Linda Spoonster Schwartz, RN, MSN '84, DrPH '98, FAAN, Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Veterans' Affairs, was recently installed as the president of the National Association of State Directors of Veterans' Affairs (NASDVA) for 2010-2011. Dr. Schwartz is the first woman to hold this position in NASDVA's 65-year history.
NASDVA is an organization comprised of the top veterans' affairs officials in each state, the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories. NASDVA members are tasked by their Governors as the "office of prime responsibility" for providing services to veterans and are uniquely qualified to be a vital resource which can augment Federal programs, improve the identification of needs, coordinate local resources and ultimately enhance the quality of care and services to America's veterans and their families.
Dr. Schwartz was originally appointed commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Veterans' Affairs in 2003, becoming the first woman and nurse to hold this position in state history. She served as an officer and flight nurse in the United States Air Force from 1967 to 1986, both on active duty and as an Air Force Reservist. She retired from the military in 1986 after sustaining injuries in an aircraft accident while conducting a mission as an Air Force flight nurse.
"Serving as NASDVA's president during these challenging times for today's veterans is both an honor and a serious responsibility," said Dr. Schwartz. "Our states and the Federal government must work even more closely together to maximize available benefits and services for both our aging veterans and those returning each day from Afghanistan and Iraq. I intend to use this position to continue my strong advocacy for veterans which began over 30 years ago."
Dr. Schwartz holds a doctorate degree in public health from the Yale School of Medicine and a master's in nursing from Yale University School of Nursing, where she is an associate clinical professor. She is a past president of the Connecticut Nurses Association and Connecticut Nurses Foundation and has served on the National Board of Directors of the American Nurses Association, the Vietnam Veterans of America and the Vietnam Women's Memorial, Inc. In 2009, Sigma Theta Tau International, the Honor Society of Nursing, bestowed the Archon Award to Schwartz for her devotion to nursing practice and to healing the wounds of war.
NASDVA provides a medium for the exchange of ideas and information between states so that issues facing veterans and their families nationwide can be addressed uniformly and effectively. NASDVA is also actively involved in the development, analysis and implementation of veterans' legislation both at the state and Federal levels.
Collectively, state governments commit more than $4 billion each year of their own resources in support of our nation's veterans and their families. States are second only to the Federal VA in providing benefits and services to the men and women who defend our nation.
Prior to her installation as NASDVA president, Dr. Schwartz served for several years on the Association's executive committee, most recently as senior vice president. She has represented NASDVA frequently before Congress, testifying on a variety of topics related to the care and conditions of today's veterans.