Patty Murray has been a tireless advocate for veterans since joining the Senate, championing improved job training, expanded employment assistance and education benefits, increased funding for veterans health care and other benefits, housing assistance and accountability from the Veterans Affairs Department.
The Washington senator’s efforts to address veteran unemployment culminated three years ago when legislation she authored, the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, was cleared by Congress. The landmark, bipartisan legislation was designed to help put veterans back to work by providing job skills training as they leave the military and by easing the training and certification process they face. At the time, veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan faced an 11.5 percent unemployment rate.
The VOW to Hire Heroes Act accomplished a number of urgent needs. It required the Pentagon to update its Transition Assistance Program for the 21st Century and make it mandatory for transitioning service members. It also dealt with the difficulty veterans face transferring their technical and leadership skills to civilian professions by requiring the Labor Department to assess ways to alleviate the problem.
The measure created a new education benefit providing up to 12 months of Montgomery GI Bill payments to veterans ages 35 to 60 who have no other employment assistance. To give service members a head start on finding jobs, it allows service members to apply for federal employment before they separate. The bill also provides tax credits to encourage employers to hire veterans.
In February, the four-term senator introduced legislation that would expand the VOW to Hire Heroes Act as well as improve VA health care and address the agency’s disability claims backlog. The Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act would reauthorize the Veterans Retraining Assistance program, which was created by the earlier bill. It also would require states to issue licenses and credentials to qualified veterans without requiring them to complete further training.
In April, Murray introduced legislation aimed at improving federal support for injured service members and veterans and their caregivers. The Military and Veteran Caregiver Services Improvement Act would broaden the VA’s caregiver program, removing restrictions on who is considered a caregiver for benefit purposes and increasing support for those caring for people with mental health issues.
For insisting that the federal government stand by its veterans when they return home and working to ensure they receive the support they deserve, Murray has earned ADC’s Congressional Leadership Award. Award winners will be recognized at a special ceremony on Capitol Hill next month during the Defense Communities National Summit.