Nearly 40 Columbia County residents gathered Saturday at the Grovetown Senior Center to share concerns about local and national issues with U.S. Rep. John Barrow.
In his third Congress on the Corner of the day, Barrow heard concerns dealing with veterans’ benefits, term limits and foreign spending.
Barrow, who represents Georgia’s 12th Congressional District, opened up the discussion after briefing the room on his position in Congress and the problems in Washington. He spoke about Congress’ “all-or-nothing” and hyper-partisan approach to problem-solving.
“If you’re concerned about Congress, you’re right and it’s good to be concerned,” he said. “But I can assure you that the reason you should be concerned about Congress is not that it is a reflection of the country, but that it is not reflective of the country.”
Many questions and comments at the 75-minute meeting regarded military affairs, which Barrow said is not only part of the local economy but also part of the national discussion.
Tim Tyler, coordinator for the Concerned Veterans for America in Georgia, asked about the Department of Veterans Affairs’ backlog of claims and asked Barrow if he would be willing to contact the secretary of the VA and encourage him to solve the issue.
Barrow responded that he is not only encouraging progress but also giving the VA resources to do so. The state is training 4,000 administrative law judges to try and dispose of the cases, he said, but resources alone will not get the job done.
“The most effective thing we can do is reverse the whole process,” he said. “The way that I would change it is to reverse the presumption against the claimant and create a presumption in favor of the claimant.”
One very personal problem was brought to the congressman by Cherie Nuttall, the mother of a 12-year-old boy with childhood disintegrative disorder.
In 2010, she said, the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities in Georgia signed a settlement agreement with the Department of Justice to cut all state money to help disabled children on the autism spectrum. Nuttall said social workers, DFACS and even Georgia Regents University have their hands tied. She went to the meeting to ask Barrow for his help.
“Everyone is just waiting for me and him to die,” she said.
Barrow said he was impressed by the people he met throughout the day and is going to take their concerns to Washington.