IAVA is the voice of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in Washington. Led by veterans, our non-partisan advocacy work ensures that Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families are supported, protected, and never forgotten. Since 2004, IAVA has been a juggernaut in Washington, creating and driving the national conversation on issues ranging from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) to women veteran issues to veteran unemployment. IAVA’s dedicated staff in Washington, D.C. leads this work, advocating on behalf of our members daily. We also train our member veterans to be powerful advocates for their community.
We partner with all those who share our commitment to this generation of veterans—whether they’re Democrat, Republican, or independent. We’ve worked closely with the White House, Members of Congress, the Department of Defense (DoD), the VA, corporations, and other nonprofits. But we’re a tough watchdog as well, holding political leaders accountable for failures to support our community.
IAVA is focused on results. Since 2007, in an increasingly gridlocked political environment, IAVA has passed several pieces of groundbreaking legislation for our community. Examples include:
SAV Act (2014-2015)
Signed into law on February 12, 2015
Seeking to combat the alarming trend of veteran suicide, IAVA devised The Suicide Prevention for America’s Veterans (SAV) Act. Addressing the fact that 20 veterans a day die by suicide, the legislation inconceivably was held hostage by the whims of a lone Senator thus not becoming law in 2014. However, building on the momentum created for passage of the SAV Act in the 113th Congress, IAVA ensured that this vital legislation was one of the first pieces of legislation debated and passed by both Houses of Congress during the initial month of the 114th Congress. Following passage, the Clay Hunt SAV Act was signed into law by President Obama on February 12, 2015. Among its provisions, the Clay Hunt SAV Act would: expand access to mental health care for troops and veterans; strengthen oversight of military mental health care programs; and improve suicide prevention training for VA and DoD care providers.
Joshua Omvig Suicide Prevention Bill (2007)
Signed into law on November 5, 2007
This was a critical step forward in addressing the veteran and service member suicide epidemic. It helped establish the Veterans’ Crisis Line that has served more than half a million veterans, instituted better suicide prevention training for VA staff, and launched a campaign to reduce the stigma of seeking mental health care.
The MISSION Act (2018)
Signed into law on June 6, 2018
IAVA worked for years with VSO partners to consolidate the myriad VA community care programs while protecting the integrity of the VA from efforts to drive even more patients into the private sector with less accountability by the VA. The MISSION Act will streamline care in the community so that veterans that have to access care outside their local VA facility will have an easier time being able to do so. The bill was finally signed into law in June.
Ending the VA Backlog (2017)
Signed into law on August 23, 2017
Building on our successful Ending the VA Backlog campaign in 2013-14, IAVA pushed for the passage of legislation that would further work towards ending the VA appeals backlog. Our 2013 VA Backlog campaign resulted in a number of reforms that helped streamline the appeals process. Yet even with the claims backlog down, over 300,000 appeals still plague the system. To further address the appeals backlog, IAVA and other VSOs successfully advocated for the passage of the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 (S. 1024/H.R. 2288) which was signed into law on August 23, 2017. This legislation further streamlines the appeals process and creates three separate pathways for veterans to appeal their claims, an innovative approach that will significantly reduce the VA backlog.
Global War on Terrorism Memorial (2017)
Signed into law on August 18, 2017
IAVA partnered with the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation in support of legislation that begins the process to create a national memorial in Washington, D.C. to honor our fallen warriors, servicemembers, and their families who have supported the Global War on Terrorism. Through our combined efforts, the Global War on Terrorism War Memorial Act (S. 926/H.R. 873) was signed into law on August 18, 2017, and IAVA will remain closely engaged in the process through the eventual memorial dedication.
VA Choice Program Extension (2017)
Signed into law on August 12, 2017
In August 2017, with funding for the VA’s Choice program expiring in days, IAVA and partner VSOs were successful in advocating for the quick passage of legislation (S. 114) that provided $2.1 billion to continue the program through February 2018 while Congress develops a permanent integrated network of public and private healthcare led by VA primary care providers managing veterans’ care, while also making critically-needed investments in the VA health care system. The law implements a bipartisan agreement that leaders of the House and Senate Veterans’ committees reached following the defeat by VSOs of an earlier, problematic VA Choice extension bill opposed by the nation’s leading veterans organizations.
VA Accountability (2017)
Signed into law June 23, 2017
In June 2017, the President signed into law the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act (S. 1094), landmark legislation that gives the VA Secretary additional tools needed to expedite the removal of bad-acting VA employees. IAVA has been relentlessly pushing Congress to pass VA accountability legislation since the 2014 Phoenix VA scandal exposed the outrageous state of the VA health care system.
In October 2016, media reported that thousands of California Army National Guardsmen were being forced by the Pentagon to repay with interest re-enlistment bonuses paid as much as ten years prior. These forced repayments were in response to a 2010 federal investigation that found that the bonuses were improperly awarded. When news of this scandal broke, IAVA waged a campaign to #PayThemBack, working with others VSOs and Congress to ensure that the Pentagon was held accountable. After launching the campaign, Congress passed legislation that forced the Pentagon to repay the servicemembers. The ensuing review of 17,485 cases, which concluded July 30, 2017, showed that nearly all of them had been resolved in favor of the soldier. Only 393 Soldiers whose cases were entered into the appeals process remained and had not yet exhausted their appellate opportunities. By September 30, 2017, DoD will provide Congress with the final results of the appellate process.
Kingdomware Technologies, Inc. v. United States (2016)
Ruling on June 16, 2016
IAVA was a key player in this Supreme Court ruling, advocating in favor of veteran entrepreneurs and small business owners in its 2014 Policy Agenda and submitted an amicus brief in the case. The ruling requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to consider setting aside all procurements for veteran and service-disable owned small businesses, and that they cannot exempt federal supply schedule procurements (FSS).
Ending the VA Backlog in (2013-14)
IAVA has created a successful movement to reduce the massive backlog of VA disability claims. In March 2013, when the backlog reached a peak of 600,000 waiting veterans, we launched a broad campaign to End the VA Backlog. With the help of allied organizations, we prompted the VA to implement long-languishing reforms to its claims processing system. Thanks to these reforms, the number of veterans waiting over 125 days to receive compensation for service-connected disabilities has decreased by over 60 percent.
Combating Military Sexual Assault (2013)
Signed into law on December 26, 2013
IAVA has been a leader in advocating for reforms to the military justice system that will protect victims of military sexual assault—and prevent future assaults. In 2013, IAVA successfully fought to include thirteen amendments in the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that will improve victims’ rights, strengthen prevention efforts, and protect whistleblowers. With much more to do, we are continuing this fight in the current Congress.
VOW to Hire Heroes Act (2011)
Signed into law on November 21, 2011
IAVA was instrumental in passing this legislation, which addresses challenges veterans face when transitioning from combat to career. It requires every separating service member to take the Transition Assistance Program that provides key job search resources like resume and career counseling. The act also establishes tax credits of up to $9,600 for every veteran hired and begins the work of translating military skills and training into their civilian equivalents.
Burn Pit Accountability Act (2018-2019)
In 2018, we introduced legislation with Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Brian Mast (R-FL), and Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) to require the Department of Defense to track and report to the VA exposures of servicemembers to burn pits and other airborne toxins reported during each periodic health assessment. In 2019, we reintroduced the bill with our Congressional allies and passed the bill as part of the annual National Defense Authorization Act at the end of 2019.
James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act (2015)
Signed into law on December 18, 2015
IAVA joined forces with the Feal Good Foundation and 9/11 first responders and survivors to secure a fully-funded, effectively permanent 75-year extension of the World Trade Center Health Program Fund and five-year, $4.6 billion Victim Compensation Fund extension, both of which are critical to supporting the medical and financial burden facing many 9/11 first responders. Read the timeline of IAVA’s efforts on this important issue.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill has now sent more than one million veterans and dependents to school, and remains one of the military’s best retention and recruiting tools.
GI Bill Expansion (2017)
Signed into law on August 16, 2017
Following the success of defeating a proposed $2,500 GI Bill tax on new servicemembers, IAVA threw its support and advocacy behind the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act(S. 1598/H.R. 3218), bipartisan legislation that strengthens and expands the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Standing with the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and other VSOs, IAVA was successful in pushing for the passage of this historic legislation. This bill removes the 15-year time limit on using the benefit, extends the Yellow Ribbon Program to recipients of the Fry Scholarships, awards Purple Heart recipients GI Bill eligibility regardless of active duty time served, ensures National Guard and Reserve Members get the same benefits as those they served on active duty with, restores the GI Bill entitlement of individuals who were forced to discontinue their studies due to the permanent closure of their school, among other improvements.
Defend the GI Bill (2017)
In early 2017, IAVA and its allies successfully stopped a proposed plan to impose a large registration tax on new military enlistees to gain their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit. After learning of this short-sighted proposal, IAVA led a nationwide and coordinated grassroots, social media, and press campaign, to defend the Post-9/11 GI Bill yet again. Congress swiftly felt the pressure from IAVA’s members, the media, and their constituents, and have not moved forward on the proposal.
Defend The GI Bill (2016)
In 2016, the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees introduced veterans omnibus bills that included the first cuts to the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The Senate legislation included $3.4 billion in cuts over the next five years to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, robbing veterans and their families of benefits that they were promised. The Senate developments followed the passage of a similar House legislative package, which included a 50 percent cut to the housing allowance provided to children who would have their parent’s Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits transferred to them. Through relentless advocacy on Capitol Hill and nationwide efforts by our members, IAVA was successful in stopping these bills from being passed into law.
New GI Bill 2.0 (2010)
Signed into law on December 16, 2010
In December 2010, IAVA worked with Congress to pass the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act, also known as the New GI Bill 2.0. The legislation expanded the Post-9/11 GI Bill to include veterans studying at vocational schools, granted National Guardsmen and Reservists responding to national disasters full benefits, and simplified the Yellow Ribbon Program. This key step forward benefitted almost 400,000 veterans in its first year.
Post-9/11 “New” GI Bill (2008)
Signed into law on June 30, 2008
IAVA played a lead role in fighting for and passing the Post-9/11 GI Bill, arguably the most important veterans’ benefit for our generation. To date, this landmark legislation has sent more than one million veterans to college.
She Who Borne The Battle (2018)
Signed into law on September 21, 2018
We saw more #SheWhoBorneTheBattle victories with FY2019 funding (P.L. 115-244) added for increased health access for women vets, including prosthetics, gender-specific healthcare, mental health services, and services for low income veterans to address homelessness. VA was also required to ensure its facilities can meet needs of female vets and create a master plan to address those facilities that are below standard. Further, two omnibus pieces of legislation (H.R. 6 and S. 2372) were passed with provisions to establish and expand access to peer to peer counseling for women veterans.
Women Veteran Suicide Prevention (2016)
Signed into law on June 12, 2016
Building on the passage of the SAV Act, IAVA advocated for the Female Veteran Suicide Prevention Act (S. 2487/H.R. 2915), legislation that specifically addresses suicide issues for women veterans. A 2015 study found that women who have served in the military die by suicide at nearly six times the rate of those in the civilian population. Following passage, the bill was signed into law by President Obama on June 12, 2016. Among it provisions, the legislation will: require the VA to include metrics on women veterans in its annual evaluation of mental health and suicide prevention programs, identify the programs that are most effective and carry the highest satisfaction rates among female veterans.
Medicinal Cannabis for Vets (2018)
We launched our #CannabisForVets campaign focused on changing antiquated federal policies that prohibit wounded veterans from having access to medical cannabis. At the center of the campaign is our efforts to pass the bipartisan VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act (H.R.5520/S.2796), which authorizes the VA to conduct research on the efficacy and safety of medicinal cannabis to treat veterans. On March 12th 2020, this legislation passed unanimously out of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and IAVA remains dedicated to its full passage by the end of 2020.
Additional Legislative Victories
Mental Health and Suicide Prevention:
- FY 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 1625) – Funded a number of IAVA priorities, from #SheWhoBorneTheBattle provisions, Clay Hunt SAV Act, burn pits, and others. Passed into law on 3/23/18.
VA & Government Reform:
- Farmer Veteran Opportunity Act (H.R. 2) – Included in the 2018 Farm Bill. Signed into law on 12/20/2018 and became Public Law 115-334
- Families of Fallen Servicemembers First Act (P.L. 115-245) – Included in the FY 2019 Defense Appropriations Act and signed into law on 9/28/2018
- Veterans Treatment Court Improvement Act (H.R. 2147, S. 946) – Passed by the House on 6/6/2018. (Public Law 115-240)
- VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act — or VA MISSION Act (H.R. 5674, S. 2372) – Passed into law on 6/6/2018 (Public Law 115-182)
- Grow Our Own Directive: Physician Assistant Employment and Education Act (H.R. 3262, S. 426) – Passed into law on 3/23/2018 as part of the FY 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 1625, Sect. 246)
- Protecting the Rights of Individuals Against Technological Exploitation (PRIVATE) Act (H.R. 2052, S. 1296) – Passed into law on 12/12/17 as part of 2018 NDAA
- American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 2519, S. 1182) – Passed into law 10/6/2017
- Caring for the Families of our Wounded and Fallen Heroes Act (H.R. 1956) – Legislation included within H.R. 3218 which passed into law on 8/16/2017
- Global War on Terrorism War Memorial Act (H.R. 873, S. 926) – Passed into law on 8/18/2017 (Public Law No: 115-51)
- To authorize appropriations and to appropriate amounts for the Veterans Choice Program of the VA, to improve hiring authorities of the Department, to authorize major medical facility leases, and for other purposes. (S. 114) *Bipartisan VA Choice Program Extension. – Passed into law on 8/12/2017 (Public Law No: 115-46)
- Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act (H.R. 2288, S. 1024) – Passed into law on 8/23/2017
- VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act (S. 1094) – Passed into law on 6/23/2017 (Public Law 115-41)
- VA Accountability First Act (H.R. 1259, S. 493) – Similar provisions passed into law on 6/23/2017 via S. 1094 (Public Law 115-41)
- Caring for Our Veterans Act (S. 2193). Replaced by the VA MISSION Act and enacted.
- 9/11 Memorial Act (H.R. 6287, S. 3167) – Passed by the House on 9/12/2018 (PL 115-413)
- Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2018 (H.R. 4958) – Passed into law on 10/10/2018 (PL 115-258) *Supported through The Military Coalition
- The VA Expiring Authorities Act of 2018 (S. 3479) – Passed into law on 9/29/2018 (PL 115-251) *Supported through The Military Coalition
- The VA Senior Executive Accountability (SEA) Act (H.R. 2772) – Passed into law on 6/21/2018 (PL 115-188) *Supported through The Military Coalition
- Veterans Cemetary Benefit Correction Act (H.R. 4910) – Passed into law on 6/15/2018 (PL 115-184) *Supported through The Military Coalition
- To improve the process for providing certain home adaptions (H.R. 3562) – Passed into law on 6/1/2018 (PL 115-117) *Supported through The Military Coalition
- State Veterans Home Adult Day Health Care Improvement Act of 2017 (S. 324) – Passed into law on 3/27/2018 (PL 115-159) *Supported through The Military Coalition
- To provide VA memorial headstones and markers for veterans whose remains are unavailable (H.R. 3656) – Passed into law on 3/16/2018 (PL 115-136) *Supported through The Military Coalition
- The Quicker Veterans Benefits Delivery Act of 2017 (H.R. 1725) – Passed into law on 3/9/2018 (PL 115-130) *Supported through The Military Coalition
- The Veterans Care Financial Protection Act of 2017 (H.R. 3122) – Passed into law on 3/9/2018 (PL 115-131) *Supported through The Military Coalition
- The Enhancing Veteran Care Act (S. 1266) – Passed into law on 12/20/2017 (PL 115-95) *Supported through The Military Coalition
- VA Prescription Data Accountability Act (H.R. 1545) – Passed into law on 11/21/2017 (PL 115-86) *Supported through The Military Coalition
- The Veterans Apprenticeship and Labor Opportunity Reform (VALOR) Act (H.R. 3949) – Passed into law on 11/21/2017 (PL 115-89) *Supported through The Military Coalition
- The Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2017 (H.R. 1329) – Passed into law on 11/2/2017 (PL 115-75) *Supported through The Military Coalition
- The VA Expiring Authorities Act of 2017 (H.R. 3819) – Passed into law on 9/29/2017 (PL 115-62) *Supported through The Military Coalition
- The HIRE Veterans Act (H.R. 244) – Passed into law on 5/5/2017 (PL 115-31) *Supported through The Military Coalition
Support for Injuries from Burn Pits and Other Toxic Exposures:
- Burn Pits Accountability Act (S. 191/H.R. 663) Passed into law 12/20/2019
- Service Member’s Occupational and Environmental Transparency Act/Oath Act (S. 1680) Passed into law 12/20/2019
- Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act (S. 546/H.R. 1327) Passed into law on 7/29/2019
- Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (H.R. 299) Passed into law on 6/26/2019
- FY 2019 Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Act (P.L. 115-244) – Included Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act (H.R. 1279, S. 319) language establishing a Burn Pits Center of Excellence and with additional funding for research and outreach to veterans affected. Also includes #SheWhoBorneTheBattle provisions to require VA to ensure sufficient funds are spent for prosthetics designed for female veterans, and increased funding for female veterans healthcare and facilities. Requires VA to submit a report to Congress on retrofitting facilities to eliminate barriers to care for women veterans. Directs VA to provide statistics on female healthcare professionals at the Department. Passed into law on 9/21/2018
- Arla Harrell Act (H.R. 1359, S. 75) – Legislation included within H.R. 3218 which passed into law on 8/16/2017
Defend the GI Bill:
- A bill to authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to treat certain programs of education converted to distance learning by reason of emergencies and health-related situations in the same manner as programs of education pursued at educational institutions, and for other purposes (S. 3503) – Passed into law 3/21/2020
- Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act (H.R. 3218, S. 1598) – Passed into law on 8/16/2017 (Public Law No: 115-48)
- VET TEC Act (H.R. 1989, S. 1277) – Legislation included within Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act (H.R. 3218) which passed into law on 8/16/2017
- Veterans TEST Accessibility Act (H.R. 1104, S. 1192) – Legislation included within H.R. 3218 which passed into law on 8/16/2017
- To provide for the entitlement to educational assistance under the Post-9/11 Educational Assistance Program of the VA for members of the Armed Forces awarded the Purple Heart (H.R. 1379, S. 882). *Supported through The Military Coalition – Legislation included within H.R. 3218 which passed into law on 8/16/2017
- Yellow Ribbon Improvement Act (S. 798) – Legislation included within H.R. 3218 which passed into law on 8/16/2017
- Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Education Relief and Restoration Act (H.R. 2068) – Legislation included within H.R. 3218 which passed into law on 8/16/2017
Improve Services for Women Veterans:
- Servicewomen’s Health Transition Training Act of 2019 (H.R. 2941) Passed into law 12/20/2019
- Veteran PEER Act (H.R. 5830, S. 1873) – Legislation reflective of #SheWhoBornTheBattle provision included within S. 2372 which passed into law on 6/6/2018
- SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act (H.R. 6) – Passed into law on 10/24/2018. Provision in omnibus opioid bill reflective of #SheWhoBornTheBattle provision – directs VA to recruit and appoint peer support counselors for women veterans.
Passed by the House:
VA & Government Reform:
- Homeless Veterans Families Act (H.R. 95) Passed the House of Representatives on 10/15/2019
- To amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for improvements to the specially adapted housing program of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes (H.R. 3504) Passed the House of Representatives on 7/23/2019
- To direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to make all fact sheets of the Department of Veterans Affairs in English and Spanish (H.R. 2943) Passed the House of Representatives on 7/23/2019
- Gold Star Family Tax Relief Act (S. 1370/H.R. 2481) Passed in Senate on 5/21/2019, Passed the House of Representatives as a part of the SECURE Act (H.R. 1994) on 5/23/2019
- Expressing Opposition to Banning Service in the Armed Forces by Openly Transgender Individuals (H. Res. 124) Passed the House of Representatives on 3/28/2019
- Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act (H.R. 840) Passed the House of Representatives on 2/8/2019
Defend the GI Bill:
- Protect the GI Bill Act (H.R. 4625) Passed the House of Representatives on 11/12/2019
Improve Services for Women Veterans:
- The Deborah Sampson Act (S.514/ H.R. 3224) Passed the House of Representatives on 11/13/2019
- Helping Expand and Launch Transitional Health (HEALTH) for Women Veterans Act (H.R. 2942/S. 2324) Passed the House of Representatives on 7/23/2019
- Improving Oversight of Women Veterans’ Care Act (H.R. 4334) – Passed by the House on 5/21/2018
Establish Support for Alternative Therapies:
- Whole Veteran Act (H.R. 2359) Passed the House of Representatives on 5/21/2019
Passed by HVAC:
Improve Services for Women Veterans:
- Building Supportive Networks for Women Veterans Act (H.R. 91) – Passed by HVAC on 6/28/2017
Establish Support for Alternative Therapies: