It was another busy week around DC as Republicans and Democrats faced off at Nationals Park for the annual Congressional Baseball Game. We also attended House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) Hearings, spoke to Senators about IAVA’s #Big6 priorities, received updates on veteran employment from Department of Labor (DOL), and added 5 new cosponsors to IAVA-backed legislation.
But the biggest news for us was passage by the US Senate of IAVA’s Burn Pits Accountability Act (S. 191) that would require the Defense Department for the first time to record and report servicemembers’ toxic exposures while deployed. The measure was passed as part of the annual National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes all Pentagon operations each year. The House must act next and we encourage Congress to ensure this important legislation stays in the final version.
First up this week, IAVA intern Megan Passon attended an important HVAC Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee hearing featuring VA whistleblowers who were retaliated against after they reported wrongdoing by the VA. This is an important issue and IAVA will continue to follow it, and VA’s response as part of our VA Reform campaign.
On Wednesday, Government Affairs VP Tom Porter spoke at a roundtable with Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (SVAC) Ranking Member Jon Tester (D-MT) and 17 other Senators about IAVA’s #Big6 issues and our supported legislation. This was a great, closed doors discussion where we were able to share our legislative priorities alongside several of our partner VSOs. We thank the Senators for having us, and look forward to more conversations in the future.
Also on Wednesday, IAVA Intern Sam Coriarty attended a roundtable hosted by Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA), who chairs the HVAC Health Subcommittee and the Women’s Veterans Task Force. The well-attended event featured a discussion among leading women in the veterans space and IAVA is proud to support the Task Force as part of our groundbreaking #SheWhoBorneTheBattle Campaign.
On Friday, Travis attended a meeting at DOL to get updates on veterans hiring campaigns. Veteran unemployment remains under 3% for 3 months in a row, and May was the 13th consecutive month with veteran unemployment rate equal to or lower than that of the general population. IAVA remains committed to veteran employment issues so be sure to stay tuned for future updates.
New Cosponsors on IAVA-Backed Legislation:
Within the last week, each piece of our IAVA-backed legislation received at least one new cosponsor! The Burn Pits Accountability Act (S. 191/H.R. 663) gained support from Rep. TJ Cox (D-CA). Thanks to Rep. Cox!
The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act (S. 179/H.R. 712) added two new cosponsors: Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who also supports the Burn Pits Accountability Act, and Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA). IAVA is very appreciative of Reps. King and DelBene’s support!
The Deborah Sampson Act (S. 514) gained one new cosponsor in Sen. Christopher Coons (D-DE). Sen. Coons is also a cosponsor on two other pieces of IAVA supported legislation and remains a strong voice for the veteran community.
Finally, the CDR John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act (S. 785) added cosponsor Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) to this vital part of IAVA’s Campaign to Combat Suicide. A warm thank you to Sen. Shaheen for cosponsoring this bill, as well as two other IAVA supported pieces of legislation!