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Kaitlynne Hetrick | June 6, 2021

#AdvocacyUpdate: New Veteran Unemployment Numbers, Momentum for Veterans Suffering Due to Toxic Exposures, and More!

May’s unemployment numbers were released and veteran unemployment dropped from 5.2% in April to 4.1%, the lowest since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. The overall unemployment rate in the country fell to 5.8% and unemployment amongst Post 9/11 veterans saw a significant decrease from 5.1% to 4.0%. Read more about the recent unemployment numbers HERE.

Huge movement on the Hill for veterans exposed to #BurnPits and other toxins! This week, both the House and Senate VA Committee Chairmen introduced comprehensive bills to address the toxic exposure issue that has been plaguing veterans’ health for years. Both bills would establish a presumption of service connection for various health conditions linked to toxic exposures, helping veterans obtain health and disability benefits as a result of being exposed to burn pits and other airborne hazards.

Senator Jon Tester’s (D-MT) Cost of War Act would allow all veterans who were at risk of toxic exposure, including 3.5 million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, to obtain immediate and lifelong access to health care from VA. The Cost of War Act passed out of the Senate VA Committee last week and will now head to the Senate floor for a vote, a big step forward in the battle to help veterans that were exposed to toxins. Read more about the Cost of War Act HERE. The Honoring Our PACT Act, by Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) would provide healthcare for the 3.5 million veterans exposed to airborne hazards and burn pits, streamline VA’s review process, and add a list of presumptive illnesses for veterans that have been exposed. IAVA EVP Tom Porter had the opportunity to speak at the Honoring Our PACT Act press conference, joined by members of Congress, advocates Jon Stewart and John Feal, as well as representatives from VSOs. Tom highlighted IAVA’s annual survey of our membership and how 8 in 10 Post 9/11 veterans reported that they suffered toxic exposures during their deployments and more than 80% of those have health impacts as a result. Watch the full press conference HERE. Read more about the Honoring Our PACT Act HERE.

IAVA EVP Tom Porter speaking at the unveiling of the Honoring Our PACT Act

VA also put out a press release yesterday addressing changes they will be making that affect veterans exposed to toxic substances during their service. VA will start the process to add certain respiratory conditions, like asthma and sinusitis, to a list of presumptive illnesses linked to a veteran’s service. Read VA’s full release HERE

The University of Alabama is excited to invite you to participate in the national survey, “Assessing the Needs of Women Who Served in the U.S. Armed Forces.” Women are experiencing transition challenges differently than their male counterparts. Your experiences can be a very valuable part of this study and we want to hear from you. This 20-30-minute survey will be asking about your time in the armed forces, your needs, experiences, and preferences relating to your transition back to civilian life. All your answers are anonymous and will not be tied back to you in any way. Only summary level data will be reported. Click/copy the link or scan the QR code to take the survey:

New Cosponsors for IAVA-Backed Legislation

IAVA gained two new cosponsors for Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act (S. 1520). Thank you to Sens. John Kennedy (R-LA) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) for standing up and ensuring balanced and impartial justice within our military ranks. Stay tuned in to IAVA’s social media channels, (Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram) for new advocacy efforts in an attempt to pass this landmark legislation ASAP! 

We know that this time can be stressful and IAVA’s Quick Reaction Force (QRF) is here to help! This program provides 24/7 peer support, comprehensive care management, resource connections, and can help with accessing your VA benefits. To get connected to a Veteran Care Manager for immediate help anytime, day or night, please call 855-91RAPID (855-917-2743) or fill out our online form. Our services are remote, free, and confidential and QRF is here for all veterans, regardless of era, discharge status, or location. If you are a veteran or a veteran family member facing challenges or have questions, QRF is here to help you 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 7417

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