On April 24, IAVA sent the following letter from IAVA leadership to all House and Senate offices, conveying our members’ concerns with VA Secretary nominee, Rear Adm. Jackson, and asking how Jackson would address IAVA’s top priorities.
Dear Congressional Colleague:
Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) is out with new poll results on our members’ support for VA Secretary nominee, Rear Adm. Jackson. Also see questions we have for him in advance of his nomination hearing.
6 Questions for Dr. Ronny Jackson from Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA):
IAVA members are the next generation of men and women combat veterans. They face many challenges and opportunities that are new, but also many that span the generations of veterans that came before us. As the SEVENTH (yes, seventh) VA Secretary nominee put forward since our wars began after 9/11, this is the most critical leadership choice the VA has faced in our generation.
We all respect Rear Admiral Jackson’s service and willingness to step forward to lead. But that alone doesn’t make him the right leader for this mammoth challenge at this amazingly complex and difficult time. We need a leader who can run one of the most complex bureaucracies in the world, in a time of tremendous change, while navigating the most turbulent political and media waters we’ve ever seen. We’re counting on our members of Congress to ask him the toughest questions. That is what our veterans community deserves-and what a leadership role of this magnitude requires. We can’t afford any misfires when it comes to selecting a Cabinet leader to uphold America’s sacred trust with our veterans and the broader military community. Many of our members are hard at work today, attending class, or serving in a combat zone. They can’t step away to ask Dr. Jackson questions. They’re counting on you.
Below are a few questions our post-9/11 veterans need answered based off of IAVA’s comprehensive Policy Agenda, our Annual Member Survey, and specifically, our Big 6 Advocacy Priorities for 2018. Hundreds of other questions were also submitted by IAVA members from across the country and are available for review here. We hope Dr. Jackson, the President, leaders of the House and Senate Veterans Committees, the media, and all Americans, will take the time to review these questions, answer them and ensure our voices are heard. These pressing questions are a reflection of the grassroots experiences, past VA failures-and serve as a prediction of future demands. We stand ready to share more and be a partner for a brighter, better future for the VA and all veterans nationwide. And we’ll be watching Wednesday at 2:30, and in all the important days that follow when the spotlights fade.
SUICIDE: We are losing 20 of our brothers and sisters veterans every day to suicide. That statistic is now well known. What is not well known is how to stop it. What will be your plan to tackle it?
WOMEN VETERANS: Women veterans are underserved by the VA and the fastest growing part of the population that the VA serves. IAVA and over a dozen leading veterans service organizations have called on the VA to change its outdated, exclusionary motto. Will you change the motto to help change a culture that has for far too long treated women as second-class veterans? Will you support passage of the Deborah Sampson Act?
DEFENDING THE GI BILL: The Post-9/11 GI Bill is one of America’s most effective investments. Over 1 million post-9/11 veterans have used it. Yet recently, it has come under attack–and faces an uncertain future. How will you protect it from cuts, fees and predatory bad actors?
VA REFORM/PRIVATIZATION CONCERNS: Everyone wants VA reform. How best to do it is the issue that has divided many outside of the VSO community. IAVA and every VSO has stood firmly against expanded privatization. The White House has stated that it opposes privatization, but the VA continued to expand significantly in the last year under President Trump and that has alarmed veterans of all generations nationwide. Secretary Shulkin claims to have been fired over it. It sounds like the White House is saying one thing, but doing another. Will you commit today to opposing any expansion of VA privatization? And what is the President’s real plan for the ideal future percentage of overall privatization at VA?
BURN PITS: 80% of IAVA members report being exposed to “burn pits” during their service overseas after 9/11. Many fear it will be the Agent Orange of our generation. How will you address and treat the possible health impacts of this silent killer that could impact millions?
CANNABIS: Only 15% of IAVA members oppose the legalization of medical cannabis. It is an important and growing issue. Will you support changes to allow veterans to utilize medical cannabis to treat the wounds of war? Will you support the bipartisan VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018 which allows VA research around cannabis?
The IAVA Advocacy team in Washington is a resource to you and your office this week–and always. For a decade and a half, IAVA has been a leader for change, reform and accountability. Please see our website for a full list of our endorsed legislation and recent testimonies. And please reach out of we can help share the perspective of our members or work with you office on solutions.
CEO and Founder
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)
Chief Policy Officer
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)