It’s the last week of the 116th Congress and the DC team is coming off an impactful Storm the Hill. It’s been a busy week with VA Secretary Robert Wilkie testifying in front of Congress, an impending partial government shutdown, the resignation of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, and more.
This Wednesday, Chief Policy Officer Melissa Bryant, Legislative Director Tom Porter, and Legislative Associate Travis Horr attended a joint hearing by the Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs committees on VA MISSION Act (S. 2372) implementation, at which Secretary Wilkie testified. IAVA will continue to monitor how the new law is implemented, especially coming off of reports that the VA left millions of money designated for suicide prevention unspent.
On Thursday, Tom Porter joined partner VSOs and House Members at a press conference to call on the Senate to pass the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (H.R. 299). The House-passed (unanimously) had been blocked from final passage by only two Senators – Mike Lee (R-UT) and Mike Enzi (R-WY). This bill would finally allow Vietnam veterans who served off of the coast of Vietnam and were exposed to Agent Orange the disability payments that they deserve. IAVA is proud to stand with our Vietnam veteran friends in this fight as they have stood with us in supporting our #BurnPits Campaign and other priorities. As Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) said in this week’s joint hearing, “If you don’t want to pay to care for veterans, stop creating them.”
Also on Thursday, Secretary Mattis announced that he will be resigning his position in February. This comes on the heels of news that the US will withdraw all troops from Syria and that President Trump wants to reduce US military personnel serving in Afghanistan by half. IAVA’s Founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff was on CNN Friday to discuss those matters and more. Watch the interview here.
Lastly, all of this has been going on under a partial government shutdown incoming at midnight Friday evening. The good news is that the DoD and the VA are fully funded through September 2019. However, a shutdown would cut off funds to the Department of Homeland Security, including the Coast Guard and the Customs and Border Control. IAVA has all the info that you need on what this means for both veterans and active duty servicemembers here.
Note: This will be the last Advocacy Update of 2018. Check back the week of January 7th, 2019 for new updates as we kick off the 116th Congress. And you can learn more about IAVA’s 2018 Advocacy Wins here.