This year, COVID-19 forced AMVETS to quickly adapt to unprecedented times and “new normals” as we continued to serve veterans and their families. We’re proud of our many posts and departments across the nation who worked closely with our National Headquarters staff as we provided charity, advocacy, and service nationwide. Below are just a few of the larger impacts AMVETS made this year as we continued to conduct business as usual in safe, COVID-friendly ways. Make no mistake about it, COVID-19 changed, but did not cease, AMVETS’ efforts to serve American veterans.
AMVETS started strong in 2020 with our annual Commander’s testimony before the Veterans Affairs (VA) Committee in late February and ‘Storm the Hill’ in March.
Commander Brown made the most of her testimony on Capitol Hill this year, immediately addressing AMVETS observations of growing partisanship within the VA Committee. From there, she went on to voice three pressing issues we advocated for in the remainder of the Congressional year: addressing our mental healthcare crisis suicide epidemic, addressing the critical needs of women veterans, and providing timely access to high-quality healthcare.
The testimony encouraged Congress to make a significant investment in alternative approaches to mental health, asking how we are going to get a handle on this these issues if we are spending more than 90 percent of our resources on approaches that fail most veterans, most of the time.
AMVETS also called for closing the gaps in care for women service members and veterans, noting the shocking revelation that women choose to end their own lives is 180 percent higher than members of the same gender who never served and providing Congress a number of AMVETS-supported legislation currently on the table relevant to women veterans and service members.
AMVETS also called for more timely access to quality healthcare, whether it be VA or through the veterans’ community. AMVETS realizes that the best healthcare option for veterans will provide a reliable, well run, and fully staffed V.A. first. As a support mechanism, V.A. will utilize private care when it makes sense to provide ease of care to veterans, as is often the case for veterans in rural areas.
Commander Brown’s testimony can be read here.
Finally, AMVETS’ legislative leaders reviewed the most recent Clay Hunt SAV Act Report. Through the Act, Congress requires V.A. to provide an outside assessment of V.A. Mental Health programs annually. The first report was due to Congress in October of 2018 and the second was due in October of 2019. After neither report was made public by Congress or VA, AMVETS has taken upon ourselves to make the report available, as well as summarize the findings.
Early in the pandemic AMVETS Auxiliary members recognized the national need for masks, prompting the creation of thousands of re-useable masks.
The Auxiliary delivered these masks to delivery personnel, teachers, and service industry workers nationwide. We’d like to thank the AMVETS Auxiliary for their tireless efforts in giving back to their communities in the wake of the pandemic.
For the 33rd consecutive year, a massive motorcycle run took place in the nation’s capital over Memorial Day Weekend to raise awareness of the plight of U.S. prisoners of war and the 82,000 service members still missing in action and address the national suicide epidemic taking the lives of more than 20 military veterans a day.
After the organization that ran the first 32 demonstrations announced it would no longer hold this vital event, AMVETS pledged to continue the tradition. AMVETS held a press conference in September of 2019, detailing plans for the 2020 demonstration ride, including a new name and an expanded mission.
In some form or fashion, Rolling to Remember will again congregate in Washington D.C. in a safe manner this May.
November marked the beginning of the holiday season. While most welcome the winter events and festivities, many annually face a much more bleak reality: loneliness during a time of the year associated with gatherings and/or furthered inability to make ends meet and provide for their families.
This year is no different, and due to to the rise in COVID-19 cases nationwide, further isolation and uncertainty looms in the minds of many veterans and their families.
In an effort to curb many of the negative factors associated with the holiday season, AMVETS, in partnership with FirstEnergy Corp., hosted several socially-distanced food drives, delivered hundreds of hot meals, and raised money for food pantries in desperate need of funding throughout the month of November, essentially feeding thousands of veterans and families in need. Below are just a few of the events held throughout November.
On Thanksgiving Day, several veteran transition homes and community clinics throughout Washington D.C. were visited by AMVETS National Headquarters staff members and volunteers who delivered 300 meals to local veterans.
Over the last few months, AMVETS has been tracking a sexual assault case that took place at the DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center in 2019. Over this time period, AMVETS has continually called for further investigation into VA senior leadership’s handling of the case, with Commander brown going so far as to calling it a “victim-blaming fiasco” during her testimony in February.
“Imagine instead of it being Ms. Goldstein, it’s your mother, sister, or daughter who made these claims,” Brown said. “Would you tolerate for even a moment her character being questioned? These women who are brave enough to come forward deserve the same consideration.”
The Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General recently released a full report on VA senior leadership’s involvement in the case, where troubling and unethical findings were uncovered. The results of the report left AMVETS no choice but to call for VA Secretary Robert Wilkie’s resignation.
Furthermore, AMVETS sent a request to House Oversight Committee leadership, calling for a hearing to summon Secretary Wilkie and senior VA leaders. AMVETS believes that the public needs to be made aware of the Secretary’s reasoning behind decisions and actions stated in the report due to lack of full cooperation from him and leadership during this investigation.