McGee to head state’s veterans committee

LYNN – He is the son of a veteran and has been an advocate for their needs during his State House tenure. Now state Sen. Thomas M. McGee has been named chairman of the Legislature’s Veterans and Federal Affairs Committee.McGee’s father, former Massachusetts House Speaker Thomas W. McGee, fought in the Pacific in World War II and the younger McGee served in 2006 as a member of the Special Commission on Veterans Tuition and Fee Waivers.He helped craft the “Welcome Home Bill” accelerating expansion of tuition and fee waiver benefits currently available for National Guard members at state and community colleges to all Massachusetts veterans.The Veterans Committee is planning several hearings before the end of the legislative session on veterans’ healthcare, compensation and pension, employment and training, and National Guard matters.”As more and more service men and women return home from bravely fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and across the world, it is our duty to make sure they receive the services and benefits they deserve,” McGee said.McGee is also chairman of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development, a leadership position he said dovetails with his new appointment.”One of the biggest challenges facing veterans returning home from abroad is re-entering the workforce,” McGee said. “We need to ensure that all veterans coming home have the resources available to secure good, well-paying jobs. Massachusetts has a strong record of supporting education and vocational training for veterans and I look forward to continuing that tradition.”McGee’s appointment as legislative point person for veterans’ affairs comes 10 months after he and fellow legislators vowed to support congressional efforts to probe deficient conditions and veterans’ health facilities.The probe began with disclosures about unsanitary conditions and needed repairs at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.U.S. Rep. John Tierney subsequently questioned conditions veterans, including ones returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have been exposed to in Walter Reed.The investigation expanded last year into a review of conditions in 1,400 Veterans Administration hospitals and clinics. So far it has found that 90 percent of the 1,100 problems cited were deemed to be of a more routine nature: worn-out carpet, peeling paint, mice sightings and dead bugs at VA centers.Three high-level Pentagon officials were forced to step down after the disclosures concerning Walter Reed. The controversy also has led to investigations by congressional committees, a presidential task force and the Pentagon.

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