This is the beginning of a revolution in veterans' advocacy.
Training Veteran advocates and leaders
In January 2016, a team of five Veterans, led by Kristofer Goldsmith, stormed Capitol Hill to inspire legislation which would help veterans who had unjustly received less-than-honorable discharges as a result of symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury or Military Sexual Trauma. Over the course of a week of hands-on experience, each veteran learned to transform the leadership and teamwork skills that they learned while in the military into effective advocacy techniques. In just five days on Capitol Hill, these veterans inspired the introduction of a new bill in the House of Representatives, the Fairness for Veterans Act (HR.4683).
Throughout a week of advocacy training in Washington, D.C., High Ground Vets are exposed to the nation's largest Military and Veterans Service Organizations and they're given a behind-the-scenes look at the lawmaking process. After training is complete, we encourage our High Ground Vets to pursue leadership roles in their local communities so that they can pass their knowledge on to others and work to expand their network and influence. Our goal is to empower veterans to become advocates and leaders in across the country.
Building a lasting network
One of the core missions of High Ground is to facilitate lasting bonds between veterans and the organizations that represent them across the country. The first class of High Ground Vets helped to build the Fairness for Veterans Coalition, a group of Military and Veterans Service Organizations which support our mission to ensure that veterans who were improperly discharged from the military gain access to the benefits that they deserve. In doing so, lifelong friendships and professional relationships were established which will benefit all parties greatly. We're stronger together, that's why we're glad to have connected our first class of High Ground Vets with the following organizations:
- Veterans of Foreign Wars
- Disabled American Veterans
- American Legion
- Student Veterans of America
- Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
- Paralyzed Veterans of America
- United Soldiers and Sailors of America
- Military Officers Association of America
- Vietnam Veterans of America
- Veterans Health Council
- Military-Veterans Advocacy
- Wounded Warrior Project
- Fleet Reserve Association
- Yale Veterans Legal Services Clinic
- Swords to Plowshares
perform detailed research and identify bipartisan solutions
The first class of High Ground Vets inspired a bipartisan coalition of a dozen Post-9/11 Veterans who have been elected to congress, led by Congressmen Coffman and Walz, to introduce the Fairness for Veterans Act (HR.4683). This was accomplished in part due to a white-paper that High Ground developed called Restoring Honor to Veterans with Invisible Injuries. This detailed report exposed that one-in-ten Post-9/11 Veterans had been discharged from the military without benefits, many of them suffering from PTSD, TBI or MST without ever having service-related conditions properly considered before separation. Restoring Honor provided eleven administrative and legislative reforms to improve the military discharge review process in order to ease overwhelming burdens on veterans and provide for more fair hearings. We expect several of these suggestions to be adopted as official Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs policy in the coming months and years.