House Republicans demanded answers from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority about why it increased the fees for Veterans Service Organizations (VSO) volunteers who assist veterans at Reagan Washington National Airport (KDCA) traveling “Honor Flights,” according to a letter led by Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT).
Zinke, a former Navy SEAL commander and Iraq mission leader, led the letter to Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority president and CEO John E. Potter and more than 30 members of Congress signed.
The VSO flies veterans to Reagan Washington National Airport as part of “Honor Flights,” which honors them for their military service on the National Mall in the nation’s capital. Before the coronavirus pandemic, VSO volunteers who assisted these veterans had “fee-free parking access” to “ensure arriving veterans were safely guided to and from the airport,” the letter noted.
As Zinke’s letter continued:
However, the fee-free parking access has since been removed, placing a financial burden on these selfless volunteers and the non-profit VSOs serving these veterans. Having these volunteers, who are familiar with both the airport operations and geography is vital to safety and wellbeing of all arriving/departing veterans being honored, as timing is critical to ensure the veterans visit the memorials and monuments prior to returning to KDCA to fly home. Not to mention, it’s the absolute least we can do as a Grateful Nation.
My jaw hit the floor when I heard of this situation.
Why would @MWAAHQ #DCA airport revoke five fee-free parking spots for Honor Flight volunteers? The vols help veterans visit the memorials built in their honor.
30+ Members seek answers on this truly mind-boggling question. pic.twitter.com/X3KoxaCmt4
— Rep Ryan Zinke (@RepRyanZinke) May 23, 2023
Zinke called the decision to remove VSO volunteer’s fee-free parking status “distressing, mind boggling, and frankly un-American.”
In the letter, which is cc’d to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the members of Congress demanded answers to the following questions within ten days:
Why were free parking spots taken away from Veteran Service Organization volunteers?
From whom did the decision come?
Are there plans to re-implement free parking spots for volunteers for Honor Flights? If yes, when? If not, why not?
The letter also came the same week Zinke introduced a bill to expand mental health care for veterans. The Protecting Veteran Community Care Act, a bipartisan piece of legislation co-sponsored by Air Force veteran Rep. Donald Davis (D-NC), is designed to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs, which has been plagued with long wait times and frequent appointment rescheduling.
“We want to provide our expertise to make sure that the mental health issues facing veterans are addressed. There should not be victims,” Zinke said, speaking with the DailyMail about the legislation.
“We want veterans to be productive members of society, be confident, be pillars in the community, and it’s hard to attain that goal if you’re struggling with issues that can’t be addressed,” Zinke added.
Jordan Dixon-Hamilton is a reporter for Breitbart News. Write to him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter.