Patty in the News

Washington Sen. Patty Murray on Wednesday encouraged state governments to start tallying veteran suicides, as her state already does. Her goal is to quantify an under-reported number that could help health agencies improve their outreach to service members who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Department of Veterans Affairs has an incomplete picture of suicide among former service members because it doesn’t count the deaths of veterans not enrolled in VA care. “One of the most significant obstacles to understanding veteran suicide is the lack of information available regarding these individuals,” Murray wrote with two of her Democratic colleagues in a letter to the National Governors Association.

- The News Tribune
The lawmaker who leads the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee pleaded Tuesday for passage of a $142 billion appropriations bill for veterans programs and military construction. The bill, HR 2055, has been pending on the Senate floor since July 11, but actual work on the bill by considering amendments or voting on the measure has been delayed because of objections from some senators to doing any business until Congress resolves the federal debt and spending crisis. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the veterans’ committee leader since January, said veterans and service members who would be helped by programs funded in the bill have become pawns in a political debate because of Senate inaction. “There is no question that we need to make smart decisions to tighten our belts and reduce our nation’s deficit and debt,” Murray said. “American families have done it and we owe it to them to get our fiscal house in order. But, there is also one group of Americans that we owe an even greater promise to, a group who we can never allow to become pawns or fall through the cracks or be forgotten altogether in these budget debates, and that is our men and women in uniform and veterans who have protected our nation for decades.”

- Army Times
About $145,000 will go to homeless vets living in Tacoma. That’s enough money for the Tacoma Housing Authority to provide rent vouchers to 25 families of homeless veterans over the next year.

- The News Tribune
“Any veteran who needs mental health services must be able to get that care rapidly and as close to home as possible,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chairman of the committee.

- The Washington Post
The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs has approved legislation that would require broad job skills training for all U.S. service members before leaving the military. The legislation, aimed at cutting the high unemployment rate among veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was unanimously endorsed Wednesday by the panel. The legislation would provide “veterans with the broad job skills training and support they need to break down barriers to employment,” Senator Patty Murray, (D-Wash.), chairman of the committee said in a statement. “For the first time, this comprehensive bill will require service members to learn how to translate the skills they learned in the military into the working world.” The Hiring Heroes Act of 2011 would require all departing service members to participate in the Transition Assistance Program, which is administered by the Labor Department in partnership with the Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs. The training, which is now voluntary, includes job-search techniques, resume writing and interviewing tips.

- The Washington Post
Now a bipartisan group of senators, led by Democrat Patty Murray of Washington, proposes overhauling and reauthorizing the 13-year-old law. The senators argue that the federal government needs to do more to connect unemployed workers with businesses that complain they can’t find enough properly skilled employees.

- The News Tribune
A lot has changed since 1998: the Internet bubble hadn’t yet popped; the housing bubble was still in its infancy; and unemployment was holding steady below 5 percent, an unimaginable level today. One thing that hasn’t changed since then is the government job-training system. A bill to update that system, slated for a Senate committee vote next week, would take a giant leap away from the traditional, welfare-like approach of a government benefit program and toward a new business-oriented viewpoint. It is designed to force communities to figure out how to offer training to job candidates for openings that actually exist. If it works, the measure could challenge the entire educational system—from kindergarten through adult training—to focus more closely on business sectors that have job growth. “When you were in high school, did anybody say, ‘When you get out of school, these are the places that are actually hiring’? Nobody said that,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who is a lead sponsor of the bill.

- National Journal
President Barack Obama plans to announce Wednesday night the withdrawal of more than 30,000 troops from Afghanistan by the November 2012 election, hastening the end of the long conflict that has been more costly than ever envisioned when launched in response to the 2001 attacks on America. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who chairs the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, spoke on the Senate floor Wednesday to remind the president of the costs of war to service members and their families. "We are seeing suicide rates that are much higher among active duty service members and veterans than among civilians. We are finding they are having trouble accessing the mental health care so many of them desperately need," Murray said. The senator also said we owe it to our military to assist them in looking for work when they return home.

Gov. Chris Gregoire last month ordered $3 million set aside from federal worker-training funds to target jobs in the aerospace industry. But jobs for aerospace engineers and aircraft machinists in the Puget Sound area aren't growing, at least according to local projections under the same federal program. Boeing may be forecasting a hiring boomlet as production ramps up for the 787 Dreamliner and outlook for other aircraft orders brightens. But King and Snohomish counties have yet to account for that shift in drawing up their lists of in-demand occupations to pursue with training dollars. Addressing those seeming conflicting priorities is one of the key aims of a proposed rewrite of the Workforce Investment Act, the main federal vehicle for moving Americans from unemployment rolls onto payrolls.

- Seattle Times
Speaking hours before President Obama’s speech on Afghanistan, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., called for a “sizable and sustained reduction in troop levels” while stressing “the unseen costs of war.” Murray, who chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, delivered a Senate floor speech centering on stresses felt by those involved in fighting two simultaneous Asian wars. “We all hear how expensive war is while we are fighting it — but for so many of our service members, what happens on the battlefield is just the beginning,” said Murray. “We are seeing suicide rates that are much higher among active duty service members and veterans than among civilians. We are finding they are having trouble accessing the mental health care so many of them desperately need.

- Seattle PI