One year ago I was sitting in the basement of a building on ISAF headquarters in Kabul trying to figure out who was going to be the legitimately elected new President of Afghanistan. While my job in Afghanistan and the team I was a part of was doing important work, the past six months of advocating on behalf of our nation’s veterans at IAVA has been some of the most rewarding of my life.
The IAVA Policy Team in Washington, D.C. truly has performed in a herculean fashion over the last six months. It is an honor to be part of a team whose daily goal is to figure out ways to better serve the needs of veterans. As members and/or supporters of IAVA, you would be as proud as I am to be part of this effort.
Despite having what is probably one of the smallest staffs and budgets of any Washington-located VSO, the impact of your team in D.C. has been measurable. We have spent the last six months solidifying IAVA’s position as the premier advocacy group representing this generation of veterans.
Starting with the passage and Presidential signing of the Clay Hunt SAV Act, the D.C. team has spent the first half of the year on efforts to launch the first-ever Post-9/11 Veterans Caucuses in both the House and Senate; has testified in the House and Senate nearly a dozen times on issues of importance to veterans; has established our presence on The Military Coalition, a coalition of 31 organizations representing more than 5.5 million servicemembers, veterans and their families and we are now included in an important and small group of VSOs who have regular meetings with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the first such add by the Secretary to this group since the Vietnam era.
On the research front, our Research Department, headed by Dr. Jackie Maffucci, conducted a national listening tour where issues effecting women veterans where highlighted and discussed. The department also conducted a one-of-its-kind survey aimed at gaining a better understanding of the challenges faced by women — the fastest growing segment of the military and veteran populations.
The impact of your D.C. team can also be measured by the near daily requests for IAVA support on legislation and issues in the U.S. House and Senate.
Hopefully my excitement over our efforts in Washington is conveyed. As your voice in the policy arena, I want to assure you that we will build on our accomplishments over the remaining time in 2015 and we will finish the year strong and in a better position to advocate on your behalf. Stay Tuned!