JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A local veteran is fighting a battle right here at home.
Retired Air Force Master Sgt. Kris Braddock went straight to some of our area's elected leaders to demand answers after he says more needs to be done for our military heroes.
Braddock met with staff from Florida's two U.S. senators Tuesday.
"You can be in D.C. and you can have all the lobbyists come up to you but it's really the people here in the local community telling them the local stories that make the biggest impact," said Braddock.
Action News' Ryan Smith went along to track his progress in a political atmosphere marred by partisanship.
Braddock's first stop was the Jacksonville office for Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.
Although Braddock wanted us inside the meeting, a staffer told Action News to wait outside.
Braddock is representing more than 500 local members of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. There are more than 300,000 members nationwide.
"With the high number of veterans who are unemployed or out on the streets, it's critical these veterans are taken care of for the service they've already rendered to the nation," Braddock said.
The meetings are part of the 2013 "Summer Storm."
A top priority that Braddock says he will bring up is cutting down the VA's backlog.
According to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, veterans across the United States wait an average of 273 days when filing for treatment like mental health care.
Action News discovered the average wait for Florida veterans is 240 days.
Braddock later went to the Jacksonville office of Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson.
Although both U.S. senators were criss-crossing the state Tuesday, Braddock is confident his message will be heard loud and clear in the halls of our nation's capital. "I know that Jacksonville, being a large veteran community, that they are listening and are going to take this information back to D.C. and work on the veterans' behalf."
Seeking a faster turnaround for veteran health care isn't the only legislative priority for IAVA.
The group is also pushing for in-state tuition for veterans using the GI Bill.
According to the IAVA's legislative agenda, "Since service members are required to relocate based on the needs of the military, they often find themselves living, renting or buying a home, raising a family, etc. in states that are not technically their state of residence."
Veterans are forced to pay out-of-state tuition rates that are often far more expensive than their GI benefits can cover.