Lisa Payan, a U.S. Army veteran and Marylhurst University M.Div. student, will join more than 500 members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. as they converge on Capitol Hill to advocate on behalf of all veterans, service members and their families.
The VFW-SVA Legislative Fellowship is a semester-long academic experience that involves research, action, reporting and advocating on behalf of one of four veterans’ policy areas: success in higher education; transitioning from military to civilian life; succeeding in the civilian workforce; and crafting the future of veterans’ health care. Each selected fellow submitted a policy proposal to address one of these issues through federal legislative action.
Lisa’s proposal, based on her master’s thesis research, is to advocate for chaplain services support to improve reintegration outcomes for veterans. Though the Veterans Affairs’ mission to provide health care, education and vocational rehabilitation services are essential, mental health experts agree that it takes much more for people to build wholesome and meaningful lives. Community connections, spiritual self-care, compassion and continued service are also vital quality of life elements, but many veterans find that their time in the service makes it difficult attain or sustain one or more of these key components.
Within VA Chaplain Services there exists a remarkable potential to address these needs, but VA chaplains are largely limited to inpatient care and woefully understaffed to provide support to the far larger veteran population. Reintegration Chaplains would fill this gap, Lisa says, by educating civilian groups about veteran issues and building a network of veteran liaisons from among the thousands of established spiritual communities and service organizations across the nation.
Lisa hopes to raise congressional support to increase funding for VA Chaplain and Reintegration Services and to provide Reintegration Chaplains to every VA hospital, clinic and Vet Center in the country.
Lisa will travel to Washington, D.C. Feb. 26 to Mar. 2, 2017. During her stay, she will be paired with a VFW mentor and accompany her VFW state delegation around Capitol Hill for in-person meetings with her members of Congress. As part of the fellowship, she will also receive briefings from federal officials on ongoing policy initiatives, as well as learn techniques to work with the media when advocating on veterans’ issues. Upon returning home, Lisa will also be responsible for executing a community action plan, to include delivering her individual research papers directly to her respective congressional delegations.
“This opportunity provides exceptional student veterans the chance to make their voices heard on Capitol Hill and with other organizations in the veterans’ advocacy space,” said SVA’s President and CEO Jared Lyon.
“Through our fellowship program, the VFW and SVA seek to work with exemplary student veterans to hone their unique skills as advocates on campus, in the community, and on the national stage,” said VFW National Commander Brian Duffy.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is the nation’s largest and oldest major war veterans organization. Founded in 1899 and chartered by Congress in 1936, the VFW is comprised entirely of eligible veterans and military service members from the active, Guard and Reserve forces. With nearly 1.7 million VFW and auxiliary members located in more than 6,500 posts worldwide, the nonprofit veterans service organization is dedicated to veterans’ service, legislative advocacy, and military and community service programs.
Student Veterans of America is a 501(c)(3) non-profit coalition of over 1,000 student veteran organizations on college campuses globally. SVA’s mission is to provide military veterans with the resources, support and advocacy needed to succeed in higher education and following graduation.
Lisa Payan is a pre- and post- 9/11 Army military police veteran, having served about six years on active duty. Her father also served as a Marine Corps combat engineer during Vietnam and her grandfather was a Navy aerial gunner over the Pacific in WWII. She began pursuing the Master of Divinity degree at Marylhurst University in 2012. She also works at the Veterans Benefits Administration as a Senior Veteran Service Representative.