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President’s Message, March/April 2023 -   -  

Staying Revelant For All Veterans   


On March 1, I had the distinct honor of presenting VVA’s legislative priorities before the Joint Senate and House Veterans Affairs’ Committees’ annual hearing, along with a huge panel of other veterans advocacy and service organizations. Rather than addressing the same issues as other VSOs, our terrific Government Affairs and Communications staff thoroughly prepared me up to focus on the issues that were specifically important to VVA members across the country.

I was joined by Vice President Tom Burke, VVA state council presidents, legislative experts from the states of the committees’ leadership from both parties, and the great professionals of VVA’s Government Affairs and Communications Departments.

I want to express my deep appreciation to VVA Kansas State Council President Roland Mayhew, Montana State Council President Chuck Renevier, and California political and legislative consultant Bob Mulholland for traveling to Capitol Hill. And to Sharon Hodge, VVA Director of Government Affairs, Mokie Porter, Director of Communications, as well as staff members Harold Hanson, Kathleen Grathwol, Logan Legates, and John Stovall.

In my testimony, I highlighted several of VVA’s top legislative priorities and policy initiatives:

Assure full funding of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency so that the 1,581 unaccounted-for American servicemembers from the Vietnam War and their survivors can finally find some peace.

Address the issues of aging veterans in a VA system that lacks a clear and comprehensive roadmap to address healthcare concerns.

Address problems faced by rural veterans, who make up almost 5 million of the twenty million veterans in the U.S., 50 percent of whom are 65 years and older and affected by a service-related condition.

Hold an oversight committee hearing on the Toxic Exposure Research Act, which calls for intergenerational research, with the VA Secretary as star witness, to investigate what metrics he used that empowered him not to follow the law.

Amend P.L. 116-23 to extend the arbitrary twelve-nautical mile limitation to include U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Vietnam veterans assigned to the Vietnam Theater of Combat Operations or received the Vietnam Service Medal.

Work toward the equitable care and treatment of Gulf War veterans exposed to toxicants.

Address the failings of the Caregiver Support Program. Inequitable practices have led to unjust denials, discharges, and downgrades of countless participants and applicants since 2016.

Provide funding for comprehensive, individualized assessments and rehabilitation and treatment programs using a continuum-of-care concept for homeless veterans. The extreme shortage of affordable housing in the U.S. has helped create a homelessness crisis, but that does not explain why veterans are much more likely to experience homelessness than the average American.

Work closely to help VA create a culture that proactively seeks out lonely, homeless, family-less, disenfranchised veterans and brings them in from the cold.

Ask Congress to enact a law that will make mandatory the insertion of this question on every death certificate: Did the decedent ever serve in the Armed Forces of the United States? This simple step will enable researchers to do a more thorough medical postmortem of anyone determined to have committed suicide, leading to improved intervention services. To read VVA’s Legislative Priorities & Policy Initiatives for the 118th Congress: https://vva/org/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/VVA_March_2023_Testimony-FInal.pdf

For some reason the legislators believe that all these issues could be addressed in a three- to five-minute period with a time clock blinking in my face. From that perspective, this old guy failed you. I overran the allotted time by more than several minutes but managed not to get locked up for contempt of Congress.

A bunch of newly elected younger veterans on the HVAC came up to us at the end of the hearing and expressed gratitude for being so inclusive of all generations of veterans in our testimony and for being so passionate in our convictions.





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