Ahead of Presidential Debate, IAVA Releases Voter Guide

Ahead of Presidential Debate, IAVA Releases Voter Guide

CONTACT: Hallie Seegal (212) 982-9699 or hallie@iava.org

October 2, 2012
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Ahead of Presidential Debate, IAVA Releases Voter GuideIssue guide will help America cast smart votes to support new veterans on November 6th

NEW YORK- In advance of the first presidential debate, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the nation’s first and largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, is releasing a guide to educate voters on the most critical challenges facing Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. The guide features issue summaries and checklists to help every citizen cast smart votes for candidates showing real leadership for our community.

“Our country cannot afford to elect candidates who think a ‘thank you for your service’ is enough. Every single voter should look for commitment, leadership and transparency on behalf of the 2.5 million veterans of this generation, whether you have served or not,” said IAVA Founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff. “This guide is an easy way for voters of all parties to get smart on veterans issues, and for candidates to learn what veterans are looking for on November 6th. Veterans fought for our country, now it is our collective responsibility to ensure that our policymakers fight for them. Red or blue, left or right, this guide will help you find the right candidates for vets – and for you.”

With one veteran committing suicide every 36 hours, a 10.9% unemployment rate, and veterans’ education under attack from predatory for-profit schools, candidates and policy makers have a moral obligation to care for those who’ve served our country. Service members, veterans, and their supporters want to see smart policy and tough decisions from leaders from both sides of the aisle on five critical issues:

1.    Lowering the veteran unemployment rate: 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. 

2.    Protecting veterans’ education benefits: 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%. 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.

3.    Improving mental health care to prevent suicides: 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.    Modernizing critical VA services: The VA has fallen behind in serving the needs of veterans of all generations. According to the Inspector General, over 50% 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 move quickly and political leaders must hold them accountable; veterans cannot afford to wait years for critical resources and support.

5.    Improving support for female veterans: Women are a growing part of the United States military and account for almost 12% 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. Our political leaders must be more focused on getting female veterans the care they deserve.

To read the full voter guide, click here.

To arrange an interview with IAVA’s Founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff, Chief Policy Officer Tom Tarantino or any other IAVA Member Veteran on the critical issues impacting the veterans’ community, please contact us at (212)-982-9699 or press@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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