March is upon us, and this is the time of year when we typically make big policy pushes on Capitol Hill and other places in Washington, DC. This year is no different and the DC policy team has had a strong presence at meetings and events to ensure that IAVA member priorities are being addressed.
On Monday, IAVA Interim Chief Policy Officer, Jackie Maffucci, spoke at the American Legion Auxiliary Conference on the importance of recognizing the service of women. She emphasized the need to connect veteran and civilian women to empower both and emphasized the need for collaboration across communities to accomplish this.
On Tuesday, Dr. Maffucci and Political and Intergovernmental Affairs Director Melissa Bryant attended an event on the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (Academies) report of the VA’s Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry. The Academies were asked by VA to convene an ad hoc committee to analyze the initial months of data collected by the registry and offer recommendations on ways to improve the registry questionnaire and best use the information it collects.
Later that night IAVA staff tuned in to President Trump’s joint session to Congress and we were glad to hear him pledge to increase funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs and emphasize that it’s time for veterans to receive the care they deserve and need. But we need to hear more on how he will address these and other issues that impact our community, e.g., how he plans to ensure women veterans have the support they need and the recognition they deserve, and whether he will protect the Post-9/11 GI Bill (#DefendtheBill) from any attempted cuts by Congress. We will continue to press for answers and action.
We’ve have had several conversations with Hill offices the past few weeks to prevent any proposed GI Bill cuts from coming up this Congress. IAVA staff and members successfully fought last year against incredible odds to prevent GI Bill cuts through our #DefendTheBill campaign. We don’t anticipate Congress repeating that fight, but we’re doing our due diligence. The reactions that we have gotten from Congress have been positive, which is great news.
On Wednesday, Dr. Maffucci, and I (Edgar Rodriguez) attended a Senate Democratic Steering Committee meeting, at their request, on President Trump’s Tuesday speech in which we underscored that we look forward to working with them and the Administration to focus particularly on issues that are a priority to our members. The Senate Republican Conference did not hold a similar event, but we have been engaging their members as well.
On Wednesday and Thursday, Melissa Bryant attended The Military Coalition (TMC) Veterans Committee and full body meetings to discuss upcoming legislation, letters of support the TMC lends to bills, and opportunities to partner with other veteran and military service organizations on issues within our respective advocacy campaigns. One top priority discussed is the VA accountability legislation expected to see action very soon.
We have some interesting developments lined up for next week. Stay tuned!