running for political office, despite being a breath of fresh air and a unique candidate, the news media has pretty much ignored my story because I have not purchased my way in.  I'm not in it for power or political favors.  I entered into this for participatory government as our founders intended.  No ego.  No greed.  Just because I have lived my life helping others.  Altruism is honorable and should be encouraged.  Perseverance and old-fashioned campaigning should be celebrated.  Clearly, I am not buying my way into politics.  Shame on the media for contributing to that mentality. 

Now, it’s time to tell the truth.  Vote for change on November 6th.  If elected, I’ll bring back the Fairness Doctrine to prevent media propaganda from continuing to destroy our country. Vote for the person, their skill set, their life experience, honesty, relatability, ideas, ability to tackle those problems legislatively that impact your life tly versus a partisan party puppet.


We The People

I know that people are frustrated with partisan politics.  Our founders warned about the harm that a two-party system would do to our country.  We see that playing out right now.  Citizens complain about the money in politics… but it’s not just from special interest groups or PACs.  In fact, many candidates get “the party line” because they bring the most money to the table.  Essentially, candidates are buying their way in.  I’ve had people call me to say that if I hadn’t raised a certain amount of money, then I should get out.  Guess what?  I’m still here.  Perseverance.

As a scientist, I can be a bit of a numbers geek.  Think about how few people show up to vote in a primary… 10%.  That means a small number of people get to select who is on the general election ballot for the Democrat or Republican line.  You have one member of Congress for every 711,000 people.  That means ~ 70,000 people decide who will be on the general election ballot.  

Remember, the majority is the 45%.  The majority are unaffiliated voters.  They choose not to be a “member” of either party.  The good news is that in this general election, there are five independent choices to choose from in NJ’s 4th Congressional District.  I challenge all voters to look at the credentials and qualities of each individual on the ballot.  What skills do they bring to the job of Congress person that will help you?  It should be about the person and not the party (because the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again… expecting a different outcome)!

My main platform issues are term limits, tort reform, healthcare, education, small business protections, the environment, and family law.  I’ve worked in these industries and will bring first-hand knowledge to policies in these areas.  When elected, I will establish advisory boards, consisting of constituents across diverse interests, to provide direct input on issues ranging from health care, veterans’ affairs, environment, agriculture, persons with disabilities, education, etc.  I am confident that some of the best solutions can come directly from constituents.

I stated on NJ 101.5 radio, in an interview with Bill Spadea, that I promise to live in New Jersey and work in DC.  I promise to represent all constituents… not one party or another.  I bring dynamic interpersonal skills to this role… in addition to being empathetic, compassionate, a leader, a problem solver, critical thinking and analytical skills, communication skills and relatable.  After all, I’ve been an active member in our community over my lifetime. 

Vote for change.  Every vote counts.  Vote for Felicia Stoler for Congress, the Inclusion Candidate®!

 

 


Term Limits & Nikki Haley

I was shocked when Nikki Haley resigned as US Ambassador to the United Nations.  I have admired her work… she has been a fabulous role model for women.  She’s a working mom, too.  Her words resounded so strongly with me, “It’s been eight years of intense time and I’m a firm believer in term limits… you have to be selfless enough to know when it’s time to step aside and allow somebody else to do the job.” THANK YOU for your service and these honest words.

Why can’t our elected officials see that?  Term limits.  One cannot be President of the United States for more than two terms.  Some states have limits on gubernatorial and legislative terms.  It has been argued that term limits would make legislators work more efficiently because they would have a finite amount of time to get their work done.  Term limits would prevent the perpetual gridlock that some long-standing, members of Congress have kept alive for years.  It’s the same fight with the same people and WE THE PEOPLE are the losers. 

Perhaps as part of a Constitutional Amendment for Term Limits, the term for the House of Representatives should be four years instead of two, this way members are spending more time honoring their campaign promises to work on behalf of their constituents instead of fundraising for their party or their re-election.  Being an elected member of the House of Representatives is about service to the country… not being a professional politician.  Most students graduating with political science degrees don’t jump into political office.  I have signed two online term limits pledge websites.

Our legislators promise to fix problems like health care, immigration and to lower taxes.  Last I checked, they have failed to deliver.  Send a message to Washington this November by voting for new people, with new ideas… and consider voting outside of the two parties.  Vote for experts who will champion platforms like term limits, healthcare, education, the environment, small business protections, and family law… because they don’t need to rely on lobbyists to tell them how to think… they’ve had enough real-world experience to know what needs to be done.  Democracy is not for sale.  Vote for Felicia Stoler, The Inclusion Candidate®, on November 6th