IAVA Participates in Groundbreaking George W. Bush Institute Summit on Post-9/11 Veterans
DALLAS (February 18, 2014) – Senior leaders of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) will participate in Wednesday’s Empowering Our Nation’s Warriors summit at the George W. Bush Institute, joining leaders from the non-profit and business communities and the public sector. The day-long summit is one of the largest and most comprehensive discussions on how the government can partner with philanthropic organizations to meet the needs of new veterans. The Summit will feature remarks from President Bush and Dr. Jill Biden. IAVA Founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff and Chief Policy Officer Tom Tarantino will represent IAVA members and supporters at the Summit.
There are 2.5 million Americans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, including an estimated 278,000 who now reside in Texas.
“The Bush Institute Summit is a huge opportunity to re-focus our attention on the men and women who have sacrificed the most over the last 12 years- our vets. IAVA thanks President Bush for his leadership and focus on the critical issues affecting our community. While attention inevitably will fade as the US winds down military operations overseas, we cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the challenges our vets confront as they transition home,” said IAVA Founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff. “IAVA is honored to participate in this important Summit and address top issues for our members, including strengthening mental health care, lowering unemployment, expanding education opportunities and ensuring veterans get the care and benefits they’ve earned.”
The Summit is being held at a time when veterans are facing a host of challenges:
Nationally about 400,000 veterans are stuck in the VA disability claims backlog, waiting more than 125 days for a decision on their claims. Texas regional offices have some of the largest backlogs in the country. The Houston Regional Office has 17,400 veterans in the backlog, with an average pending time of 177.2 days. The Waco Regional Office has 13,700 veterans in the backlog, with an average pending time of 149 days.
A new study found that the suicide rate for young, male vets has skyrocketed (up 44 percent in three years). Overall, an estimated 22 veterans commit suicide every day.
Veterans retirement benefits are under attack. A December budget agreement included unprecedented cuts to military retirees. Reducing the annual cost-of-living adjustment for most military retirees and survivors would lead to a 20 percent cut to retirement benefits over the course of their lives. For a retired Army Sergeant First Class (E-7) that would have meant the loss of $83,000 in retirement savings. Responding to an outcry from the veterans and military community, Congress restored the cuts last week. Yet, there are real concerns that Congress could again attempt to balance the budget on the backs of veterans.
In addition to attending the Summit, this week IAVA leaders will be participating in community events with member veterans and with local leaders from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.