Honor the Service and Sacrifice of Veterans and Their Families

Only 15 percent of IAVA members who responded to our most recent Membership Survey felt that the American public understands the sacrifice of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. This number is far too low and this perception must change. Service member and veterans need to feel supported by the American public, and it’s up to the American public to deliver on this.

Nearly 7,000 service members have given their lives for this country in conflicts overseas since 9/11. The nation must first honor these men and women by supporting their families who are left behind. Furthermore, the time has come for our nation to honor the service and sacrifice of our post-9/11 service members with a memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC. A monument gives families and veterans a place to gather and mourn, and it gives the nation an enduring reminder of the heroism of our military and the sacrifices made.

Veterans of previous wars were the first to support our return home with open arms and an enthusiastic “welcome home,” which many of them never got. These men and women forged a trail for our generation and ensured the nation honors the service and sacrifice of today’s veterans and provides them the benefits and support they deserve. And yet, they continue to fight for their own recognition, benefits and honor for their missing peers. The nation must not only honor and support our current generation of veterans, but pay the long overdue tribute to those who have come before us.

6.1: Create a Post-9/11 National Monument in Washington, D.C.
6.2 Support the Families of the Fallen
6.3: Properly Honor the Fallen at Arlington National Cemetery
6.4: Honor Those Who Came Before Us
6.5 Urge all Americans to Observe Memorial Day and Veterans Day

6.1: Create a Post-9/11 National Monument in Washington, D.C.

We must honor the service of today’s veterans alongside their fellow warriors who served in Vietnam, Korea and World War II. A new generation of veterans shouldn’t wait years to see a memorial in their honor, as those who served in Vietnam and World War II were forced to do. IAVA’s 2017 member survey shows that 82% of respondents support the creation of a memorial53 and IAVA is ready to galvanize all Americans in support

IAVA Recommendations:
I. Congress should enact legislation to reserve a space in Washington, D.C. for, and authorize construction of, a memorial that honors the sacrifices of post-9/11 veterans. Planning for the memorial should include post-9/11 veteran groups and Gold Star families.

II. Establish a public/private partnership to fund a post-9/11 memorial. America’s veterans should
not be reduced to begging the general public for donations for a memorial that will serve not just the veteran community, but all Americans for generations to come.

6.2 Support the Families of the Fallen

One of our country’s most solemn duties is to support the surviving families of the troops who gave their lives in its service.

The military must recognize that there are strong public private partners, such as the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), Gold Star Wives and Gold Star Mothers, available to care for those grieving a military death, providing them with emotional support, resources and services that compliments the administration of benefits and burial entitlements.

Surviving families deserve highly trained support when informed of their loss. The Department of Defense (DoD) must ensure that its casualty assistance officers are comprehensively trained to guide surviving military family members as they navigate the complex system of care available to them.

Finally, IAVA believes ending the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) offset to the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) will provide the most significant long-term advantage to the financial security of all eligible surviving families. Although we know there is a significant price tag associated with this change, ending this offset would correct an inequity that has existed for many years.

IAVA Recommendations:
I. Ensure that spouses of fallen service members are not penalized with loss of next-of-kin status, and monetary, education, healthcare and other legal rights and benefits if they remarry

II. Improve training requirements for casualty assistance officers; ensure personnel are fully aware of survivor benefits.

III. Immediately eliminate the Survivor Benefit Program/Dependency Indemnity Compensation offset, which reduces benefits from DoD and VA.

IV. Create a family advocate within the Department of the Army, modeled after the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) Family Advocate position.

V. Investigate issues with the upkeep and storage of DD-93 forms, Record of Emergency Data that identify emergency contacts.

VI. Expand funding for nonprofits that support families of the fallen like TAPS and Gold Star Families and programs that inspire action and service in their memory, like the Travis Manion Foundation.

6.3: Properly Honor the Fallen at Arlington National Cemetery

As a nation, we honor the sacrifice of our fallen service members at the graves where we lay them to rest in Arlington National and other veterans cemeteries around the world. In doing so, we make it clear that their ultimate sacrifice will never be forgotten.

The National Cemetery Administration (NCA) maintains approximately 3.5 million gravesites honoring veterans from every era and every conflict within the 21,400 acres of its hallowed grounds. We honor their sacrifice and comfort their families by ensuring veteran cemeteries are adequately equipped to honor the service and history of our men and women in uniform.

IAVA Recommendations:
I. Continue to modernize operations at Arlington National Cemetery to ensure that no veteran is misplaced or dishonored.

II. Mandate that all remains and interment records at Arlington National Cemetery are properly tracked in an electronic database.

III. Ensure the handling and disposal of the remains of the fallen are held to the highest standards of respect and honor by establishing and continually monitoring the adherence of protocols to this effect.

IV. Mandate that Arlington National Cemetery provide families with headstone information a week before burial to better insure proper identification of those laid to rest.

6.4 Honor Those Who Came Before Us

The vast majority of post-9/11 veterans returned from Iraq and Afghanistan to a warm welcome home and a thanks for their service. Unfortunately, many of the over 20 million veterans who preceded us were not given the same respect and gratitude for their service. Many, especially our brothers and sisters who served in Vietnam, returned to animosity and disrespect. As older veterans reach their senior years, it is past time to right this wrong. We must honor all those who came before us by educating the country of their service and sacrifice and account for all uniformed service members who are still missing. Veterans of all eras have served this great nation with honor and deserve to be recognized accordingly.

In this spirit we celebrated passage into law provisions of the IAVA-backed Toxic Exposure Research Act, which had been championed by Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA). The new law prioritizes studying toxic exposure and the potential connection of toxic exposure to health conditions affecting descendants of veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during their military service.

IAVA Recommendations:
I. Invest in the development and construction of an education center at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

II. Ensure the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) is properly resourced and fully integrates the former offices responsible for this work to provide the fullest possible accounting for all missing personnel to their families and the nation.

III. Extend caregiver services and support to qualifying disabled veterans of all conflicts.

IV. Monitor results of the new IAVA-backed law that studies toxic exposure and the potential connection of toxic exposure to health conditions affecting descendants of veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during their military service.

6.5 Urge All Americans to Observe Memorial Day and Veterans Day

Established in 1868, Memorial Day is a day when Americans honor service members who died while in service to their country. Originating after the Civil War as separate Union and Confederate holiday traditions celebrated on different days, the two were eventually merged. Congress officially declared Memorial Day a national holiday in 1971 with the declaration that it be observed on the last Monday of May each year.

Established later in 1945, President Dwight D. Eisenhower called upon all citizens to observe November 11 as Veterans Day, writing in his proclamation to Congress, “In order to insure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans’ organizations, and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in the common purpose.”

Memorial Day and Veterans Day are official holidays for the federal government and in all 50 states. However, for many Americans, these holidays are just another day off. IAVA is calling on all Americans to recognize and observe these deeply important days of the year for those who served our country.

Memorial and Veterans Day are meant to bring together Americans from every walk of life to honor the service and sacrifices of those that have served our country. But for too many who wish to thank this community, significant barriers keep them from properly observing these holidays.

IAVA Recommendations:
I. Honor our nation’s veterans by giving private sector employees a day off on Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

II. Promote these days as a day of service, honoring the service and legacy of our military through community service and engagement.

III. Develop school programs to recognize and honor these days.