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Senator Murray Stands with Veterans in Opposing Escalation of War

Jan 18 2007

Veterans are already facing long delays for healthcare, benefits

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(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – At a Capitol Hill press conference today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) stood with nine veterans of the war in Iraq and four Senators in speaking out against the President's plan to escalate the war in Iraq.



"We have got to do a better job meeting the needs of the men and women who have served our country so honorably," Murray said. "Today – without the surge – veterans are waiting for the services they've been promised."



"If we're not meeting the needs of the veterans today, how can we keep the promise to troops who are sent in to an escalated war?," Murray asked. "It is our job to make sure we take care of the veterans who served us. The Senate Veterans committee and the House Veterans committee are going to demand hearings and hold the VA's feet to the fire."



Senator Murray was joined by a bipartisan group of nine Iraq war veterans who visited members of Congress today to argue against the President's proposed surge. Also speaking at the press conference were Senators Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT)



Senator Murray's remarks follow:



"I want to thank Jon Soltz, who you'll have a chance to hear from in just a few minutes, a veteran from Iraq who has some very compelling stories to talk about.



We are here today to address the President's surge in Iraq and how some of our veterans feel about it. We will be joined by several of them as they work their way into the room in a few minutes. I'm also joined by Senator Kennedy who's been very passionate about this issue as well as several members of our Veterans Committee and Senator Danny Akaka, our chair who is hoping to be here shortly as well.



I want to start by thanking the veterans who are with us today for serving our country and for speaking out for so many men and women who are serving us today who can't be here in Washington, D.C.



We are here today in this room because our troops are doing a great job for us overseas. I was on the ground in Baghdad with our troops. I saw firsthand the tremendous sacrifice they made, what a commitment they had to our country and our future, and they have my full support. In fact all of us want us to be successful in Iraq - every senator, every service member, every citizen. But we also have an obligation to meet their needs when they come home whether it's for healthcare, or for job training or benefits or making the transition back home.



We have got to do a better job meeting the needs of the men and women who have served our country so honorably. Today – without the surge – veterans are waiting for the services they've been promised.



Many of our veterans are facing long delays to see a doctor when they return – six months or more. Some of our soldiers now are being told, "we're going to deploy you early" Well when they come home they're going to be waiting as much as two years for the benefits they've been promised.



Unemployment is a serious problem for our young men and women when the come home after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our Guard and Reserve members are coming home from war, and many of them are falling through the cracks whether they need job training or transition assistance or other support services.



And we are not doing the job we need to meet the mental health needs that so many of our soldiers face, and you will hear about that today as well.



So today without a surge we are not meeting the needs of our men and women who have served us so honorably overseas. And I'm delighting that they are now joining us today and I want to thank all of them.



So we're here today to say an escalation in troops is going to have terrific demands that we all have to understand. But who the demand is going to fall most on are the men and women who serve us. They have some pretty strong opinions about that, and they're going to be talking to you about that today.



But if we're not meeting the needs of the veterans today, how can we have an escalation in this war and promise those who we are sending early or keeping there longer or sending anew that we're going to be there for them? It is our job to make sure we take care of the veterans who served us. The Senate Veterans committee and the House Veterans committee are going to demand hold hearings and hold the VA's feet to the fire."



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