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Suicide Prevention, Toxic Exposure and Women Veterans Roundtable: Weekly Advocacy Brief, September 27, 2019

The week after Storm the Hill was another busy one for IAVA! The DC team attended numerous events and meetings on Capitol Hill. Lots of stuff going on in DC but thankfully the weather is finally cooling down.

The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a Wednesday hearing on #BurnPits and other toxic exposures and our VP of Government Affairs, Tom Porter, submitted testimony for the record which can be found here. The Committee heard from numerous DoD and VA officials experts on toxic exposure, VSOs, Vanderbilt University, and The National Academies of Sciences. IAVA remains dedicated to fighting for those who have been exposed to burn pits and other environmental toxins.

SVAC Hearing on VA’s decision making process for determining benefits for veterans who have been exposed to burn pits and other toxins.

SVAC Hearing on VA’s decision making process for determining benefits for veterans who have been exposed to burn pits and other toxins.

 

Tom Porter and Kaitlynne Hetrick attended the Women Veterans Task Force Roundtable on Military Sexual Trauma. This roundtable event involved VA, DoD, and VSO stakeholders to discuss the root cultural causes of Military Sexual Trauma (MST), how MST is handled by the DoD and VA and how MST continues to impact veterans after leaving the military. Several VSOs expressed concerns that their female members are still not receiving services that they are entitled to because employees at the VA have not been properly informed of the policies and procedures. IAVA remains focused on recognizing the service of #womenveterans and closing gaps in care provided to them by the VA.

The Friends of VA Medical Care and Health Research Coalition (FOVA) hosted a “Science of Suicide” briefing on Thursday. We heard from Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen who is the founder of Give an Hour and Executive Director of the White House VA PREVENTS Task Force aimed at ending veteran suicide.

American Pyschological Association Director of Veteran & Military Heath,Heather Kelly provides opening statements during a presentation by VA-funded scientists of cutting edge research on veteran suicide.

American Psychological Association Director of Veteran & Military Heath,Heather Kelly provides opening statements during a presentation by VA-funded scientists of cutting edge research on veteran suicide.

 

We also heard from three VA scientists who updated us on the cutting-edge research on veteran suicide, including projects on mining artificial intelligence and genomics for preventing suicide, the VA’s REACH VET predictive analytics program modeling suicide risk, and the interaction of TBI and suicide in the veteran population. You can learn more about IAVA’s position and take action to help reduce veteran suicide here.

This briefing was perfectly timed with the release the 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report and the DoD Annual Suicide Report. IAVA Government Affairs Associate, Ryan Britch examined the VA report, recent changes in rate calculation, and VA’s sucide prevention efforts in his recent blog post.

On Wednesday, Director of Government Affairs, Travis Horr, attended a VA meeting with their legislative staff and other VSOs, which allowed us to continue to push for our legislative priorities, including the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act (S. 785), Deborah Sampson Act (S. 514), and the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act (S. 191/H.R. 712).

On Friday, Kaitlynne Hetrick and Ryan Britch attended the quarterly VSO meeting with the Department of Labor’s Veterans Employment and Training Services (VETS) program. The discussion during the meeting focused on the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) FY 2018 annual report to Congress. This report highlights VETS’ employer outreach work as well as the number and type of cases opened and closed. Also discussed were the agency’s employment and homeless veteran reintegration services. Great news on the veteran unemployment rate, as it is holding steady at 3.4% (below the non-veteran rate)!

New Cosponsors on IAVA-backed Legislation

Thank you to Sens. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) for being the newest cosponsors on the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act (S.785).

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