This morning, participants in the 2010 AMVETS Symposium for 21st Century Veterans presented their findings and recommendations to the AMVETS National Convention floor at the Galt House in Louisville, Ky.
Some of the most prominent recommendations from this year's participants included increased family integration in the transition and treatment processes, equitable treatment for female veterans in VA medical facilities, codified "warning signs" for veterans at risk for homelessness, and comprehensive transition programs available to all branches, including the National Guard and Reserve.
From this morning's presentation, AMVETS National Headquarters will compile the raw data from the week's working groups, follow up with participants, compare notes with VA, Department of Defense and Department of Labor codes, and compile a comprehensive symposium report to be released on Oct. 1.
AMVETS will then use the report to guide its legislative agenda and inform key national leaders on Capitol Hill about the current needs of America's warfighters.
From AMVETS' last symposium for post-9/11 veterans in 2006, more than 25 issues have been addressed, but this year's participants pointed to new issues and some unforeseen consequences of past corrective actions.
One unintended consequence, which came from the women veterans' roundtable, was the concern that today's female veterans were being pigeon-holed into women's clinics for non-gender-specific care, exacerbating access issues to routine primary care treatment.
Veterans also clamored for more family integration into the overall transition and treatment process, saying that veterans' spouses and children play pivotal roles in ensuring that veterans receive all of their proper benefits and entitlements. Family members are also directly impacted by reintegration issues that their loved ones face, potentially leading to relationship issues.
AMVETS National Legislative Director Ray Kelley, the symposium's facilitator, said the input from the diverse group of veterans will also help to guide AMVETS organizationally to better serve today's warriors.
AMVETS asked for anonymous feedback from each participant and plans to take their recommendations to the AMVETS National Executive Committee to host future events.
Participants said they enjoyed the opportunity to participate in the symposium and that no other veterans' groups had offered them similar opportunities to candidly discuss what is important to them. They also said that they wanted to see similar events take place every year until all of America's service members return home.
More than 50 veterans who have served after Sept. 11, 2001 participated in the symposium, representing a broad cross-section of today's veterans including current service members, recent retirees, wounded warriors, female veterans, urban and suburban veterans, rural veterans, and members of the National Guard and Reserve from coast to coast.
AMVETS National Commander Duane J. Miskulin thanked each of the participants personally after the presentation and said it was the kind of work AMVETS needed to continue down the road.
(Photos: Top: Post-9/11 veteran Joe Leal delivers the findings of the health care breakout group from the symposium, while his fellow participants and AMVETS National Commander Duane Miskulin looks on. Bottom: AMVETS members thank symposium participants for their hard work following this morning's presentation on the floor of the National Convention. Photos by Luis Jimenez.)