The VA is defending its motto this week against charges that it “symbolizes the agency’s resistance to gender equity.”
A portion of Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address in 1865 has been deemed “sexist” as a VA motto by the nonprofit organization Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. The group wrote a letter to VA Secretary David Shulkin this week demanding a change, which it says would “better support women.”
The motto in question, in place since 1959, reads: “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.”
“IAVA’s top priority this year is increasing recognition and support for women veterans,” said Allison Jaslow, executive director of IAVA, Stars and Stripes reported Wednesday. “A key component of that has been asking for the VA to change its motto, and that’s because cultural barriers are arguably the biggest barriers veterans face. Far too many women veterans feel invisible.”
The 425,000-strong group, which critics have charged with having a “liberal bent” for years, sent its letter to Mr. Shulkin on Tuesday.
“Every day that the VA preserves this motto, it ignores and obscures the needs of far too many women veterans. […] The VA’s continued use of its sexist motto symbolizes the agency’s resistance to gender equity, and perpetuates a hostile and unequal environment for women veterans,” IAVA’s letter reads in part.
Curt Cashour, a VA spokesman, disagreed.
“VA has the utmost respect for the service and sacrifice of all veterans, including women veterans. But Lincoln’s words are Lincoln’s words,” Mr. Cashour told Stars and Stripes.
Ms. Jaslow told the newspaper that she would continue making the case for a motto change prior to Veterans Day on Nov. 11.
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