Hurd on the Hill: Providing the Gold Standard

December 18, 2017
Hurd on the Hill: Local Columns
2017 was about serving Texas families

In order to cut through the divisive political noise and be an effective Representative, my philosophy has been real simple: agree when you agree and disagree when you disagree. This is what I have been doing for the past three years as your Representative, while working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find solutions to better the lives of the hardworking families in the 23rd District of Texas. For example, last week my smart government IT reform bill, the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act, was signed into law as part of our defense funding bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This was a two-year effort to address the crazy fact that the federal government spends $90 billion on purchasing hardware and software and 80% of that money is spent on maintaining old and outdated systems. This initiative was completely bipartisan and marks my twelfth piece of legislation to be signed into law under both a Republican and a Democratic president.

The most gratifying part of my job is helping constituents who are struggling to get answers or well-deserved benefits from a federal bureaucracy. In total, we helped over 450 individuals get the help they needed in the last year. From San Antonio to El Paso and everywhere in between, we are ready to fight for folks who need to be fought for. Here are a few memorable stories of how we’ve helped Texas families in 2017:

The 45,000 veterans that live in TX23 deserve nothing less than quality care and benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Unfortunately, this is not always the case. In Natalia, a constituent needed assistance getting the VA to pay for ambulance bills and medical emergencies from 2015. So much time had passed fighting with the VA that the constituent began receiving threat notices from the ambulance company to refer him to collections. During the course of working with the VA, we discovered a clerical coding error at the VA was causing all the delays. Once fixed, we were able to secure back-pay for over a decade and sort out the payment to the ambulance company.

Additionally, a Hondo woman’s husband passed away from complications due to exposure to Agent Orange during his service in Vietnam. He was the sole provider and she was faced with losing her family home. After working with her and the County Service Representative for months, we were able to help get the VA to recognize her husband’s death as connected to his military service, secure her survivor’s benefits backdated to his date of death, and she has been able to remain in her home.

After years of fighting the VA, a San Antonio constituent finally received notice that his appeal with the Board of Veterans Affairs had been decided in his favor, granting him 100% of his back-pay going all the way back to the 1950s. Unfortunately, the constituent had difficulty collecting the back-pay from the VA and began experiencing medical problems, to make matters worse. My team and I intervened, and got his back-pay released and deposited to his bank account in a timely manner.

Hardworking folks have trouble battling the federal bureaucracy elsewhere besides just the VA. In Atascosa, my team had been working with a constituent since September 2016 to assist her in obtaining benefits that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) owed her. Her application was approved in January 2017, but she had still not received the payments. After two months of back and forth with OPM, my staff discovered that OPM had recorded incorrect direct-deposit information.

In addition, a constituent in Kendall County had been approved for a knee replacement surgery in November 2016 but had been waiting more than seven months for the Department of Labor (DOL) to schedule an appointment. In the meantime, he was unable to return to the full line of duty at work due to his injured knee. After my office got involved, the constituent received his surgery date six days later. I received the following email from him after:

“After 7 months of waiting for a doctor’s appointment, your letter has prompted the Department of Labor into action.  I just received a phone call from a supervisor with the Department of Labor and they have finally set a doctor’s appointment.

I just wanted to express my thanks for all your help in this matter.  I know that it may be part of your regular duties but your office’s inquiry in this matter has helped speed up a grueling process for me.  Being in pain for 7 months while waiting for someone else to make a doctor’s appointment has been extremely stressful for me and my family.”

2017 was about serving Texas families.  If you or someone you know needs help with a federal agency, please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office. Additionally, to receive the latest updates on my work for you, I encourage you to subscribe to my e-newsletter at hurd.house.gov, and follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at my social media handle @HurdontheHill.