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Kaitlynne Hetrick | June 8, 2020

#AdvocacyUpdate: IAVA Conversations with House VA Committee and Senate VA Committee, New Burn Pit Legislation, and More!

June 1st marks the beginning of Hurricane season and the House Veterans Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on “VA’s Preparedness for Natural Disasters During a Pandemic” this past Wednesday. COVID-19 is still an issue in the U.S. and many experts have predicted a second wave of the virus. Legislators question VA on what their plan is as we are expected to have a heavier hurricane season than normal. You can watch the full hearing HERE

IAVA’s CEO Jeremy Butler had a conversation with HVAC Chairman Mark Takano (D-CA) to discuss veteran mental health during the current pandemic. The chairman touched on the issue of physical distancing and the feelings of isolation and stress that come with it. Butler addressed how the closing of facilities has made it difficult for veterans to know where to “turn to.” IAVA has been working to address that issue with the launch of our Quick Reaction Force, a comprehensive care management program. You can watch the conversation HERE and read more about the conversation HERE

Jeremy Butler also participated in a Facebook Live event with Senate Veteran Affairs Committee Ranking Member Jon Tester (D-MT). A veteran advocate and IAVA-champion, Senator Tester is always at the ready to discuss veteran issues. Veterans have been one of the hardest-hit communities during this pandemic. Jeremy Butler and Senator Tester addressed what Congress is doing to protect veterans, as well as highlight resources to help them navigate VA in times of crisis and beyond, like IAVA’s Quick Reaction Force (QRF). The two came together to discuss how veterans have been affected during the current crisis and what is currently being done for them by both VA and IAVA. Watch the full video HERE and read our press release on the event HERE.  

The Senate held a hearing last week on VA’s budget and the implementation of the CARES Act. Senate lawmakers were anxious to know how the current pandemic has affected VA’s budget. VA’s budget request has almost doubled what it was ten years ago and VA is the only federal agency that’s budget has had a double-digit increase under the current administration. In the hearing VA Secretary, Robert Wilkie stated that the new budget request would “cover its upcoming needs, even taking the pandemic into account, including a possible resurgence of the virus later this year.” Watch the full hearing HERE and you can read more about that hearing HERE

This week, Jeremy Butler listened to the weekly call with VSOs and VA Secretary Wilkie. While he covered many important topics, such as how VA has increased hiring and updates to the Electronic Health Records (EHR) program. In many places, the VA was able to cut the hiring process down to only seven days, significantly reducing the time it takes a new employee to start treating patients. However, Secretary Wilkie did not address the delays to the PREVENTS Task Force, and their release of a roadmap to increase suicide prevention efforts. IAVA is a strong supporter of Combatting Suicide among Troops and Veterans and will continue to advocate and urge VA to release their roadmap as soon as possible in order to start the implementation of these much-needed changes.

IAVA also released a statement on new, Bipartisan legislation, that was introduced this week addressing how those that have been exposed to burn pits and other toxic exposures are more susceptible to potentially life-threatening symptoms brought on by COVID-19. IAVA applauds Sens Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) for thinking of veterans during the pandemic and introducing the Pandemic Care for Burn Pits Exposure Act. Read our full statement on the bill HERE.

QRF
We know that this time can be stressful and IAVA’s Quick Reaction Force (QRF) is here to help! This program provides confidential 24/7 peer-to-peer support, comprehensive care management, and resource connections. To get connected to a Veteran Care Manager for immediate help anytime, day or night, please call 1-855-91RAPID or fill out our online form here. If you are a veteran or a veteran family member facing challenges or have questions, QRF can help by providing 24/7 peer support and providing connections to quality resources so you can get back on your feet and meet your goals.

If you are currently experiencing a crisis please contact the Veterans Crisis Line at 1.800.273.8255, and press 1. Alternatively, use the Crisis Text Line by texting “RISING” to 741741.

Here are some helpful links if you or someone you know is seeking more information

The VA launched its new public health website HERE.
The DoD coronavirus response page is HERE.
If you are a TRICARE beneficiary, see guidance HERE.
Centers for Disease Control guidance HERE.

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