Obama taps alumna for Veterans Affairs post

Tammy Duckworth, a graduate of the Elliott School of International Affairs, was nominated by President Barack Obama on Tuesday to serve as an assistant secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Her duties will include supervising the department’s public affairs operations, internal communications and intergovernmental relations. Duckworth, who graduated from GW with a master’s degree in 1991, will also be in charge of directing projects that benefit veterans, such as rehabilitative events and programs for the homeless.

In an interview with The Hatchet this November, Duckworth expressed frustration with the challenges veterans confront – obstacles she has experienced first hand.

“When I talk about problems facing veterans, or when I talk about the bureaucracy that our veterans have to wade through in the federal VA, or when I talk about the hardships that thousands have to go through, I talk from experience,” Duckworth said.

Duckworth was deployed to Iraq as a captain and was an assistant operations officer for a 500-soldier aviation task force. During a 2004 combat mission, a rocket-propelled grenade struck the helicopter Duckworth was piloting. She suffered serious injuries, including loss of both her legs and partial use of one arm.

Since returning from Iraq, Duckworth has spoken out on behalf of veterans on issues including healthcare, housing and employment, and has testified before Congress about the need to transform the department. In 2006, Duckworth was appointed director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, a position she currently holds. Late last year she was considered in the running for the secretary of Veterans Affairs position, but was passed over for Eric K. Shinseki.

Michael Brown, dean of the Elliott School, said that he is thrilled an alumnus is demonstrating leadership and service to the country on such a high level.

“Even by the high standards of GW alumni, Tammy Duckworth’s service and sacrifice have been exceptional,” Brown said. “There is no doubt that Ms. Duckworth will bring great determination and commitment to her new position at the Department of Veteran Affairs. The GW community wishes her great success as she takes on these important responsibilities.”

In an article in the Chicago Tribune, Shinseki lauded Duckworth’s accomplishments, and added that the GW graduate is well-qualified for her new position.

“Effective communications with veterans and VA’s stakeholders is key to improving our services and ensuring Veterans receive the benefits they deserve,” Shinseki said. “Tammy Duckworth brings significant talent, leadership and personal experience to this important work.”

Duckworth must be approved by the Senate before she can officially take office.

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