Patty in the News

Sen. Patty Murray, (D-Wash), chairwoman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs committee, on Sunday said lawmakers needed to better address the long-term funding needs of Iraq and Afghan war veterans over the coming decades. “We weren’t prepared for a war that’s lasted this long with that many soldiers who had repeated deployments,” said Murray on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Murray said she feared Congress had failed to appreciate the resources that would need to be directed to care for veterans from over a decade of conflict. “This is a question our country needs to come to grips with,” she said. “This is not just going to be what do we next year or what do we need as we pull our soldiers from Iraq.

- The Hill
On Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Senator Patty Murray continued to ask questions Wednesday into why military service members have to wait so long to receive their medical disability rating and benefits. That waiting period has been described by injured soldiers as extremely stressful -- and could be contributing to mental health issues, drug abuse, even suicide. After six years in the Army and two tours of duty to Iraq and Afghanistan, Specialist Christopher Boettcher has a heart condition that prevents him from deploying. He’s spent the past seven months waiting for the Army and the Veterans Administration to determine how sick he is and what his disability benefits should be. “Seven months just to get to first step,” said Boettcher. “I had to go to the Ombudsman and magically they have some powers. So three days later, they gave me a call, but that's still step one.”

- King
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray from Bothell teamed up with some Seattle Sounders Women players today to celebrate 40 years of Title IX, which allowed women equal access to athletic opportunities. Murray, Sounders players Megan Rapinoe, Stephanie Cox and Sydney Leroux and one Garfield High student-athlete spoke to a crowd of female athletes this afternoon at Garfield High. "Forty years ago, 37 words threw open the doors to athletics, education and success for millions of young women in our country," Murray said. Title IX reads: No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. "That law was simple, it was powerful and it has delivered amazing results. Over the past 40 years, participation in girls high-school sports has increased over 900 percent. We went from 32,000 women who were participating in college athletics in 1972, when I was in college, to almost 200,000 today," Murray added. "In 1972, fewer than 300,000 women across the country played competitive sports. Forty years since this law has passed, today this number is approaching 3 million."

- Bothell Reporter
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray made a stop at Clark College in Vancouver on Thursday afternoon to glean stories from Southwest Washington college students she hopes to use as “ammunition” in an anticipated debate in Congress about student loan interest. A law that keeps down the interest rate on subsidized Stafford loans for undergraduates, which are provided to low-income students, is set to expire July 1. If Congress does not renew the law, interest rates on those loans, which are currently at 3.4 percent, are expected to double. Clark College student and 24-year-old single mother Diane Robinson told Murray that she decided to pursue college after a divorce left her with nothing. “I would not be here without the loans,” Robinson said. “It would just be impossible.” She also told Murray that she worries about her looming student loan payments every single day. Robinson said she was raised to repay her debts, and not being able to pay off her loans “would eat me alive.”

- The Columbian
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said Thursday “we don’t have a system that is set up” to care for all of the military members who are returning from war and that if they have problems and don’t get treated “the fallout is enormous” for them and their communities. “We have many, many soldiers coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan, more than we have in the past, and we don’t have a system that is set up for them. That’s why I have been screaming and yelling about this,” Murray said in an interview. “My biggest worry is the soldier or Marine or Air Force (member) comes home, has problems, doesn’t get treated, doesn’t get help, goes out into the community, and the fallout is enormous – everything, to suicide,” she said. Murray is concerned that service members are not receiving care that is promised to them from the Veterans Administration. “I heard from too many veterans that they called up (the VA), takes a lot of courage to do it, to get an appointment to help them with the problems that they were having, and they were told that they had to wait three, four or five months,” Murray said. “They are supposed to be seen within two weeks.

- Q13
Lower Columbia College student Chance Stewart, 25, used a college loan to turn his life around. "I'm the first person in my family to graduate high school, let alone attend college," the Castle Rock resident told Sen. Patty Murray Thursday at a roundtable discussion at LCC about legislation to keep student loan rates low. Stewart, who was homeless twice by the time he was 24, is an honor student on a general transfer degree and is considering a career in music or higher education administration. He has several more years of school ahead of him, and the possibility of interest jumping from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on a federally subsidized Stafford loan "scares me to death," Stewart said. "Without loans I wouldn't be able to find a place to eat, let alone live," he said. Murray, who went to college on student loans herself, shares his viewpoint.

- The Daily News
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.

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
Sen. Patty Murray joined President Obama on Wednesday in a Washington-to-Washington campaign to enact the “Buffett Rule” which would require those earning more than $1 million to pay at least 30 percent of their income in federal taxes.

- The Seattle PI
Standing with small business owners, a firefighter and construction worker, Murray said the wealthy are using tax loopholes and accounting tricks to dodge paying their fair share of federal taxes.

"So when they get to the bottom line on their tax forms, many of the people making the most money end up paying substantially lower rates than most working Americans," Murray said.

- The Seattle Times