Fewer military veterans to serve in Congress next year

November 12, 2012
Rep.-elect Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.). (M. Spencer Green/Associated Press)
Congress will have fewer military veterans overall next year because of a series of retirements and losses by incumbents, but it will have more veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The influx of men and women who recently served in uniform should provide an additional push to ensure that the Obama administration is properly addressing the concerns of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As The Washington Post’s Steve Vogel reported Sunday, the administration can tout significant progress in combating several high-profile veterans problems, including reducing unemployment and homelessness, but still faces significant challenges in reducing the backlog of disability claims — a chronic concern of veterans of all wars. So who are the new and returning veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan serving in Congress? Here’s a tally compiled by the group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America:

Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who were reelected: 
Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), Army and Marine reserves, Iraq
Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.), Army Reserve, Iraq
Rep. Joseph J. Heck (R-Nev.), Army Reserve, Iraq
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), Marine Corps and Reserves, Iraq and Afghanistan
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), Air Force and Air National Guard, Iraq and Afghanistan
Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), National Guard, Iraq
 
Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who are newly elected to Congress: 
– Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich.), Army, Iraq
– James Bridenstine (R-Okla.), Navy and Navy Reserve, Iraq and Afghanistan
– Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Air Force Reserve, Iraq
– Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Army, Iraq and Afghanistan
– Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), Navy, Iraq
– Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), National Guard, Iraq
– Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), National Guard, Iraq
– Scott Perry (R-Pa.), National Guard, Iraq
– Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), Army Reserve, Iraq
 
A few more Iraq and Afghanistan veterans may also join Congress after these undecided races are settled:
– Iraq and Afghanistan veteran Martha McSally, a Republican, faces Rep. Ron Barber (D) in Arizona.
Rep. Allen B. West (R), an Iraq veteran, is locked in a recount with Democrat Patrick Murphy in Florida.
 
Just 20 percent of the 535 members of the House and the Senate served in the military: 26 in the Senate and 90 in the House. By comparison, in the 1970s, about 70 percent of lawmakers had served in uniform.
 
The Senate is set to lose six veterans to retirement and election losses: Sens. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) and James Webb (D-Va.). Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) lost his reelection bid to Democrat Elizabeth Warren. None of the new people elected to the Senate are military veterans. Three World War II veterans are serving in Congress: Akaka, Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.). Akaka is retiring. Inouye is the only current member of Congress to have won the Medal of Honor.

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Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
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