FRONTLINE TO HOMEFRONT

Find out how local veterans are making a difference within their ranks and in our communities.

Aired on March 4, 2019. 

TRANSCRIPT

> WE CONTINUE NOW WITH OUR SERIES FRONT LINE TO HOME FRONT WHERE WE LOOK AT THE CHALLENGES OVER 3 MILLION POST 9/11 VETERANS ARE FACING SINCE THEY'VE RETURNED FROM SERVICE IN IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN.

AMONG THAT GROUP A WIDE SWATH OF AGES, BABY BOOMERS, GEN-Xers, AND NOW GENERATION Z.

THE FEMALE VETERAN POPULATION ALSO BRINGS A NEW SET OF CHALLENGES AS THEIR RANKS IS EXPECTED TO DOUBLE IN THE COMING YEARS AND OUR VETS ARE FACING A NEW ILLNESS AS WELL.

BUT THERE'S GOOD NEWS.

AN ORGANIZATION CALLED IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA IS WORKING TOWARD FINDING SOLUTIONS.

JOINING US NOW WITH DETAILS, TWO VETERANS, VADIM PANASYUK AND CYNTHIA FANAA.

WE WELCOME BOTH OF YOU TO 'METROFOCUS.'

THANK YOU FOR HAVING US.

LET ME START BECAUSE I WANT TO GET A PERSPECTIVE FROM EACH OF YOU AND HOW YOU LOOK AT THIS AND WORK ON THIS.

TELL ME EACH, VADIM, I WILL START WITH YOU, WHY YOU JOINED THE MILITARY.

BASICALLY WHAT YOU DID THERE AND WHAT YOU'RE DOING NOW WITH THE ORGANIZATION.

MY WHOLE FAMILY COME FROM UKRAINE, I'M AN IMMIGRANT, I WAS NATURALIZED IN THE MILITARY.

I GOT MY CITIZENSHIP IN BAGHDAD.

THAT WAS A GREAT STORY.

SECOND TOUR AND YOU GET YOUR CITIZENSHIP.

YES, SIR.

GOOD FOR YOU.

GOOD FOR YOU.

THE MILITARY HAS ALWAYS BEEN A PART OF MY LIFE, ALL THE MEN SERVED IN THE SOVIET MILITARY, IN WORLD WAR II I HAD FAMILY FIGHTING THE SOVIETS AND AGAINST THE SOVIETS.

IT WAS ALWAYS PART OF MY LIFE AND AFTER 9/11 I WAS ALREADY HERE FOR A FEW YEARS, YOU KNOW, THIS WAS MY NEW HOME, MY NEW COUNTRY AND IT WAS A NO-BRAINER FOR ME.

CYNTHIA, HOW ABOUT YOU?

WHAT GOT YOU INTO IT?

I'M ALSO AN IMMIGRANT, I WAS BORN IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC AND I DID NOT GET MY CITIZENSHIP IN THE ARMY, IT WAS BEFORE THAT, BUT I FELT A SENSE OF SERVICE EVEN COMING FROM, YOU KNOW, FAMILY LISTEN ANALOGY OF MILITARY PEOPLE AND IT JUST FELT RIGHT.

IT WAS PART OF MY LIFE, INTO I ENTIRE LIFE.

LET'S TALK ABOUT THE O, HOW IT GOT STARTED AND WHAT EACH OF YOU DO WITHIN THAT ORGANIZATION.

SURE.

SO IAVA HAS BEEN AROUND SINCE 2004, IT WAS STARTED BY OUR COO AND FOUNDER PAUL RIKOFF.

A LOT OF THE GENERATIONS BEFORE US HAD DEDICATED ORGANIZATIONS THAT PUSHED SOME OF THE ISSUES THAT WERE IMPORTANT TO THEM AND PAUL NOTICED THAT THERE WAS A LACK OF THAT VOICE FOR THIS GENERATION OF VETS.

CYNTHIA, HOW ABOUT YOU, WHAT DREW YOU TO THE ORGANIZATION?

SO I HEARD ABOUT IT FIRST FROM MY PROFESSOR, HE ACTUALLY -- WE HAD A MUTUAL FRIEND THAT WORKED AT IAVA BEFORE AND HE TOLD ME ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION, I HAD NO IDEA ABOUT IT WHICH A LOT OF VETERANS HAVE NO IDEA ABOUT THE SERVICES OTHER ORGANIZATIONS PROVIDE, BUT I STARTED IN THE HUMAN RESOURCES DEPARTMENT AND NOW I AM THE HEAD OF HUMAN RESOURCES.

WHAT ARE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT ISSUES DO YOU SEE THE VETERANS EXPERIENCING WHEN YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT THEIR EDUCATIONAL BENEFIT?

THE ISSUES RANGE FROM GETTING YOUR CHECKS ON TIME TO MAKING SURE THAT THE SCHOOL GETS PAID AN YOU ARE GETTING IN, TO OTHER MORE SIGNIFICANT ISSUES WHEN A SERVICE MEMBER IS TRYING TO TRANSFER THEIR BENEFITS AND THERE IS A LOT OF CONFUSION ABOUT THAT.

WE'VE WORKED WITH DEPENDENTS OF VETERANS WHO ARE STUCK WITH $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 BILLS BECAUSE IT TOOK VA A COUPLE YEARS TO CATCH UP TO A FAILED TRANSFERABILITY.

WITH OUR DEFICITS AND WITH EVERYTHING GOING ON NOW, EVERYTHING IS ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK.

SO I THINK IT'S VERY IMPORTANT TO MAINTAIN THE PRESSURE ON CONGRESS AND MAINTAINING ON THE LEVERS OF POWER TO MAKE SURE THESE BENEFITS ARE PROTECTED.

I MENTIONED IN THE INTRODUCTION A VARIETY OF ISSUES, WE WERE TALKING ABOUT EDUCATIONAL BENEFITS.

WITH HE TALKED ABOUT THE FACT THAT THERE ARE SO MANY WOMEN NOW COMING OUT OF THE MILITARY.

SO WHAT IS DIFFERENT ABOUT THEN COUNSELING AND HELPING FEMALE VETERANS AS OPPOSED TO MALE VETERANS?

IT'S NOT EQUAL TO A MAN'S CARE.

WE LAUNCHED A CAMPAIGN CALLED THE SHE WHO WAS BORN TO BATTLE CAMPAIGN BECAUSE, WELL, THE IRS THING THAT YOU SEE WHEN YOU WALK INTO THE VA IS THEIR MOTTO, TO CARE FOR HIM AND HIS WIDOW AND SERVANT.

THERE'S MORE THAN HIM'S.

I'M WALKING INTO THE VA AND I SEE THAT MOTTO, I DON'T FEEL LIKE I'M BEING REPRESENTED, BUT THE SERVICES WE'RE LUCKY HERE IN NEW YORK THAT WE HAVE, YOU KNOW, MULTIPLE VAs THAT ARE BIG AND HAVE SERVICES, BUT WHAT ABOUT THOSE THAT LIVE IN SMALLER TOWNS, THEY DON'T HAVE MAMMOGRAM MACHINES, THIS HE DON'T HAVE PROSTHETIC STAFF TO FIT WOMEN TO THEY HAVE TO BE FITTED WITH MEN'S PROSTHETICS.

WE WANT EQUAL SERVICE AND IAVA IS LEADING THE WAY IN THAT WITH OUR DEBORAH SAMPSON ACT.

I WANT TO ASK YOU ABOUT ONE OTHER THINGS.

I MENTIONED THE NOTION OF ILLNESSES THAT VETERANS ARE COMING BACK WITH.

WE'VE HEARD TALK ABOUT THE BURNING PITS AND THE IMPACT IT HAD.

THERE HAVE BEEN PARALLELS SUGGESTED MADE TO AGENT ORANGE IN VIETNAM.

TO YOUR VIEWERS WHO DON'T KNOW WHAT A BURN PIT IS, IT'S BASICALLY A WAY THAT FORWARD DEPLOYED UNITS GET RID OF WASTE, WHETHER IT IS HUMAN WASTE, WHETHER IT'S, YOU KNOW, WASTE OF THE CHOW HALL, CERTAIN PAINTS, WHATEVER IS GOING ON, THEY THROW IT IN THIS BIG PIT, DOUSE IT WITH JET FUEL AND BURN IT.

TYPICALLY THIS CREATES VERY TOXIC PLUMES OF SMOKE AND THAT IS ALSO HOW, YOU KNOW, PEOPLE BURN HUMAN WASTE AS WELL.

YOU HAVE A PRIVATE WITH A PICKETT STIRRING THAT STUFF AS IT BURNS DOWN TO A PUCK SO YOU CAN BURY IT.

A LOT OF VETERANS ARE REPORTING RESPIRATORY ISSUES, DECLINE IN LUNG FUNCTION AND THINGS OF THAT NATURE.

YOU'VE MENTIONED AGENT ORANGE, WHICH, YOU KNOW, A LOT OF VIETNAM VETERANS WERE SUFFERING FROM, AND IT TOOK UP UNTIL, I BELIEVE, LATE '80s OR EARLY '90s FOR THE VA TO RECOGNIZE IT AS A PRESUMPTIVE ILLNESS TO WHERE THESE VETERANS WOULD GET COMPENSATED WHERE THEY WOULD GET THE CARE THAT THEY NEED, SPECIFIC CARE FOR WHAT THEY'VE ENCOUNTERED AND SOMETHING SOMETHING THAT IAVA IS DOING, WE ARE KIND OF USING THAT PLAYBOOK EXCEPT WE'RE TRYING TO ACCELERATE IT.

WE'RE NOT TRYING TO WAIT 30 YEARS BEFORE THE VA ACCEPTS THIS AS FACT.

WE ARE TRYING TO MAKE THAT HAPPEN TODAY.

BOTH OF YOU, VADIM, CYNTHIA, OUR THANKS TO YOU CERTAINLY FOR THE SERVICE YOU PERFORMED IN THE PAST, FOR OUR COUNTRY, AND FOR THE SERVICE YOU'RE CONTINUING TO PERFORM.

SO WE THANK YOU FOR ALL OF THAT AND A I'M SURE THE PEOPLE WHO ARE WORKING WITH YOU THANK YOU.

YOU BOTH BE WELL AND WE APPRECIATE IT.

THANK YOU.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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