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PUTTING OUR VETERANS FIRST

Congressman Robert PittengerIf you go to the movies this summer, there’s a good chance you’ll be watching one of many superheroes. America loves a superhero- someone who embodies the best traits of the American spirit and is willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good.

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of addressing a superheroes convention: the 117th Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention. These men and women are America’s true superheroes, brave patriots who risked their lives in defense of our freedom and way of life.

These men and women deserve our thanks. Thanks for giving up time with their families to be overseas. Thanks for putting themselves in harm’s way to defend freedom. Thanks for believing in the creed of a country enough to fight for it.

But America owes these men and women more than just thanks. America owes them a debt we truly cannot repay. As a nation, we have the privilege of expressing our gratitude by providing veterans with appropriate care and benefits.

However, too often the quality of service our veterans receive from the Veterans Administration does not express that gratitude.

Just here in our district, my veteran’s director, who is one of the best in the nation, has 500 active cases where he’s working non-stop to help veterans cut through red tape. The evidence doesn’t demonstrate the VA is providing much of a “thank you.”

The problem is a lack of accountability and transparency at the VA. For example, in March, the VA announced that no employee would be seriously disciplined for a one billion dollar mistake in construction costs. One billion taxpayer dollar cost to the taxpayer reflecting the lack of management oversight and accountability.

Our veterans deserve better.

House Republicans believe it’s time for President Obama and his Administration to “inspect for what you expect.” The status quo bureaucracy isn’t getting the job done and thousands of veterans are suffering while they wait for months for help.

Over the past 18 months, Republicans have led in the House voting for 33 separate legislative initiatives to improve care for veterans, including legislation allowing VA employees to be fired for misconduct and legislation allowing bonuses to be revoked for employees who contribute to poor care.

Building upon these 33 bills, I’ve joined my friend Congressman Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, to co-sponsor new legislation to help fix the Veterans Affairs pervasive lack of accountability.

The VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act shortens the firing, demotion, and appeals process; strips senior executives of certain bureaucratic protections; provides new protections for whistleblowers; and reforms the VA’s broken disability benefits appeals process.

To our brave veterans: You served your country honorably. The Department of Veterans Affairs should serve you honorably. Congress expects accountability and transparency from the VA, and we will continue to push until all our veterans are treated with the respect and honor they deserve.

If you’re a veteran and not receiving appropriate care from the VA, please contact my Charlotte office at 704 362 1060.

STAMP OUT PTSD

Last Saturday, VFW Post 5464 was renamed in honor of Garland Denny, a local veteran who dedicated the final years of his life to create a “Stamp Out PTSD” semi-postal stamp. Mr. Denny’s proposal was to provide a special stamp which sold for more than the cost of first-class postage, with the additional amount allocated for PTSD treatment, research, and education.

Mr. Denny had a very good idea to support veterans, but the Post Office again and again told Mr. Denny “no.” Last summer, 55 Members of Congress joined me in writing the Postmaster General asking that Post Office rules be revised to allow consideration of Mr. Denny’s proposal. This spring, in response to our letter, the Post Office formally changed their rules to allow consideration of the Stamp Out PTSD semi-postal stamp. Recently, 120 Members of the House and Senate joined me in an additional letter urging the Postal Service to approve Mr. Denny’s proposal. Veterans Affairs Secretary McDonald has also joined in support of the PTSD stamp. We await a positive response.

Congressman Robert Pittenger (NC-09) is Chairman of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, Vice Chairman of the Financial Services Task Force to Investigate Terrorism Financing, and serves on the House Financial Services Committee, with a special focus on supporting small businesses, community banks, and credit unions.

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