On Thursday, January 27, Senator Patty Murray became the chairwoman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. As part of her new appointment, Chairman Murray intends to maintain the focus of the Obama administration on increasing medical care and benefits for military members.
“I am one who will hold any president accountable – regardless of political party – accountable for making sure that veterans get the care they need,” stated Murray.
“This president used to sit next to me as a junior member of the committee, and I remind the president of that all the time,” she said. “Believe me, I take him on when he doesn’t do things right.”
Murray is not only the first Washington senator to be chaired since the early 80s, but she is also the first woman to head the committee. She will replace Senator Daniel Akaka from Hawaii who will be moving to become chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.
Murray intends to keep all VA programs funded, and to pressure the department to strive to improve the handling of benefits claims and services. She would also like for the committee to further examine the “seamless transition” program. The program was designed to improve DOD and VA cooperation through the creation of a shared electronic medical record system and a singular disability rating system amongst other things.
“We still have some lack of communication between the DOD and the VA, and I want to hear from veterans who are going through the process,” Murray said.
Veteran unemployment, homelessness, and issues faced by female service members are also on Chairwoman Murray’s agenda.
The new chairwoman has the odds stacked in her favor, as she fronts the committee during a time when taxpayers’ costs are rising to support medical care and benefits for veterans, and a large national deficit is forcing a reduction in federal spending.
Chairwoman Murray, being the daughter of a disabled World War II veteran, has long been an advocate for veterans’ issues. At 22, she interned at a psychiatric hospital in Seattle with Vietnam veterans. After being elected in to the U.S. Senate, Murray joined the Veterans Affairs Committee.
As a part of the committee, she has advocated for better services for female veterans and for greater funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“Veteran issues have always been at the forefront of her work, and we are very pleased with her selection,” stated AMVETS spokesman, Jay Agg.
Photo thanks to studio08denver under creative common license on Flickr.