Bipartisan pair of lawmakers works to help vets
Published: November 29, 2012
Ledyard King, Gannett Washington
The 112th Congress has been labeled "do-nothing" with good reason: It's passed fewer bills than almost any Congress since World War II.
But amid the partisan gridlock, lawmakers have quietly approved a number of important bills designed to improve life for veterans. And they've done it at a time of tight spending, when almost nothing passes that isn't fully paid for.
Those legislative victories for veterans have been possible largely because of the friendly relationship between one of the most conservative Republicans in the House and a liberal Democrat in the Senate.
Republican Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington barely knew each other when they took over their respective chambers' Veterans Affairs committees in January 2011. But over the next 22 months, they worked together and with other lawmakers to help veterans get training for new jobs, better mental health care and faster action on disability claims.
"She's as far left as I am to the right," Miller said of Murray. "But we were able to forge a cooperative relationship that I believe is very beneficial for the veterans community."
A Disservice to Disabled Troops
Published: May 26, 2012
The processing of disability cases is getting slower, not faster. Efforts to ensure a “seamless transition” out of the military are falling short. Men and women are languishing without treatment, struggling to readjust to civilian lives as they cope with post-traumatic stress disorder, brain injuries, drug addiction and other service-related afflictions. The system that should be producing reliable results is mired in delays and dissatisfaction.
A new report by the Government Accountability Office lays out the problem. In 2007, the two departments began combining their separate, complicated and cumbersome processes for disability evaluations into one system. The system is now in place worldwide, and officials from both departments promised the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee a year ago that it had become “more transparent, consistent and expeditious.”
New York Times
Patty Murray disturbed by report on Veterans Affairs wait times
Apr 25 2012
Washington Senator Patty Murray says she's infuriated by a report that examines wait times at Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities including Spokane. The Inspector General's (IG) office released its report this week. It slams the Department of Veterans Affairs for drastically understating the amount of time veterans wait for mental health appointments. The report confirms what Washington Senator Patty Murray has been hearing from veterans. Murray chairs the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs. Veterans Health Administration (VHA) policy requires that all first-time patients who request mental health services receive an initial evaluation within 24 hours and a comprehensive diagnostic appointment within two weeks. The Inspector General's office examined wait times at four facilities including the VA in Spokane. Investigators found that contrary to VHA officials' insistence, on average, veterans are waiting 41 days for care. In Spokane the wait times were 80 days. Patty Murray says that's unacceptable.
VA hiring more mental health workers
Apr 19 2012
Under pressure to reduce the long waits many veterans face for mental health care, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced Thursday that it will hire 1,900 mental health workers, an increase of more than nine percent.
- The Washington Post
A Good Education With the G.I. Bill
Apr 05 2012
Service members and veterans looking to learn more about their educational benefits under the G.I. Bill may be in trouble if they plunge unprepared into the wilds of the Internet. Many reputable private and public universities, trade schools and training programs are committed to helping veterans further their education and careers. But there are also predators itching to pad their enrollments with veterans and get their hands on government billions ? nearly 600,000 people are expected to enter classes under the G.I. Bill this year, with the Veterans Affairs Department footing more than $9 billion of the cost.
- The New York Times
Murray helps meet the nation's obligation to all the casualties of war
The armed services have an ally in Washington's U.S. Sen. Patty Murray to help them rethink how they deal with post-traumatic stress disorder within their ranks, and to help veterans after they leave active duty.
Mar 25 2012
AMERICANS who saw heavy combat suffer a toll in health, happiness, marital status and earning power as civilians. So concluded a major study in 1985, followed by others. The devastating traumas of combat experience, and exposure to the hazards and tensions of a war zone, are as old as the Trojan War, and as fresh as the multiple deployments of U.S. troops spread across two conflicts. One thing has changed. Washington Sen. Patty Murray, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, has emerged as a tenacious advocate for service personnel and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and related mental health issues. What apparently has not changed is the military's own ambivalence about the condition. Anyone who wants to stay in the service believes it's a career-ender to acknowledge the flashbacks, nightmares and depression that characterize PTSD. At the very least, it could compromise a promotion. As a result those inside the service suffer a compounding sense of isolation that claims their families as well. The failure to address the problem has the faint echo of "don't ask, don't tell" that cost the armed services the skills of thousands of gays and lesbians eager to serve, but who paid a price for honesty.
- The Seattle Times (Editorial)