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Sweet column: Blagojevich taps Duckworth for state vets job.


Gov. Blagojevich is starting his second term making a smart choice for a top job. He's tapping wounded Iraq war vet Tammy Duckworth to be the new director of the Illinois Veterans' Affairs Department.

"I thought it was a natural fit for me and my background," Duckworth told me.

Duckworth, a Democrat, said after being defeated Nov. 7 by Peter Roskam in a congressional contest that caught nationwide attention, she started pondering her future.

Duckworth rejected suggestions to lobby or to write a book (she wondered, "don't you think I have to win an election first?") or to consider other government jobs when the call from the governor's office came through.

After talks with Blagojevich chief of staff John Harris and then the governor, Duckworth, a major in the Illinois National Guard, signed up for her next mission.

Taking over the Veterans' Affairs Department was an easy call given "my commitment to veterans and health care issues," said Duckworth.

"I just wanted to stay in public service," said Duckworth.

She will replace Roy Dolgos, who will be moving over to the Transportation Department. Duckworth's appointment to the $102,000-a-year post is effective Dec. 15 and is subject to state Senate confirmation.

Will focus on 'Veterans Care'
Duckworth, 38, as many know from her high-profile campaign, lost her legs and mangled an arm when her helicopter was hit in Iraq by a rocket-propelled grenade. Before she starts her state job, where she will oversee a $94.2 million budget and 1,135 employees, she will return to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington for a few days to get some adjustments to her prosthesis.
Duckworth said a priority will be bolstering Blagojevich's new "Veterans Care" program and "making it available to more veterans."

Low-income veterans between the ages of 19 and 64 who do not have medical, dental or vision insurance would be covered under a state plan for $40 a month. Only a handful of veterans have enrolled to date in the program launched last September.

She told me she is not going to rule out running for office again, but is "not ready to do that right now." Said Duckworth, "with this position I have a really great opportunity."

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Read your story today on Tammy Duckworth being appointed to the Veteran's Affairs Department by Governor Blagojevich. I don't agree with this at all. Just what qualifications does this person have other than the fact that she is a severely wounded veteran? What makes her a capable leader of the Vets? Her war experience? I'm sure that she is a fine, intelligent, and deserving person, but I think much of this is sympathy, including the many votes she got in the last election. Don't think that I am crying sour grapes, or that I am some sort of chauvinist pig. I am a heavily disabled veteran myself (Viet), and am trying to sort all this out objectively...a war hero is simply that, a war hero. A wounded soldier is just that, a wounded soldier. None of this magically makes them, of a sudden, a civic leader ready to take on such a demanding job as the head of the Vet's. In a perfect world most people work their way up to the top...those thrown in at the top, therefore bypassing much needed experience, usually fail. I do hope she does a very good job anyway, and I do enjoy your articles.

We agree. It is a perfect fit for Tammy Duckworth.

Well, she has a masters in International Affairs and Public Health and was working toward a doctorate before being deployed to Iraq. Also, she worked for Rotary International. I think she is qualified

Tammy Duckworth is a lot more than just a wounded soldier. Before her service in Iraq she was a staff supervisor for Rotary International, involved in setting up new Rotary clubs abroad to do community service projects. She also has a Masters degree in international affairs from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and was working on a doctorate in political science at Northern Illinois University. Hardly, "just a wounded soldier," but are any wounded soldiers just wounded soldiers. That comment seems to demean all of them. Many of those wounded in Iraq are Reserve and National Guard personnel, meaning the soldiering was only part time prior to their call-up. I'm sure they all had careers in addition to their military service. As one who lives in the district Ms. Duckworth would have represented had she gotten 3,000 or so extra votes, I'm glad that she will be putting her talents to use serving Illinois and commend the governor on his choice.

Can you help me with an email address for Tammy Duckworth. I am a Vietnam Veteran
Nurse and I live in Washington State. I would very much like to contact Tammy and I
don't know how to find a contact email address or phone number. Can you help me
with that??

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on November 21, 2006 9:23 AM.

Sweet blog extra. Obama: "No good options left" in Iraq. Doubts civilian Iraqi government "can function for long." Speech text. was the previous entry in this blog.

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