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#AdvocacyUpdate: Capitol Hill Testimony, Major Victory for Surviving Spouses and more! 

Another busy week for IAVA as we approach our spring Storm the Hill coming the first week of March. Be sure to apply here before February 10th at 6pm!

On Tuesday, IAVA Government Affairs Associate Kaitlynne Hetrick submitted testimony for a House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee hearing on how the VA supports survivors of Military Sexual Trauma. IAVA is dedicated to improving the services that survivors of sexual assault receive and that’s why we routinely testify on this issue. See Kaitlynne’s full testimony here.

Kaitlynne Hetrick at the House Veterans Affairs hearing

Kaitlynne Hetrick at the House Veterans Affairs hearing

On Thursday, Ryan Britch, IAVA’s Government Affairs Associate, attended a meeting at the National Cannabis Industry Association with former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and industry reps regarding cannabis policy. Ryan highlighted the need to pass the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act (H.R. 712/S.179) that would require the VA to conduct research into the safety and effectiveness of medical cannabis as a treatment for veterans with chronic pain and post traumatic stress.

Ryan with the former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper

Ryan with the former Governor John Hickenlooper

On Wednesday, our VP of Government Affairs, Tom Porter, attended a reception hosted by TAPS and The Military Coalition celebrating the repeal of the “Widows Tax”. The “Widow’s Tax” was a reduction of annuity payments to surviving spouses, who under previous law, were subject to an unfair dollar-for-dollar reduction of Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) payments based on the amount of Dependency and Indemnity Compensation they received. This offset wiped out most, if not all, of the SBP entitlement and affected over 62,000 widows and widowers. IAVA supported this effort and we are glad to see everyone’s advocacy work pay off! IAVA will always support surviving spouses and Gold Star families.

On Thursday, Tom Porter attended a congressional roundtable hosted by our friends at Veteran Education Success. Reps. Denver Riggleman (R-VA), Gil Cisneros (D-CA), and Elaine Luria (D-VA) were panelists and discussed how their military and veteran education benefits got them where they are today.

Reps. Riggleman, Cisneros, and Luria at the panel discussion on education benefits moderated by Tanya Ang of VES

Reps. Riggleman, Cisneros, and Luria at the panel discussion on education benefits moderated by Tanya Ang of VES

A big thank you to Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) for being the latest cosponsor on the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act (S. 785). This bipartisan, IAVA-backed legislation aims to improve veterans’ access to mental health care and combat the suicide crisis. This bill passed out of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee last week and we look forward to a floor vote!

Applications for our spring Storm the Hill are only open until Monday, February 10th! Storm the Hill is an event that brings our members to Capitol Hill to help us advocate on behalf of veterans and servicemembers. Spring Storm the Hill coincides with our CEO, Jeremy Butler’s testimony before both the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees. We will also be releasing our 10th annual survey data that week so this Storm the Hill will be one of our biggest to date. If you would like to apply and be part of our advocacy on Capitol Hill, click here and fill out the application.

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