The weeks leading up to Veterans Day are especially busy for veteran service organizations like IAVA. Every year, around Veterans Day, IAVA holds its annual Heroes Gala in New York City, and while that takes a lot of preparation, the Government Affairs team in D.C. still had a full plate leading up to the big event.
Government Affairs Associate Ryan Britch attended a briefing on “Extensive Exposures and Complex Health Effects: How the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Helps Us Address PFAS Contamination.” This seminar discussed Polyfluoroalkyl substances, chemicals that we are in contact with every day, including food, drinking water, and cleaning supplies. PFAS has been shown to be related to cancer, birth defects, thyroid disruption and effects on the immune system. PFAS is relevant to IAVA because the US military is the world’s largest polluter of PFAS. Of particular note is the chemical AFFF which the military uses as a fire fighting chemical.
Kaitlynne Hetrick, Government Affairs Associate, attended Modern Warrior Live at The Barns of Wolftrap on Wednesday. This performance was an autobiographical theater performance about one veteran’s experience when returning to civilian life and his recovery from trauma. The show is narrated by former Staff Sergeant Jaymes Poling, who served three years in Afghanistan as an infantryman. This powerful performance leads to a heightened awareness of the psychological weight of war, as well as the challenges many veterans face post-war, and the potential there is for positive growth. Following the performance, the show’s creators answered questions from the audience. Many audience members referenced their own service memories and called on the public to stop thinking of veterans as “damaged goods.”
Modern Warrior Live cocreators Dominick Farinacci and Jaymes Poling
On Thursday, Kaitlynne attended the Veterans Digital Transformation Breakfast at the Newseum. Congressional and VA leaders dove into the technological advancements the agency’s Office of Information and Technology and Veterans Experience Office have made to transform Veterans’ lives over the past year. The breakfast was kicked off by Sen. John Boozeman addressing the implementation of the Mission Act and assuring attendees that “it’s still early” and that he is pleased with its progress so far. Following Sen. Boozman, VA’s Chief Technology Officer, Charles Worthington, explained that VA is currently expanding telehealth services and other IT capabilities in VA to support Veterans and ensure they are receiving the care they need. Machine learning, application program interfaces (APIs), and other innovation tools are at the heart of the progress toward VA’s digital transformation, enabling a seamless, unified Veteran experience.
Tom Porter joined IAVA CEO Jeremy Butler and Founder/Board Member Paul Rieckhoff on Thursday for a day of advocacy on Capitol Hill, before hopping on the train to arrive just in time in Manhattan for our annual Heroes Gala with the rest of the IAVA team and our strongest supporters. It was a great night, and we were proud to recognize the sacrifices of 9/11 First Responders and their families, committed supporter Southwest Airlines, and the service of retired Navy SEAL and author David Goggins. If you missed the Gala, see our live video HERE.
IAVA CEO Jeremy Butler addresses attendees at the Annual Heroes Gala
New Cosponsors on IAVA Backed Legislation
Another huge week for new cosponsors on our Deborah Sampson Act (S.514) bills, both in the House and the Senate. Thank you to Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Janice Schakowsky (D-IL), Val Butler Demings (D-FL), Jahana Hayes (D-CT), and John Lewis (D-GA), and Sens. Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Mark Warner (D-VA).
Thank you to Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) for supporting the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019 (S.785).
Finally, we would like to thank Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) for cosponsoring the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act (S.179).