I'm usually the optimistic one. The "it will work out" guy. The one who wants to just try it because it could turn out even better than we hoped.
That's why it's unusual that I needed some convincing when we got the idea to collect petition signatures from viewers who watched "Charlie Foxtrot." I just didn't think it would work fast enough for Congress to Act. Our Executive Producer, Erin Gutierrez, bet me a steak dinner it would. Now she's choosing the restaurant.
Trust me, I hoped it would would help. What I doubted was the speed of Congress. There had already been forty years of waiting on Washington.
You see, since the Carter administration there's been a push to help a group of service members striped of benefits after being kicked out with a less than honorable discharge when what they needed was treatment for PTSD, TBI or both.
I was veryhopeful the Fairness for Veterans Act would get more traction after our coverage on 38 TEGNA Inc. stations. However I didn't expect the legislation to pass Congress this session. Washington never moves that fast, right?!
Here's what happened next...
We released Charlie Foxtrot on Veterans Day. Less than a month later, we had the attention of Senator Johnny Isakson, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs.
He sponsored a special "Mission Charlie Foxtrot" event inside the U.S. Capitol. We played our investigation in the Congressional Auditorium and hosted a panel of lawmakers alongside the people featured in our investigation. The next day, we handed over thousands of petition signatures to Senator Gary Peters, who sponsored the Fairness for Veterans Act.
Three days later - it passed! And last Friday President Obama signed Fairness for Veterans in to law.
Finally, our service members will have a second chance for benefits promised to them the day they enlisted.
It took an Act of Congress.
It's my Moment of the Year. And I can't wait to buy Erin Gutierrez that steak dinner in 2017... a reminder that anything is possible.
Happy News Year, everyone!