Patty in the News

”: U.S. Senator Patty Murray says the Secretary of Veterans Affairs needs to change the way the department works.
Thursday morning senators addressed the allegations that veterans died while waiting for treatment at VA hospitals and questioned the secretary about his plans to fix the system. Sen. Murray is the Senior Member of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs. She pointed out that wait times and quality of care are not new issues for the VA. "What we need now is decisive action to restore veteran's confidence in the VA, to create a culture of transparency, and accountability, and to change the system wide, years-long problems. This needs to be a wake-up call," said Sen. Murray. Some republicans are calling for the secretary's resignation but the retired Army General says he will not. He says he will hold employees accountable for any misconduct, though.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki answered questions and responded to concerns about scheduling of medical appointments and services within the VA care system today in front of the Veterans Affairs Committee in Washington, D.C. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., a longtime warrior for veterans, is a senior member of the committee. The topic is a hot issue in the nation on the heels of allegations of a secret waiting list at the Phoenix VA Medical Center that resulted in the deaths of 40 veterans. Shinseki told panel members this morning he is angry and saddened by allegations of treatment delays and preventable deaths in Phoenix. “Any adverse event for a veteran within our care is one too many,” he said in prepared testimony. “We can, and we must do better.” Murray agreed, pointing out there have been numerous reports over the last several years illustrating problems with VA care that still exist. “Clearly this problem has gone on for far too long,” she said.

- Walla Walla Union-Bulletin
Nearly a year ago, the nation’s highest court told the federal government that it could no longer withhold marriage benefits from tens of thousands of same-sex married couples. But that landmark Supreme Court decision made little difference in the lives of gay couples who live in the 33 states that ban same-sex marriage. Midori Fujii and Kristie Kay Brittain got married in California, then returned to Indiana, which bans gay marriage. When Brittain died of ovarian cancer in 2011, Fujii found out that she would not be eligible to receive her wife’s Social Security survivor benefits. For months, the Social Security Administration has put survivor benefit applications from same-sex spouses who live in states that don’t recognize gay marriage on hold. That’s because a portion of the decades-old law says that, for a spouse to be eligible for benefits, his or her marriage must be recognized in the state where the couple currently resides. Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington, hopes to change that with a bill she’s introducing Wednesday called The Social Security and Marriage Equality (SAME) Act of 2014, Yahoo News has learned.

- Yahoo News
Sen. Patty Murray spoke to representatives of the UW’s queer community Thursday about her new legislation, The Tyler Clementi Education Anti-Harassment Act. The legislation — an amendment to the 1965 Higher Education Act — requires that all colleges and universities receiving federal funds must have a policy in place for dealing with harassment of students. “[Schools] don’t have to accept the federal money if they don’t want to,” Murray said, challenging colleges and universities opposed to her recently reintroduced legislation aimed at curbing harassment of college students. The legislation was named for a Rutgers University student who committed suicide in 2010 after his roommate streamed video of Clementi with another man in a private moment. “In the other Washington, I’m always proud to tout how great Washington state is,” Murray said. “I’m really proud of what we do for our LGBT community, [but] that is not the case across the country at all.”

- The Daily
A bevy of federal, state and local officials turned out Tuesday to dedicate a new facility that will provide medical care to hundreds of local veterans. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., led the celebration of the $71.4 million building at the Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The facility will serve as an outpatient clinic for primary, specialty and mental health care services. The dedication capped more than a decade of work by community leaders who were spurred to action in 2003 when a federal commission recommended closure of the Wainwright medical center. Murray said the community response resulted in not only having the center taken off the closure list, but led the VA to invest in new buildings and new facilities. “And that’s really why I’m so proud to be here today,” Murray said. “Because the facility we’re here to open reflects the commitment this country, this community, and all of you have made to our veterans.”

- Walla Walla Union Bulletin
The Walla Walla VA Medical Center went from being scheduled for closure to opening a $71.4 million outpatient clinic in less than a decade. But more needs to be done to assist veterans at the campus, said U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash, during a visit there Tuesday. Murray credited veterans and area officials for starting a task force and packing meetings to keep the facility open after the Department of Veterans Affairs announced its closure in 2004, fighting a VA bureaucracy "that seemed to want to starve this facility." "This is a community where people don't give up on what they believe in," Murray told an audience of 200 people outside the entrance to the 67,000-square-foot building.

- Bellingham Herald
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray delivered the surprise announcement in front of an all-school assembly Tuesday morning at Lincoln High School: Nathan Gibbs-Bowling was named one of the nation’s top teachers, receiving a $25,000 Milken Educator Award. All it took was a description of his classroom — where he teaches government and human geography courses — and the cat was out of the bag. “He knows that teaching is a creative art,” Murray told the assembly as she began to introduce the soon-to-be-named Milken winner. “In fact, I’ve heard that he turns his classroom into a courtroom where students debate Supreme Court cases.” That was the giveaway. Every kid in the school immediately recognized who Murray was talking about, and the cheering erupted. Students leapt out of the stands in the Lincoln gym to congratulate Gibbs-Bowling, who has taught for five years at the century-old Tacoma high school. “I was moved to tears by it,” Gibbs-Bowling said of the response. He credited students and teaching colleagues with his success.

- The News Tribune
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray stopped for a tour of the $20 million Railex Wine Services center in Wallula on Tuesday. The facility, built in 2013, is a temperature- and humidity-controlled wine storage and distribution center. Murray helped secure the necessary infrastructure funding for the rail lines serving the center and an adjoining produce facility. "This is a prime example of the economic story of America and why we need to invest in the infrastructure of the country," Murray said. "There are a lot of people with ideas, and the drive to carry them out. They just need some help getting started." Right now, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates is the primary tenant. "We may, in the future, work with others," said Jim Kleist, senior vice president of West Coast operations for Railex. The facility is 500,000 square feet -- the size of 11 football fields -- and has the capacity to hold 5 million to 6 million cases of wine. Two trains a week transport Eastern Washington produce to New York. That traffic is expected to increase this year as Railex opens a new distribution center in Jacksonville, Fla. "When Jacksonville opens -- and we'll be breaking ground any day now -- that will increase to four trains a week," Kleist said.

- Tri-City Herald
The U.S. Senate on Wednesday held the first congressional hearing focused solely on the safety of transporting crude oil by rail — an issue that hardly existed a decade ago and which reached Washington state only in 2012. The hearing, chaired by Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, of Washington, was prompted by a recent spate of oil-train accidents that have followed a resurgent domestic production driven by the Bakken shale oil and gas boom. Deadliest of those was a driverless train carrying North Dakota Bakken crude that derailed last July in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, some 10 miles from the nearest Maine border. The explosion killed 47 people, several of whom are believed to have been vaporized. The specter of other such disasters dominated the hearing, held by Murray’s Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development. The concern is particularly acute in Washington, which has the nation’s seventh-largest petroleum-refining capacity and is the closest destination for both Canadian and Bakken crude oil. Nearly 17 million barrels of oil arrived in the state by train in 2013. That accounted for just 8?percent of the total, according to the Washington State Department of Ecology. But rail shipments are expected to triple this year to 55 million barrels.

- Seattle Times
It wasn’t the only time she represented for other women: In 2011, when budget negotiations threatened to shut the government down and House Republicans demanded that Planned Parenthood be defunded, Murray recalled to The Washington Post, “I walked in, and I was literally the only woman … They said: ‘We’re all done except the House wants one last concession. They want us to give on that and we’re done.’ And I said: ‘Not on my watch. Absolutely not on my watch.’” That same year, conservative activist Grover Norquist sneered of Murray, “The lady from Washington doesn’t do budgets.” She proved him wrong.