Veterans in America
On Nov. 6, The Washington Post Live hosted ’Veterans in America,’ an event focusing on issues facing today’s 18-million veterans. Two prominent senators discussed their new plan for easier access to better mental health care for vets. Veteran and Washington Post reporter Alex Horton led a discussion on the obstacles to reintegrating into society for those who serve, and asked whether you should thank a veteran for their service. And David Bellavia, the only living Medal of Honor recipient from the Iraq War, shared his story of heroism during Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah.
Leading the Charge for Veterans
Two of Capitol Hill’s most prominent advocates for veterans’ health care discuss their new plan to improve veterans' access to mental health care, invest in innovative and alternative treatment options, and strengthen assistance for service members transitioning out of the military.
Highlights
It’s estimated that 20 veterans die by suicide every day in America, and only about six of them were recent users of the Veterans Health Administration services. Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) says outreach to veterans remains a significant issue. “We’ve got to do a better job of letting folks know that this is a different VA than it was when the Vietnam veterans came back home. We’ve got to let people know that this is a VA that’s going to work for them, and if it doesn’t then it’s up to folks like Sen. Moran and myself to hold them accountable.”
  • Nov 6
The Department of Veterans Affairs has 49,000 vacant positions across the country, and 96 percent of VA facilities report at least one “severe occupational shortage,” according to a report by the department’s Office of Inspector General. Senators Jon Tester and Jerry Moran say the funding and programs included in The Commander John Scott Hannon VA Mental Health Improvement Act could help address the two main reasons for those shortages — low salaries and a lack of qualified applicants. “You have to attract professionals, and this is a profession that doesn’t adequately compensate to bring people to the profession. The challenges are great. The rewards, I think, could be tremendous,” Moran said.
  • Nov 6
From yoga to fly-fishing to farming, lawmakers are pursuing alternative treatment and transitional support for veterans. Senators Jerry Moran and Jon Tester say The Commander John Scott Hannon VA Mental Health Improvement Act would increase access to mental health care, expand diagnostic research and authorize new and alternative programs to prevent veteran suicides. “What we’ve been doing hasn’t been working to the point where it needs to work, so we need to think outside the box, and I think the Commander John Scott Hannon bill does exactly that. It gives other tools, more tools for the VA to utilize. If this bill saves one life, it’s well worth it, and I think it’s going save far more than that. ”
  • Nov 6
Full Segment
Two of Capitol Hill’s most prominent advocates for veterans’ health care discuss their plan to improve veterans’ access to mental health care, invest in innovative and alternative treatment options, and strengthen assistance for service members transitioning out of the military.
  • Nov 6
Sen. Jerry Moran
(R-Kansas)
Jerry Moran has been serving Kansans in the United States Senate since 2011. He previously served seven terms in the United States House of Representatives. Sen. Moran has been a member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee for more than 20 years in both the House of Representatives and now in the Senate. As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Sen. Moran has been a strong advocate for our nation’s veterans and was integral to last year’s passage of the VA MISSION Act, legislation Sen. Moran championed alongside the late Sen. John McCain, which offers the most transformative changes to the VA healthcare system in decades by developing an integrated, high-performing network for veterans to better access the healthcare benefits they have earned. Sen. Moran has also led efforts within the Veterans’ Affairs Committee to promote community-based mental health and suicide prevention programs and expand research efforts on toxic exposure and the impact it has on service members, veterans and their descendants. Jerry and his wife Robba live in Manhattan, and have two daughters, Kelsey and Alex.
Sen. Jon Tester
(D-Montana)
Senator Jon Tester is a third-generation Montana farmer, a proud grandfather, and a former school teacher who has deep roots in hard work, responsibility and accountability. Jon serves as Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. He is also a member of the Senate Commerce, Indian Affairs, Banking, and Appropriations Committees. Earlier this year, Jon Tester introduced [tester.senate.gov] landmark, bipartisan legislation to improve veterans' access to mental health care and make sure no veteran life is lost to suicide. His bipartisan Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act is a comprehensive and aggressive approach to connect more veterans with the mental health care they need and earned. His bill seeks to improve VA care by bolstering the VA's mental health workforce and increasing rural or hard-to-reach veterans' access to VA care, while making sure veterans have access to alternative and local treatment options like animal therapy, outdoor sports and activities, yoga, and acupuncture.
Moderated by Libby Casey
The Washington Post
Bridging the Gap
The transition from military to civilian life poses many challenges. Some are social, some are cultural. Two veterans talk about their experiences, in conversation with a Washington Post reporter who is also a veteran.
Highlights
The American public often puts veterans on a pedestal when honoring them for their service and heroism. But veterans Elliot Ackerman and Kayla Williams say that fetishization of the military can exacerbate the divide between veterans and civilians. “It’s become very easy for us, in our minds, to go to war… ‘Oh, war. That’s that thing that happens over there, and it’s done by people who decide that want to go do it, but that doesn’t affect me and my family.’ I think this is really a moment where we should be asking ourselves, ‘If we’re going to go to war, should everyone have skin in the game?’”
  • Nov 6
For civilians, Hollywood blockbusters can shape cultural understanding of the veteran experience, but these portrayals can be unrecognizable to some veterans. Veterans Elliot Ackerman and Kayla Williams say these films can lead to broad assumptions about veterans and falsely suggest a lack of diversity in the military.
  • Nov 6
Reintegrating into civilian life can be a challenge for some veterans returning home. Veterans Elliot Ackerman and Kayla Williams say avoiding isolation and redefining your identity outside the military are important to a smooth transition. “I encourage veterans to not isolate…and don’t hesitate to take advantage of the resources that are out there,” Willams said.
  • Nov 6
Full Segment
The transition from military to civilian life poses many challenges. Some are social, some are cultural. Two veterans talk about their experiences, in conversation with a Washington Post reporter who is also a veteran.
  • Nov 6
Kayla Williams
Director of the Military, Veterans, and Society Program, Center for a New American Security
Kayla Williams is Director of the Military, Veterans, and Society Program at Center for a New American Security. She previously served as Director of the Center for Women Veterans at VA, where she focused on policies, programs, and legislation affecting women veterans. Kayla spent eight years at RAND researching servicemember and veteran health needs and benefits, international security, and intelligence policy. Ms. Williams was enlisted for five years and authored the memoirs Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army and Plenty of Time When We Get Home: Love and Recovery in the Aftermath of War. Kayla has a BA from Bowling Green State University and an MA from American University. She is a member of the Army Education Advisory Committee and Department of Labor Advisory Committee on Veterans’ Employment, Training, and Employer Outreach; a former member of the VA Advisory Committee on Women Veterans; a 2013 White House Woman Veteran Champion of Change; and a 2015 Lincoln Award recipient.
Elliot Ackerman
Marine Veteran
Elliot Ackerman is the author of novels Waiting for Eden, Dark at the Crossing, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, and Green on Blue. He also wrote Places and names: On War, Revolution and Returning. He is a former Marine and served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star for Valor, and the Purple Heart. His work has been published in The Washington Post, the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, the Atlantic, and many other publications. His stories have been included in The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Travel Writing. He divides his time between New York City and Washington, D.C.
Moderated by Alex Horton
The Washington Post
Medal of Honor: A Hero’s Story
Retired Staff Sergeant David Bellavia’s story is one of valor and uncommon heroism. His actions on Nov. 10, 2004, in the Second Battle of Fallujah saved countless lives of his fellow American soldiers. This past June, Bellavia became the first living American to receive the Medal of Honor for actions in the Iraq War.
Highlights
Retired Staff Sergeant David Bellavia’s actions on November 10, 2004 in the Second Battle of Fallujah saved countless lives and cleared an enemy strongpoint. Bellavia describes what that day was like to The Washington Post’s Libby Casey. He describes what it was like protecting his squad: “To me, they were like my surrogate children.’
  • Nov 6
Medal of Honor recipient David Bellavia says there are more Iraq veterans who should be honored
Staff Sergeant David Bellavia, the only living recipient of the Medal of Honor for service in the Iraq War, says there are more veterans from the conflict that should be honored in the same way he has been. He believes that part of the reason why there are more Medal of Honor recipients from the War in Afghanistan than in Iraq is because of the unpopularity of the Iraq war and the perception that there are “good wars and bad wars.” “We made a huge mistake when we made good wars and bad wars. A lot of Iraq veterans wear this chip on our shoulder that we don’t deserve...We don’t put policy above the valor of a generation.”
Medal of Honor recipient David Bellavia says he’s not sure the award will exist in the future because of new technologies such as drones eliminating the need for large numbers of ground troops serving in active combat situations: “I’m not sure America really has the stomach for another 18-year conflict...Ultimately that’s the goal, that we don’t have war. So, it would be a positive thing [if the award goes away].”
  • Nov 6
Full Segment
Retired Staff Sergeant David Bellavia’s story is one of valor and uncommon heroism. His actions on Nov. 10, 2004, in the Second Battle of Fallujah saved countless lives of his fellow American soldiers. This past June, Bellavia became the first living American to receive the Medal of Honor for actions in the Iraq War.
  • Nov 6
David Bellavia
Medal of Honor Recipient
Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia was born, Nov. 10, 1975, in Buffalo, New York. The son of a successful dentist and the youngest of four boys, Bellavia grew up in western New York and attended Lyndonville Central High School and Houghton Academy. Bellavia enlisted in the U.S. Army as an infantryman in 1999. After One Station Unit Training, the Army assigned Bellavia to the Syracuse Recruiting Battalion; an assignment which allowed his infant son to receive the medical care he needed. In the summer of 2003, Bellavia’s unit deployed to Kosovo for nine months before receiving orders to deploy directly to Iraq to support Operation Iraqi Freedom. From February 2004 to February 2005, Bellavia and the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, were stationed in the Diyala Province along the Iranian border. Throughout the year, his task force took part in the battles for Najaf, Mosul, Baqubah, Muqdadiyah and Fallujah. Bellavia left the Army in August 2005 and cofounded Vets for Freedom, a veteran advocacy organization that sought to separate politics from the warriors who fight in the field. Bellavia’s awards and decorations include the Medal of Honor, Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Army Achievement Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Army Good Conduct Medal with Bronze Clasp and two Loops, the National Defense Service Medal, Kosovo Campaign Medal with Bronze Service Star, New York State’s Conspicuous Service Cross, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon with Numeral “2,” the Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon with Numeral “2,” the Presidential Unit Citation, Combat Infantryman Badge, Driver and Mechanics Badge and the NATO Medal.
Interviewed by Libby Casey
The Washington Post
Content from Leidos
MHS GENESIS: A Single, Common Record
Leidos and the Program Executive Officer for the Defense Healthcare Management Systems discuss the latest deployment of the MHS GENESIS electronic health record and how this modernized technology enables service members, veterans, and their families to have a single, common record ─ no matter where they are in the world.
Leidos and the Program Executive Officer for the Defense Healthcare Management Systems discuss the latest deployment of the MHS GENESIS electronic health record and how this modernized technology enables service members, veterans, and their families to have a single, common record ─ no matter where they are in the world.
  • Nov 6
Bill Tinston
Program Executive Officer, Defense Healthcare Management Systems
Interviewed by Jon Scholl
President, Leidos Health Group
About Washington Post Live
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