Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson, who helped establish the Senate Defense Communities Caucus and has fought to expand employment opportunities for the nation’s military veterans, has been selected to receive ADC’s Congressional Leadership Award.
Isakson launched the Senate Defense Communities Caucus along with North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp one year ago. The aim of the caucus, a counterpart to a similar one established in the House in 2011, is to help communities better integrate service members into the community; support returning service members; build economic development strategies; share best practices for base redevelopment; and strengthen partnerships among the private sector, installations and communities.
At the time, the two co-chairs said the caucus will support “the unique needs of defense communities, which play a vital role in supporting the United States military.”
Georgia has eight major installations representing all four military services.
In March 2013, the two-term senator co-sponsored legislation intended to open up career opportunities for veterans by making licenses and credentials in their chosen fields more accessible. The Careers for Veterans Act directed states to administer examinations to veterans seeking a license or credential without requiring that they undergo training or apprenticeship if they have 10 years of experience in an occupational specialty that is similar to a civilian occupation.
Previously, Isakson introduced legislation to create a reintegration program for National Guard personnel returning from combat. That legislation would ensure that service members and their families receive the training and assistance they need in order to successfully transition from the battlefield back to civilian life.
Isakson also is committed to reducing the protracted delays veterans are forced to endure while the VA evaluates their disability claims and improving veterans’ access to quality mental health care. Last August, he chaired a field hearing in Atlanta to review reports from the inspector general about the mismanagement of inpatient and contracted outpatient mental health programs at the Atlanta VA Medical Center.
As a result of his examination of the issue, the senator focused on the potential contribution of community-based partners and began to encourage the VA to continue to collaborate with local mental health providers. Award winners will be recognized at a special ceremony Thursday on Capitol Hill as part of the Defense Communities National Summit.