HHS eventually gets it right; Social Security should follow

The article “Long-term care may strain government finances” (July 24) mentioned millions of uninsured Americans who have received little attention from the Bush administration during the growing debate over SCHIP reauthorization.

Many Americans lack adequate public or private coverage for catastrophic long-term care (LTC) expenses. Worse yet, many of these families mistakenly assume Medicare will pay for LTC services, while it generally does not.

The Government Accountability Office identifies this confusion as a threat to our nation’s retirement security and urges government agencies to raise baby boomers’ awareness about their need for and lack of adequate coverage.

Despite funding from Congress for LTC education activities, the Bush administration has taken a passive approach to promoting health care transparency in this area.

HHS bureaucrats decided not to inform 90 percent of households contacted through their LTC-awareness direct mail campaign that “Medicare does not generally cover most long term care services that are needed.” To his credit, HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt recently assured Congress that HHS would begin to include this type of language in future mailings.

Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue should follow his lead and add similar language to Social Security statements that reach more than 143 million Americans annually. As written, the list of Medicare-covered services only adds confusion.

By increasing transparency within the Social Security statement, Commissioner Astrue will enable Americans to make informed retirement decisions and permit families to have greater independence, choice and control over the services they need in the setting they prefer.

~From Rep. Charles Boustany Jr., M.D. (R-La.), Washington


Armey right to push for empowering Iran foes

On behalf of the Iranian-American community in Southern California I would like to thank Dick Armey for his vision and his opinion regarding how to deal with Iran and empowering the Iranian democratic opposition, MEK (op-ed, “Empowering the democratic opposition in Iran,” July 24.).

Today it is very clear that fundamentalist rulers in Iran are the major threat to the world peace and security by pursuing atomic bomb and supporting terrorism all over the globe, especially in Iraq and Lebanon.

The major mistake made by the U.S. regarding Iran was to place Iran’s main opposition group MEK on U.S. the list of foreign terrorist organizations (FTO).

Placing MEK on the list was a wrong political decision that gave mullahs in Iran the OK to suppress Iranian opposition even more.

MEK believes in a tolerant and democratic Islam. They believe in a secular republic in which no religion will get special treatment. …

So, what should be done?

Option 1: Appeasement or so-called dialogue with Iran. Appeasing a religious dictatorship in Iran resulted in Ahmadinejad’s presidency and failed miserably, and gives them time to build a nuclear weapon.

Option 2: Attacking Iran. Foreign war is not a viable option and is very costly in human lives, and we have the Iraq experience.

Option 3: Support democratic change by Iranian people and their organized resistance.

The third option is most viable and least costly, and Iranian people have faith in it.

Removing the MEK from the FTO list is a perquisite to change in Iran.

~From Nasser Sharif, president, Southern California Society for Democracy in Iran, Long Beach, Calif.



Gas, oil pipeline security is critically important

I read your article regarding the Center for Instrumented Critical Infrastructure, a subsidiary of Concurrent Technologies Corporation, and I am compelled to correct the misinformation presented about the project (“Department of Energy disputes Rep. Murtha’s claims on earmark request,” July 19).

The critical importance of protecting and securing national gas and oil infrastructure is of utmost concern to our nation’s security and the quality of life for all Americans, as was documented in a 2002 report, “Making the Nation Safer,” by The National Academies.

Further, the Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory detailed five high-priority needs, two of which are directly addressed by this project. The vast network of U.S. pipelines poses great technical challenges for monitoring and protecting against potential disasters.

The American Gas Foundation and the InterState Natural Gas Association of America have raised concerns about the impact of a downward trend in research and development (R&D) funding in pipeline security and protection. They have expressed concern regarding our nation’s ability to meet the priority needs of both industry and government in ensuring infrastructure safety.

The project will use the funding to develop a network of sensors to provide the necessary warning, protection, coordination and response measures to thwart or mitigate natural and human threats.

In developing the project, CTC has worked closely with the National Energy Technology Laboratory and Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for Sensed Critical Infrastructure Research to ensure that the project’s activities will fill a critical need in protecting our nation’s energy infrastructure.

~Daniel R. DeVos, president and CEO, Concurrent Technologies Corporation, Johnstown, Pa.