Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth is an Iraq War Veteran and former Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs. She was re-elected to represent Illinois’ 8th Congressional District in 2014 and was sworn in for her second term on January 6, 2015.
Duckworth attended college at the University of Hawaii and then went on to the George Washington University, where she earned a Master of Arts in International Affairs. Following graduation, Duckworth, who is fluent in Thai and Indonesian, moved to Illinois, where she began pursuing a Ph.D. in Political Science at Northern Illinois University. While at NIU she also worked at the School of Nursing, researching public health and environmental causes of cancer. Later, Duckworth worked for Rotary International as a manager for administration of Rotary clubs in the Asia Pacific Region.
In 2004, Duckworth was deployed to Iraq as a Black Hawk helicopter pilot for the Illinois Army National Guard. She was one of the first Army women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom until her helicopter was hit by an RPG on November 12, 2004. Duckworth lost her legs and partial use of her right arm and was awarded a Purple Heart.
Duckworth spent the next year recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center where she quickly became an advocate for her fellow Soldiers and testified before Congress about caring for our Veterans and wounded warriors.
Following her recovery, Duckworth ran for Congress in 2006. After a narrow loss, she became Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. She worked to create a tax credit for employers who hired Veterans, established a first-in-the-nation 24/7 Veterans crisis hotline and developed innovative programs to improve Veterans’ access to housing and health care.
In 2009, President Obama appointed Duckworth to be Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs. At VA, Duckworth coordinated the joint initiative with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to end Veteran homelessness. She created the Office of Online Communications to improve the VA’s accessibility, especially among young Veterans, and also worked to address the unique challenges that Native American and female Veterans face.
Duckworth lives in Hoffman Estates with her husband Bryan, an Army Major, and their daughter Abigail. Since her recovery, Duckworth has resumed flying as a civilian pilot. Fulfilling a promise she made at Walter Reed, she has also completed several marathons.
Duckworth recently completed her Ph.D in Human Services at Capella University. In her spare time, she volunteers at local food pantries and enjoys couponing and flea markets. Duckworth served in the Reserve Forces for 23 years until she announced her retirement at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 2014.
In her first term, Duckworth was appointed to the Armed Services Committee, Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the Select Committee on Benghazi. She introduced various pieces of legislation, including bills that assist Veterans in their transition to the private sector, improve the VA's mental health care services and help reduce Veteran suicide, cut waste and fraud at the Pentagon and throughout government, extend parental leave policies for parents serving in the military, create jobs and help close the skills gap for manufacturers as well as eliminate abuses in the Veterans benefit system. In February 2013, Duckworth took a voluntary 8.4% pay reduction, the same percentage that most discretionary programs were cut as a result of the sequester. In total, she gave back more than $10,000 of her own pay to the U.S. Treasury to help reduce the debt. She also returned $369,501.85 in congressional office funds to the United States Treasury in her first three years in Congress. Duckworth continues to be a strong voice for her neighbors in Congress, advocating for the practical solutions and cooperation that is needed to move our country forward.