At GOP Convention, IAVA Calls For Candidates to Focus on the Top Five Issues Facing New Veterans

At GOP Convention, IAVA Calls For Candidates to Focus on the Top Five Issues Facing New Veterans

CONTACT: Hallie Seegal (917) 488-3762 or hallie@iava.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, August 27, 2012
CONTACT: Hallie Seegal, (917) 488-3762 or hallie@iava.org

At GOP Convention, IAVA Calls For Candidates to Focus on the Top Five Issues Facing New VeteransSurvey Shows 90% of IAVA Members Registered to Vote; IAVA’s Chief Policy Officer Tom Tarantino Available for Media in Tampa

TAMPA,  FL – Today, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the nation’s first and largest nonpartisan organization for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, called on leaders at the 2012 Republican National Convention to outline a concrete campaign agenda which addresses the most urgent education, employment and mental health issues impacting America’s new veterans and their families. From August 27th to 30th, IAVA will attend the RNC Convention in Tampa, Florida to educate political leaders, delegates and American voters on measures to best support Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. IAVA will also be represented at the DNC Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina from September 4th to 8th. IAVA’s Chief Policy Officer and Iraq veteran Tom Tarantino will be available for media on the ground at both conventions.

“As the GOP Convention kicks off, Americans are fighting and dying overseas for our country—and they deserve America’s focused attention. Service members and veterans will be a powerful voting bloc this election. As a community, we want to hear concrete specifics from President Obama, Governor Romney and leaders from both sides of the aisle about how they intend to make defense and veterans’ issues a top national priority,” said Paul Rieckhoff, IAVA Founder and Executive Director.

“A simple ‘Thank you for your service’ won’t cut it this November. It won’t protect the New GI Bill, lower veteran unemployment, break the VA claims’ backlog, stop the tragic rise in military and veteran suicides, or improve healthcare for female veterans. After 10 years at war, troops and veterans deserve to know: ‘How are America’s leaders going to support this New Greatest Generation now and for decades to come?’ IAVA has identified the top five issues for all candidates to address this campaign season, and we plan to hold them to this agenda. Our veterans served our country honorably, it’s time for our politicians to return the favor,” said IAVA’s Chief Policy Officer Tom Tarantino.

In November, the military and veterans’ community will make for a powerful constituency at the polls. According to recent surveys, 90% of IAVA members and almost 93% of military families are registered to vote. In swing states, veterans will be a crucial voting bloc: it’s estimated 60,000 veterans are registered voters in Ohio and 300,000 are registered in Virginia and Florida combined. As the country’s leading, nonpartisan veteran service organization, IAVA calls on all leaders from both sides of the aisle to adopt five crucial measures before Election Day to support America’s veterans and their families:

1.    Defend the New GI Bill: The Post-9/11 GI Bill is the best job training and education program for our country’s veterans, but for the first-time it’s under serious threat. Eight of the top 10 recipients of New GI Bill funding are for-profit schools; yet they’re averaging dropout rates between 50 to 70 percent. Political leaders must defend the New GI Bill from predatory for-profit schools by closing the 90-10 loophole and taking the target off veterans’ hard earned benefits.

2.    Employ the New Greatest Generation: Veterans are highly skilled, talented leaders who stand ready to use their skills in civilian jobs. Yet, the unemployment rate for new veterans averaged 12.1% in 2011, three percentage points higher than the national average. Political leaders must strengthen USERRA to protect service members’ jobs, and military skills must more easily translate into civilian credentials and licenses in the workforce. 

3.    Prevent Suicide Among Troops and Veterans: For the first time in our nation’s history, the suicide rate among veterans and service members has surpassed that of civilians. In July, the Army alone reported 38 suicides – the highest recorded to date. Political leaders must improve oversight of mental health programs, increase the number of mental health professionals and swiftly address the stigma surrounding mental health to ensure timely access to the highest quality mental health care possible.

4.    Build a Truly 21st Century VA: The VA has fallen behind in serving the needs of veterans of all generations. According to the Inspector General, over 50 percent of veterans who seek a mental health evaluation at the VA must wait an average of 50 days. Meanwhile, despite record budgets, nearly one million veterans’ benefits claims are stuck in the VA backlog. The VA must quickly move to a paperless, electronic claims system. Our veterans cannot afford to wait years for the resources they depend on.

5.    Improve Care for Female Veterans: Women are a growing part of the United States military and account for almost 12 percent of veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet care and support for these women warriors has lagged behind. The VA health care system and disability claims system are still not designed to support the unique needs and experience of female veterans. While we have seen progress in reforming these systems, our leaders must be more focused on getting female veterans the care they deserve.

IAVA will also represent at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC from September 4th to 8th. For complete policy recommendations, read IAVA’s 2012 Policy Agenda online at www.iava.org/policyagenda2012. IAVA is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization and does not endorse political candidates of any party.

To arrange an interview at the conventions with IAVA’s Chief Policy Officer Tom Tarantino or any other IAVA Member Veteran on the critical issues impacting the veterans’ community, please contact Hallie Seegal at (917)-488-3762 or hallie@iava.org.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the country’s first and largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and has more than 200,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. Its mission is to improve the lives of this country’s newest generation of veterans and their families. As a nonpartisan organization, IAVA does not endorse any candidate for office.


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