Ryan Britch | October 25, 2019
Read: Advocacy Update: VA Innovation, #SheWhoBorneTheBattle and #SuicidePrevention
The weather is cooling down and IAVA had another busy week up on the Hill. We met with more Congressional offices and attended numerous demos, workshops, stakeholder meetings, and hearings.
This week, IAVA VP of Government Affairs Tom Porter attended the two-day Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Innovation Experience (iEx) that featured more than 80 VHA employees from across the country demonstrating their innovative practices to improve healthcare for vets. It included amazing presentations on efforts like VHA hackathons that involve partnerships with universities to bring participants from diverse backgrounds together to attack specific healthcare problems facing veterans, a new telehealth booth designed to give vets access to their doctor from the comfort of their local VSO, and a 3D printer that makes plastic body parts to help prepare medical personnel and patients for medical procedures, among others.
On Wednesday,Government Affairs Associate Kaitlynne Hetrick attended an event at the Brookings Institution hosted by Richard Spencer, the 76th secretary of the Navy. He lead a discussion on naval modernization, the budgetary environment, and the challenges posed by America’s great power rivals to America’s maritime forces.
Secretary Spencer highlighted that the Navy is focusing on the much needed fleet maintenance that has been put off for too long. America’s maritime forces are undergoing significant changes to address the realities of great power competition. Evolving technology, ongoing uncertainty about the budgetary and fiscal climate, and accelerating innovation by America’s competitors have forced the Navy and Marine Corps to adapt quickly and comprehensively to fulfill the vision laid out for them in the National Defense Strategy. Much work, though, remains to be done.
On Thursday, Kaitlynne attended the Leadership and Service: Celebrating Trailblazing Military Women event at the Newseum. In honor of women veterans a panel discussion was held with some “trailblazing’ women veterans along with a military spouse. The panelists discussed the pressing issues that many women veterans struggle with: imposter syndrome, sacrificing respect to fit in, and work-life balance.
Breaking down the barriers that female veterans face remains a top priority for IAVA. In 2018, we launched one of our most important campaigns ever, #SheWhoBorneTheBattle, to recognize and improve services for women veterans.
On Thursday, Government Affairs Associate Ryan Britch attended the VA office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Stakeholder Meeting. This is a quarterly meeting during which veteran service organizations and other stakeholders get to hear from VHA leadership on recent initiatives towards improving mental health care and reducing veteran sucide. In a shift towards modernization, VHA has recently implemented their Whole Health program which is a step towards patient centered care. The Whole Health program emphasizes patient empowerment, self-activation and preventive self-care. VA now offers veterans many complementary and alternative treatments such as acupuncture, yoga, mediation and other forms of therapies at many of their facilities.
VA has also briefed us about their predictive analytics program REACH VET, which uses data to identify Veterans at high risk for suicide, notifies VA providers of Veterans’ risk assessment, and enables providers to re-evaluate and enhance Veterans’ care. An initial assessment has shown that those engaged by REACH VET have more health care appointments, fewer inpatient mental health admissions, and lower all-cause mortality. #SuicidePrevention remains a top concern of our members. Seventy-Seven percent of whom reported in our 2019 Member Survey that they personally know a post 9/11 veteran who has died by suicide.
New Cosponsors on IAVA-Backed Legislation
IAVA has a whopping 15 new cosponsors for the House’s separate Deborah Sampson Act provisions. They are: Reps. Sanford Bishop Jr. (D-GA), Eleanor Holmes (D-DC), Anthony Brown (D-MD), David Joyce (R-OH), Cynthia Axne (D-IA), Henry Cuellar (D-TX), Angie Craig (D-MN), Rick Larsen (D-WA), Gregory Steube (R-FL), Elaine Luria (D-VA), Josh Harder (D-CA), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and Elissa Slotkin (D-MI). There are also 4 new cosponsors on The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act (S. 179/H.R. 712). They are: Reps. Anthony Delgado (D-NY), Alan Lowenthal (D-PA), Joe Neguse (D-CO) and Susan Wild (D-PA). Additionally, IAVA secured Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) as a cosponsor for The Burn Pits Accountability Act (S. 191/H.R. 663). Huge thanks to all of our new supporters across all of IAVA’s #Big6 priorities.