Parkinson’s Action Network is thrilled to be honoring Secretary Eric K. Shinseki with the Morris K. Udall Award for Public Service for his tireless efforts advocating for veterans’ health issues and recognizing Parkinson’s disease among the illnesses that affect thousands of our brave men and women.
In 2010, under Secretary Shinseki’s leadership, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recognized Parkinson’s disease on the list of illnesses associated with exposure to the herbicide known as Agent Orange. Using evidence from a July 2009 National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine report, Veterans and Agent Orange, this decision simplified and accelerated the benefits application process for Vietnam veterans with Parkinson's disease.
Secretary Shinseki has also been a supporter of the VA’s Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education and Clinical Centers , which treat veterans with various movement disorders in addition to Parkinson’s, such as essential tremor, restless leg syndrome, dystonia, atypical parkinsonian disorders, or "parkinson plus" syndromes. There are currently about 80,000 veterans affected by Parkinson’s disease and the VA centers provide them with critical patient care in several cities around the country. We, along with the rest of the Parkinson’s community, appreciate the attention and funding given to these centers and the people they serve.
Most recently, the VA issued a proposed rule to make it easier for veterans to receive health care and compensation for certain illnesses, including parkinsonism, dementia, and depression, which have been linked to moderate to severe traumatic brain injury. This is an example of how the VA, under the Secretary’s leadership, ensures that its benefits programs keep up with the latest science.
Prior to his time at the VA, Secretary Shinseki served as the chief of staff in the U.S. Army. During his long military career, he also received two Purple Hearts for injuries in Vietnam. Because of his injuries, including losing part of foot, Shinseki knows first-hand the challenges of a disabled veteran.
His list of accomplishments should make it clear why he will be honored with the Morris K. Udall Award for Public Service at this year’s Morris K. Udall Awards Dinner.
The public service award is named for Morris “Mo” K. Udall, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 30 years and was a candidate for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1976. During Udall’s distinguished career, he infused American politics with his singular style of humor, grace, and dignity. Many of today’s leaders – both Democrats and Republicans – have cited Udall as an inspiration and role model. As a partisan Democrat, he was a much-feared debate opponent, but he was fair and always decent. It is this spirit that the Morris K. Udall Award for Public Service is presented to Secretary Shinseki, who has made important contributions to public policy with humor, grace, and dignity.
Alan Oates, director of legislative affairs, research and special projects at the U.S. Military Veterans with Parkinson's (USMVP), had the following to say about Secretary Shinseki.
"Veterans respect him for his military service and for standing his ground. After his decision to add Parkinson's and two other diseases as service related for exposure to Agent Orange, General Shinseki met with members of our group. In response to our thanks, he replied, 'It was the only decision I could make, it was the right decision.' General Shinseki is a courageous leader who has earned the respect of those he serves. He is my kind of soldier."
Shinseki is the first Asian-American four-star general in U.S. history. He was born in Hawaii to Japanese-American parents and is married with two children.
The Morris K. Udall Awards Dinner  will take place on October 8 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. For more information on the Udall Awards Dinner, please click here .
Date originally posted: July 12, 2013.