VA reform, veteran suicide legislation, record-breaking veteran support numbers top IAVA’s 2014 year of action
New York, N.Y. (December 30, 2014) – In 2014, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) not only advocated for improved health care services for post-9/11 veterans and cultural reform within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), it impacted thousands of lives with the community through events held across the country and its in-house case management team.
2014 was a historic year of progress for IAVA’s veteran members and their families. Throughout the year, IAVA:
- Grew its free membership by 33 percent to more than 383,600 post-9/11 veterans and supporters, making it the largest and deepest community of its type in the world;
- Serviced more than 2,147 veterans with comprehensive and personalized support from Masters level social workers through its Rapid Response Referral Program (RRRP);
- Provided 1,733 veterans with peer-to-peer transition education support;
- Connected more than 800 veterans with employment support, including one-on-one resume assistance and access to job opportunities through companies like Uber; and,
- Held 304 VetTogethers, events which unite local veterans and supporters.
“Make no doubt, 2014 tested our community, but our veterans remained resilient and rose above this year’s challenges,” said IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff. “It was a year of both tragedy and triumph. Yet again, our community had to dispute ‘crazy vet’ stereotypes after the Fort Hood tragedy and the White House fence jumper incident. However, we also witnessed great moments such as Election Day, when 25 post-9/11 veterans were voted into the 114th Congress — the most in congressional history. Whether urging policymakers to combat veteran suicide or imploring the VA to quickly end the disability claims backlog, IAVA advocated fearlessly on behalf of post-9/11 veterans and their families in 2014. And we couldn’t have made any impact in Washington without our active and committed membership. They are who we fight for everyday.”
Rieckhoff added: “Next year will be crucial when more troops deploy to both Iraq and Afghanistan as our country increases its role in the Middle East. Our lawmakers made a commitment long ago to ensure its veterans will be provided with quality care when they return home from war. We will continue to hold our leaders accountable to that promise.”
In 2014, IAVA performed a complete overhaul of its website, www.iava.org, to better represent the post-9/11 generation of veterans the user’s experience. The new platform provides immediate feedback and data, allowing IAVA to respond quickly to the demands of its users. Visitors can become a member of IAVA with a few clicks here. IAVA also built community through its Facebook and Twitter pages. Over the past year, followers of @iava on Twitter increased 29 percent, and followers of facebook.com/IAVA.org now total nearly 517,000.
Looking ahead, IAVA calls on members of Congress to return in January and meet its obligations to our veterans. IAVA demands that the passage of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act be one of the first actions of the 114th Congress.
On the public policy front, when this summer’s VA scandal erupted, IAVA was a leading voice advocating for cultural reform within the department. IAVA released a set of reform proposals as part of is 2014 Policy Agenda and 8 Step ‘Marshall Plan’ to Rebuild the VA, and welcomed the signing of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014. The act authorizes up to $17 billion for the VA to make changes needed to serve veterans; includes provisions to allow many veterans to seek care from non-VA health care providers; and empowers VA officials to more easily make personnel and other changes in the midst of the current VA crisis.
This month the president signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which included several provisions IAVA supported pertaining to mental health care. The Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act of 2013 requires servicemembers to receive annual mental health assessments. The Military Mental Health Review Board Improvement Act allows for mental health professionals to review dishonorable discharges.
The Clay Hunt SAV Act, named after a Marine veteran who died by suicide in 2011, passed the House unanimously in Dec. 2014 only to be blocked by one Senator – Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) – preventing it from being considered on the Senate floor. The popular, bipartisan bill will increase access to mental health care, boost capacity to meet mental health care demand, improve the quality of care for troops and veterans, provide seamless care from the DoD to the VA, and develop community support for veterans nationwide. For more information on the Clay Hunt SAV Act, visit www.iava.org/savact.
Note to media: Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 212-982-9699 to speak with IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff or 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 12th year anniversary, IAVA has connected more than 1.2 million veterans with resources and community, and provided more than 7,300 veterans with personalized support from IAVA’s Master’s level social workers.