Stephen “Butch” Whitehead, Commander
A changing of the guard
With new leadership in the White House and Department of Veterans Affairs, DAV and other veterans advocates have begun the necessary work of cultivating and fostering a positive working relationship with the new administration to ensure the voices of the more than 1 million veterans our organization represents are heard. In fact, this work began well before either of them stepped into their respective offices.
Shortly after the election, Biden’s presidential transition team reached out to DAV’s staff in Washington to learn more about our organization’s critical policy goals and the institutional and cultural changes we feel need to be addressed at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Almost immediately after receiving his nomination to the VA’s highest post, McDonough also reached out to DAV leaders to voice his dedication to America’s veterans and his resolve to make it a priority for the federal government to work as it should for veterans.
Particularly heartening to hear in these various conversations was the incoming administration’s dedication to addressing a number of DAV’s legislative priorities, including improving services to women veterans, enhancing survivor and caregiver benefits, strengthening veterans mental health care and suicide prevention programs, adding presumptive conditions for Agent Orange exposure and conceding exposures to toxic burn pits in America’s most recent wars.
But it is important to remember that these interactions were merely conversations. While we are excited to be on the same wavelength concerning the most pressing issues facing our nation’s veterans, rest assured that DAV will work to hold this administration accountable and ensure that this talk is turned into tangible action.
For that to happen, our organization and the men and women we serve require nothing less than your continued, spirited and tenacious advocacy. And from what I’ve seen during my time as your national commander, I have no doubt you will deliver with full and forceful effort.
While the mantle of leadership of our country and the VA has changed, it’s important to remember that DAV and our members must continue to speak as a nonpartisan voice for disabled veterans, their families and survivors. This must remain one of our guiding principles—just as it has for the past 100 years.
The future is bright for veterans advocacy. Our collective voices are tremendously valued at an incredibly pivotal time. But we must not take that for granted. We must hold our leadership accountable and work harder than ever before. Our service, benefits and livelihoods depend on it.
And I know you will not let us down.
If you want to find out more about the National Commander, you can find his biography here.