IAVA is a powerful force for Iraq and Afghanistan vets in Washington.
“When he [IAVA CEO, Paul Rieckhoff] brings a new issue to me, I know that’s what I should be fighting for.”
Senator Patty Murray (D)
“Thank you for what you’ve done. You’ve been the political cavalry for us.”
Senator Lindsey Graham (R)
Led by veterans, our non-profit, non-partisan work ensures that Iraq and Afghanistan vets and their families are supported, protected and never forgotten. Since 2004, IAVA has been a juggernaut in Washington. We've created and driven the national conversation on issues like Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), the New GI Bill, unemployment, and women's issues.
IAVA can be a politician’s biggest ally, or worst enemy. We’ll work with those who share our commitment to this generation of veterans, regardless of whether they are Republican, Democrat or independent. But, we’re also a tough watchdog, holding political leaders accountable for their failures.
IAVA is focused on results. In every year since 2007, in an increasingly gridlocked political environment, IAVA has passed at least one major piece of groundbreaking legislation for our community:
- Joshua Omvig Suicide Prevention Bill (2007): The Joshua Omvig Suicide Prevention Act was a key step forward in addressing the veteran and servicemember suicide epidemic. It helped establish the Veterans’ Crisis Line that has served more than half a million veterans in crisis, instituted better suicide prevention training for VA staff, and launched a campaign to reduce the stigma of seeking mental health care.
- Post 9/11 “New” GI Bill (2008): IAVA played a key role in fighting for and passing the Post-9/11 GI Bill. This landmark legislation has sent more than 660,000 veterans to college. The benefit allows veterans to get a free public education.
- Advanced Appropriations for the VA (2009): IAVA played an integral role in securing advanced appropriations for the VA. The bill requires Congress to fund the VA two years in advance, preventing VA healthcare from being held hostage by political games.
- Mandatory Mental Health Screening (2009): IAVA aggressively fought to pass a bill mandating every returning service member is screened for mental health injuries. Removing the stigma of seeking help and catching mental health injuries early will ultimately save more lives than all the body armor money can buy.
- New GI Bill 2.0 (2010): In December 2010, IAVA worked with Congress to pass the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act, also known as the New GI Bill 2.0. The legislation expanded the Post-9/11 GI Bill to include veterans studying at vocational schools, granted National Guardsmen and Reservists responding to national disasters full benefits, and simplified the Yellow Ribbon Program. This key step forward benefitted almost 400,000 veterans in its first year.
- New GI Bill Grandfather Clause (2011): IAVA continues to work to improve the New GI Bill to ensure that it provides educational opportunities to the most veterans. Unfortunately, due to poor regulations by the VA, a small population of veterans had their tuition benefits reduced after passage of the New GI Bill 2.0. IAVA worked to give this population of veterans the benefits they counted on by passing a bill that grandfathered in many of these veterans. IAVA remains committed to addressing other issues, such as break pay, and out of state tuition that has affected many veterans.
- VOW to Hire Heroes Act (2011): IAVA was instrumental in passing this landmark legislation addressing many of the challenges veterans face when transitioning from combat to career. It requires every separating service member to take the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) that provides key job search resources like resume and career counseling. It establishes tax credits of up to $9,600 for every veteran hired. And it begins the work of translating military skills and training into their civilian equivalents.
- Promoting Veterans Education, Employment and Health in 2012: IAVA worked with Congress and the White House to pass three bills and advance two Executive Orders that made a big impact on veterans’ education, employment and health in 2012. These efforts will help veterans transition from combat to career by translating military skills to civilian licenses and certifications. The legislation takes steps to stem the rising tide of suicides among troops and veterans by improving and standardizing suicide prevention programs and improving mental health care at the VA. It will also equip veterans with key information to choose the best educational program to meet their career goals. One bill will establish a critical burn-pit registry to improve research and outreach to those exposed to the harmful toxins of burn pits. And, lastly, another will make critical advances in supporting survivors of military sexual trauma effectively.
- End the VA Backlog. 2013: IAVA continues to lead the fight to end the VA Backlog by applying public and political pressure to hold the VA accountable for its promises. This campaign has made the VA backlog a topic of national. Since we began putting political and public pressure on the VA during Storm the Hill 2013, we have saw a 35 percent reduction in the backlog that year alone. By the end of 2013, less than 5 percent of original or supplemental claims at the VA are over one year old.
- Combat Military Sexual Assault. 2013: In 2013 IAVA lead the campaign to build public and political support for combating military sexual assault (MSA). Although we have successfully passed reforms in each of the last 5 years, 2013 was a historic opportunity to bring this issue to the forefront and pass long languishing reforms that will make a huge difference towards ending sexual assault in the military. IAVA lead a coalition of veterans and civilian groups to drive the national conversation on MSA. From that coalition we were able to pass 13 historic reforms in the 2015 Defense Authorization.
- Protect Vets from Washington Dysfunction. 2013: In October, Washington dysfunction came to a head in the form of a 16-day government shutdown. Very quickly, both political parties began to use veterans as a political chew toy. IAVA mobilized the veteran community to pressure Congress to act before veterans and their families took the brunt of Congress’ inability to function. In December, Congress unveiled a joint budget resolution that set benchmarks for how to fund the government in 2014. In this resolution were cuts to military retirement for working age retirees; leading to a loss of tens of thousands of dollars in retirement for each veteran. IAVA joined with the rest of the VSO community in strong opposition to these cuts. Our pressure had immediate results. Cuts were repealed for medical retirees in the January spending bill. In February of 2014, Congress removed the cuts entirely for vets who enlisted prior to January 1, 2014, effectively postponing them until 2034.
With a small, tenacious staff and dedicated volunteers, we use the same values, teamwork and dedication that got us through combat to make big change and get things done. Here's how we do it:
- We listen to our members. All of IAVA’s work starts with our members, and our advocacy work is no exception. IAVA regularly surveys our members about the challenges they face, their goals for the future, and the current status of the programs meant to serve them. These surveys have one of the largest samples of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and provide us with an enormous amount of data that guides our work.
- We do our homework. IAVA is the only organization with a research program focused exclusively on all the issues facing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Our research team is constantly watching the trends, identifying new challenges, and creating policy solutions and programs to set this generation of veterans up for success.
- We design innovative solutions. IAVA doesn’t just identify the challenges facing veterans, we create innovative solutions to address them. Each year, we release a Policy Agenda, our vision statement of what policies stakeholders should pursue to better the lives of veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. And, we regularly publish research reports that provide even deeper insight to solutions for specific issues, such as veteran unemployment and issues facing military families.
- We train leaders. Through our Storm the Hill Leadership Development program, our Summer Internship program, and our legislative fellows, IAVA builds the next generation of policy leaders. These programs first train participants with communications, advocacy, social media and development skills and then give participants practical experiences to employ these skills in support of key IAVA policy priorities. Some of these leaders have already become Congressional staff, run for office, and started their own organizations.
- We build coalitions of support. IAVA unites the government, private companies, nonprofits, and other veterans service organizations to address the issues facing veterans and their families. We build coalitions of support around specific issues, such as the New GI Bill. And, we maintain strong relationships with key stakeholders that allow IAVA to continue to be a leading voice on veterans issues. For instance, IAVA is a member of The Military Coalition, a group of 34 military, veterans and uniformed services that work together to represent the interests of the whole uniformed services community, including veterans of all generations, family members and survivors.
- We fight like hell, just like we did in combat.
- Storm the Hill: During Storm the Hill, IAVA brings two dozen veterans from across the country to Washington to share their stories and launch IAVA’s advocacy efforts for the year. In 2012, our Storm the Hill teams met with over 140 Congressional offices, and gathered nearly 60 pledges of co-sponsorship for IAVA’s top legislative priorities.
- Advocate daily on Capitol Hill: IAVA has a small, dedicated staff in Washington that advocates on behalf of our members daily. They meet daily with Congressional offices, the Executive branch and other stakeholders to promote policies that will better the lives of veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.
- Testify before Congress: IAVA’s staff and members regularly testify before Congressional committees, such as the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees. These testimonies are critical tools for IAVA to bring our member’s voices to Washington and call on Congress to act. Read our testimonies here.
- Engage the power of our membership through the internet: Our members are a critical part of our advocacy work. IAVA works to educate veterans and their families about the ways that new legislation in Washington can impact their lives through our website, social media and IAVA’s exclusive online community, Community of Veterans. And our members are always ready to join in, by calling their Members of Congress, pushing out information, and sharing their own stories.
- Utilize the power of the media: IAVA also uses the power of the media to build a wave of support for our top legislative priorities. We’ve been featured on Meet the Press and we regularly appear on CNN, MSNBC, Fox and other media outlets.
And, when we win, we start all over again. Our job is never done, especially as our nation turns its attention away from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But we can’t do it alone. It’s a team effort. And we need you, so join the fight.