Yesterday, I had the honor of hosting a team from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) at Microsoft’s campus as part of their tour of the Northwest. IAVA is the nation's first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit dedicated to the veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the civilian supporters of those troops and veterans.

IAVA is one of the members of the Microsoft Elevate America Veterans Initiative coalition, along with The American Legion, Paralyzed Veterans of America, United Service Organizations (USO), and the Wounded Warrior Project, who are helping us think about how we can most effectively partner with others to support veterans and their spouses as they transition from military to civilian employment. As part of the initiative we have a competitive funding process currently underway to find appropriate nonprofits who can come together to address this issue. (The deadline for applications is June 30, 2010.)

Todd Bowers, IAVA's Deputy Executive Director and a Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) veteran, Jason Hansman, IAVA's Community Manager and OIF veteran, and Chrissy Stevens, IAVA's Director of Communications joined a group of Microsoft employees to talk about the issues facing this current generation of veterans and how IAVA is creating solutions both programmatically as well as through policy and legislation to address these issues.

IAVA is involved in a wide range of policy, program and advocacy issues supporting veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and even more importantly, they are laser focused on getting results and making change happen. Issues like the transition home, healthcare, mental health, employment, the GI Bill, disability claims, and navigating the Veterans Administration are some of the key issues on the IAVA agenda.

IAVA is working to raise awareness of some of these issues through their award winning ads, made in partnership with the Ad Council.

During the discussion, one of the most common questions from the audience, comprised largely of veterans working at Microsoft or spouses/friends of veterans was: “What can we do to help?” Here are three key things you can do, starting today:

  • Learn about the issues (www.iava.org is a great resource and a great place to start)
  • Raise awareness of the issues with others - especially your local elected officials and policy makers
  • Get involved and take action on an issue that is important to you. There are a lot of ways you can do so: volunteer with your local VA Hospital, host an event for veterans, make a charitable contribution to the veterans’ charity of your choice, or write a letter to your congressman.

As we continue our work with veterans, we feel very fortunate to have partners like IAVA and the other members of the Elevate America Veterans Initiative coalition who are working every day to make a difference in the lives of veterans and their families.

You can find out more about the Microsoft Elevate America Veterans Initiative here.