Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

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Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
IAVA official logo.jpg
Abbreviation IAVA
Formation 2004
Type War veterans organization
Purpose "IAVA's mission is to connect, unite and empower post-9/11 veterans."
Headquarters New York, New York
Founder and CEO
Paul Rieckhoff
Website iava.org

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), is a nonprofit 501c3 veterans organization founded by Paul Rieckhoff, an American writer, social entrepreneur, advocate, activist and veteran of the United States Army and the Iraq War. He served as an Army First Lieutenant and infantry rifle platoon leader in Iraq from 2003 through 2004. Rieckhoff was released from the Army National Guard in 2007.

Founding and purpose[edit]

IAVA was founded in 2004 by Iraq War veteran Paul Rieckhoff to provide resources to and community for post-9/11 veterans. The organization is headquartered in New York City and maintains a policy office in Washington, DC. IAVA’s mission is to unite, empower and connect post-9/11 veterans through education, advocacy and community. Its programs include non-partisan advocacy on Capitol Hill, data-driven research on post-9/11 veteran issues, veterans transition assistance through its Rapid Response Referral Program (RRRP), and community building through its VetTogether and online community events.

In 2012 Stars and Stripes reported that “IAVA representatives are frequent cable news guests and regulars at hearings on Capitol Hill, where few if any veterans initiatives are passed without their blessing.”[1] The Washington Post has stated that “With its ability to talk intimately about both the horror of combat and the difficulty of coming home...[IAVA]...has emerged as a key player on veterans issues on the Hill.”[2] In regards to IAVA’s CEO Paul Rieckhoff, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) has been quoted as saying, "He's relentless. When [Paul Rieckhoff] brings a new issue to me, I know that's what I should be fighting for."[3]

According to IAVA, the organization currently has 187,808 veteran members and 238,540 supporters. IAVA membership is free and is available to “all veterans, families, and civilian allies.”[4]

Advocacy[edit]

IAVA has been involved in, and at times led, the passage of a number of pieces of legislation since its establishment. The organization publishes an annual policy agenda that focuses on recommendations for Congress, the Executive Branch, Private Sector, State Nonprofits and other stakeholders.

The IAVA Policy Agenda lists various veterans issues that the organization is engaged in with its “Big Four” priorities:

  1. Combat Suicide Among Troops and Veterans
  2. Fully Recognize and Improve Services for Women Veterans
  3. Reform Government for Today’s Veterans
  4. Defend Veteran and Military Education Benefits

Legislative initiatives and accomplishments in the 114th Congress[edit]

  • Defend The GI Bill (2016): In 2016, the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees introduced veterans omnibus bills that include significant cuts to the Post-9/11 GI Bill.[5] Through advocacy on Capitol Hill, in the media, and grassroots efforts by its members, IAVA has been successful in holding off passage of that legislation into law.[6]
  • Female Veteran Suicide Prevention Act (2016): IAVA successfully advocated for legislation (S. 2487[7]/H.R. 2915) that requires the VA to include metrics on women veterans in evaluation of mental health and suicide prevention programs, among other provisions. The bill was signed into law on June 12, 2016.
  • James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act (2015): IAVA joined forces with the Feal Good Foundation[8] and 9/11 first responders and survivors to secure a fully funded 75-year extension[9] of the World Trade Center Health Program Fund and five-year, $4.6 billion Victim Compensation Fund extension, which helps provide care to 9/11 first responders.
  • Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act (2015): IAVA developed and led the campaign to pass the Clay Hunt SAV Act and ensured that it was one of the first pieces of legislation passed[10] by the 114th Congress. It was signed into law by the President on February 12, 2015. The SAV Act expands access to mental health care for military and veterans; strengthens oversight of military mental health care programs, among other provisions.

Legislative accomplishments in the 113th Congress[edit]

  • Ending the VA Backlog (2013): IAVA advocated to end the backlog of veterans’ disability claims at the VA.[11] With the help of allied organizations, IAVA prompted the VA to implement reforms to its claims processing system. These efforts resulted in the number of veterans waiting over 125 days to receive compensation for service-connected disabilities to decrease by over 60 percent.[12]
  • Combating Military Sexual Assault (2013): IAVA has been an advocate for reforms to the military justice system that protect victims of military sexual assaults and prevent future assaults. In 2013, IAVA successfully advocated to include thirteen amendments in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014 (NDAA)[13] that improve victims’ rights, strengthen prevention efforts, and protect whistleblowers within the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act of 2014. The organization has continued with this advocacy in the current 114th Congress.

Legislative Accomplishments in the 112th Congress[edit]

  • VOW to Hire Heroes Act (2011): IAVA successfully advocated to pass this law, which addresses the career challenges veterans face in transitioning from combat to career. The legislation requires separating service members to take the Transition Assistance Program that provides job search resources like resume and career counseling.[14] This law 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.

Legislative accomplishments in the 111th Congress[edit]

  • New GI Bill 2.0 (2010): In 2010, IAVA worked to pass the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act,[15] 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. These new provisions benefitted almost 400,000 veterans in their first year.
  • Mandatory Mental Health Screening (2009): IAVA successfully advocated[16] to pass this bill which mandates that every returning service member is screened for mental health injuries, helping remove the stigma of seeking help and catching mental health injuries early.

Legislative accomplishments in the 110th Congress[edit]

  • Post-9/11 “New” GI Bill (2008): IAVA played the lead role in passing the Post-9/11 GI Bill,[17] considered by many to be the most important veterans’ benefit for the generation of post-9/11 veterans. This landmark legislation has sent more than one million veterans to college.
  • Joshua Omvig Suicide Prevention Bill (2007): This legislation has worked to address the veteran and service member suicide epidemic.[18] It helped establish the Veterans’ Crisis Line that has served more than half a million veterans in crisis, instituted better suicide prevention training for VA staff, and launched a campaign to reduce the stigma of seeking mental health care.

Research[edit]

IAVA regularly publishes data-driven research reports[19] to educate on the issues pertaining to post-9/11 veterans. The purpose of these reports is to drive the development of solutions to benefit veterans and their families. These reports include:

  • IAVA 2015 Annual Member Survey
  • IAVA 2014 Annual Member Survey
  • IAVA 2013 Annual Member Survey
  • Unsung Heroes: Military Families After 10 Years of War
  • New York’s Newest Veterans: Key Findings and Policy Implications of the RAND Corporation’s Needs Assessment of New York State Veterans
  • Red Tape: Veterans Fight New Battles for Care and Benefits
  • Women Warriors: Supporting She ‘Who Has Borne the Battle
  • Careers After Combat: Employment and Education Challenges for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans
  • Coming Home: The Housing Crisis and Homelessness Threaten New Veterans
  • Invisible Wounds: Psychological and Neurological Injuries Confront a New Generation of Veterans

Rapid Response Referral Program (RRRP)[edit]

IAVA’s Rapid Response Referral Program (RRRP) provides support to service members, veterans, and their families who need resources and assistance. The RRRP program is staffed by a team of transition managers who connect veterans to resources that can support their needs on issues relating health, financial, housing, legal, employment, etc.[20]

VetTogethers[edit]

IAVA’s VetTogethers are local events that are organized by it members through IAVA’s social network website myIAVA. These events are meant to connect veterans to their community and build awareness and friendships.[21]

Board of directors[edit]

The IAVA Board of Directors provides leadership, assistance, and counsel to the organization. These Board of Directors are:[22]

2016 Commander-in-Chief Forum[edit]

On September 7, 2016, IAVA hosted a live televised Commander-in-Chief Forum with presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to focus exclusively on issues pertaining to defense, foreign policy, and veterans.[23] The Forum was presented by NBC News and MSNBC and was moderated by TODAY Show co-anchor Matt Lauer from the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City. The audience were mostly veterans and active duty service members.[24]

The forum generated controversy among some supporters of Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson because he was not invited to the event.[25] As of July, 2016, Gary Johnson favorably polls at 13% among active duty military members.[26] On September 1, 2016, IAVA invited Gov. Johnson and Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, to participate in an upcoming Commander-in-Chief forum of veterans issues. The Johnson campaign distanced themselves from any protests and considered the invitation.[27]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Shane III, leo. "IAVA attracts the spotlight -- and detractors". Stars and Stripes. 
  2. ^ Davenport, Christian. "Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Gain a Powerful Voice: Their Own". 
  3. ^ "The Quiet Ones: 12 Leaders Who Get Things Done". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2016-08-28. 
  4. ^ "Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)". Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Retrieved 2016-08-29. 
  5. ^ OMelveny, Sean. "Vets Group Criticizes Senate Panel Vote to Curb GI Bill Housing Aid". Retrieved 2016-08-29. 
  6. ^ "Victory Declared As Vets Block Cuts To GI Bill » Iraq And Afghanistan Veterans Of America (IAVA)". 2016-07-15. Retrieved 2016-08-29. 
  7. ^ "Female Veteran Suicide Prevention Act". Congress.gov. 
  8. ^ "Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America lead Veterans' Organizations in support of Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Extension | FealGood Foundation". fealgoodfoundation.com. Retrieved 2016-08-29. 
  9. ^ "Zadroga 9/11 health legislation included in must-pass spending bill". Retrieved 2016-08-29. 
  10. ^ Klein, Joe. "Clay Hunt's Legacy for Veterans". TIME.com. Retrieved 2016-08-29. 
  11. ^ "Veterans group seeks action to cut backlog of claims". Retrieved 2016-08-29. 
  12. ^ "IAVA In Washington » Iraq And Afghanistan Veterans Of America (IAVA)". 2015-05-21. Retrieved 2016-08-29. 
  13. ^ "National Defense Authorization Act of 2014". Congress.gov. 
  14. ^ Impact, Jessica Prois Executive Editor of HuffPost; News, HuffPost Good (2011-11-21). "Obama Signs Bill Into Law To Spur Veteran Hiring". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2016-08-29. 
  15. ^ "The GI Bill 2.0: New and Improved | Defense Media Network". Retrieved 2016-08-29. 
  16. ^ IraqNewsVids (2009-05-12), IAVA's Patrick Campbell on Mandatory Mental Health Screening for Troops and Veterans, retrieved 2016-08-29 
  17. ^ "New G.I. Bill Aims to Provide Expanded Educational Benefits to Troops". Retrieved 2016-08-29. 
  18. ^ "Vets' Mental Health Bill Becomes Law". psychiatrictimes.com. 
  19. ^ MilitaryTimes. "more-post-911-veterans-have-considered-suicide-survey-say | MilitaryTimes". MilitaryTimes. Retrieved 2016-08-29. 
  20. ^ "Veteran suicide: The stories behind the statistics". Retrieved 2016-08-29. 
  21. ^ "Veterans holding Get Togethers to get connected". www.whiteoutpress.com. Retrieved 2016-08-29. 
  22. ^ "Staff And Board » Iraq And Afghanistan Veterans Of America (IAVA)". 2014-09-29. Retrieved 2016-09-06. 
  23. ^ "The first Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump showdown of 2016, annotated". September 7, 2016. 
  24. ^ "Matt Lauer to Moderate Commander-in-Chief Forum". nbcnews.com. 1 September 2016. Retrieved 2 September 2016. 

External links[edit]