Advocacy Update: #SheWhoBorneTheBattle, #CannabisForVets, & More!

Congress came out of recess firing on all cylinders and the DC team was there advocating for all of our #Big6 priorities! Monday, we attended a press conference and a hearing hosted by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee (HVAC) on veteran suicide. Steph testified on a hearing for bills that covered both #CannabisForVets and the Campaign to Combat Suicide. There was a Congressional briefing on #BurnPits. On Wednesday, the appropriations bill covering the VA had its first markup, Melissa was in Florida to meet with other veteran-focused groups, and Travis and Steph attended the Society for Women’s Health Research Gala. Thursday, we participated in a hearing on cultural barriers facing women veterans at VA, and a press conference to announce a new Women Veterans’ Health Task Force. And as always, Tom and Travis were on the Hill meeting with Congressional offices to advance our legislative priorities, and the entire DC team was mentioned in a number of news articles covering across our #Big6 priorities. To top it all off, we added an additional 7 cosponsors across IAVA’s priority legislation, reaching a major milestone of 200 cosponsors in the House and Senate for our Burn Pits Accountability Act!

On Monday, the IAVA team attended a bipartisan press conference held by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), HVAC Chairman Mark Takano (D-CA), and HVAC Ranking Member Phil Roe (R-TN) and other Members of Congress to address veteran suicide in the wake of yet another suicide at a VA Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio that morning. IAVA thanks Chairman Takano’s commitment to fighting this epidemic, and in making it his number one priority in the 116th Congress. Be sure to watch the full press conference here.

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Following the press conference, the full HVAC held a rare evening hearing on the same subject. Research Director Steph Mullen submitted testimony for the record that covered IAVA’s recommendations and priorities in our Campaign to Combat Suicide. Read her statement here, and watch the hearing here.

This press conference and hearing were covered by a number of media outlets, including Stars and Stripes, USA Today, and the Military Times. Check out the IAVA Team quoted in each link.

And on Monday night, the IAVA DC team was featured in a CBS Washington news story regarding #BurnPits and the care those that have been affected by them are receiving. Check it out here to see Melissa and Tom.

On Tuesday, Steph was back at it early to testify in front of the HVAC Health Subcommittee on pending legislation, including the IAVA-backed VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act (S. 179/H.R. 712). This legislation is the centerpiece of IAVA’s #CannabisForVets campaign, and we have been fighting hard to get it passed in the 116th Congress. Additionally, the hearing covered other important pieces of legislation across IAVA’s Campaign to Combat Suicide. Watch the full hearing here, and read Steph’s testimony here.

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Also Tuesday, Chief Policy Officer Melissa Bryant, Tom and Steph attended a Congressional briefing hosted by our VSO partners, Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) and Burn Pits 360, to brief Congress on pending Burn Pits legislation to help vets, including the IAVA-spearheaded Burn Pits Accountability Act (S. 191/H.R 663). Thanks to Burn Pits 360 and VVA for holding it!

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On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee held a markup on proposed 2020 funding for Military Construction and VA (MilCon-VA). This bill included important provisions specifically for women veterans. Stay tuned as this bill goes through the legislative process and IAVA continues our #SheWhoBorneTheBattle campaign.

Also, Wednesday, Steph and Legislative Associate Travis Horr attended the Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR) Gala. The Gala honored a number of influencers who have dedicated their careers towards women’s health research, including the VA’s Deputy Undersecretary for Discovery, Education, and Affiliate Networks, Dr. Carolyn Clancy. Dr. Clancy has been a strong and important ally within the VA to advance the care for women veterans and the #SheWhoBorneTheBattle Campaign. It was a great night and thanks to SWHR for the invite, and IAVA looks forward to working with them in the future.

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Also on Wednesday night, Chief Policy Officer Melissa Bryant was in Florida to attend a conference held by the Council on Foundations. During the conference, Melissa spoke on a number of #Big6 issues, including #BurnPits and Women Veterans. The convening centered around how organizations and philanthropy can colloborate to support military and veterans.

On Thursday, Legislative Director Tom Porter attended a press conference and hearing hosted by HVAC Health Subcommittee on the topic of Cultural Barriers Impacting Women Veterans’ Access to Healthcare. Chairwoman Julia Brownley (D-CA) also launched a new task force dedicated to addressing women veterans’ healthcare at VA. IAVA looks forward to working with the new task force in order to advance women’s healthcare at VA. Read Melissa Bryant’s testimony for the record here, and watch the hearing here.

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New Cosponsors on IAVA-Backed Legislation:

This week, the Deborah Sampson Act (S. 514) added 2 additional cosponsors this week! Huge thanks to Sens. Tina Smith (D-MN) and Angus King (I-ME) for your continued support of our #SheWhoBorneTheBattle campaign and women veterans.

The Burn Pits Accountability Act (S. 179/H.R. 663) gained 4 new cosponsors this week! Huge thank you to Reps. Jason Crow (D-CO), Raul Ruiz (D-CA), Tom Cole (R-OK), and Elise Stefanik (R-NY)! This historic piece of bipartisan legislation now has 200 cosponsors across the House and Senate!

Lastly, the Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act (S. 785) also gained a new cosponsor this week. Thank you to Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) for your commitment to this important piece of legislation!

Ensure your Member of Congress supports IAVA’s Big 6 priorities by going through our Take Action pages here!

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