Our veterans deserve better

America is the greatest nation on earth because of the freedoms and liberties afforded to all of our citizens. Yet all too often, we are guilty of taking these freedoms for granted.

Our freedoms and the way of life we enjoy have been purchased and protected by the brave men and women of our Armed Forces.

This past weekend, Suzanne and I joined a grateful nation in honoring and thanking our active duty military, veterans, and their precious families here in North Carolina and across the country.

On this Veterans Day, one veteran in particular was on my mind.

Mr. Garland Denny, a Navy veteran from Union County, spent his retirement advocating on behalf of other veterans. Garland Denny creatively explored ideas to increase funding for veterans services without increasing the tax burden. His efforts culminated in his proposal for a “Stamp Out PTSD” semi-postal stamp.

Mr. Denny spent years fighting to create the special PTSD stamp, but was unable to successfully navigate the government bureaucracy. Upon learning of Mr. Denny’s mission, I joined his team and got to work arranging meetings with the White House, exploring legislative solutions, and leading multiple bipartisan letters from Congress urging the Postal Service to take action.

Sadly, Mr. Denny passed away two years ago. His son, Chuck, is making his father proud by continuing the mission.

Last month, the United States Postal Service supported our efforts and approved Mr. Denny’s “semi-postal” stamp to raise funds and awareness for PTSD, with sales to begin in 2019. A semi-postal stamp sells for more than the cost of first-class postage, with the difference donated to a charitable cause.

Mr. Denny was a true patriot who recognized a need and dedicated his retirement to meeting that need. This was Mr. Denny’s final mission, and I am honored to have been part of this mission for our veterans.

The brave men and women who answer the call of duty to serve our country deserve to come home and receive the best quality of care this nation has to offer.

Sadly, every day, my phone rings with veterans who are not receiving the care they need and rightfully deserve. Countless veterans are caught in the massive backlog at the Veterans Administration, or simply receive poor care from incompetent employees who for years have not faced accountability. On average, my office is handling 500 VA cases at any one time.

To help restore accountability at the VA, this year I co-sponsored and helped pass the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, which makes it easier to fire incompetent employees. Our legislation, which President Trump signed into law, also makes it easier to hire good management. Previously, there was so much red tape in the hiring process that qualified candidates went elsewhere.

This year I also helped pass the bipartisan Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act. Currently, the VA disability claims appeals process is one of the top reasons veterans call my office for help. We’re working to fix this.

We should never play politics with veterans benefits, nor allow the services they need to succumb to a bloated and non-responsive bureaucracy.

My Charlotte office is led by the most experienced veterans specialist in the Southeast, who has helped thousands of local veterans navigate red tape at the VA. If you need assistance, please call my Charlotte office at 704-362-1060.

This past weekend, our nation was rightfully focused on thanking veterans. Hopefully, we can all remember that veterans deserve our appreciation and utmost support each and every day. They are truly the best among us.

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.