With many new members of Congress, it’s “Back to the Basics” for DAV
(Green Bay, Wis. – March 16, 2011) - Over 600 national leaders were in attendance at the Disabled American Veterans 2011 Mid-Winter Conference held at the Marriott Crystal Gateway in Arlington, Virginia, February 27 - March 2, 2011, who then took to Capitol Hill to inform and advocate on behalf of the nation’s veterans, particularly its disabled veterans.
Included in the huge national leadership meeting of the nation’s largest wartime service-disabled veterans’ organization were Department of Wisconsin leaders John Hoeft, State Commander; Kevin (KC) Johnson, State Senior Vice Commander; Al Labelle, State Judge Advocate; Clarence Stoel, State Legislative Director; Richard Marbes, State Treasurer; Roger Dorman, Service Director; Stephen Leopold, State Legal Advisor; John Kleindienst, Milwaukee National Service Office (NSO) Supervisor; Derrick Williams, Milwaukee NSO Assistant Supervisor; Charles Vandenplas, VAVS Chairman; and Anthony Hardie, State Special Assistant.
Marbes is a past DAV National Commander. Vandenplas is also 12th District Representative on DAV’s National Executive Committee. The 12th District is comprised of the Departments of Illinois and Wisconsin. Labelle is a member of DAV’s national Interim Legislative Committee. Hardie is a National Deputy Chief of Staff for 2010-11.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki was the Conference’s keynote speaker, which opened with a business session, followed by numerous workshops intended to further develop DAV’s leadership, legislative, and communications capacities, among many others.
The Conference culminated with National Commander Wallace E. (Wally) Tyson’s presentation of DAV’s 2011 legislative program to a joint session of the U.S. Senate and House veterans’ affairs committees, which was attended by an overflow crowd of enthusiastic DAV members from Wisconsin and across the country.
Since the 112th Congress has 103 new members, many with little or no legislative experience, a major emphasis of the presentation was Who and What We Are.
“It was DAV 101 and Legislation 101,” said State Judge Advocate Al Labelle.
In the last Congress, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs was comprised of 29 members, with only 12 members reelected. For DAV, making inroads and achieving legislative successes with the new Congress – including the 17 new members on the House veterans’ affairs committee – means it will be “back to the basics” of informing new members not only about DAV’s legislative priorities, but who DAV is and what it means to be a service-disabled wartime veteran.
DAV’s Department of Wisconsin leaders aimed directly at every member of Wisconsin’s 10-member Congressional delegation to help achieve DAV’s national legislative goals with a formal group presentation and individual office meetings.
DAV-Wis. leaders developed and delivered a formal group presentation of DAV’s national legislative program to the offices of U.S. Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI) (Harry Stein, Carolyn Appel); Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) (Alian Elias); Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI-01) (Martin Skold); Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-02) (Amber Shipley); and, Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI-03) (Kevin Warnke).
DAV-Wis. leaders also had quite a number of personal meetings with Wisconsin Congressional offices, including meeting personally with Sen. Ron Johnson, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, and Congressman Reid Ribble (R-WI-08), and in separate private meetings with the offices of Congressman Ryan (Martin Skold); Congressman Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-WI-04) (Eyang Nyambi Garrison); Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI-05) (Joshua Ledden); Congressman Tom Petri (R-WI-06) (Meagan McCanna); Congressman Sean Duffy (R-WI-07) (Jenifer Nawrocki); and Congressman Ribble (Paul Bleiberg).
Key meetings were also held with the integral House Budget Committee’s Professional Staff and with the offices of Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and senior Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee member Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), all of whom left well acquainted with and enthusiastic about the Independent Budget and military medical health research funding issues.
More information on the Independent Budget, DAV’s 2011 Legislative Program, and DAV national concerns is available on the DAV-Wis. website at www.davwi.org/government-relations. More information on the Conference, including Secretary Shinseki’s comments, will be published in the May-June issue of the DAV Magazine.