Washington, D.C. (December 11, 2018) — Wednesday, December 12th, at 11:00 AM ET, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the leading post-9/11 veterans empowerment organization, will unite with Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Representative Brian Mast (R-FL) and other Members of Congress for an urgent press conference focused on military and veteran education benefits and the inaccurate and late GI Bill payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs that have impacted so many veterans this holiday season. IAVA will share stories from our members impacted nationwide, tell America what IAVA is doing to help, and underscore how Representatives Gabbard and Mast have stepped up to help. The impact of these late and inaccurate payments to veterans have been severe — as many rely on these funds for beyond tuition expenses such as housing, food, and supporting their families. This failure has impacted veterans’ mental health, jeopardized their credit and is also a national security issue–hurting our active duty morale and recruiting. During this holiday season, we must not leave veterans out in the cold for a government error that has already caused damage and impacted the lives of so many veterans.
Representatives Gabbard and Mast both served in Afghanistan and Iraq themselves—and have a proven track record of uniting across party lines to put country and fellow veterans above any political differences. They worked with IAVA together to introduce and champion the Burn Pits Accountability Act earlier this year, in addition to being both exemplars and champions for IAVA’s groundbreaking campaign to recognize the service of and support women veterans, #SheWhoBorneTheBattle. They’ve also been outspoken on defending the GI Bill and putting veterans first.
“All we want for Christmas is a VA that works and pays its bills. That shouldn’t be too much to ask in a time of war. This GI Bill debacle is more than just a bureaucratic failure, it’s a national disgrace. This inexcusable failure by the VA was predictable and preventable. IAVA and other leading VSOs have been warning the VA, Congress and the President for months. But they didn’t respond and vets paid the price. The VA not only failed initially, they then also failed in how they responded–creating additional confusion and stress. And despite the national headlines for the last few weeks, the President has still not responded with any comment or so much as a Tweet. He must show us he cares and respond with the full capacity of his office and the entire federal government. Veterans can’t take promises from VA bureaucrats to the bank. They need real action,” said IAVA CEO and Founder, Paul Rieckhoff. He continued, “We applaud our fellow veterans, Representatives Gabbard and Mast, for again stepping up in a bipartisan way for veterans. We expect every single Member of Congress to follow their lead. We call on all Americans to demand that their Member of Congress commit today to standing with our veterans on this issue. We also need immediate support on suicide, burn pits, women veterans issues and all of our ‘Big 6’ priorities. Every Member of Congress has had all of 2018 to sign on to stand with us. If they haven’t done it by now, they have failed our veterans. And we hope their constituents will make sure they hear about it.”
IAVA has advocated for a comprehensive plan of action from President Trump to respond to this debacle that ensures every single veteran impacted receives the payments they are owed, with interest, and that the federal government does whatever is necessary to repair the financial and emotional damage the failures have caused. IAVA has also called on the President to set up an emergency financial assistance fund connected to his frequently-touted White House hotline for vets.
IAVA also supports the call to action by fellow post-9/11 veteran and Senator Tammy Duckworth to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, “to ensure VA fully repays every Veteran the benefits they are owed – with interest – under the post 9/11 ‘Forever GI Bill,’ but have not received due to VA’s massive payments backlog.” Senator Duckworth urged VA to also, “assume any financial penalties Veterans incur because of VA’s failure to make on-time payments to many student Veterans, and she asked VA to coordinate with credit reporting agencies to offer veterans long-term protection by ensuring no veteran has their credit rating downgraded, which could lead to lasting financial harm as a result of this crisis.” Senator Duckworth’s letter should be a call to every Member of Congress to address this issue and find a concrete resolution before they leave for the holiday break.
Simultaneously, IAVA continues to fill the gaps and provide emergency support to veterans in need via our renowned Rapid Response Referral Program. Veterans facing financial, emotional or any other kind of difficulty can reach out to our dynamic team of social workers anytime for free support at iava.org/rrrp. IAVA experts will explore non-profit and private sector options for support that may help bridge the gap for veterans and his or her family. This groundbreaking program has saved and changed countless lives and is available to any veteran experiencing any kind of hardship this holiday season.
WHO: IAVA Press Conference on GI Bill late payments and inaccuracies, featuring Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Representative Brian Mast (R-FL), IAVA Chief Policy Officer, Melissa Bryant, and supporting Veterans and Veteran Service Organizations of The Military Coalition, et al.
WHERE: House Triangle, U.S. Capitol (SW side)
WHEN: Wednesday, December 12th, 11:00am ET
Hashtags: #DefendTheGIBill #IAVA #StormTheHill
About #DefendTheGIBill. In 2008, the Post-9/11 GI Bill was created and supported with IAVA leadership and has now sent more than one million veterans to school, and remains one of the military’s best retention and recruiting tools. Last year, IAVA worked with VSO partners to pass the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, which included numerous expansions for the GI Bill, including elimination of the 15-year time limit to use the benefit. But the GI Bill is constantly under threat of cuts by Congress, which is why IAVA continues to #DefendTheGIBill. And we must continue to hold the line in defending these essential, earned benefits that are a cost of war. See IAVA’s detailed policy recommendations on this issue here.
About Storm the Hill. IAVA’s Storm the Hill is a quarterly advocacy and leadership development campaign and the most powerful non-partisan policy impact program for post-9/11 vets in America. Started in 2005, IAVA’s Storm The Hill began with just five young veteran leaders sharing a single cheap hotel room and begging for meetings from Members of Congress disconnected from war and veterans issues. Today, Storm The Hill has grown into an internationally-recognized powerhouse of impact and a model of citizen power and grassroots success celebrated by both parties, international media and the White House. Storm The Hill was created to ensure that our members worldwide have a voice in Washington. And it has grown to be a true force, leading efforts to expand body armor, create the New GI Bill and pass the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act. More details updated regularly at www.StormTheHill.org
About The Big 6. The Big 6 contains the challenges and opportunities that IAVA members care about most – and see as areas where we can uniquely make an impact. IAVA members are poised to educate the public, design solutions for positive impact, and lead the way to the future. That starts with our 2018 Big Six. Each Big 6 Priority will drive toward outcomes in 4 key areas: 1) Public Awareness 2) Executive Action 3) Legislative Change 4) Local Support. IAVA’s broader and comprehensive Policy Agenda covers issues ranging from homelessness to employment to a national memorial for post-9/11 veterans and can be found online here.
Note to media: Email email@example.com or call 212-982-9699 to speak with IAVA leadership.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the leading post-9/11 veteran empowerment organization (VEO) with the most diverse and rapidly growing membership in America. As a non-profit founded in 2004, IAVA’s mission is to connect, unite and empower post-9/11 veterans. Celebrating its 15th anniversary, IAVA has connected more than 1.2 million veterans with resources and community, and provided more than 8,000 veterans with personalized support from IAVA’s Master’s level social workers.