Our men and women in uniform have sacrificed dearly to pay freedom’s price and ensure our way of life. The soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who serve our country are emblematic of bravery, courage, and the American spirit.
Suzanne and I join with millions of hardworking Americans in expressing our sincere thanks to active-duty military, veterans, and their families. North Carolina is home to almost 800,000 veterans, many of whom live here in our community.
One of my greatest privileges in serving as a United States congressman is serving our veterans and working to ensure access to the benefits they were promised and deserve. As part of that commitment, one of my very first moves when elected to Congress was to hire the most experienced veterans specialist available, who on average is assisting 500 local veterans navigate red tape at the VA.
Unfortunately, brave veterans and my team too often have to fight through a bureaucratic maze involving dozens of forms, requests, waivers, and frustration. To simplify the process, this week I helped pass the bipartisan WINGMAN Act (H.R. 512), which I’ve supported since it was originally introduced in 2016.
This legislation would allow a veteran who files a claim for benefits to permit a certified Congressional staff member to have read-only access to the veteran’s files at the VA. Certified congressional staff members already have permission to possess these files, but this bill eliminates the bureaucratic step of using the VA as a middle-man and makes it easier for my staff to assist veterans with their requests.
This week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed two additional bills to encourage job creation for veterans. The HIRE Vets Medallion Program Act (H.R. 244), which I helped pass with overwhelming bipartisan support, will establish a HIRE Vets Medallion Program to properly recognize those who recruit, employ, and train veterans, as well as provide community and charitable services supporting the veteran community.
The Boosting Rates of American Veteran Employment Act (BRAVE Act – H.R. 974), which also passed with bipartisan support, will allow the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to give preference to organizations which employ veterans on a full-time basis when awarding government contracts. Any organization caught misrepresenting the number of veterans they employ would be forbidden from contracting with the VA for at least five years.
These three bills won’t solve all of the problems at the VA, which for too long has suffered from a lack of accountability. Nor will they solve every issue veterans face when reentering the workforce. However, these bills do represent progress. There is much more work to do, and as your Member of Congress, I am committed to continue fighting for better outcomes for our veterans. If you are a local veteran who needs assistance with red tape or other problems at the VA, please don’t hesitate to contact my office at 704-362-1060. We would be honored to serve you.
Do you want your voice heard?
As your representative in Washington, I work hard to hear from as many constituents as possible. Next week, I’m hosting a live, interactive, telephone town hall meeting. This way, constituents from Charlotte to Fayetteville can participate without having to drive long distances, hire a babysitter, or get off work early. You’ll have the opportunity to directly ask me questions or share your thoughts on current issues, and hear from lots of our neighbors as well.
The telephone town hall is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 23,, starting at 6:30 p.m. If you’d like to participate or listen in, please sign-up at Pittenger.House.gov/townhall to receive a phone call at the start of our meeting. Feel free to share this with your friends! If you can’t join me, you are always welcome to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. My team and I receive, read, and respond to hundreds of e-mails and letters each week, so you can be sure your voice will be heard.
Congressman Robert Pittenger (NC-09) is Chairman of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, Vice Chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance, and serves on the House Financial Services Committee, with a special focus on supporting small businesses, community banks, and credit unions.