White House Author
Former Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs in the Department of Veterans Affairs
As Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, Duckworth represented and advised the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on matters relating to media and public affairs. She directed departmental communications and oversaw programs relating to intergovernmental relations, homeless Veterans, consumer affairs, and the Department’s six national rehabilitative special event programs. Duckworth served as the Director of Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs from 2006-2008. As director, she implemented many first-in-the-nation, cutting-edge programs for Veterans, especially in the areas of health care, mental health, housing and employment. She also initiated a public-private partnership program giving grants to non-profits working on Veterans disability, homelessness, long-term medical care and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A Major in the Illinois Army National Guard, Duckworth served in Iraq as an Assistant Operations Officer and also flew combat missions as a Black Hawk helicopter pilot. During a mission north of Baghdad in 2004, her aircraft was ambushed and a rocket-propelled grenade struck the helicopter she was co-piloting. She continued to attempt to pilot the aircraft until passing out from blood loss. As a result of the attack, Duckworth lost both of her legs and partial use of one arm. She received many decorations for her actions, including the Purple Heart, the Air Medal, and the Combat Action Badge. Since her recovery at Walter Reed, Duckworth has dedicated her life to public service, advocating on behalf of disability rights and Veterans. In 2006, Duckworth was the Democratic Candidate for Illinois’ 6th Congressional District. In 2007, she received the Hubert H. Humphrey Civil Rights Award and was named the 2008 Disabled Veteran of the Year by the Disabled American Veterans. In 2008, she was selected by Candidate Obama to deliver the presidential campaign’s key address on Veterans’ rights at the Democratic National Convention. In 2009, she was named as an American Veterans (AMVETS) Silver Helmet award recipient as well as The George Washington University’s Colin Powell Public Service Award Recipient. Duckworth served as a manager for Rotary International’s Asia Pacific Region. She speaks fluent Thai and Indonesian and is a published author on the health risks of environmental radon and lung cancer. She has declined her Army medical retirement to continue her service in the National Guard. In 2008 and 2009, she completed the Chicago Marathon, fulfilling a promise made at Walter Reed. She has also resumed flying as a civilian pilot.