The weeks before our Holiday break can be a busy time for the D.C. office. There is always the year-end scramble to pass our legislative priorities, Holiday receptions to attend, and ensuring our affairs are in order before we close down and focus on our families. With the passing of the annual National Defense Authorization Act in the House (H.R. 2500/S.1790), which includes the IAVA-led Burn Pits Accountability Act (H.R.663 /S.191) and language to prohibit the DoD from implementing a controversial policy to limit the transferability of a servicemember’s GI Bill to dependants, we are celebrating these hard-fought victories and more. Click here to read more about the GI Bill provision.
A reminder, IAVA’s 10th annual survey has launched. This survey is a crucial part of IAVA’s advocacy initiatives. Each year, IAVA members help us shape our policy agenda by letting us know what matters to them most and what they have personally experienced while in the military and after. If you are an IAVA veteran member and have not taken our annual survey, please check your email (and spam just in case!) and let us know what matters to you. If you want to become an IAVA member and complete the survey, click here to sign up and join for free!
On Tuesday, December 10th, Kaitlynne Hetrick, Government Affairs Associate, represented IAVA at the POLITICO Women Rule Summit, focused on empowering and showcasing the accomplishments of women across the country. It featured House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Lara Trump, representatives for Democratic presidential campaigns, and others. Pelosi spoke on the changing climate of Congress and how 106 women were elected to the House and Senate in the last election. “We don’t just want women at the table,” she said. “We want women at the head of the table. Their participation — their leadership — is essential to the vitality of our democracy.”
That evening, following the Politico event, Kaitlynne and Ryan Britch, Government Affairs Associate, were invited to attend the Broadway Musical, Come From Away, at the Kennedy Center. The production details the events of September 11, 2001, as experienced by the small town of Gander, Newfoundland. Thirty-eight planes were diverted from their paths and had to land in Gander due to U.S. airspace closure in the wake of the terrorist attacks. Seven thousand scared and confused passengers and crews deboarded their planes and found themselves at the mercy of the quaint town. Following the production, Ryan and Kaitlynne had the pleasure of meeting the cast and enjoyed some Newfoundland cuisine. The events of 9/11 still affect Americans every day. IAVA has long fought for veterans that served and are currently serving following the attack as well as the 9/11 First Responders. This musical brings awareness to a side of the story that we do not hear every day. Thank you to the cast and crew for this moving tribute to all of those affected by the attacks on 9/11.
Veteran Education Success (VES) held its award reception on Wednesday, December 11th; VP Tom Porter, Director of Government Affairs Travis Horr, and Kaitlynne attended. VES is a great partner and shares our commitment to defending student veterans and their education benefits. VES presented its 2019 Policy Award to House VA Economic Opportunity Subcommittee Professional Staff Jon Clark for his efforts on behalf of Student Veterans.
On Friday, December 13th, Ryan attended a VSO breakfast with Dr. Richard Stone, Executive in Charge, Veterans Health Administration (VHA). Stone said VHA has begun conducting a market assessment of health care demand and facility capacity of VA facilities and community care providers. It will be completed by the end of 2020. VHA is looking to revamp medical facilities in the near future as they are aging and the veteran population is shifting away from cities and into southern rural areas.
The holidays are a great time to get together with family and we feel the same way when it comes to our IAVA family. So last Thursday, we took the train up to NYC to connect with our headquarters team over some intense bowling and to reflect on our challenges and our successes over the past year.
Stay tuned as we hit the ground running in the new year. Happy holidays!
New Cosponsors to IAVA-backed Legislation
We gained four new cosponsors to IAVA supported legislation this week!
Thank you, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) for cosponsoring The Commander John Scott Hannon Mental Health Improvement Act (S.785). Thank you also to Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) for supporting The Burn Pits Accountability Act (S.191).
We would also like to thank Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA) for cosponsoring The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act (H.R. 712).
And finally, thank you to Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) for cosponsoring one of the House introduced Deborah Sampson Act bills.
We appreciate all of our cosponsors that have joined in the IAVA’s fight to advocate for our nation’s veterans this year.