Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a lobbying and advocacy group representing GWOT veterans, has come out in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 (NDAA), passed by Congress on the eve of the Christmas recess. Specifically, IAVA applauds features in the bill that favor younger veterans, specifically, as opposed to the older generation combat veterans of the Gulf War, Viet Nam and earlier wars. For example, while Viet Nam-era veterans are now beginning to enter their retirement years, Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans benefit much more from job transition and employment initiatives in the DoD, Veterans Administration and elsewhere.
The IAVA issued a press release lauding the passage of the bill on December 21st, praising the bill’s following features:
• Helping Veterans Transition to the Workforce: The NDAA addresses the significant challenge many veterans face in translating their military training to state civilian licenses and certifications. The NDAA requires states to consider military training and education for civilian certifications and licenses in comparable civilian jobs. The NDAA also enhances and simplifies the Troops to Teachers Program that provides a path for veterans to continue their service as teachers.
• Protecting the New GI Bill: The NDAA helps service members avoid predatory for-profit schools by requiring military bases and posts to review which for-profit schools and their recruiters are allowed access on base.
• Improved Access to Mental Health Care: The NDAA is a big step forward in improving access to and the quality of mental health care for active-duty, Guard and Reserve service members, military families, and veterans. It also establishes a pilot to use community partners to provide mental health services for Guard and Reserves who often struggle to find care. In addition, the NDAA strengthens suicide prevention programs, by both standardizing some of these efforts across the VA and DoD and by creating suicide training and prevention programs for Guard, Reserves and their families.
• Protecting Victims of Military Sexual Trauma: The legislation establishes a DoD Special Victims Units to respond to and investigate all reports of sexual misconduct. It also requires an independent review of all judicial proceedings and investigations on sexual misconduct. In addition, the NDAA mandates improved victim protections and reporting policies. It also requires that the military get its level of care for military sexual trauma victims up to what is done in civilian health care systems.
• Focus Efforts on Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): The bill mandates detailed planning to eliminate gaps and redundancies in DoD programs on psychological health and traumatic brain injury.
• Addressing VA Claims Backlog: Recognizing the lengthy backlog for getting claims processed at the VA, the NDAA requires the VA to provide a detailed report to Congress on how the claims backlog will be solved. This report is due no later than 60 days after the president signs the bill into law.