This week, I worked hard to pass a major education bill through committee that addresses the concerns that I have heard over and over from parents and schools across Washington state This bipartisan legislation is a strong step in the right direction for Washington state students. Although it’s not perfect, it is the result of true bipartisan compromise. This legislation builds on what is working in our schools, and it gives districts and schools across our state the tools and flexibility they need to offer every student the opportunity to get the education and skills they need to fill the jobs of the 21st century.
I am going to keep working to pass this bill into law and improve education for students and schools in Washington state and across the country. I worked closely with my colleagues on the HELP committee as this legislation was written, and a few key pieces are based on bills I have introduced, including a comprehensive literacy section based on my LEARN Act and a high school reform program that focuses on career pathways based on legislation I introduced earlier this year.
Bringing Our Soldiers Home from Iraq
On Friday, the President announced a full troop withdrawal from Iraq after nine years of war there. The announcement marks a bittersweet milestone in a war that has cost our nation dearly but has also repeatedly reminded us of the courage, sacrifice, and selflessness of our nation’s men and women in uniform. Our troops and their families have done everything we’ve asked of them and more. Now, more than ever, it’s time to ensure that we are keeping up our end of the promise to provide the health care, benefits, and opportunities our service members deserve as they return from the battlefields of Iraq to communities across Washington state and the nation.
WA Seniors, Veterans to Benefit from Cost of Living Adjustment
Last week, it was announced that there will be an automatic cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) of 3.6 percent for Social Security benefits beginning next year. This is the first COLA since 2009. This is long-awaited good news for Washington state seniors who, for the past few years, have been struggling to make ends meet without an increase. Social Security has provided millions of seniors with a foundation of economic security and lifted millions more out of poverty. This announcement shows our seniors that this vital program is working for them at a time when they need it the most.
Veterans Sharing in Cost of Living Increase
Last week I also helped pass a bill to provide a COLA adjustment for America’s veterans. The Veterans COLA legislation, which I sponsored, will affect several important benefits, including veterans’ disability compensation and dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children. It is projected that over 3.9 million veterans and survivors will receive compensation benefits in Fiscal Year 2012. A cost-of-living increase for our veterans is long overdue and well deserved. Particularly in this difficult economy, our veterans deserve a boost in their benefits. This is an important step for our veterans, especially on the heels of the news that a COLA will be provided for the first time since 2009.
President Obama’s Jobs Bill
The Washington state families that are living this jobs crisis can’t afford politics as usual. When I talk to those who are searching every day for a paycheck to support their families, it’s clear that they don’t care who gets credit for job creation efforts or whose election chances it might bolster. Their only questions are: ‘Will it work?’ ‘Will it impact my life?’ and ‘When will I begin to see relief?’
Two weeks ago, President Obama introduced his plan for fixing America’s jobs crisis. Unfortunately, the plan was voted down by Republicans in Congress. Despite this setback we will not allow partisan politics to get in the way of helping those who need it most. That is why I am continuing to fight for the plan the President has put forward - piece by piece if need be. I’m going to continue to work to ensure we push job-creating measures, including investing in repairing and rebuilding our crumbling and congested infrastructure, hiring our nation’s veterans, and retraining those workers who were left behind by a recession they didn’t cause but are still reeling from.
Calling on VA to Provide Critical Answers about Military Sexual Trauma Data
Last week, I joined my colleague U.S. Senator Jon Tester in sending a letter to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Under Secretary for Benefits Allison Hickey about the critical need to clarify VA’s disability claims process related to Military Sexual Trauma (MST). Far too many servicemembers, both men and women, are returning home from service carrying the devastating wounds that result from MST. After sacrificing so much to serve their county, they often face tremendous challenges in obtaining the services and benefits they desperately need. That is why we urged VA to take further action to ensure that veterans who suffer disabilities related to MST will have their claims properly decided. Our letter requests explicit guarantees that concerns about the ability to correctly identify and adjudicate claims for disabilities based on MST are immediately addressed by Veterans Benefits Administration.
Speaking Out Against Bullying
On Thursday, October 20th, my staff and I wore purple in recognition of Spirit Day and to speak out against the bullying of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.