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“Commander-in-Chief Forum” One Year Later

NEW YORK, NY (September 7, 2017) — Today marks the one year anniversary of the historic IAVA Commander-in-Chief Forum event on NBC. The Commander-in-Chief Forum marked the first time in our nation’s history that the major Presidential candidates met to exclusively discuss veterans and military issues. Nearly 15 million people across America tuned in, sparking a national and international dialogue at the height of the 2016 Presidential campaign. Today, as troop levels increase in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the threat from North Korea remains front page news, IAVA urges all Americans to reflect on the past year and to continue the conversation started at the Commander-in-Chief Forum. 

“Veterans are far too often used for campaign theater, only to take a back seat after a candidate is sworn into office. IAVA works tirelessly to reverse that trend by holding elected officials accountable to their campaign promises — and to their moral obligation as Americans to support and honor the sacrifice of our nation’s nearly 22 million veterans. One year later, it’s a good time to review the Commander-in-Chief Forum program and reflect on what our members asked and what then-candidate Trump promised. Both Presidential candidates were finally forced to confront critical issues facing our community, including veteran suicide and military sexual assault. Clearly, one national event was not enough to adequately address the range of issues facing our veterans, military families and families of the fallen. This event was not the end. It was the beginning of an essential conversation that continues today and is more important than ever,” said Paul Rieckhoff, Founder and CEO of IAVA. 

Watch the full Commander-in-Chief Forum program here, and for the full transcript click here

In the past year since that landmark evening that brought together all Americans and Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to focus on veterans issues, veterans have achieved enormous wins:

  • The VA Accountability bill passed, giving the VA Secretary tools to hold bad actors accountable
  • The Deborah Sampson women veterans support bill was introduced in Congress and continues to gain support
  • The largest expansion to veterans education since the landmark Post-9/11 GI Bill passed without unnecessary fees, taxes or charges on our troops
  • A critical bill passed providing emergency funding to VA “Choice” and secured equal funding for VA
  • The Global War on Terror Memorial received support to move forward, giving our generation of veterans a place to memorialize and honor the fallen
  • Veterans continue to inspire all Americans with their patriotism, service and leadership, through impacts in their school, businesses and communities, and in response to national challenges like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma

Veterans have also faced some major challenges, which advocates are working to tackle:

  • Servicemembers and their sacrifice continue to take a backseat in the national conversation, as IAVA Executive Director Allison Jaslow noted in her powerful CNN op-ed
  • The Marines United scandal exposed severe challenges that women who serve face
  • The ban on transgender people in the military hurt national security
  • The future of the VA remains uncertain as debates continue around “Choice 2.0”
  • Despite advances in suicide prevention, an unacceptable 20 veterans per day die by suicide
  • Florida, Puerto Rico and Texas, three of the places with the largest veterans population, face catastrophic damage due to hurricanes
  • Veterans suffered due to financial hardship due to the National Guard bonus scandal

Go to #IAVAForum to learn more and to continue the conversation beyond the questions offered last year.  A full list of the questions from veterans appears below:

QUESTION 1: Secretary Clinton, thank you very much for coming tonight. As a naval flight officer, I held a top secret sensitive compartmentalized information clearance. And that provided me access to materials and information highly sensitive to our warfighting capabilities. Had I communicated this information not following prescribed protocols, I would have been prosecuted and imprisoned.

Secretary Clinton, how can you expect those such as myself who were and are entrusted with America’s most sensitive information to have any confidence in your leadership as president when you clearly corrupted our national security?

QUESTION 2: Thank you. Secretary Clinton, to your point, you have had an extensive record with military intervention. How do you respond to progressives like myself who worry and have concerns that your hawkish foreign policy will continue? And what is your plan to end wasteful war campaigns in which our peers, servicewomen and men, continue to be killed and wounded?

QUESTION 3: Yes, Secretary Clinton, last October you said that surveys of veterans show that they’re overall satisfied with their treatment and that the problems with the V.A. aren’t as widespread as they’re made out to be. So do you think the problems with the V.A. have been made to seem worse than they really are?

QUESTION 4: Secretary Clinton, as an Army veteran, a commander-in- chief’s to empathize with servicemembers and their families is important to me. The ability to truly understand implications and consequences of your decisions, actions, or inactions. How will you determine when and where to deploy troops directly into harm’s way, especially to combat ISIS?

QUESTION 5: Mr. Trump, over the past 15 years, a lot of U.S. troops have bled and died securing towns and provinces from Iraq to Afghanistan, only to have insurgent groups like ISIS spring back the moment we leave. Now, you’ve claimed to have a secret plan to defeat ISIS. But you’re hardly the first politician to promise a quick victory and a speedy homecoming. So assuming we do defeat ISIS, what next? What is your plan for the region to ensure that a group like them doesn’t just come back?

QUESTION 6: Thank you. Do you believe that an undocumented person who serves – who wants to serve in the U.S. armed forces deserves to stay in this country legally?

QUESTION 7: I do. Mr. Trump, as you know, tensions between the United States and Russia have been at the highest level since the Cold War. In your first 120 days of presidency, how would you de-escalate the tensions? And more importantly, what steps would you take to bring Mr. Putin and the Russian government back to negotiating table?

QUESTION 8: I like what you say about supporting veterans and how they’re important. But I haven’t heard what the actual plans are to continue that support beyond words. How do you translate those words to action after you take office?

QUESTION 9: I do. Mr. Trump, I wanted to ask what your plan will be to stop 20 veterans a day from killing themselves.

QUESTION 10: Mr. Trump, I have a daughter who is interested in joining the service, but when she researched the military, she saw the stats on sexual assault and decided not to go. I have a concern about the rape of women in our armed forces. As president, what specifically would you do to support all victims of sexual assault in the military?

Note to media: Email press@iava.org or call 212-982-9699 to speak with IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff or IAVA leadership.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the leading post-9/11 veteran empowerment organization (VEO) with the most diverse and rapidly growing membership in America. As a non-profit founded in 2004, IAVA’s mission is to connect, unite and empower post-9/11 veterans. Celebrating its 12th year anniversary, IAVA has connected more than 1.2 million veterans with resources and community, and provided more than 7,300 veterans with personalized support from IAVA’s Master’s level social workers.