When the budget battle rumbled through Washington, the resulting government shutdown threatened earned compensation and benefits for nearly 5 million men and women who faithfully served their nation. The close call was avoided, for now, with a temporary funding measure, called a continuing resolution, but veterans’ benefits could be threatened again.
DAV members are refusing to sit back and allow political posturing to jeopardize their benefits any longer. While National Service Offices and Department and Chapter Officers found innovative ways to continue serving veterans and their families during the government shutdown, Departments and Chapters launched grassroots initiatives to support advance funding, which would prevent political gridlock from adversely affecting any of VA’s benefits and services ever again.
DAV Commander’s Action Network (DAV CAN) is a tool members may use to fight for the protection of benefits veterans and their families have earned through service. This innovative feature, accessed through DAV’s website, allows users to instantly check on issues currently affecting veterans, DAV’s stance on the issue, which legislators have supported it and which ones haven’t.
DAV CAN users are able to email their lawmakers to demand they take action on issues affecting veterans and their families. The site provides sample emails for certain key issues, so users can be sure to include the appropriate legislative language as they customize their messages to their Senators and Representatives.
“The DAV Commander’s Action Network is such an innovative and powerful tool veterans and supporters can access,” said National Legislative Director Joseph A. Violante. “We’ve provided a resource that allows for instant access to elected representatives and for holding them accountable for supporting issues that affect veterans and their families. I encourage everyone to access DAV CAN and use it to tell Congress that using veterans as a political football is unacceptable, and legislation like the Putting Veterans Funding First Act must be passed.”
To bring additional attention to the impact a prolonged shutdown would have on members, DAV National Headquarters created a tool kit for holding rallies and town hall meetings and provided guidance to Departments and Chapters hosting events.
“To the general public, the infighting and political posturing in Washington can seem distant, with little or no local effects,” said Violante. “That’s why, when local veterans share how damaging a shutdown is for them personally, it sends an important message that resonates throughout the country.”
Rallies and town hall meetings in cities including Anchorage, Boston and Oakland focused attention on the nationwide need to secure full funding for the VA. The Department of Florida took the lead on this initiative by hosting the first event just days after the shutdown ended.
Despite heavy rain, DAV members and fellow veterans’ advocates joined forces at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Wall in a showing of solidarity to encourage supporters to contact their lawmakers and let them know that it is time for Congress to pass, and for the President to sign, legislation that extends advance appropriations to all VA discretionary and mandatory programs. Newspaper and TV coverage of the event circulated DAV’s message to millions in Florida.
“More than 1.6 million veterans live in Florida,” said Department Commander Guy Diffenbaugh. “That’s a lot of people whose benefits were nearly on the chopping block. We’re concerned about the fate of veterans. We want Washington to wake up and take care of its heroes.”
John Markiewicz, DAV National Executive Committee member and Past Department Commander, echoed Diffenbaugh’s sentiment.
“All of the issues we had during the shutdown affecting veterans—such as uncertainty of pensions and disability compensation—highlighted the importance of advance funding for all of the VA,” Markiewicz said. “Veterans in Florida are very concerned and are looking to DAV for guidance to make sure they’re not threatened again.”