(Las Vegas, NV) — A new ad released by Heller for Senate this week documents seven-term Congresswoman Shelley Berkley’s established pattern of using her office for personal gain. To view the ad, click here.
1) Claim: “An independent watchdog group has named Congresswoman Shelley Berkley one of the most corrupt members of Congress.”
Documentation: “The line between political cause and personal gain is fuzzy for Rep. Shelley Berkley.”
Citation: CREW’s Most Corrupt Report,” Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, 2011
Full report: http://www.citizensforethics.org/page/-/PDFs/Reports/Most%20Corrupt%20Reports/Berkley%2C%20Shelley.pdf?nocdn=1
See also: Press release, “Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV) Earns Dishonorable Mention in CREW’s Annual Most Corrupt Report,” Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, September 19, 2011)
2) Claim: “Berkley pushed legislation and twisted the arms of federal regulators, advocating policies for financial gain…”
Documentation: “Ms. Berkley’s actions were among a series over the last five years in which she pushed legislation or twisted the arms of federal regulators to pursue an agenda that is aligned with the business interests of her husband, Dr. Larry Lehrner.”
Citation: Eric Lipton, “A Congresswoman’s Cause Is Often Her Husband’s Gain,” New York Times, September 5, 2011
3) Claim: “saving her husband’s industry millions…an estimated $250 million annually …”
Documentation: “This year, after Medicaid threatened to cut 3.1 percent of the money for dialysis — to save an estimated $250 million annually — Ms. Berkley led an effort in the House to oppose the cut. Less than a month later, the agency reversed its position, winning Ms. Berkley a personal thanks from industry leaders in press releases and new campaign donations.”
Citation: Eric Lipton, “A Congresswoman’s Cause Is Often Her Husband’s Gain,” New York Times, September 5, 2011
4) Claim: “Shelley Berkley took care of herself, and she got caught.”
Documentation: “This is a very serious conflict of interest,” said James A. Thurber, a former Congressional aide who has helped revise ethics rules and is now director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University. “There is an official use of power here to help him and the family — and I think that is unethical.”
Citation: Eric Lipton, “A Congresswoman’s Cause Is Often Her Husband’s Gain,” New York Times, September 5, 2011
5) Claim: Berkley: “We deserve better”
Citation: “Congresswoman Shelley Berkley Extended,” YouTube, Aug. 8, 2011
Ø On Monday, June 9, 2012, the House Ethics Committee announced plans to establish a subcommittee to continue its investigation into Shelley Berkley’s behavior. (Press Release, “Statement of the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Committee on Ethics Regarding Representative Shelley Berkley,” July 9, 2012)
News of Shelley Berkley’s questionable ethics resonated in Nevada news outlets.
Ø “But what we did not know for certain until Eric Lipton’s devastating and probing piece is just how committed the congresswoman has been to her husband’s cause…CREW’s chief, Melanie Sloan, told me Berkley should have ‘stayed out of it.’” (Jon Ralston, “The Times’ piece spells trouble for Berkley,” Las Vegas Sun September 7, 2011)
Ø “In Las Vegas, it has been no secret that Rep. Shelley Berkley — our richest representative — is worth millions because of her husband’s dialysis practice. But an article in today’s New York Times suggests Berkley has benefitted by using Congressional influence to subsidize kidney treatments. (Karoun Demirjian, Rep. Shelley Berkley facing questions about legislation that benefitted husband’s practice, Las Vegas Sun, September 6, 2011)
Complete documents available:
New York Times: A Congresswoman’s Cause Is Often Her Husband’s Gain
CREW (Entry page): “CREW’s Most Corrupt Report,” Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, 2011
CREW (Full Report): DISHONORABLE MENTION: REPRESENTATIVE SHELLEY BERKLEY
CREW (Press Release): Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV) Earns Dishonorable Mention in CREW’s Annual Most Corrupt Report
Las Vegas Sun: The Times’ piece spells trouble for Berkley
Las Vegas Sun: Rep. Shelley Berkley facing questions about legislation that benefitted husband’s practice
New York Times
September 5, 2011
A Congresswoman’s Cause Is Often Her Husband’s Gain
By ERIC LIPTON
LAS VEGAS — At the University Medical Center here, alarms were set off three years ago — kidney transplants were failing at unusually high rates, and some patients were even dying.
Federal regulators moved to shut down the kidney transplant program, but the proposed penalty brought a rebuke from Representative Shelley Berkley, Democrat of Nevada, who helped lead a successful effort to get the officials from Washington to back down.
In pleading for a reprieve, Ms. Berkley and other members of Nevada’s Congressional delegation said they were acting on behalf of the state’s families, citing dire health consequences if the program was halted. But the congresswoman’s efforts also benefited her husband, a physician whose nephrology practice directs medical services at the hospital’s kidney care department — an arrangement that expanded after her intervention and is now reflected in a $738,000-a-year contract with the hospital.
Ms. Berkley’s actions were among a series over the last five years in which she pushed legislation or twisted the arms of federal regulators to pursue an agenda that is aligned with the business interests of her husband, Dr. Larry Lehrner. In addition to the hospital contract, he operates a dozen dialysis centers in Nevada and has played a central role in an industry campaign to lobby members of Congress — including his wife — on behalf of kidney care providers.
Dr. Lehrner helped build a political action committee that has regularly turned to Ms. Berkley to champion its causes. She has co-sponsored at least five House bills that would expand federal reimbursements or other assistance for kidney care, written letters to regulators to block enforcing rules or ease the flow of money to kidney care centers and appeared regularly at fund-raising events sponsored by a professional organization her husband has helped run.
“This is a very serious conflict of interest,” said James A. Thurber, a former Congressional aide who has helped revise ethics rules and is now director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University. “There is an official use of power here to help him and the family — and I think that is unethical.”
Ms. Berkley declined an interview request for this article. But in a statement, she said she was an advocate for a broad range of health care causes and had never acted specifically to help her husband’s practice.
“I won’t stop fighting to give Nevadans access to affordable health care just because my husband is a doctor, just like I won’t stop standing up for veterans because my father served in World War II,” she said.
Dr. Lehrner, though, said he was unabashed about pressing his wife on issues that were important to his practice.
“She is definitely aware of my positions, and the R.P.A.’s positions,” he said in an interview, referring to the Renal Physicians Association, the trade group he has helped run. “We talk politics all the time. We talk medicine.”
Congressional ethics rules are murky — lawmakers can take steps that financially benefit a spouse as long as the benefit is broadly available and there is no “improper exercise of official influence.” Lobbying of lawmakers by their spouses is prohibited, but there is no ban on spouses’ informally acting as industry advocates, like Dr. Lehrner, who is not a registered lobbyist.
The intermingling of Ms. Berkley’s public and private life, though, is striking even among her peers on Capitol Hill, and surfaced in an examination by The New York Times of how lawmakers forge particularly close ties to industries with an agenda in Washington.
As Ms. Berkley has pushed the cause of kidney care in Congress, her husband’s practice has boomed, thanks in part to his joint ownership of dialysis centers with DaVita, a giant in the industry and one of Ms. Berkley’s biggest campaign contributors. She is one of the richest members of Congress, as she or her husband hold assets valued from $7 million to $23 million, according to her most recent financial disclosure forms.
Now running for the Senate seat held by John Ensign until his resignation this spring amid an ethics scandal, Ms. Berkley drives around Nevada in a white Ford Fusion (“United States Congresswoman 1” reads her license plate, referring to her Congressional district).
She often talks about her modest upbringing, in which she ate at Taco Bell while scraping by as a cocktail waitress at a casino resort hotel here. She also frequently mentions her husband’s work — she delivered a “certificate of Congressional recognition” at the ribbon cutting of his latest dialysis center last year — and cites his experiences as evidence for why Congress must act to change federal laws or policy.
“I’m sure he didn’t think in medical school that in his 60s he still would be taking calls on the weekends, but that’s the reality of the situation when you don’t have enough nephrologists to care for the population that you’re living in,” Ms. Berkley said at a House hearing in 2009, at which she pushed for higher federal reimbursements for medical specialists like her husband.
Concerns About Care
Shawn Rowlett, 40, showed up at the University Medical Center with his wife, pale and weak, four days after he had been discharged from the hospital’s transplant center with a new kidney in February 2008. But now he was hemorrhaging, medical records show.
After seeing the hospital’s chief transplant surgeon, Mr. Rowlett was left in the emergency room for five hours before being admitted, according to his wife, Dionne Rowlett. He died less than two hours later, court records show.
“The care was just horrible,” Ms. Rowlett said in a recent interview, shortly after the hospital settled a malpractice suit for $77,500 — the maximum amount allowed in Nevada because of a cap on malpractice payments from public hospitals. (Dr. Lehrner and his practice were not named in the lawsuit.)
Mr. Rowlett’s death and four recent others in the first year after the surgery, as well as 10 transplant failures, were part of a troubling pattern — the death and failure rates were more than twice the expected level. That led the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to issue an order to revoke the certification for the hospital’s transplant program — which does about 50 transplants a year — and cut off Medicare financing, effectively shutting the program down.
Brian G. Brannman, the medical center’s chief executive, acknowledged that the program was in disarray back then. In a recent interview, he said the hospital was mostly to blame, as its lone transplant surgeon had not been provided with a sufficient support system. Federal regulators also questioned the qualifications of the physician whom Dr. Lehrner and his partners had assigned to help screen transplant patients, leading the hospital to acknowledge in writing that he “was not formally trained in transplantation.”
Desperate for a second chance, hospital officials appealed to members of the Nevada Congressional delegation. Ms. Berkley sent a letter, signed by two other lawmakers, warning that cutting off money would “jeopardize the health of hundreds” of constituents. She and the other lawmakers helped set up a series of conference calls between hospital and Medicare officials.
Soon after, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, for the first time, agreed to override provisions that would have required decertifying the program. In exchange, the hospital promised to remedy the problems.
“I spoke to the head of C.M.S. yesterday,” Ms. Berkley told local television reporters in announcing the breakthrough. “When I got off the phone, I had a good-faith belief that we were going to come up with a compromise that works for everybody.”
Kerry Weems, then the agency’s acting administrator, said he recalled speaking with Ms. Berkley and Jon Porter, then a Republican House member from Nevada, about the program. Mr. Weems could not recall if Ms. Berkley mentioned her husband’s ties to the hospital. But he said he would have approved the agreement anyway.
“You want to find a way to ‘yes’ — not based on any individual stake that a Congress person might have,” said Mr. Weems, who recently left the agency. “But this really was the only transplant center in Nevada.”
Part of the deal involved significantly expanding the staff of kidney specialists. The hospital turned to Ms. Berkley’s husband to recruit two transplant nephrologists, who, Mr. Brannman said, work more directly with the hospital’s new transplant surgeon.
Mr. Brannman said the selection of Dr. Lehrner’s practice — it was the sole bidder for the contract renewed in December 2010, which increased annual fees by 25 percent — had nothing to do with Ms. Berkley, whom he said he did not know well. The various staffing changes have significantly improved the transplant program’s performance in recent years, according to Mr. Brannman and federal officials.
Jessica Mackler, Ms. Berkley’s campaign manager, said the congresswoman had no conflict of interest when she intervened, because the money the hospital uses to pay her husband does not directly come from the federal government, and other members of the state’s Congressional delegation were involved in the effort to save the transplant program.
“There really is no issue here,” Ms. Mackler said.
But Mr. Reems, the former Medicare official, is not so sure, given Ms. Berkley’s record of interventions on kidney care issues.
“You never want questions being raised,” he said, “and that means you need to try to avoid any move that makes you seem anything less than an impartial public servant.”
At the annual conference of the Renal Physicians Association in Austin, Tex., in 2008, Dr. Lehrner showed a slide of a smiley-faced doctor with a screw being forced into his mouth, and then ticked off a list of steps the group could take to fight cost control efforts in Washington.
“We have been screwed by our policy makers for 20 years,” he told the crowd. “Only you can prevent the destruction of our profession.”
The doctors, he said, could donate money directly to members of Congress, volunteer on their campaigns, contribute to the political action committee that he had helped build at the Renal Physicians Association and travel to Washington to personally appeal to lawmakers, as he himself does.
Dr. Lehrner added one more option to the list. “Marry an elected official,” he said, evoking laughter.
He may have been joking, but Ms. Berkley, 60, who was first elected in 1998 — a year before she and Dr. Lehrner married — has been largely sympathetic to the doctors’ cause.
The Medicare system spends an estimated $27 billion a year, or about 6 percent of overall Medicare spending, to help some of the approximately 550,000 Americans who have so-called end-stage kidney disease. It is the only chronic disease in which the most severely ill patients get nearly free care, regardless of age.
But Congress and federal regulators, alarmed over the surging costs, have sought to control spending in recent years, provoking protests from Dr. Lehrner and the physicians’ association, as well as the drug companies and dialysis operators that dominate the industry.
When Dr. Lehrner assumed a series of leadership roles at the renal physicians group, Ms. Berkley’s agenda in Washington started to overlap with her husband’s. He became the single biggest contributor to the association’s political action committee, while also serving as its chairman. And she has received the largest share of its contributions, totaling $7,000 since 2007. Over all, kidney care doctors, companies and lobbyists have donated at least $140,000 to Ms. Berkley’s Congressional campaigns.
Dr. Lehrner’s flourishing practice now includes 21 doctors who work out of seven offices in the Las Vegas area, as well as 11 dialysis centers, 10 of them run in a joint venture, started in 2003, with DaVita. He is a paid national speaker for and has received research grants from Amgen, a major supplier of drugs to dialysis centers.
The activities of these interest groups are closely aligned at times.
In early February 2008, for example, Ms. Berkley received a series of campaign contributions, first $1,000 from Amgen, then $2,000 from Kidney Care Partners, a trade group backed by Amgen and DaVita, then $3,000 from DaVita, and then $1,000 from Dr. Lehrner’s group, the Renal Physicians.
The day that two of those checks were delivered, Ms. Berkley sent a letter to Representative Pete Stark, Democrat of California, then chairman of the House Ways and Means subcommittee with jurisdiction over Medicare, warning him to move carefully in considering changes in compensating doctors who provided dialysis treatments. Echoing concerns raised by the industry, the congresswoman said she worried that patient access to care could be affected.
“While I support initiatives to improve quality and efficiency in Medicare, I do not believe that these efficiencies should come at the cost of patient well being,” Ms. Berkley wrote, without mentioning her husband’s interest in the matter.
Regulators moved ahead with the new reimbursement system, although it was adjusted in a way that the dialysis and drug companies ultimately embraced. This year, after Medicaid threatened to cut 3.1 percent of the money for dialysis — to save an estimated $250 million annually — Ms. Berkley led an effort in the House to oppose the cut.
Less than a month later, the agency reversed its position, winning Ms. Berkley a personal thanks from industry leaders in press releases and new campaign donations.
“She is highly knowledgeable about this complicated and critical area of health care that impacts millions of Americans,” Skip Thurman, a DaVita spokesman said in a written statement, of the company’s donations — which have accelerated as Ms. Berkley runs for the Senate. “The kidney community’s support of her is entirely appropriate.”
CREW’s Most Corrupt Report
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington
Shelley Berkley (D-NV) Dishonorable Mention
The line between political cause and personal financial gain is fuzzy for Rep. Shelley Berkley.
The congresswoman vocally advocates for Washington policies that financially benefit her kidney surgeon husband. In turn, she has become a major recipient of campaign donations from those in the kidney care industry.
Rep. Berkley is a seven-term member of Congress, representing Nevada’s 1st congressional district.
CREW: Full Report
DISHONORABLE MENTION: REPRESENTATIVE SHELLEY BERKLEY
Full report attached to this email and available here.
CREW: Press Release
Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV) Earns Dishonorable Mention in CREW’s Annual Most Corrupt Report
September 19, 2011
Washington, D.C. –The line between political cause and personal financial gain is fuzzy for Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV). The congresswoman vocally advocates for Washington policies that financially benefit her kidney surgeon husband. In turn, she has become a major recipient of campaign donations from those in the kidney care industry. It’s no wonder Rep. Shelly Berkley has earned a dishonorable mention in Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington’s (CREW) annual Most Corrupt Members of Congress Report. Click here to read the full report on Rep. Berkley.
“While it is understandable why a Nevada congresswoman would fight to save the only transplant center in the state, Rep. Berkley should have been clear about her husband’s position at the hospital,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan.
Rep. Berkley is married to Dr. Larry Lehrner, a surgeon and a prominent voice within the Renal Physicians Association, an industry trade group. In 2008, federal officials were set to shut down kidney transplant operations at Universal Medical Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, after a string of failed kidney transplants and patient deaths. Rep. Berkley led a successful charge to keep the center – where her husband directs the kidney care department – open. Thanks to her efforts, her husband’s practice now enjoys a $738,000 per year federal contract.
A New York Times exposé revealed Rep. Berkley has co-sponsored at least five House bills to expand federal support for kidney care. She also wrote a letter to Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA), then-chairman of the House Ways and Means subcommittee with jurisdiction over Medicare, to dissuade him from changing compensation for doctors providing dialysis, neglecting to mention her husband’s interests. Dr. Lehrner, for his part, has openly joked “Marry[ing] and elected official” has been a boon to his practice.
“House conflict-of-interest rules warn members to avoid taking action on any matter that may affect their financial interests. Rep. Berkley’s advocacy for kidney doctors crosses this line.”
This is the 7th edition of the CREW’S Most Corrupt Report, an annual look at a bipartisan collection of Washington’s worst. This year’s list includes seven Democrats, and 12 Republicans. Five are repeat offenders. Since 2005, CREW has named 70 members of Congress to the list, 32 of whom are no longer in office.
Las Vegas Sun
The Times’ piece spells trouble for Berkley
Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011
There are always three barometers of any story damaging to a political figure: The substance of the piece, the ensuing damage control effort (which either ameliorates or exacerbates) and the political fallout.
What we know for certain is that Rep. Shelley Berkley knew this week’s New York Times investigative piece detailing her advocacy on issues involving her husband would not exactly enhance her chances of winning a U.S. Senate seat. What we also know for certain is that Berkley has never hidden the influence her husband, Dr. Larry Lehrner, has on her positions on health care — she mentions his strong views all the time. But what we did not know for certain until Eric Lipton’s devastating and probing piece is just how committed the congresswoman has been to her husband’s cause — or as the Times headline put it, “A Congresswoman’s Cause Is Often Her Husband’s Gain.”
(The piece is here.)
It might be easier to start with what this story is not about: Whether Berkley or the rest of the delegation should have intervened to try to save University Medical Center’s kidney transplant program. Of course they should have. (This is an issue near and dear to my heart, having had a kidney transplant and having wonderful care the last quarter-century — knocking on wood — from one of Lehrner’s partners, Dr. Marvin Bernstein.)
When Berkley and others, including her opponent, then-Rep. Dean Heller, intervened, it was to save a troubled program and when her husband bid on the contract to beef up the transplant department, he was, as the Times reported, the only bidder.
Should Berkley have let Heller or then-Rep. Jon Porter take the lead in trying to save the program, and even stayed out of it? Maybe. But then is she not doing her job?
The other part of Lipton’s story focuses on Lehrner’s political advocacy and his often-flip references to his marriage to Berkley — indeed, the couple’s public references, joking may they be, to their symbiosis has only made this worse.
This paragraph, too, showed perhaps too much symbiosis:
“When Dr. Lehrer assumed a series of leadership roles at the renal physicians group, Ms. Berkley’s agenda in Washington started to overlap with her husband’s. He became the single biggest contributor to the association’s political action committee, while also serving as its chairman. And she has received the largest share of its contributions, totaling $7,000 since 2007. Over all, kidney care doctors, companies and lobbyists have donated at least $140,000 to Ms. Berkley’s congressional campaigns.”
And then there was the propinquity with campaign contributions from the renal physicians PAC and a letter Berkley sent to Pete Stark, her Democratic colleague then chairing a key Ways and Means subcommittee. In the missive, she questioned “an untested bundled payment system” for dialysis patients — arguably one that could affect patient access but also her husband’s (and thus her) bottom line. And earlier this year, she wrote to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services boss Donald Berwick, a missive that could be interpreted as trying to preserve care for patients but also one that could benefit her husband’s practice.
Protecting patients and helping her husband’s business. How does she do one without doing the other? Good question.
But that’s where the damage control comes in — or didn’t.
“I won’t stop fighting to give Nevadans access to affordable health care just because my husband is a doctor, just like I won’t stop standing up for veterans because my father served in World War II,” Berkley said in a statement.
What? Is this a parody? Equating her husband’s business that benefited from her legislation with her father being a war veteran? You must be joking.
Team Berkley also responded with a catalog of articles that it said made the case that the Times “ignored crucial facts in order to drive a misleading narrative about Congresswoman Shelley Berkley’s efforts to improve care for sick patients in Nevada.”
That is, that Berkley was only one member of an activist delegation trying to help UMC and that she was cleared by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. (The latter was quickly debunked when CREW’s chief, Melanie Sloan, told me Berkley should have “stayed out of it.”
I was also astounded that the ever-voluble Berkley refused to comment to the Times while her husband did, perhaps not helping the cause with his flippant quotes. It doesn’t matter if she is being unfairly maligned, as she argues. If so, her argument for silence is that the Times was out to get her. Really?
Berkley can garner testimonials from everyone in sight — Harry Reid says he still supports her! But the ads here write themselves, and we will find out next year if the congresswoman’s husband’s gain is actually her loss come November 2012.
Las Vegas Sun
Rep. Shelley Berkley facing questions about legislation that benefitted husband’s practice
By Karoun Demirjian (contact)
Published Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011 | 7:08 a.m.
In Las Vegas, it has been no secret that Rep. Shelley Berkley — our richest representative — is worth millions because of her husband’s dialysis practice.
But an article in today’s New York Times suggests Berkley has benefitted by using Congressional influence to subsidize kidney treatments.
It’s a charge that’s bound to echo over the next year on the campaign trail, where the Nevada Democrat will likely face Republican Sen. Dean Heller in a race to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated earlier this year by John Ensign.
Berkley has been a vocal advocate for funding dialysis treatments, sponsoring at least five bills in the House to expand federal reimbursement rates for kidney care, according to the Times article. She lumps those efforts in with her efforts to cover osteoporosis and heart disease: something she says she has to do to serve the fastest-growing senior population in the country.
But it’s a fact that her husband, Dr. Larry Lehrner, has the only kidney transplant contract in the state: a deal with the University Medical Center worth $738,000 a year.
It’s a potentially significant conflict of interest, even if Berkley and Lehrner are operating in a gray area between the letter and the spirit of lobbying law. Spouses of members of Congress cannot be lobbyists, but there’s no prohibition against privately influential discussions.
As Lehrner, whom the Times article says helped set up a political action committee to lobby for federal support of renal care, jokingly put it in 2008: if you want to influence Washington, “marry an elected official.”
But Berkley’s more likely to see fallout from this charge on the campaign trail than in an ethics committee room.
Accusations of nepotism won’t help Berkley as she campaigns on a platform of health and elder care — Berkley has said that she plans to make Medicare and Social Security the pillars of her campaign. And Heller has accused her of lying about Republicans’ intentions when it comes to changing those programs, and taking a spendthrift vote in support of the health care bill.
“I’m a little bit mixed on it,” Melanie Sloan, the head of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington told Las Vegas Sun columnist Jon Ralston this morning. “This is a clear appearance problem and she shouldn’t have done it.”
But Sloan stopped short of calling Berkley’s actions entirely unethical.
While she clearly used her influence as a congresswoman to campaign for her husband’s industry, it doesn’t look like she extended that influence to campaign directly for her husband. Lehrner simply doesn’t have that much competition in Nevada: in his most recent contract with UMC, Lehrner submitted the only bid.
In a statement released Tuesday morning, Berkley’s Senate campaign responded to the New York Times story, saying it would have been a conflict of interest and disservice to her constituents not to campaign for increased attention to kidney diseases just because her husband is a kidney doctor.
“While the New York Times may not care about the healthcare needs of my fellow Nevadans, I do,” she said in the statement. “I will never stop fighting on behalf of my constituents just because my husband is a doctor — as I won’t stop standing up for veterans because my father served in World War II.”