Celebrating the Victories and Accomplishments that Benefited Our Nation’s Veteran Heroes.
As we approach the new year and look to the future it’s always nice to reflect on the prior year and recall the progress we made and the accomplishments we witnessed. It was a tumultuous year in many ways, from the upheavals at the VA to the 2018 Primary Elections. It was a year characterized by great shifts in our military policies in ways that would impact future generations of veterans. It was also a year where our greatest generation celebrated 73 years since the end of World War 2.
At American Veterans Honor Fund we believe that whether you’re Republican or Democrat, or somewhere in the middle, celebrating and supporting Veterans is universal among us all. For many generations, military service was marked as a great honor for families that lived on American soil for generations or were new to this great nation and the promise it held. Over the last two decades, with ongoing wars and conflicts abroad, a new generation of veterans have emerged bringing with them a renewed sense of pride and a desire to give back. This truth was never more evident than in our most recent midterm elections. In 2018 more veteran candidates ran for office, national or local, then any year since 2008. The outcome was even more encouraging as our new freshman class welcomes over 22 service veterans.
From our perspective, as an organization dedicated to surfacing and supporting the issues that matter most to our Veterans, this statistic bodes well for the future. More than ever, members of the 2018 freshman class will emerge as champions on issues of national security, foreign affairs, and veteran benefits. This class is also the most diverse, with several female veterans entering Congress on both sides of the aisle bringing with them different perspectives and a willingness to collaborate, not isolate. Additionally, one in five members of the freshman class will bring national security experience to Capitol Hill including two former C.I.A. intelligence officers.
Our organization supported key campaigns and sought to highlight key races and the issues that were at stake. While those that we supported won in some races and lost in others, we fundamentally believe that the outcome of the election was positive for the veterans that we ultimately stand behind.
Beyond the elections, 2018 marked the most tumultuous year to date for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Senior and middle-level leadership turnover was the highest ever, breeding chaos at the top that led to service delivery at the ground floor. One of the highest profile issues centered on Veteran healthcare reform. Donald Trump signed the VA Mission Act into law over the summer and subsequently proposed a 2019 budget of $198.6 billion for the VA, representing an increase of $12.1 billion over 2018. All this with the goal of providing greater access to health services and ensuring timely access to benefits to veterans who needed it the most.
By the end of 2018 Veterans’ opinions turned the corner, hoping that renewed investment and focus would lead to immediate impact. But the devil appears to be in the details. Members of Congress are riding VA leadership as to how investments will be made and costs controlled. Many questions are still unanswered as to just how liberal access to private sector health providers will be, how the VA will improve on services related to suicide prevention and mental health services, and how transparent and accountable the VA will ultimately be when it comes to Veteran services organizations.
We do believe the VA is leaving 2018 in a far better position than it was leading into the year, but our job is far from over. The job of our organization going into 2019 is to represent veterans and ensure our nation’s leaders are enacting effective change at the VA. We look forward to doing so, because anything less will be a compromise our Veterans do not deserve.
Which brings us to our closing thoughts. We at American Veterans Honor Fund are taking steps to bolster our leadership and expand our reach. Al Quaye, our Board President, will be announcing new partnerships and new members in the weeks ahead. We will also be declaring our areas of focus and reporting on our progress more frequently as the year progresses. We were ecstatic to see that so many new leaders were also decorated Veterans, but for us, this number can only increase. A big part of our mission is to identify and help new Veteran candidates attain elected office.
We ask you, Veterans and citizens alike, to help us carry out that mission. Whether it’s through direct volunteering or by supporting us in our fundraising efforts. No effort, time spent or contribution is too small. We act together, in unison, with the sum of our efforts leading to change we can all be proud of.