Sen. Patty Murray has been one of the leading voices on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee for years. Now she's the actual leader.
The Washington Democrat, who has been on the panel since 1995 and has built a huge constituency among veterans who regularly support her for re-election, was named chairwoman of the committee today, taking over for Sen. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, who moves over to be chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee.
“This is a great honor, but an even bigger responsibility. As Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I have a tremendous duty to the 22 million veterans across the country who have stepped up to serve our nation and who deserve the highest quality care, benefits, and treatment in return.
“I am humbled by this Chairmanship not only because of the great veterans I’ll serve, but also because of the man whose shoes I’ll be working to fill. Senator Akaka has been, and always will be, a champion for his fellow veterans. I know that in the coming years he will continue to be a leader on this Committee, someone who I will rely on heavily, and someone who’ll never stop fighting for the veterans of his home state and our nation.
“I plan to work each day to ensure that the VA is working for our veterans, not against them. Our service members should never have to come home from fighting a war only to fight to get the benefits and care that they deserve.
“I know the VA has some of the most dedicated employees in the world and provides tremendous services to many of our veterans. But I also know there are a great many challenges to be met. Today, too many veterans are waiting far too long to get the benefits they’ve earned. Too many veterans are struggling to get access to mental health care, worker training, and other resources to help them transition from the battlefield to the civilian world. And still, far too many veterans are sleeping on the streets after serving their country. These are among the many issues I plan to take an active and aggressive approach to helping find solutions for.
“It has been one of the great privileges of my Senate career to fight for veterans like my father - a World War II veteran, or the Vietnam veterans I met interning at the VA in college, or the countless Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who I have spoken to about returning home with the visible and invisible wounds of war.
“These men and women, and all American veterans, will always be who I fight for, who I listen to first, and who I answer to. Their needs, their struggles, and their stories will be the ones I bring to the VA to help deliver change and meet the many challenges we face.”