Advocates say veterans, especially those living in Georgia, will lose a powerful voice in Washington, D.C. when Republican U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson resigns at the end of the year.
Isakson is currently serving his third consecutive term as chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, a position he’s held since 2015.
“Anytime your senator is the chairman of a committee, especially a big committee that one of the cabinet members has to answer to, you get a lot of extra attention,” said Joe Chenelly, executive director of AMVETS.
Chenelly says Isakson used his position to elevate the concerns of veterans in Georgia and across the country.
He also praised Isakson’s willingness to work across the aisle, calling the Veterans Affairs committee “the most bipartisan” on Capitol Hill.
Chenelly pointed to Isakson’s recent work on the 2018 MISSION Act, which gives veterans access to healthcare outside of the VA system.
The measure it not without its critics, but Chenelly says it never would have passed in the first place if Isakson hadn’t been willing to reconcile the concerns of Democrats and Republicans on his committee.
“He has always tried to make sure that there was respect when the committee worked on very controversial issues, that everybody was heard, that everybody had at least something to gain,” said Adrian Atizado, with the group Disabled American Veterans.
Atizado praised Isakson’s work on a measure that allowed more Vietnam veterans access benefits because of exposure to Agent Orange and his efforts on a law to speed up veterans benefits appeals.
And admiration for Isakson’s work didn’t just come from veterans advocates. His colleagues on the Veterans Affairs committee praised his work this week.
“It is because of Johnny and his work that veterans … across the country have better access to the care and benefits they earned,” wrote Democratic U.S. Senator John Tester in a post on Twitter.
Isakson says he’ll resign his Senate seat effective December 31, 2019. Roll Call reports Kansas Republican Senator Jerry Moran is next in line to serve as chair of the Veterans Affairs committee.