Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
On behalf of the Government of the United States of America, I congratulate the citizens of the Republic of the Marshall Islands on your 42nd Constitution Day. The United States and the Marshall Islands share a historic friendship underpinned by our Compact of Free Association, and I look forward to strengthening the deep bonds between our nations and citizens.
Building on a foundation of democracy and support for human rights, our countries collaborate at many levels. From our close cooperation at the United Nations to coordination among our health care experts on delivering COVID-19 vaccines, the relationship between our two countries is essential for achieving our shared goals.
Through the bonds between our citizens and the strong partnership between our governments, together we will continue to confront the climate crisis, work to defeat COVID-19 and prevent future pandemics, and promote regional security for a better future. Again, I extend my congratulations to all Marshallese on this occasion.
- Putting the public in public health: KidneyX COVID-19 Kidney Care Challenge WinnersBy Sam NewsMay 8, 2021When COVID-19 hit the [Read More…]
- Veterans Health Care: Agency Efforts to Provide and Study Prosthetics for Small but Growing Female Veteran PopulationBy Sam NewsNovember 12, 2020The Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) Veterans Health Administration (VHA) provides veterans with prosthetic services to assist with their mobility, vision, and hearing needs. The proportion of prosthetics VHA provided to female veterans has been small compared to the share provided to male veterans. However, in fiscal years 2015 to 2019, this proportion grew from 6.8 percent to 7.9 percent and accounted for about $889.1 million of the $15.4 billion total cost of prosthetics. Artificial limbs comprised a relatively small number of the total prosthetics VHA provided to veterans in fiscal years 2015 to 2019; however, veterans who use artificial limbs have complex needs and are significant users of health care services. VHA provided prosthetic services to a small but growing female veteran amputee population (almost 3 percent of veteran amputees in fiscal year 2019), who were generally younger than male veteran amputees. VHA has established an individualized patient care approach in its Amputation System of Care that seeks to address the prosthetic needs of each veteran, including accounting for gender-specific factors. VHA officials said that using a standardized, multidisciplinary approach across VA medical facilities also helps them incorporate the concerns and preferences of female veterans. For example, veterans are provided care by a team that includes a physician, therapist, prosthetist (clinician who helps evaluate prosthetic needs and then designs, fabricates, fits, and adjusts artificial limbs), and other providers as needed. Female veteran amputees GAO spoke with at one VA medical facility said they were satisfied with their VHA care. They also noted a lack of commercially available prosthetic options that VHA providers can use to meet women's needs. Examples of Female Veterans' Artificial Limb Prosthetics Women are generally studied less than their male counterparts in prosthetic and amputee rehabilitation research. VHA designated prosthetics for female veterans a national research priority in 2017, and has funded eight related studies as of May 2020: four pertain to lower limb amputation, three pertain to upper limb amputation, and one pertains to wheelchairs. VHA officials noted the importance of this research priority and the ongoing challenge of recruiting study participants due to the small female veteran population. VHA researchers said they employ various tactics to address this challenge, such as using multi-site studies and recruiting participants from the non-veteran population. Women are the fastest growing veteran subpopulation, with the number of female veterans using VHA health care services increasing 29 percent from 2014 to 2019. Female veterans accounted for an estimated 10 percent of the total veteran population in fiscal year 2019. They are eligible to receive a full range of VHA health care services, including obtaining prosthetics. House Report 115-188 included a provision for GAO to review VHA's prosthetic services for female veterans. This report examines 1) trends in prosthetics provided by VHA to female veterans; 2) characteristics of the female veteran population with limb loss and how VHA provides prosthetic services to these veterans through its Amputation System of Care; and 3) VHA's research efforts and the challenges that exist in studying prosthetics for female veterans with limb loss. GAO analyzed VHA documents, as well as data from fiscal years 2015 to 2019 on prosthetics and veterans with amputations. GAO interviewed agency officials from VHA central office and officials and female veteran amputees at two VA medical facilities selected for expertise in amputation care and prosthetics research activities. In addition, GAO interviewed VHA researchers conducting studies on prosthetics for female veterans. GAO provided a draft of this report to VA. VA provided general and technical comments, which were incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact Jessica Farb at (202) 512-7114 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- The Role of the U.S. Government Accountability OfficeBy Sam NewsAugust 31, 2021This is a presentation by the Acting Comptroller General delivered to the House Democracy Assistance Commission Members of Parliament from Afghanistan, Liberia, and Timor-Lease in Washington, D.C. on September 18, 2008. Major topics of this presentation include: who is GAO and how do we do our work, demand for service and impact of GAO's work, and the importance of collaboration and capacity building.[Read More…]
- Pharmacist Charged in $4 Million Health Care Fraud and Kickback SchemeBy Sam NewsMarch 17, 2021A New York man was arrested today for his role in a conspiracy to commit health care fraud and to pay kickbacks and bribes to customers for expensive prescription orders in connection with more than $4 million in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.[Read More…]
- [Protest of Forest Service Contract Award for Publication Support Services]By Sam NewsSeptember 10, 2021A firm protested a Forest Service contract award for publication support services, contending that the Forest Service conducted improper post-best and final offer (BAFO) discussions with the awardee. GAO held that the: (1) Service's consideration of the awardee's subcontracting approach constituted discussions and therefore it should have reopened discussions and allowed bidders to resubmit BAFO; and (2) Service conducted improper discussions with only the awardee after BAFO submission. Accordingly, the protest was sustained and GAO recommended that the Forest Service: (1) reopen discussions and request best and final offers; (2) make award to the bidder whose bid is determined to be the most advantageous to the government; and (3) reimburse the protester for its protest costs.[Read More…]
- United States Files Complaint Against Nutter Home Loans for Forging Certifications and Using Unqualified Underwriters to Approve Government-Insured Reverse MortgagesBy Sam NewsSeptember 25, 2020The United States has filed a complaint under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989 and the False Claims Act against Nutter Home Loans, f/k/a James B. Nutter & Co. (Nutter), for forging certifications and using unqualified underwriters to approve Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insured Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECM), the Department of Justice announced today.[Read More…]
- Hong Kong Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Reconsider travel to the [Read More…]
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- UN High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDSBy Sam NewsJune 12, 2021
- Judiciary Launches Vulnerability Disclosure ProgramBy Sam NewsIn U.S CourtsOctober 13, 2021The federal Judiciary has unveiled a new Vulnerability Disclosure Policy to ensure the security of data that can be accessed online. The policy gives security researchers clear guidelines on how they may conduct vulnerability discovery activities. It also instructs researchers on how to submit discovered vulnerabilities to the Judiciary.[Read More…]
- On the 6th Anniversary of the 709 Crackdown in ChinaBy Sam NewsJuly 10, 2021
- 30th Anniversary of the Closure of the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test SiteBy Sam NewsAugust 29, 2021Office of the [Read More…]
- South Carolina Man Sentenced for Making a Bomb Threat to a Clinic and Lying to the FBIBy Sam NewsSeptember 23, 2020Rodney Allen, 43, of Beaufort, South Carolina, was sentenced today in federal court in Jacksonville, Florida, to 24 months in prison. Allen previously pleaded guilty to one count of intimidating and interfering with the employees of an abortion clinic by making a bomb threat and one count of making false statements to a Special Agent with the FBI.[Read More…]
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken and President of Palau Surangel Whipps, Jr. Before Their MeetingBy Sam NewsAugust 4, 2021
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- FY 2020 Request for Concept Notes for NGO Programs Benefiting Refugees, Displaced Iraqis, and Other Vulnerable Populations in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and TurkeyBy Sam NewsSeptember 27, 2020Bureau of Population, [Read More…]
- Medicaid: HHS’s Preliminary Analyses Offer Incomplete Picture of Behavioral Health Demonstration’s EffectivenessBy Sam NewsMay 18, 2021What GAO Found The Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014 (PAMA) established the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHC) demonstration and tasked the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with its implementation. CCBHCs aim to improve the behavioral health services they provide, particularly for Medicaid beneficiaries. Initially established for a 2-year period, the demonstration has been extended by law a number of times; most recently, it was extended to September 2023. States participating in the demonstration can receive Medicaid payments, consistent with federal requirements, for CCBHC services provided to beneficiaries. PAMA also required HHS to assess the effect of the demonstration on service access, costs, and quality. HHS's preliminary assessments of the demonstration in eight states, with 66 participating CCBHCs, found the following: Access. CCBHCs commonly added services related to mental and behavioral health, such as medication-assisted treatment, and took actions to provide services outside the clinic setting, such as through telehealth. Costs. States' average payments to CCBHCs typically exceeded CCBHC costs for the first 2 years of the demonstration. CCBHC payments and costs were more closely aligned in the second year for most states, better reflecting the payment methods prescribed under the demonstration. Quality. States and CCBHCs took steps, such as implementing electronic health records systems, to report performance on 21 quality measures. GAO found data limitations complicated—and will continue to affect—HHS's efforts to assess the effectiveness of the demonstration. For example: Lack of baseline data. PAMA requires HHS to assess the quality of services provided by CCBHCs compared with non-participating areas or states. The demonstration marked the first time these clinics reported performance on quality measures, so no historical baseline data exist. HHS officials noted that with time, additional data may provide insight on the quality of services. Lack of comparison groups. PAMA requires HHS to compare CCBHCs' efforts to increase access and improve quality with non-participating clinics and states. HHS was unable to identify comparable clinics or states due to significant differences among the communities. Lack of detail on Medicaid encounters. PAMA requires HHS to assess the effect of the demonstration on federal and state costs and on Medicaid beneficiaries' access to services. HHS plans to use Medicaid claims and encounter data to assess such changes. However, GAO has previously identified concerns with the accuracy and completeness of Medicaid data and has made numerous recommendations aimed at improving their quality. HHS's decisions in implementing the demonstration also complicated its assessment efforts. HHS allowed states to identify different program goals and target populations, and to cover different services. HHS also did not require states to use standard billing codes and billing code modifiers it developed. The lack of standardization across states limited HHS's ability to assess changes in a uniform way. Why GAO Did This Study Behavioral health conditions—mental health issues and substance use disorders—affect millions of people. HHS estimates that 61 million adults had at least one behavioral health condition in 2019—41 million of whom did not receive any related treatment in the prior year. Many individuals with behavioral health conditions rely on community mental health centers for treatment, but the scope and quality of these services vary. To improve community-based behavioral health services, PAMA created the CCBHC demonstration and provided HHS with $25 million to support its implementation. PAMA directed HHS to assess the demonstration and to provide recommendations for its continuation, modification, or termination. To date, HHS has issued three annual reports assessing the initial demonstration period, which ran from 2017 to 2019. HHS plans to issue a fourth annual report and a final report by December 2021. This report describes HHS's assessment of the demonstration regarding access, costs, and quality. Under the CARES Act, GAO is to issue another report on states' experiences by September 2021. GAO reviewed federal laws and regulations; HHS guidance; and HHS's assessments of the demonstration, including three issued reports, interim reports, and the analysis plan for future reports. GAO also interviewed HHS officials and officials from organizations familiar with community health clinics. HHS provided technical comments, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact Carolyn L. Yocom (202) 512-7114 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- China-Based Executive at U.S. Telecommunications Company Charged with Disrupting Video Meetings Commemorating Tiananmen Square MassacreBy Sam NewsDecember 18, 2020A complaint and arrest warrant were unsealed today in federal court in Brooklyn charging Xinjiang Jin, also known as “Julien Jin,” with conspiracy to commit interstate harassment and unlawful conspiracy to transfer a means of identification. Jin, an employee of a U.S.-based telecommunications company (Company-1) who was based in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), allegedly participated in a scheme to disrupt a series of meetings in May and June 2020 held to commemorate the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in the PRC. The meetings were conducted using a videoconferencing program provided by Company-1, and were organized and hosted by U.S-based individuals, including individuals residing in the Eastern District of New York. Jin is not in U.S. custody.[Read More…]
- National Bio and Agro-defense Facility: DHS and USDA Are Working to Transfer Ownership and Prepare for Operations, but Critical Steps RemainBy Sam NewsAugust 10, 2020The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have taken steps to plan for and implement the successful transfer of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) from DHS to USDA for ownership and operation. (See figure.) The facility is to house state-of-the-art laboratories for research on foreign animal diseases—diseases not known to be present in the United States—that could infect U.S livestock and, in some cases, people. The departments' steps are consistent with selected key practices for implementation of government reforms. In addition, USDA has taken steps to prepare for NBAF's operation by identifying and addressing staffing needs; these steps are consistent with other selected key practices GAO examined for strategically managing the federal workforce during a government reorganization. However, critical steps remain to implement the transfer of ownershp of NBAF to USDA and prepare for the facility's operation, and some efforts have been delayed. Critical steps include obtaining approvals to work with high-consequence pathogens such as foot-and-mouth disease, and physically transferring pathogens to the facility. DHS estimates that construction of NBAF has been delayed by at least 2.5 months because of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. USDA officials stated that, until the full effects of delays to construction are known, USDA cannot fully assess the effects on its efforts to prepare for the facility's operation. In addition, USDA's planning efforts were delayed before the pandemic for the Biologics Development Module—a laboratory at NBAF intended to enhance and expedite the transition of vaccines and other countermeasures from research to commercial viability. A November 2018 schedule called for USDA to develop the business model and operating plan for the module in 2019. Officials stated in May 2020 that USDA intends to develop the business model and operating plan by fiscal year 2020's end. Construction Site of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) as of November 2019 and an Artist's Rendering of NBAF When Complete USDA's efforts to date to collaborate with DHS and other key federal or industry stakeholders on NBAF have included meeting regularly with DHS officials to define mission and research priorities, developing written agreements with DHS about DHS's roles and responsibilities before and after the transfer, and collaborating with the intelligence community, as well as with relevant international research groups and global alliances, on an ongoing basis. These efforts are consistent with selected key practices for interagency collaboration, such as including relevant participants and clarifying roles. Foreign animal diseases—some of which infect people—can pose threats to the United States. USDA and DHS have been developing NBAF to conduct research on and develop countermeasures (e.g., vaccines) for such diseases, as part of a national policy to defend U.S. agriculture against terrorist attacks and other emergencies. DHS is constructing NBAF in Manhattan, Kansas. DHS originally assumed responsibility for owning and operating NBAF. However, USDA will carry out this responsibility instead, following an executive order from 2017 to improve efficiency of government programs. Construction is expected to cost about $1.25 billion. GAO was asked to review issues related to development of NBAF and USDA's plans for operating it. This report examines (1) efforts to transfer ownership of NBAF from DHS to USDA and to prepare for the facility's operation and (2) USDA's efforts to collaborate with stakeholders. GAO reviewed DHS and USDA documents and interviewed key department officials and various stakeholders. GAO also compared the departments' efforts on NBAF with selected key practices for government reforms and collaboration. For more information, contact Steve D. Morris at (202) 512-3841 or email@example.com.[Read More…]