As Vets Hurt by Government Shutdown, IAVA Supports Vets in LA and Across the Country

As Vets Hurt by Government Shutdown, IAVA Supports Vets in LA and Across the Country

CONTACT: Carlisle Williams (212) 982-9699 or press@iava.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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As Vets Hurt by Government Shutdown, IAVA Supports Vets in LA and Across the Country

LOS ANGELES (October 4, 2013) –Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) leadership is in Los Angeles this weekend to meet with area veterans. Los Angeles is home to a robust veterans community, with over 321,000 veterans of all eras residing in Los Angeles County.

IAVA leadership will be speaking with supporters and local media to discuss veterans issues, including concerns about the ongoing government shutdown and its impact on veterans. The shutdown is affecting progress on the VA disability claims backlog, which includes 11,000 LA-area veterans who have been waiting more than 125 days.  Los Angeles veterans also receive disability and GI Bill benefits – which could be delayed as the shutdown is prolonged. 

IAVA has an FAQ which details how veterans are affected by the shutdown: http://iava.org/blog/government-shutdown-faq. Additionally, IAVA’s case managers are trained to help veterans navigate all types of transition issues. If the government shutdown affects one’s benefits, livelihood, or well-being and needs support, contact IAVA at 855-91-RAPID (72743). IAVA can connect veterans to resources and help minimize the disruption to their lives. 

“It’s great to be in Los Angeles, amongst such a strong community of veterans,” said Paul Rieckhoff, Founder and CEO of IAVA.  “Unfortunately, this week these veterans are hurting while Washington plays games. This is a stressful situation for people already stressed as they make the transition from combat to civilian life. Veterans in LA and across the country need the shutdown to end so we can receive all the support and benefits we have earned.”

One veteran who is in the backlog and who is affected by the shutdown is Jason Ayala. Ayala is an Army veteran from Sun Valley, California. He served two tours in Iraq. His first deployment was from 2005 – 2006 where he helped with convoy security and dealt with a lot of IED attacks.  In 2007 he was stationed in Hawaii and deployed back to Iraq in 2008. After returning stateside again, he experienced a downward spiral, as he couldn’t get a job. He filed a claim in December 2011 for his lower back, neck, headaches and PTSD. Half a year after filing, he got a response saying the VA received his claim. He heard nothing until February of this year, when his claim was changed to the developmental stage, however there has been no movement since. He hasn’t had a compensation exam or a rating in the 18 months since he filed. He says that the lack of benefits has affected his family financially, as he feels like he is constantly trying to make do. 

During the visit to Los Angeles, Rieckhoff will be the keynote speaker Saturday at 12:30 p.m. for The Soldiers Project 4th Annual Conference.  He will be the first recipient of the conference’s “Pathways Home” award.  The Soldiers Project, who is hosting the conference, provides free, unlimited, and confidential psychological assistance to service members and their families of the conflicts of Iraq and Afghanistan. 

“I want to sincerely thank The Soldiers Project for the honor of the “Pathways Home” award,” said Rieckhoff.  “Every 65 minutes, a veteran commits suicide.  We need to remain committed to providing returning soldiers with the assistance they need.”

Note to media: Please contact press@iava.org or call 212-982-9699 if you would like to schedule an interview with IAVA Founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff during the Los Angeles visit. 

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the nation’s first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has more than 270,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. IAVA recently received the highest rating – four-stars – from Charity Navigator, America’s largest charity evaluator. 

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