Monthly Archives: November 2015

The official blog of Team Bilirakis. Featuring the latest news and updates from the campaign trail. Check back frequently or sign up for updates.

ICYMI: “National Defense Authorization Act Allows Sale of US Weapons to Cyprus”

Photo: Greek News

President Obama signed the bill. Congressmen Cicilline & Bilirakis and Senator Menendez played crucial role. HALC’s Zemenides applauds the measure.

Washington, By Apostolos Zoupaniotis

US President Barack Obama signed on Wednesday the US National Defense Authorization Act, which includes an amendment allowing under certain conditions the sale of US defensive weapons to the Republic of Cyprus.

The new defense bill also includes language co-sponsored by Congressmen David Cicilline and Gus Bilirakis that requires the Secretaries of Defense and State to submit a report to Congress assessing the impact of the embargo on Cyprus’ national security and counterterrorism efforts.

The embargo, which dates back to 1992, bans the export of defensive weapons to the Republic of Cyprus. It fails to reflect the relationship Cyprus and the United States have today as allies and strategic partners in the Global War on Terror.

Bilirakis, Cicilline and Senator Robert Menendez tabled amendments in the House of Representatives and the Senate pointing out that the embargo is an anachronism which does not reflect the current upgraded relationships between Cyprus and the US, which are allies and strategic partners.

Reliable sources have told CNA that following the joint maritime search and rescue exercises between the USA and Cyprus, the US offered to strengthen Cyprus` port police with open sea vessels.

The Hellenic American Leadership Council’s (HALC) Executive Director Endy Zemenides applauded the inclusion of the Cyprus amendment, noting that “this is an important step in the growing strategic partnership between Cyprus and the United States. The reevaluation of the arms embargo required by this act will hopefully rectify the absurd status quo in which Turkey is allowed to occupy Cyprus with American arms but Cyprus has to look elsewhere to buy defensive weapons. Resolving this will allow Cyprus to step up even further as a front line state in the Western security infrastructure.”


Nicosia has welcomed Washington`s decision to allow the sale of US defensive weapons to the Republic of Cyprus.

“This is a particularly important decision by the US Congress,” Government Spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said in statements to the press, on the sidelines of the Commonwealth summit in Malta, pointing out that it proves in deeds the importance the US attach to Cyprus` geostrategic role, especially in such a volatile region as the Eastern Mediterranean.

Invited to comment on the decision, he said “the government will handle this issue carefully and it is expected to be discussed at a meeting in Nicosia between the Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides and his American counterpart, during his forthcoming visit this coming week.”

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Bilirakis Statement Regarding the Recent Terrorist Attacks

Palm Harbor, FL – “My prayers go out to the people of France who suffered despicable acts of terror perpetrated by unfathomable evil. It is a reminder that our fight against terrorism continues. As we in Congress continue our efforts to ensure security for our citizens, the administration must take immediate action to halt the admission of Syrian and Iraqi refugees into our nation. Government agencies must guarantee that our vetting and monitoring mechanisms can, without fail, identify individuals who pose a security threat. As these threats continue to adapt and advance, so must our strategy to address them. The security of our nation is a top priority and I will do what it takes to keep Americans safe.”


ICYMI: “Gus Bilirakis Pushes for VA, Defense to Reform Handling Opioid Medicines”


By: Kevin Derby

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., the vice chairman of the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee, brought out a bill on Wednesday to update the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) and the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DOD) use of opioid medicines.

Bilirakis introduced the Promoting Responsible Opioid Management and Incorporating Scientific Expertise Act (PROMISE Act) on Wednesday. The bill makes the VA and DOD update their guidelines for prescribing opioids.  The proposal also increases transparency and makes the VA share more information with state licensing boards.

“The tragic death of Marine Corp. Veteran Jason Simcakoski in the Tomah, Wisconsin VA Medical Facility prompted the need for congressional action,” Bilirakis said. “This August, nearly one year from Jason’s death, the Office of Inspector General released a report that concluded Jason’s cause of death was due to mixed drug toxicity and the combination of various medications was the plausible mechanism of action for a fatal outcome. In light of this unfortunate and possibly avoidable tragedy, I am proud to introduce the PROMISE Act. This legislation will further my efforts to help our veterans receive the quality care they have earned. My PROMISE Act will provide our veterans safer, more personalized care to deal with the physical and mental wounds they are facing and will help improve efficiency at the VA.”

Bilirakis also rolled over content from his “Creating Options for Veterans’ Expedited Recovery (COVER) Act” which added more  alternative therapies in VA care.

“While it is vital that veterans receive the care they need, it is equally important to recognize that one size does not fit all when discussing treatments for veterans,” Bilirakis said last November when he testified on the bill’s behalf. “The invisible wounds they sustain serving our country are just as serious as physical ones. While many veterans may thrive under traditional plans and medical care, some may not be as responsive. We need to provide veterans with choices and easy access to alternative forms of therapies that work best for them. The COVER Act will ascertain the viability of alternative treatments, providing a pathway forward that will eventually allow veterans to have a range of options for mental health treatments. such as outdoor sports therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, accelerated resolution therapy, and service dog therapy.”

Bilirakis reeled in 15 co-sponsors for the PROMISE Act including U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, R-Wisc., and, from the Florida delegation, Republican U.S. Reps. John Mica and Dennis Ross and Democratic U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel.

“We must make sure no other veterans and their families have to go through what the Simcakoski family and others have had to,” Kind said in support of Bilirakis’ bill. “One of the best ways to do this is to give veteran patients and their families a real role in VA oversight and to provide health care professionals better training on the negative effects of prescription painkillers. This legislation uses some of the lessons learned from problems at Tomah to help the VA provide better care for veterans nationwide. I appreciate Congressman Bilirakis’s help in ensuring our veterans get the care they have earned and deserve.”

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