Advocacy in Action:
Typically, the start of summer in Washington D.C. is quiet as Congress gets ready to take off for August recess. But this July, Robert Wilkie was confirmed by the Senate as Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs in an 86-9 vote. His confirmation followed a tumultuous first half of the year, where the VA was constantly mired scandals– from the firing of Dr. David Shulkin over Twitter by President Trump, to the disastrous failed nomination of Dr. Ronny Jackson, to accusations of outside influence by the so-called “Mar-a-Lago” group– and IAVA has been a thought leader and driver for accountability, while advocating for smart, data-driven policy every step of the way.
There was no stopping IAVA’s Policy Division in the dog days of summer. Not only did we blanket the airwaves with timely, critical analysis of the state of the VA, but we also held a press conference introducing the Senate version of the Burn Pits Accountability Act with our coalition of VSO partners, we partnered with change.org to deliver a petition opposing the change in GI Bill transferability to the Department of Defense, we delivered powerful testimony to the House VA Committee (HVAC) on the ongoing issue of veteran suicide prevention, we planned and co-hosted The Military Coalition’s Awards reception for outgoing HVAC Ranking Member Rep. Tim Walz, and we also had a little fun hosting a concert and fundraiser for Congressional staff with local 80s cover band, the Legwarmers!
Q3 Scoreboard: Cosponsors on IAVA Legislation:
- Burn Pits Accountability Act (S.3181: 10 /H.R. 5671: 134) +7 / +64
- VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act (S. 2796: 6 / H.R. 5520: 56) +3 / 0
- Deborah Sampson Act (S. 681: 29 / H.R. 2452: 75 ) +2 / +4
GOAL: To reduce the number of suicides among veterans of all generations.
- IAVA Research Director Stephanie Mullen delivered written testimony (Statement for the Record) before HVAC on the topic of suicide prevention; a critical testimony immediately following release of new 2016 data from the VA where we saw an uptick in the rate of suicide for the post-9/11 generation which served as a battle cry for our Fall Storm the Hill activation on the Mall.
GOAL: To recognize and improve services for women veterans.
- We added six new cosponsors to both the House and Senate Deborah Sampson Act bills.
- Successfully gained support from Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) for our (just released) rulemaking petition to the VA regarding its outdated motto.
GOAL: To defend military and veteran education benefits, protecting benefits from any cuts.
- We delivered our petition to Sec. Mattis opposing GI Bill Transferability Changes with over 54,000 signatures, which continues to gain national attention and more signatures each day.
4. Defend and Reform Government:
GOAL: To defend and reform government support for today’s veterans.
- Chief Policy Officer Melissa Bryant appeared on several news programs (HLN, PBS NewsHour, MSNBC, plus radio and print) to provide thought leadership on U.S. military perceptions abroad, outside influence controlling the VA, and the incoming VA leadership following the tumultuous first half of the year.
- Legislative Director Tom Porter, plus Melissa Bryant, and Stephanie Mullen also participated in several roundtables with VA senior leadership, Dept. of Labor senior leadership, Dept. of Defense senior leadership, et al, providing IAVA membership perspective, data, and atmospherics to government leaders focused on military transition, employment, mental health, whole health, etc.
GOAL: To initiate support for injuries from burn pits and other toxic exposures.
- We added a whopping 71 total cosponsors to the Burn Pits Accountability Act
- The Policy Division planned and successfully executed a well-attended press conference with the coalition of 26 VSO partners we built introducing the Senate version of the Burn Pits Accountability Act at the Reserve Officers Association HQ in August, providing key momentum for the bills going in the House recess.
- We also continued the drumbeat in the press regarding burn pits (cited below)
GOAL: To empower veterans who want to utilize medical cannabis.
- We added three new cosponsors to the Senate VA Medicinal Research Act
- CPO and RD also participated in a roundtable with Leader Schumer and Sen. Tammy Duckworth to discuss newly introduced broad cannabis legislation and a potential carve out for veterans.
Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Advocacy Remains Strong
- IAVA Chief Policy Officer Melissa Bryant on MSNBC discussing new VA Secretary -24-2018
- IAVA Chief Policy Officer Discusses NDAA
- IAVA Chief Policy Officer discusses Mar-a-Lago group on PBS NewsHour
- GEN Petraeus on Fox News to Discuss Burn Pits
- DoD Releases 2016 Suicide Report
- REACH VET- Reaching a Solution
- DoD Quarterly Suicide Report (Q1 2018)
- Advocacy Update: VA Secretary, #BurnPits, #SheWhoBorneTheBattle, and More!
- What’s Next with the VA?
- The DoD’s “Not So Forever” GI Bill
- Advocacy Update: #DefendTheGIBill, #BurnPits, and #SheWhoBorneTheBattle Victories!
- Advocacy Update: New VA Leadership, #BurnPits, #CannabisForVets, & More!
- New Army Combat Fitness Test Makes Strides for #SheWhoBorneTheBattle
- Senate Poised to Pass Annual Defense Bill this Week
- Advocacy Update: #BurnPits, #SheWhoBorneTheBattle & More!
- Understanding Unemployment: July’s Report
- Advocacy Update: SECVA Addresses Veterans, VA Reform, and More!
- Military OneSource Now Available for One Year
- Another Blow to Fraud Protection for Veterans
- Advocacy Update: #SheWhoBorneTheBattle, #BurnPits, & More!
- GEN Petraeus Urges Congress to Support Burn Pits Accountability Act
- Mental Health and Why It Should Matter To You
- Advocacy Update: Big Wins for #BurnPits, #DefendTheGIBill & More!
- Understanding Unemployment: August’s Report
- Hurricane Florence: What You Need to Know
- FY 2019 Funding for the VA Passed by Congress Includes many IAVA Priorities
- Advocacy Update: #BurnPits, VA Funding, & More!
- Why Talking About Suicide Prevention Matters
- Advocacy Update: #DefendTheGIBill, #CannabisForVets, and More!
- Advocacy Update: Wins on #BurnPits, #SheWhoBorneTheBattle, & More!
Research Continues to Kick Ass.
- In advance of Secretary Wilkie’s confirmation hearing at the tail end of Q2, the Research Dept fielded a flash poll, asking IAVA members their support for his appointment–vital data which truly sets IAVA apart from other VSOs and garnered national media interest going into July and his eventual confirmation in Q3.
- The 9th Annual Member Survey is ready to be fielded ASAP! Check your inbox for a link if you are a member, and if not, join here!
- DYK: The research department has conducted 5 polls with over 15,000 respondents already in 2018! See all the polling results here.
2018 Q4 Outlook:
- Q3 rocket-propelled the advocacy program into Q4, where we started out of the gate with Fall Storm the Hill
- We’re planning another successful, final 2018 Storm the Hill for December 11-14