IAVA is celebrating its 10th anniversary. IAVA Founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff, an Iraq War veteran, founded the organization in 2004 in New York City.
IAVA celebrated its 10th Annivesary on October 2 in New York City. Here CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff hands out cake to guests.
After returning from combat, Rieckhoff saw there were little to no resources available for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He started IAVA from his apartment in New York’s East Village with a handful of committed veterans, supporters and local interns. Within two years after setting up its New York City headquarters, IAVA opened an office in Washington D.C., where staff advocated for public policies that would improve the lives of post-9/11 veterans and their families.
Over the past 10 years, IAVA has grown to become the leading advocate for veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The organization has put top issues for veterans on the map and jumpstarted historic changes, including passage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, funding for health care at the VA, the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, efforts to combat veteran suicide, and, in 2014, a national focus on the high VA disability claims backlog.
“We have come a long way since operating from my kitchen table,” said Rieckhoff. “Over the last 10 years, IAVA has touched the lives of millions of people and raised important issues in front of the American public that may have been ignored. From college education to combating suicide, IAVA has had vets’ backs. I sincerely thank all of our staff, members of the Board, and our vet and civilian supporters for their dedication in IAVA’s fight to improve the lives of post-9/11 veterans and their families. More than 2.6 million brave men and women have served their country over the past 13 years. The sacrifices they have made fuels our team everyday. In the coming months, as the war in Afghanistan comes to an end, it is imperative our country remembers the sacrifices of the post-9/11 veteran community.”
Post-9/11 veterans joined IAVA staff and guests last night to celebrate IAVA’s decade of work.
Beginning in March 2014 IAVA launched the “We’ve Got Your Back: IAVA’s Campaign to Combat Veteran Suicide,” a notable campaign to reverse the suicide trend in the veteran community. During Storm the Hill – a yearly advocacy week in Washington focused on critical veterans issues – IAVA worked towards three goals: 1) Congressional legislation designed to combat veteran suicide; 2) urging President Obama to take Executive Action on veteran mental health issues; and, 3) connecting one-million post-9/11 veterans with transitional resources.
The campaign has been extremely successful. In July, House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman (HVAC) Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) and Reps. Tim Waltz (D-Minn.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) introduced the House version of the Clay Hunt SAV Act (H.R. 5059) with Susan Selke, Clay’s mother, present. Then in August, President Obama issued an Executive Order on mental health for veterans.
IAVA will continue to celebrate its 10th anniversary at this year’s Eighth Annual Heroes Gala, on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014, at 6:30 pm at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City. Admiral Mike Mullen, 17th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will be honored with the 2014 IAVA Veteran Leadership Award. Tickets can be bought here. IAVA’s Eighth Annual Heroes Gala top sponsors, as of Aug. 14, include MillerCoors, USAA, Turner Broadcasting and Western Asset Management. To sponsor the Heroes Gala click here.