FAYETTEVILLE – Congressman Robert Pittenger (NC-09) today joined Congressman Richard Hudson (NC-08) for a House Veterans’ Affairs Committee field hearing in Fayetteville. A key witness was North Carolina’s Sarah Verardo, Executive Director of The Independence Fund, a national non-profit serving wounded veterans and their caregivers. Mrs. Verardo’s husband, Sgt. Michael Verardo, lost his left leg and left arm to an Improvised Explosive Device in Afghanistan.
Sarah Verardo explained that it took the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) 18 days to approve repairs to her husband’s wheelchair, but only 12 hours for the vendor to respond. “Why can’t I go direct to the vendor?” asked Mrs. Verardo.
As part of his ongoing efforts to restore accountability at the VA, Congressman Pittenger asked VA Mid-Atlantic Health Care Network Director DeAnne Seekins if Congress had given her the necessary authority to fire, demote, or suspend incompetent employees. Last year, Congressman Pittenger co-sponsored and helped pass legislation making it easier to fire incompetent VA employees, better protect whistleblowers, and streamline the process of hiring new VA management.
Director Seekins explained the process was better, but some tweaks might be necessary to prevent misuse of the whistleblower provisions.
Congressman Pittenger offered this reaction following the hearing: “My staff is currently managing 500 active cases for local veterans. We typically receive 5 to 7 new calls for assistance each day. Stories like we heard from Sarah Verardo are frustrating and heartbreaking. Our veterans shouldn’t have to call their Member of Congress to get the VA benefits they earned. We have passed legislation to increase accountability at the VA, and I am committed to working with President Trump on additional reforms, because clearly there is more work to be done.”
Congressman Pittenger and Congressman Hudson were joined at the field hearing by House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Dr. Phil Roe (TN-01) and Committee Member Dr. Neal Dunn (FL-02).