2022 saw many legislative victories for veterans

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DAV has blazed the trail in strengthening and protecting veterans’ benefits for more than a century. From today’s warfighter just stepping off the battlefield to aging heroes with evolving health needs, DAV remains a leader in advocating for wounded, ill and injured veterans.

And 2022 was no exception.

The Honoring Our PACT Act ushers in a new era for veterans dealing with the adverse health effects of toxic substances. For those who served in conflicts after 9/11, the law adds 23 presumptive diseases related to burn pit exposure. It also adds hypertension as a presumptive disease for veterans exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam.

DAV supported this landmark bill by testifying before Congress. But that wasn’t DAV’s first time advocating for veterans exposed to burn pits. DAV brought the issue to the public’s attention in 2008 after coordinating the release of information obtained in Iraq by Chief Communications and Outreach Officer Dan Clare, who had been activated to military service. DAV initiated a burn pit registry that was the forerunner for the registry implemented by the VA in 2014.

Dating back to mustard gas in World War I, nuclear testing, Agent Orange and other exposures, DAV has long advanced legislation like the PACT Act, which the president signed into law in August.

A pair of bills focusing on breast health for women veterans were also adopted in June. Both the SERVICE Act and MAMMO Act will help improve breast health services and expand mammography screenings at VA facilities, particularly in areas where access to breast imaging is limited.

For student veterans whose education was halted by their school’s closure or sudden loss of eligibility, the Veterans Rapid Retraining Assistance Program (VRRAP) Act will reinstate their education benefits. It also gives VA the authority to recoup federal dollars from a school that commits fraud.

And for VA health care, veterans can expect more clarity under the VA Electronic Health Record Transparency Act, which will require the department to provide reports to Congress, increasing oversight of this crucial VA program.

We also saw the passage of the Solid Start Act, legislation to permanently authorize and expand the VA’s Solid Start program. This bill requires VA to contact veterans during their first year of separation from the military and coordinate with the Department of Defense to prioritize outreach to veterans who have accessed mental health resources prior to separation.

The legislative victories this past year set the stage for DAV to continue pushing our elected leaders to better the lives of America’s wounded, ill and injured veterans in 2023.

“We’ve had a banner year so far in 2022, and we’re so thankful our dedicated members sent hundreds of thousands of legislative alerts to their representatives through DAV’s Commander’s Action Network,” said DAV National Legislative Director Joy Ilem. “But now is not the time to let up off the gas. We have a short window to get a few more veterans bills enacted before the end of this year.  In January, we will begin a new Congress and we need an active membership ready to hit the ground running.”

DAV’s goals for the upcoming 118th Congress, which is set to convene the first week of January 2023, include correcting unfair practices for veterans’ and survivors’ benefits. DAV will also push our elected officials to bolster funding for mental health services to reduce veteran suicide, ensure equity for health care and benefits for women and minority veterans, expand VA’s capacity to deliver quality, timely care and increase long-term care options for disabled and aging veterans.

“This year, we continued laying the groundwork for the care and justice our veterans have earned,” said DAV National Commander Joe Parsetich. “In 2023, DAV will build off that success with our unrelenting advocacy. Our veterans deserve nothing less.”

You can track updates to other major veteran legislation by joining DAV CAN (Commander’s Action Network) at DAVCAN.org.