Patty in the News

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.

- MyNorthwest.com
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
Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., have joined five other senators in asking the IRS to provide guidance to same-sex couples who ran into problems filing their 2010 federal income tax returns. "Today, each of our States recognizes same-sex marriages or domestic partnerships that the federal government does not recognize," the senators wrote in a letter to IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman. "When couples in these relationships attempted to calculate their tax returns this year, they encountered significant problems." The letter also said couples in Washington, California and Nevada faced specific problems because of state community property laws.

- King 5
Most of the testimony on defense spending yesterday at the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing in D.C. focused on Barack Obama's planned 2012 Afghanistan war drawdown, particularly the timing and politics of ending a war we can't win. For some, withdrawal can't come too soon; for others, such as the Pentagon, extension of surge forces is the first order. But as Sen. Patty Murray is always willing to ask, is anyone budgeting for the human costs? As the Seattle Democrat said to Defense Sect. Robert Gates, who retires in two weeks when he decamps for his home in Skagit County, "I think you know, the major components of this long-term war include the fact that deaths from suicide among veterans and service members from this war are on par with combat deaths, many of our warriors are facing difficult challenges accessing needed mental health care when they return home, and that many of the service members serving in Afghanistan today are on their third, fourth, or even fifth tours.

- Seattle Weekly
What is your opinion about using digital textbooks for learning? What are their advantages and disadvantages over the printed textbooks?” were the questions U.S. Sen. Patty Murray posed to Naselle junior Austin Smith and freshman Grace Zimmerman Thursday, June 9 during a teleconference with Western Washington students from four high schools. “It can be difficult to find your place in a digital textbook if you have forgotten to bookmark where you are, especially if the book is 600 pages long,” Smith answered. “Sometimes the lighting can be a problem, but having everything on an iPad and not having to carry around a lot of books is an advantage.”

- Chinook Observer
“We do not need the courts to tell us that much more can and should be done to relieve the invisible wounds of war,” said Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the chairwoman of the committee. “Although some steps have been taken, the stigma against mental-health issues continues within the military, and VA care is still often too difficult to access. This has had a tragic impact.”

-The News Tribune