“Politics is a business where a lot of talking is done. To walk the talk, to have actions back up what you are saying is truly exemplary. You’re not around Senator Isakson for very long before you come to the conclusion this gentleman is indeed the real deal,” said Barry Black, chaplain of the U.S. Senate. “He has a bond with people who are willing to give their lives, the last full measure of devotion for their country. He believes that he has a responsibility to ensure that they get everything they deserve, and they deserve so much. He has been one of their key champions.”
That quote is from a video featuring numerous Republican and Democrat colleagues praising Sen. Johnny Isakson’s (R-GA) leadership and commitment to veterans. Veterans Day is a time to remember all the veterans who sacrificed so much in service to their country. There is perhaps no one in the country is more aware of all those sacrifices, and everything that comes with it, than the five-year chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Senator Isakson.
This Veterans Day is almost something of a farewell for Isakson before he retires at the end of the year. Work on veterans’ issues has been at the core of Isakson’s life for a long time, and in the past five years, he has truly made a difference, so it is fitting to look back at Isakson’s tenure on this day.
“He has been the best damn advocate for veterans that they could ever ask for,” said Senator Jon Tester (D-MT).
Said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, “there’s no question that without him there is no fundamental reform of the VA. He saw what was happening in 2014 and 2015 and 2016. He knew that there had to be change from the bottom up. He shepherded legislation that was the most far-reaching legislation to hit this department since the GI Bill was signed by President Roosevelt in 1944.”
The Military Times spotlighted Isakson’s work in an article about his tenure as VA Chairman and its status as Isakson retires. “The 74-year-old Isakson was a central figure in crafting that legislation, navigating the bill between Democrats worried about private-sector creep into VA care and conservatives who wanted an even freer hand for veterans to choose their providers. The chairman said he is pleased with the results he has seen from the compromise over the last few months,” wrote the Times.
In his relatively short tenure since 2015, Isakson guided 57 pieces of legislation through the committee that were signed into law. These included significant reforms to improve accountability at the VA, expand VA education benefits, modernize the process for veterans’ appeals of benefit determinations, and overhaul the VA’s community care programs.
It remains to be seen who will take over as Veterans Affairs chairman. No other Republican on the committee was in the senate before 2010. There are concerns it could descend into the partisan bickering that has affected so much of Washington. But Isakson has set the example and is optimistic as he leaves office.
“Less than 1 percent of the country today are defending the world for peace and prosperity, representing the United States of America,” Isakson told the Military Times. “That is unbelievable. It tells us how much we can be thankful for, that small a percentage can carry out that big a mission.
“They can because of the quality of our people, the quality of our equipment, and the fact that we as a country are committed to peace, tranquility, and economic prosperity for all. We need to remember that.”