Defend Freedom Tour unites veterans to hold politicians accountable

Veterans and their families are joining together to fight for the benefits promised to them.
"We're saying what has been promised just needs to be delivered. We've got a lot of promises and they don't actually get delivered. Let's fix the system so they actually happen," said Pete Hegseth, CEO of Concerned Veterans for America, the organization bringing the Defend Freedom Tour to cities across the country.

Saturday, the Defend Freedom Tour stopped in Austin to educate vets about issues that directly affect them and help them join forces to change legislation locally and nationally.

"We're going to go to Washington next week and fight for it on Capitol Hill. So we're bringing 150 vets there to knock down doors, kick them down if we have to, come in and say, 'we've got a story to tell and we're going to hold you accountable,'" said Hegseth.

One issue that veterans hope to address is long wait times for care at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"We know the VA is broken. We know that VA hospitals across the state of Texas where wait lines are out the door for those that need care," said Cody McGregor, state director of Texas Concerned Veterans for America.

It's something Army Veteran Dr. Donald Grim said he experienced firsthand.

"I fell 15 feet onto concrete and broke my back in three places, my arm and both shoulders and I was treated in a VA hospital in Columbia, MO. I got to Austin and they wouldn't take me as a patient even though I had two broken shoulders," said Grim.

Vets hoped that when President Barack Obama signed the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act they would be able to receive care from facilities outside the VA, but the act fell short of many vets' expectations.

"As far as choice, every veteran has today a choice card if you're at the VA, but still very, very few veterans actually have choice because you still have to call the VA and ask for permission to go outside and the criteria are very opaque," said Hegseth.

By driving changes at the VA, Concerned Veterans for America hopes the 22 million vets in the U.S. will finally get the kind of care they deserve.

"We've really got to step up our effort to take care of those that made the ultimate sacrifice for this country," said McGregor.

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