It’s Day 101 for President Obama, but it’s only day four for Tammy Duckworth, one of the administration’s most visible faces on veterans issues. The former Illinois director of veterans’ affairs and Democratic congressional candidate won Senate confirmation last Friday to serve as assistant secretary of public and intergovernmental affairs at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Today she joins President Obama and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki at the "White House to Light House" event with wounded service members. Her first big project launches tomorrow, when the VA starts accepting applications for the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill, the next-generation educational assistance program for military veterans that will provide payments for tuition, fees, housing, books and supplies. Interested veterans can apply on the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill Web site, a process that should take roughly 15 minutes.
The VA will provide financial benefits to veterans based on the highest tuition at a public university in each state, meaning the benefits may not cover full costs at private universities. The department’s Yellow Ribbon Program allows private institutions to commit up to 50 percent of the difference between the maximum allotted amounts and VA will match the difference. Duckworth’s alma matter, George Washington University, announced its participation in the program on Tuesday, committing funds to assist 176 veterans per year.
The VA starts distributing the funds on August 1 and Duckworth will spend the next few weeks on the road raising awareness about the program.
“It’s not just reaching the veterans. We need to reach their families, we need to reach their spouses," she said during an interview earlier this week.
The new job makes her the administration’s public liaison to the veteran community, but also to state and local agencies working on veterans issues.
“I don’t see the VA as having a monopoly on serving vets," she said. "As someone who was a state director in Illinois, I was frustrated that I had resources and was on the front lines, yet I often had a difficult time accessing partnerships with the VA.” She hopes to eliminate those difficulties during her tenure. (Washington Post)