Happy New Year! The D.C. team is back in the office after a refreshing holiday break and has hit the ground running. We had quite a few wins in 2019 and we’re looking to carry that momentum into 2020. This week we attended the Student Veterans of America National Conference, participated in a Women Veterans Task Force Roundtable, what’s next for our Burn Pits movement, and added four new cosponsors to IAVA-backed legislation.
Two of our D.C. team members began the year by attending the Student Veterans of America (SVA) National Conference in Los Angeles. This event is the largest annual gathering of student veterans in the U.S. and gives student veteran leaders advice on growing their chapters, as well as fostering networking opportunities. Attendees have the opportunity to hear from high profile professionals, both veteran and not, like the 2016 Miss USA and Army Veteran Deshauna Barber and motivational speaker, Simon Sinek. SVA asked IAVA to participate in a roundtable discussion on IAVA’s policy priorities and answer questions about what legislation is currently being discussed on the Hill. VP Tom Porter led the discussion and went over the newly passed Burn Pits Accountability Act as well as what our focus is going into the new year. This is the first time IAVA has attended the SVA National Conference. this is an important opportunity for student veterans, the vast majority of whom are post-9/11 veterans, to learn about the important work IAVA does every day on their behalf We look forward to fostering this relationship and attending more events like these in the future.
On Wednesday, Government Affairs Associate Kaitlynne Hetrick participated in the first Congressional Women Veterans Task Force roundtable of 2020. Many of the House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) members were in attendance and the discussion focused largely on health needs and economic opportunity for women vets. In that vein, IAVA and other VSOs celebrated House passage of the Deborah Sampson Act late last year and will be working toward Senate passage in the coming weeks.
On Thursday, the HVAC Economic Opportunity subcommittee held a hearing on Reviewing the Availability of Resources to Address Veteran Hunger. Representatives from the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the VA were both in attendance to address the recent changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and how that would affect our nations’ veterans. HVAC EO Chairman Mike Levin (D-CA) stated, “we have a responsibility to make sure no veteran falls through the cracks.” VA and USDA both referenced the current state of our economy and the booming job market that the U.S. is currently experiencing, backed up by the monthly unemployment numbers. Veteran unemployment is at the lowest it has been since May 2019 at 2.8%, and remains lower than the national average. You can read a full breakdown by Leo Shane of the Military Times here.
On Thursday, Tom met with many of our closest allies in Washington, DC for the first time this year. Leaders of The Military Coalition with 32 members gathered to celebrate year-end passage of many provisions we had supported together and to plan for 2020. Tom also met with a new coalition, the Toxic Exposures in the American Military (TEAM), 20 organizations working to develop legislation to help veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxicants harmful to their health. Much progress expected in the coming weeks and months by both groups!
This is the last chance to take our annual survey! It will close this coming Tuesday. Remember, the IAVA annual survey is a way for you to tell us what we should be fighting for on Capitol Hill. Our policy agenda is shaped each year by what our members tell us. We’re giving five IAVA members who complete the survey a round trip Southwest Airline ticket anywhere Southwest flies domestically! You have to complete the survey to be eligible. Check your email to find the survey link. If you are not a member but would like the chance to have your voice heard, click here and sign up!
New Cosponsors for IAVA-Backed Legislation
Congress is back in session this week and we gained four new cosponsors for The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act (S. 179/H.R. 712). Thank you so much to Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Bill Foster (D-IL), Donald Payne Jr. (D-NJ), and Danny Davis (D-IL).