Amidst More Turmoil, VA Secretary’s Breakfast Attended By IAVA
WASHINGTON, DC (July 19, 2018) — Yesterday, as controversy continues at VA, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Acting Secretary Peter O’Rourke hosted Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) Legislative Director Tom Porter and other VSO leaders for this monthly roundtable discussion and breakfast at the VA Central Office in Washington, DC. Secretary O’Rourke briefed leading VSOs on VA’s latest news and priorities. IAVA’s Porter represented IAVA’s 425,000 members and presented our priorities to the Acting Secretary and VA leaders. O’Rourke hosted the meeting as nominee Robert Wilkie is still awaiting a Senate vote. This meeting comes at a critical time, as only 14% of IAVA members trust VA leadership nationally when polled in March.
IAVA will also be looking to VA leaders to defend the Post-9/11 GI Bill, always a top priority for IAVA, in the wake of the recent announcement by the Department of Defense (DoD) that the transferability of the benefit to family members will be limited to those with less than 16 years of service. The VA should also encourage the DoD to ensure that the more than 130,000 veterans who were improperly charged taxes on disability severance pay dating back to 1991 are refunded expeditiously.
“IAVA is appreciative to have had the opportunity to once again join the acting VA Secretary and senior VA officials to hear the latest from inside VA and to advocate on what our members need most,” Porter said following the breakfast. “Our Big 6 Advocacy Priorities need immediate action and maximum support from the acting Secretary and all of VA. We will continue to share the voices of the Post-9/11 generation of veterans and look forward to working with VA and our VSO partners on our shared priorities throughout the remainder of 2018 and beyond.”
Porter, an Afghanistan veteran, leads IAVA’s Capitol Hill outreach and serves as a spokesman for the organization’s top priorities including recent advances in IAVA’s campaign on burn pits and toxic exposures. Recent advances aim to bring accountability to the DoD for servicemembers’ exposure to burn pits and airborne toxins while deployed. This includes a focus on the bipartisan Burn Pits Accountability Act (H.R. 5671/S. 3181) that IAVA recently worked to introduce with Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Brian Mast (R-FL), and Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK). The legislation finally would hold the DoD accountable for reporting these exposures at regular intervals during a servicemember’s military career in order to boost research.