Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Nouri and company want US military to help with the War Crimes

At Forbes, Doug Bandow argues the armed battles in Iraq are not the concern of the United States because the Islamic State (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) is not a threat to the United States:

So far ISIL’s fighters act more like an irregular military than a terrorist group.  In fact, the organization offers social services and religious education, more characteristic of a traditional government.  ISIL’s break with al-Qaeda reflected not only its brutality, but also the latter’s focus on the “far enemy,” that is, the U.S.  In contrast, ISIL wanted to become something akin to a “real country,” which means it has less incentive to strike the U.S., since doing so would risk its geopolitical gains.

In contrast, the Iraqi Ambassador to the US is calling for the US to do Nouri al-Maliki's fighting for him.  Paul McLeary (Defense News) reports:

H.E. Lukman Faily told an audience at an Atlantic Council event in Washington that for the US and Iraq “to conduct counterterrorism operations in urban areas occupied by ISIL, we need precision US air attacks,” and that “the US should offer air support targeting terrorist camps and supply convoys in remote areas.”
American air strikes would also “protect Iraq’s borders against further terrorist influx” the ambassador said, since key elements of ISIL have flowed across the porous Iraq/Syria border in the past several months, giving the group freedom of movement across the Sunni-dominated western Iraq and eastern Syria.


Faily is rarely identified by the press as such but he is a member of Nouri's political party (Dawa).  Also true, he's been whining for the US to carry out airstrikes for some time now.

Why?

National Iraqi News Agency reports Nouri bombed Mosul today resulting in 7 deaths -- suspects, Nouri's government insists -- and Nouri bombed Falluja resulting in the deaths of 14 suspects.

Nouri and his buddy Faily want the US to bomb.

There's no reconciliation efforts on Nouri's part.  He's not interested in the country of Iraq coming together, he's only interested in punishing those who don't belong to his sect -- and he's not too crazy about most Shi'ites either.

He lacks a military that can fight (other Iraqis) on the ground.  He faces less resistance when they bomb from up in the air and don't have to take the killing face to face.

The Iraqi military also has a slur against it that it's 'cowardly.'  Not that it's unwilling to kill other Iraqis (which is what we've long argued here -- and which would be completely understandable), but that it's scared to fight -- too scared to fight.

Nouri's used the air strikes, it can be argued, for the perception value.  With few exceptions, air strikes have not led to the deaths of Nouri's forces (a helicopter has been shot down and, of course, there was the time Nouri's military bombed another segment of Nouri's forces by mistake), whereas on the ground confrontations tend to result in Nouri's forces being wounded and/or injured.

The same fate would meet US forces (or any other foreign forces) on the ground in Iraq doing combat.  And that would most likely result in the immediate suspension of US support (the people would demand Barack pull the US troops out of Iraq).

Nouri realizes that and grasps that the western press doesn't give a damn who he kills from the air. 

Yesterday's snapshot included:

National Iraqi News Agency reports Nouri's bombing of Falluja's residential neighborhoods left 3 people dead and thirteen more injured, his bombing of a home in Rawa left 2 women dead and thirteen more people (women and children) injured, and his aerial bombing of Hawija left 2 children and 5 women dead with ten more civilians left injured.  These are War Crimes.  Notice how little that appears to matter to the West.


The world press, as Nouri listened in, has decreed these sort of deaths unimportant.

Nouri's shaping his request towards as many crimes against humanity as he can get away with.


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    Monday, July 21, 2014

    Iraq snapshot

    Monday, July 21, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Christians were targeted last week, suddenly this week the United Nations and the US State Dept and Nouri al-Maliki notice, Nouri continues killing civilians, and much more.


    Yesterday at the Vatican, Pope Francis weighed in on the issue of the ongoing persecution of Iraqi Christians.  Linda Bordoni (Vatican Radio -- link is text and radio) reports the Pope's remarks included, "Today our brothers are persecuted, they are banished from their homes and forced to flee without even being able to take their belongings!"  The Pope declared that violence is not the way to end violence, that only peace could overcome and triumph over violence.

    What's going on?


    Catholic World News notes, "Following an ultimatum from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to leave Mosul, convert to Islam, or be killed, the city’s remaining Christians left for other parts of Iraq."  Dropping back to Friday's snapshot:


    Iraqi thug and prime minister Nouri al-Maliki repeatedly refused to provide Iraqi Christians in Baghdad with the security needed.  This was most obvious in the October 31, 2010 attack on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad.  Many Iraqi Christians fled the country.  Many of those who stayed moved to northern Iraq which was considered to be more tolerant of and welcoming to Christians.
    BBC News reports Christians are now fleeing the northern city of Mosul because the Islamic State has declared that Christians have one of two choices -- "convert to Islam or pa[y] a 'protection tax'."  There is the third choice: Do neither and be slaughtered.  They have until Saturday afternoon to leave, convert or face "the sword."


    Christians are said to have now fled the city or to be in hiding in it.  AFP reported over the weekend on Fadi who had decided to remain in Mosul with his wife and their son because they lacked the money to relocate elsewhere.  As the bulk of Christians fled, landmarks were seized.  Mohammad Jamal (Al-Monitor) reports, "Crosses were replaced with IS banners, and all churches were either closed or burned down."  AFP adds, "ISIS militants have taken over a monastery in northern Iraq, one of the country’s best-known Christian landmarks, and expelled its resident monks, a cleric and residents said Monday. The fighters stormed Mar Behnam, a fourth-century monastery run by the Syriac Catholic Church near the predominantly Christian town of Qaraqosh, Sunday, the sources said."


    Rudaw adds, "According to information obtained from sources by Rudaw, only 200 of Mosul’s 5,000 Christians still remain in the city." And those who did leave?  Hamdi Alkhshali and Joshua Berlinger (CNN) explain, "Some of the families headed for Irbil -- which is currently controlled by Kurdish forces -- and others toward the Dohuk province. The majority went to Dohuk, which is 140 kilometers (87 miles) north of Mosul."

    Nabih Bulos (Los Angeles Times) reports:

    "For the first time in Mosul's history, there are no services being held and the church bells are silent on Sunday," lamented William Wardeh, spokesman for the Hammurabi Human Rights Organization, a watchdog group. "This is a crime in and of itself."
    In recent decades, clerics say, conflict, sectarian strife and other factors have more than halved an Iraqi Christian population that once exceeded 1 million, including various Eastern Rite sects, both Catholic and Orthodox. Many worshipers have immigrated to Europe, North America and Australia.

    AP reports thug Nouri issued a statement on Sunday which decried the targeting of Christians and "agression against the churches and houses of worship."  Someone's supposed to take Nouri seriously?  The man who did nothing to provide security for the Christians in Baghdad -- let alone in the rest of Iraq?

    Historically, Iraq has long been home to members of the Christian faith.  In fact, prior to the start of the Iraq War (March 2003), it was estimated that Christians accounted for at least two million Iraqis in the country.  Now the number tossed around is approximately 400,000.  Al Arabiya News notes specific figures with regards to Mosul, "Until their forced exodus over the weekend, Christians had been continuously present in Mosul for about 16 centuries."

    Open Doors USA issued the following statement today:


    SANTA ANA, Calif. (July 21, 2014) – Dr. David Curry, President/CEO of Open Doors USA, has condemned the latest action of Islamic State militants who ordered all Christians in the Iraqi city of Mosul to leave the city over the weekend or face execution.
    "The persecution and treatment of Christians in Mosul is unprecedented in modern times,” he says. “This latest forced exodus of Christians further shows why Western governments and the people in the West need to cry out in support for religious freedom in the Middle East and elsewhere. If this does not move us concerning the near extinction of Christianity in the Middle East, it’s likely nothing else can."
    Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, Director of Interfaith Affairs at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, adds: “Too many of us thought that forced conversions and expulsions of entire religious communities were part of a distant, medieval past. There was little that we could do to stop this horrible episode.
    “It is not too late to realize that many others –  Christians today, but certainly Jews, Baha'i, Hindus, Muslims and others – are mortally endangered by a potent religious fanaticism that threatens tens of millions, and which still can be resisted.”
    According to Open Doors, the Islamic State gave Christians an ultimatum over the weekend – 1) stay and convert to Islam 2) pay Islamic tax (which is too much for most families to pay) 3) leave Mosul taking nothing but their clothes. Christians who stayed would be executed.
    Most Christians have left Mosul now. At the checkpoints of ISIS, Christians had to leave everything behind (cars, gold, money, mobile phones). The only possessions they could keep were their clothes. They had to walk to safer places, mostly in northern Iraq, while traveling in blistering heat.
    A World Watch Monitor source in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region, said a Christian family in Mosul reported by phone that explosions were heard during the night last Thursday in Mosul. On Friday, as the family attempted to pass through a Mosul checkpoint, ISIS agents forced them out of their car and confiscated their belongings and put them in a separate vehicle. Then the militants drove them several minutes down the road, and ultimately forced them out to continue their journey on foot, according to the source.
    Open Doors reports that some churches, many in partnership with Open Doors, have been helping the Mosul refugees. An Open Doors field worker said: “The exodus has stopped. There are no more Christians in Mosul. We now need to pray that they might return one day.”
    Earlier last week, the Islamic State marked houses belonging to members of minority communities, including Christians, with the phrase "property of the Islamic State," including inhabited houses.
    Iraq is ranked No. 4 on the Open Doors 2014 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians. For more information on the list, go to www.WorldWatchList.us.
    For almost 60 years Open Doors has worked in the world's most oppressive and restrictive countries, strengthening Christians to stand strong in the face of persecution and equipping them to shine Christ's light in these places. Open Doors empowers persecuted Christians in the areas of Bible and gospel development, women and children’s advancement and Christian community restoration. Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world and are oppressed in at least 60 countries. To partner with Open Doors USA, call toll free at 888-5-BIBLE-5 (888-524-2535) or go to www.OpenDoorsUSA.org.
    (To set up an interview or for more information, contact Jerry Dykstra at 616-915-4117 or email jerryd@odusa.org.)


    The first wave of ethnic cleansing took place in 2006 and 2007, as Nouri was beginning his first term as prime minister (spring 2006).  So the idea that Nouri's words were sincere?

    AP also notes, "The comments from Nouri al-Maliki come a day after the expiration of a deadline imposed by the Islamic State group calling on Christians in the militant-held city of Mosul to convert to Islam, pay a tax or face death."

    An Iraqi leader speaking sincerely would be one who called out the threats before the deadline for Christians to exit Mosul expired.  A real leader would have stood with the threatened on Friday or Saturday.  Nouri waited to speak until after the bulk of Mosul's Christians had left the city.

    Also weighing in on the threats, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:


         
    20 July 2014 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today condemned in the strongest terms the systematic persecution of minorities in Mosul and other parts of northern Iraq as a reported deadline passed for individuals to convert to Islam, pay a tax, flee or face possible execution.
    In a statement from his spokesperson, Mr. Ban, who is currently in the Middle East, strongly denounced the actions of the group known as the Islamic State (IS) and its allies.
    “Equally repugnant are reports that Turkoman, Yazidis and Shabaks are facing abductions, killings or the destruction of their property,” Mr. Ban continued, “and that the homes of Christian, Shia and Shabak residents in Mosul have been marked.”
    He stressed that any systematic attack on the civilian population due to their ethnic background, religious beliefs or faith may constitute a crime against humanity, “All armed groups, including IS and associated formations, must abide by international humanitarian law and protect civilians living in areas they control.”
    Mr. Ban noted that recently “minority communities that have lived together for thousands of years” in Ninewa province, whose main city is Mosul, have come under direct attack and persecution by IS and associated armed groups.
    In the past few weeks, tens of thousands of members of ethnic and religious minority groups have been displaced or forced to flee and seek refuge, while many others have been executed and kidnapped.
    The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, who visited Iraq last week to see the conditions facing some of the displaced families, warned that Iraq risks “full-fledged sectarian war and complete fragmentation” as Iraqis continue to flee their homes and minority groups are targeted.
    The UN will continue to intensify its efforts, in cooperation with the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government, to address the urgent humanitarian needs, Mr. Ban said, including the minority groups displaced by terrorist threat.


    Al-Shorfa quotes the Baghdad scholars and preachers council spokesperson Sheikh Shaker al-Adhami stating, "ISIL is proving day after day that is has nothing to do with Islam, and that its terrorist leaders who are dreaming about power and are afflicted with the desire to spill blood and enjoy the killing of innocent people have exploited [Islam] in the most heinous way."

    A lot of people show up to make statements . . . days after the threat was made public.  After the Saturday deadline.

    And no one puffs their chests out more and struts around more than the US government.  Hence spokesperson Marie Harf's statements in today's State Dept press briefing:


    QUESTION: Iraq. Do you have anything to say about the ISIS campaign to take over churches and expel --

    MS. HARF: I do.

    QUESTION: -- monks and the priests from near Mosul and that region?

    MS. HARF: Yes. Let me see what I have on this. I think I have something. Let me just check. Yes. And I believe that Jen – we put out a statement on this late on Friday. But we condemn in the strongest terms the systematic persecution of ethnic and religious minorities by ISIL. We are particularly outraged by ISIL’s recent announcement that Christians in Mosul must either convert, pay a tax, leave, or face execution in the coming days. These are abominable acts. We are very clear that they only further demonstrate ISIL’s mission to divide and destroy Iraq, and they have absolutely no place in the future of Iraq. We could not be more clear.

    QUESTION: Just because that is the statement that was released on Friday --

    MS. HARF: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- that you just read, there is no change to it since then?

    MS. HARF: No.

    QUESTION: The Kurdistan --

    MS. HARF: All about consistency here.

    QUESTION: The Kurdistan government is complaining that they can’t afford any more to host the displaced people. Is there any – anything the U.S. --

    MS. HARF: I can check on that. I hadn’t seen that. Let me check for you, Samir.

    QUESTION: Is the U.S. able to do anything to limit this ISIS campaign?

    MS. HARF: The persecution of Christians?

    QUESTION: Yeah, I mean, to take over the churches and the --

    MS. HARF: Well, in general, we’ve been very clear that we will help the Iraqi Government in its fight against ISIL writ large. This is one part of that fight, certainly. We are working with them now, but I don’t have anything specific on that for you.

    QUESTION: But you have --

    MS. HARF: We’ve also worked very closely with international organizations to address the humanitarian crisis in Iraq.

    QUESTION: But currently you’re not doing anything?

    MS. HARF: I can check and see specifically. I just don’t know.

    QUESTION: Just a follow-up.

    MS. HARF: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Yesterday, Michael O’Hanlon of Brookings said that it’d be impossible to combat ISIS without a few more folks on the ground. Do you have a reaction to that?

    MS. HARF: Well, the United – you mean United States folks?

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MS. HARF: United States military assessment teams have provided a draft report. I know my colleagues at the Defense Department are looking at it to determine the best way to assist the Iraqi Government. We’re very committed to that. I would leave it to my colleagues there to talk in further detail about that.

    QUESTION: And can I ask a question on an unrelated topic?


    MS. HARF: Uh-huh.


    In  violence other than the targeting of Christians in Mosul?

    Let's start with the civilians Nouri killed and wounded today.

    National Iraqi News Agency reports Nouri's bombing of Falluja's residential neighborhoods left 3 people dead and thirteen more injured, his bombing of a home in Rawa left 2 women dead and thirteen more people (women and children) injured, and his aerial bombing of Hawija left 2 children and 5 women dead with ten more civilians left injured.  These are War Crimes.  Notice how little that appears to matter to the West. Staying with violence, All Iraq News notes that there have been approximately 125 violent deaths every day this month.  National Iraqi News Agency reports that military officials say they killed 38 suspects in Baaj in an aerial bombing of 18 vehicles, security sources state they killed 100 suspects in Hadeed al-Nasser, security officials issued a statement announcing they killed 6 suspects in Jurf al-Sakhar, Baghdad Operations Command announced they killed 30 suspects, military officials say they killed 50 suspects east of Falluja, a Jurf al-Sakhar battles left three federal police members injured, a battle north of Mosul left four Peshmerga injured, a Sabein car bombing left  1 person dead and five more injured, and 1 corpse ("handcuffed and bearing signs of torture and gunshots") was discovered in east Baghdad and another was found dumped in southern Baghdad.



     Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee and serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Her office issued the following today:



    FOR PLANNING PURPOSES                                             CONTACT: Murray Press Office
    Monday, July 21, 2014                                                                               (202) 224-2834
     
    TOMORROW: Murray to Hear from VA Secretary Nominee Robert McDonald
     


    Washington, D.C. – Tomorrow, Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee will attend a committee hearing on the nomination of Robert A. McDonald to be Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. At the hearing, Murray will deliver remarks and question McDonald on how he would improve trust and transparency at the VA, and how he would provide oversight of VA facilities in Washington state.
     


    WHO:             Senator Patty Murray (D-WA)
     

    WHAT:          Remarks at Veterans’ Affairs Committee Hearing on VA nominee Robert A. McDonald
     

    WHEN:         TOMORROW, Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014,
                           3:00 PM ET/ 12:00 PM PST
     

    WHERE:       SD-G50
     

     
    ###
     
     
    ---
    Meghan Roh
    Press Secretary | New Media Director
    Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
    Mobile: (202) 365-1235
    Office: (202) 224-2834








     
     
     
    RSS Feed for Senator Murray's office






    Lastly, new content at Third went up late, late Sunday:











    iraq



    al arabiya news




    New VA Whistleblowers Revealed – Allegations of Retaliation Detailed in Letter To Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson

    Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America issued the following today:



    CONTACT: Gretchen Andersen (212) 982-9699 or press@iava.org

    New VA Whistleblowers Revealed – Allegations of Retaliation Detailed in Letter To Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson


    IAVA stands with POGO, says veterans deserve better and new VA leadership must get problems under control 


    New York, NY (July 21, 2014) – Today, Project on Government Oversight (POGO) sent a letter detailing a toxic culture of retaliation at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson. The letter describes how Palo Alto VA System Inpatient Pharmacy Technician Supervisor Stuart Kallio was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation after complaining to a director of the Palo Alto VA that inpatients were suffering from “unconscionable errors and delays” in the delivery of needed medications.


    Along with Kallio’s case, additional stories of alleged retaliation against internal VA whistleblowers were included in the letter. You can read the letter here


    In May, IAVA and POGO joined together to protect VA staff who came forward with information about agency wrongdoing. As part of the effort, the organizations have launched a secure website, www.VAOversight.org, where VA employees can report stories of abuse. The effort combines IAVA’s deep knowledge of the VA system with POGO’s experience working with whistleblowers to expose federal wrongdoing. 


    Since the website launched, almost 800 people have contacted POGO – the most submissions on a single issue in its 33-year history.


    "The hostile and corrupt culture uncovered by this POGO investigation confirms what IAVA has been pointing out for years: the VA system is severely broken and must be overhauled from top to bottom,” said IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff. “These allegations of cover-ups and retaliation against whistleblowers should draw universal condemnation. Our vets deserve better. While IAVA intends to work with our leaders in Washington to enact reforms, we also intend to hold them accountable if the VA's new leadership fails to get these problems under control. Vets are suffering and in some cases dying because of the VA's failings. We intend to continue to push for the truth and for reforms so that all of our nation's vets are treated with the respect and care they earned.”


    “POGO has never witnessed such a toxic culture of retaliation across an entire agency. Acting Secretary Gibson should meet with whistleblowers immediately and put meaning behind his promises of change. In addition, Congress must act to pass pending reforms. Proposed legislation would hold VA wrongdoers accountable; however, such reforms should make clear that the definition of ‘wrongdoing’ includes retaliating against whistleblowers and veterans who complain about care. Until we eliminate the culture of intimidation and climate of fear, no reforms will be able to turn this broken agency around,” said POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian. 


    In early June, IAVA unveiled a “Marshall Plan” for veterans: eight steps the Obama Administration and Congress can take now to restore confidence in the VA. Among the steps are recommendations from IAVA’s 2014 Policy Agenda. IAVA urges Congress and the President to enact all of the recommendations from the plan. 


    About POGO:


    Founded in 1981, POGO is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO’s investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.


    About IAVA:


    Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the nation's first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has more than 270,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. Celebrating its 10th year anniversary, IAVA recently received the highest rating - four-stars - from Charity Navigator, America's largest charity evaluator. 
    ###










    TOMORROW: Murray to Hear from VA Secretary Nominee Robert McDonald

     


     





    Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee and serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Her office issued the following today:



    FOR PLANNING PURPOSES                                             CONTACT: Murray Press Office
    Monday, July 21, 2014                                                                               (202) 224-2834

     
    TOMORROW: Murray to Hear from VA Secretary Nominee Robert McDonald
     


    Washington, D.C. – Tomorrow, Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee will attend a committee hearing on the nomination of Robert A. McDonald to be Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. At the hearing, Murray will deliver remarks and question McDonald on how he would improve trust and transparency at the VA, and how he would provide oversight of VA facilities in Washington state.
     


    WHO:             Senator Patty Murray (D-WA)
     

    WHAT:          Remarks at Veterans’ Affairs Committee Hearing on VA nominee Robert A. McDonald
     

    WHEN:         TOMORROW, Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014,
                           3:00 PM ET/ 12:00 PM PST
     

    WHERE:       SD-G50
     

     
    ###
     
     
    ---
    Meghan Roh
    Press Secretary | New Media Director
    Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
    Mobile: (202) 365-1235
    Office: (202) 224-2834








     
     
     
    RSS Feed for Senator Murray's office









    Sunday, July 20, 2014

    VA OIG Report Shows Backlog Progress Numbers Over-stated

    This is from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America:


    CONTACT: Gretchen Andersen (212) 982-9699 or press@iava.org


    VA OIG Report Shows Backlog Progress Numbers Over-stated
    Ahead of prime time House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing, VA Scandal continues with allegations of wrongdoing in Baltimore and Philly


    New York, NY (July 14, 2014) – According to USA Today, new information to be released by the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (VA OIG) finds that the VA struggles to properly pay veterans their disability benefits. Furthermore, investigators at a Philadelphia VA benefits office are examining allegations that staff shredded or hid mail related to claims or failed to respond to 32,000 requests. In Baltimore, a VA claims processor was discovered storing 8,000 pieces of unprocessed claims-related mail, Social Security data and other documents in his office, in addition to 80 other pending claims.



    Tonight, the House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) will hold a hearing on evaluating the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) process in achieving its goals at 7:30 p.m. at 334 Cannon House Office Building. You can watch the hearing on C-SPAN 2 and the HVAC website. 



    Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff released the following statement: 



    “Once again veterans learn they cannot trust the VA’s numbers,” said Rieckhoff. “As more terrible news breaks out of Philadelphia and Baltimore, its clear the VA scandal is far from over. With just weeks left before the summer break, IAVA encourages Congress and the President to pass the Sanders-McCain VA Management Accountability Act and the Clay Hunt SAV Act. Our veterans cannot afford, nor do they deserve, to wait months on end for their disability benefits. A number of our veterans are facing financial strain, and delayed exams and ratings only exacerbate their stress. For over a year and a half, IAVA has been fighting to end the VA backlog, and will continue to do so until we reach backlog zero. Despite this bad news, the President has failed to meet with IAVA and other VSO leaders to discuss the path forward for the VA and other pressing issues including suicide.”



    This afternoon the VA reported that 267,000 veterans are waiting at least 125 days in the disability claims backlog. Also, there are 280,502 veterans waiting for their appeals to be processed. 



    Since IAVA started a campaign to end the VA backlog last year, the VA has reduced the overall backlog by 57.8%.  Last summer, IAVA launched The Wait We Carry, a data visualization tool that highlighted the delay veterans faced in receiving their benefits. IAVA members continue to voice concerns about the quality of claims processing and rise of appeals.



    Last Thursday, IAVA stood with HVAC Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL), Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN) and Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) as Miller introduced the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention For American Veterans Act (Clay Hunt SAV Act). The legislation widens access to quality mental health care and combats veteran suicide.



    The Campaign to Combat Suicide was designed to raise public awareness of the suicide crisis, demand Congressional action and a Presidential Executive Order to start to reverse the suicide trend.



    All year long IAVA will activate every element of its membership, programs and partners – both on the ground and online. IAVA will incorporate this effort into everything we do from our monthly VetTogethers to our over 500,000-person strong social media community. We will empower our almost 300,000 members and supporters to serve as a ground force for outreach, support and advocacy. And we will travel the country, turning public attention to the issue of veteran suicide and promoting solutions.



    Note to media: Email press@iava.org and call 212-982-9699 for requests to interview IAVA leadership. 



    Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the nation's first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has more than 270,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. Celebrating its tenth year, IAVA recently received the highest rating - four-stars - from Charity Navigator, America's largest charity evaluator.