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Senators recognized for focus on veterans

Monday, August 01, 2011

AUSA, in its signature event on the Hill, recognized Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, as its Outstanding Legislators for 2011 in a ceremony held on Capitol Hill on June 8.

Murray received the award based on her long-time and strong support for the Army as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Defense Subcommittee; the Military Construction Subcommittee and the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee where she serves as chairman.

In presenting the award, AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., said Murray  "is known as one of the most knowledgeable members on veterans’ issues, and perhaps she comes by that naturally, as she is the daughter of a disabled World War II veteran and Purple Heart recipient who was one of the first soldiers into Okinawa." 

He also noted that she is a tireless advocate for veterans and has emphasized the need to increase funding for veterans health care, especially for conditions like Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as well as suicide prevention and the particular needs of women veterans. 

Veterans’ job training, employment, and housing homeless veterans all have received assistance because of her relentless advocacy.

Cornyn was selected for the award based on "his long-time and strong support for the Army."

He serves on three subcommittees of the Senate Armed Services Committee – Emerging Threats and Capabilities, Readiness and Management Support, and Strategic Forces.

As the son of a career Air Force officer who began his service in World War II flying B-17s, Cornyn has lived the life of a military family – moving often, repeatedly being the new kid in school, shouldering more responsibility when Dad (or Mom, now) is deployed and, therefore, knows what burdens military spouses and children bear.

Sullivan noted that Cornyn advocates for improving benefits for veterans and their families particularly in the area of veterans health care and helped dramatically increase that type of funding over the last four years while cosponsoring a range of legislation to deal better with Traumatic Brain Injury, mental health issues, counseling and housing. 

He has fought for TRICARE eligibility for all members of the reserve components, concurrent receipt of longevity retired pay and veterans disability compensation, elimination of the "widow’s tax" on survivors, and passage of the new GI Bill with transferability to family members.

In his remarks, Cornyn said, "I am humbled to be named the AUSA Outstanding Legislator. You are advocates for our men and women in uniform; for the children of our soldiers when their moms and dads are overseas; and for the whole family when a soldier makes the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

"We must make sure our soldiers do not get caught in the crossfire of our budget debate…Over the long term, I agree with Secretary [of Defense] Gates: ‘that the defense budget, however large it may be, is not the cause of this country’s fiscal woes.’

"Of course we should focus defense spending on our core capabilities, and cut waste where we can. But, our soldiers deserve a defense budget that reflects the dangerous world we live in, and gives them the tools and resources they need to defend American interests and values.

"I am honored to receive this award – but our work is not over. We must continue to get the message out that our soldiers deserve the full support of Congress and the nation, and our soldiers need the tools and resources to get the job done – and return to their families safely."

Among the more than 100 attendees at the Capitol Hill event was Army Chief of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, key Senate professional staff members and members of The Military Coalition.

Also on Capitol Hill, I joined other military and veterans organization representatives to meet with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and 11 other key members of Congress to discuss each association’s top legislative goals. 

Association representatives urged support for a number of legislative initiatives such as expansion of economic opportunities for veterans. 

Other topics raised were veteran status for retirement-eligible reserve components personnel without federal service, family support and mental health care for veterans and the VA home loan program.

This meeting was another in a regular series of meetings called by senior House leaders to pulse military/veterans groups on their legislative priorities.  AUSA will continue to urge Congress to support our top legislative goals.

The Government Affairs Directorate thanks you for being members of the Association. We will continue to bring the issues that are important to you before our Congress.