Joy J. Ilem | National Legislative Director

A new year means new opportunities. That couldn’t be more true than on Capitol Hill, where the 118th Congress is beginning to find its footing.

Although the noble task of caring for our veterans is never finished, I’m pleased that our elected leaders in the previous Congress worked across the aisle to enact meaningful change for the men and women who served us all.

Seeing our lawmakers send so many DAV-supported bills to the president’s desk was heartening. The bills DAV fiercely advocated for, and that were enacted, will substantially improve veterans’ lives along with those of their families, caregivers and survivors. Last year, we had many legislative victories, including passage of the historic Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our PACT Act (Public Law 117–168)—the largest benefits expansion ever for veterans exposed to toxic substances. We also fought to ensure veterans receive timely access to their personal health information with enactment of the VA Electronic Health Record Transparency Act (Public Law 117–154) and worked to expand breast cancer screening and services to women veterans exposed to toxins under the Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas SERVICE Act, which became Public Law 117–133 in June.

For the 118th Congress, our legislative priorities include addressing the inequities in veterans and survivors compensation benefits, ensuring women and minority veterans receive equitable benefits and health care, and improving the Department of Veterans Affairs’ capacity to deliver quality and timely health care. We’ll also work to ensure veterans exposed to toxic substances left out of the PACT Act receive the benefits they’ve earned and push Congress to provide disabled and aging veterans a full spectrum of home-based and extended care options.

But our past and future legislative successes wouldn’t be possible without our dedicated members and supporters. We appreciate everyone who has signed up for DAV CAN (Commander’s Action Network). Last year, your efforts resulted in nearly 400,000 action alerts being sent to members of Congress, calling for their support of critical legislation to improve benefits and services for our nation’s ill and injured veterans, their caregivers and their survivors. But while online advocacy is indispensable in the digital age, there is no replacement for in-person engagement. So I hope you will join us for our upcoming annual mid-winter conference in Washington, D.C., Feb. 26 through March 1.

I know DAV members are eager to come together for this premier veterans advocacy event. Mid-winter is a chance to meet face to face with your elected officials and to lend support for National Commander Joe Parsetich, who will offer critical testimony before a joint session of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees.

By working together, we’ll continue to build off our successes and achieve more legislative victories for our nation’s veterans in the year ahead.