Congress returned to DC this week and the IAVA legislative team has been in high gear to make sure IAVA member priorities are addressed before Congress adjourns next month. In addition to educating new and returning Members on how to empower veterans, we’ve also been attending several events to highlight our priorities to the VA, the incoming Trump Administration, fellow veteran service organizations (VSOs), and others.
IAVA Chief of Staff Allison Jaslow and Legislative Director Tom Porter began the week by meeting with Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) who is seeking the Chairmanship of the House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC). He presented his vision for the next Congress and IAVA outlined its top priorities of VA Accountability, protecting the GI Bill, improving healthcare for Women vets, and bolstering mental health and suicide prevention programs.
On Tuesday, Allison spoke at a breakfast by the bipartisan Congressional Women’s Caucus on challenges faced by women returning from deployment. Later that day Porter spoke on a panel of veterans organizations at the VA, providing input to officials on healthcare challenges faced by rural veterans. That evening, we attended a Veterans Appreciation Reception hosted by the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and attended by veterans organizations, many Senators, and military leadership.
Our advocacy continued throughout the week with a meeting at Disabled Veterans of America (DAV) to discuss solutions for disabled veterans and a meeting at the Bipartisan Policy Center Task Force on Defense Personnel to discuss improvements needed to attract and keep the best serve members – and how to care for them when they leave the service..
As is common after Congressional elections, most of the Capitol Hill leadership elections have been held this week. Mitch Mcconnell (R-KY) has been re-elected as Senate Majority Leader and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has been elected as the new Senate Minority Leader. House Republicans nominated Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to continue serving House Speaker – he is expected to be chosen by the full House in January. House Democrats, in an unusual move, postponed their leadership elections until November 30 as Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) has decided to challenge Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for her post.
Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Jack Reed (D-RI) will continue to lead the Senate Armed Service Committee as Chairman and Ranking Member, respectively. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) will remain the Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee (SVAC), but in a surprising development, Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) was chosen to be the new SVAC Ranking Member of SVAC in the 115th Congress, replacing Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). IAVA has had a positive relationship with Sen. Tester and he has already reached out to IAVA with a desire to work more closer with IAVA. We look forward to continuing our work with him.
With last week’s elections the political dynamics of Washington, DC are quickly changing. While this will require an adjustment of tactics and strategy on our part, IAVA advocacy on our top priorities will remain the same.
The world is changing around us, but no matter what the new realities are IAVA will continue to fight for Post-9/11 veterans. We’ve got your back!