U.S.Senator Tammy Duckworth is an Iraq War Veteran, Purple Heart recipient and former Assistant Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. She was among the first Army women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Duckworth served in the Reserve Forces for 23 years before retiring from military service in 2014 at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. She was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016 after representing Illinois’s Eighth Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives for two terms.
Duckworth attended college at the University of Hawaii and earned a Master of Arts in International Affairs from the George Washington University. Following graduation, Duckworth, who is fluent in Thai and Indonesian, moved to Illinois and began pursuing a Ph.D. in Political Science at Northern Illinois University. She also worked at NIU’s 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 Blackhawk helicopter pilot for the Illinois Army National Guard. On November 12, 2004, her helicopter was hit by an RPG and Duckworth lost her legs and partial use of her right arm.
Senator 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, she became Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, working to create a tax credit for employers who hired Veterans, establish a first-in-the-nation 24/7 Veterans crisis hotline and develop 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 also 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.
Since her recovery, Duckworth has resumed flying as a civilian pilot and fulfilled a promise she made at Walter Reed by completing several marathons. In her spare time, she volunteers at local food pantries and enjoys couponing and flea markets. In 2015, Duckworth completed her Ph.D. in Human Services at Capella University.
In the U.S. House, Duckworth served on the House Armed Services Committee and was an advocate for working families and job creation, introducing bills like her bipartisan Friendly Airports for Mothers (FAM) Act to ensure new mothers have access to safe, clean and accessible lactation rooms when traveling through airports, which is now law. She introduced and helped pass several important policies, including the bipartisan Clay Hunt SAV Act, which enhanced efforts to track and reduce Veteran suicides, while expanding eligibility for VA mental health services to Veterans at increased risk of experiencing a mental health crisis. She also passed the Troop Talent Act, which helps returning Veterans find jobs in the private sector by cutting red tape from the credentialing process. She also effectively cut waste and fraud at the Pentagon and throughout government, including passing a common-sense provision to reduce redundancy in the Armed Forces uniforms that the nonpartisan U.S. Government Accountability Office found will save taxpayers more than $4 billion over 5 years.
Duckworth also introduced the In the Red Act to help put our nation on the path toward debt-free college, the Get the Lead Out Act to keep America’s drinking water safe and bipartisan legislation to close the skills gap while helping people find good-paying jobs.
As Senator, she advocates for practical, common-sense solutions needed to move our country and our state forward
In the U.S. Senate, Duckworth serves on several influential committees that give her an important platform to advocate for Illinois’s working families and entrepreneurs: the Armed Services Committee; the Environment & Public Works Committee; the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee; and the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee. The first Senate bill she introduced—which supports Illinois jobs by preventing infrastructure from becoming ensnared in needless bureaucratic delays—became law just four months into her term as Senator, marking the fastest time any current Senator has passed a bill after being sworn in. She passed the FAM Act and the Veterans Small Business Enhancement Act, allowing Veteran small business owners to receive surplus federal equipment effectively free of charge. As a result of her achievements, Duckworth was ranked as "a highly effective lawmaker" and as the most effective freshman Democratic Senator by the Center for Effective Lawmaking for the 115th Congress.
As Senator, Duckworth advocates for practical, common-sense solutions needed to move our country and our state forward like: rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, keeping our water systems safe and lead-free, growing manufacturing jobs while supporting minority-owned small businesses, investing in communities that have been ignored for too long, and making college more affordable for all Americans. She also continues her lifelong mission of supporting, protecting and keeping the promises we’ve made to our Veterans as well as ensuring that we stand fully behind the troops we send into danger overseas in the Senate.
In 2018, after Duckworth became the first Senator to give birth while serving in office, she sent a message to working families across the country about the value of family friendly policies after securing a historic rules change allowing Senators to bring their infant children onto the floor. Senator Duckworth and her husband Bryan are the proud parents of two daughters, Abigail and Maile.