Press Releases

On Veterans Day, we honor those who have served and those who continue to serve our country. The men and women of our Armed Services risk their lives around the world every day to keep us safe. In recognition of their bravery, heroism, and sacrifice, we must ensure that they and their loved ones are cared for when they return home. As we reflect on their courage and selfless service, I wanted to give you an update on my efforts in Congress on behalf of our veterans and their families.

As the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), I am honored to work with and for the brave men and women who have donned the uniform to represent our great nation. One of my top priorities in Congress is to ensure that we take care of our military—active duty and veteran alike. This means doing all I can to ensure that members of our military come home to the quality jobs, educational opportunities, and health care services that they deserve. These benefits are critical for veterans, retirees, and their dependents, as well as those who are considering a career in the military. I will continue working to address the needs of our veterans, and for those newly leaving active duty, to ensure they have the support necessary for their transition back to civilian life.

Connecting with Veterans in the Community 

When I am back home in the Ninth District, I meet with individual veterans and local veteran Service Organizations (VSOs) to better understand the needs and concerns of these members of our community. These meetings provide an important opportunity for me to hear from local veterans so that I may elevate their concerns and learn about the issues that impact them and their families.

This October, I hosted a Veteran Services Town Hall, where I was joined by stakeholders from King County, Pierce County, the Washington Department of Veteran Affairs and the VA Benefits Administration. Together, we discussed the status of and challenges to veteran service in the Ninth District. This conversation highlighted the issue of affordability as conveners explained that the high cost of living in King County has outpaced the benefits and pay afforded to caseworkers and other service staff. For instance, the Community Based Outreach Clinics, which includes the Federal Way Veterans Center, has lost over half of their primary clinicians to private practices that pay more competitive wages.

Veterans face unique barriers to quality care, many due to the unusually broad scope of caseworker responsibilities. Caseworkers who work with veterans must manage complex and wide-ranging problems compared to their colleagues who work with non-veteran populations. Veteran case management requires caseworkers to learn veteran cultural competency, navigate the complicated veteran benefit system, and interact with uniquely complex challenges in the housing arena.

These conversations provide me with the critical knowledge to help me better advocate for the veterans that call our region home. My office is always looking to expand our work with veterans.

To join my Veterans Advisory Council, please contact my District Representative Glenn Carpenter at (425) 793-5180 or Glenn.Carpenter@mail.house.gov.

Commitment to Veterans’ Healthcare 

Many of my veteran constituents receive care through the VA Puget Sound (VAPS) Health Care System. I visited the VA Puget Sound to learn about the work being done in the new Mental Health and Research building which opened earlier this year. I met with VAPS leadership to hear about innovations in 3D printing, the VA’s approach to addressing veteran suicide, and the risks posed by untested drugs pushed by the President and VA Secretary Wilkie, such as Ketamine nasal spray as a treatment for depression.

In meetings with individual veterans and in conversations with local VSOs, my staff and I have worked to identify some of the root causes of the existing obstacles to veterans’ access to care. While we have seen progress in recent months, significant work remains to ensure that our veterans have access to the services and care they deserve. One of the most important aspects of my job is fighting to ensure that not only are veterans voices heard, but that their concerns are brought to the attention of the proper officials. I look forward to continuing work with the VA - in coordination with VSOs in our community - to make impactful changes for veterans and their families.

Honoring Veterans in Our Community 

We must always take time to celebrate our veterans and reflect our community’s commitment to recognizing the men and women who have fought for our freedoms and liberties. In July, the Disabled American Veteran (DAV) Chapter 23 in Seattle held its inaugural Black Veterans Appreciation and Celebration event. I was honored to be invited to speak about the importance of recognizing the contributions made by black veterans. I look forward to continuing this work with the DAV to amplify the stories of black veterans who have withstood harsh circumstances to propel us toward a more perfect union.

This year, my staff and I worked closely with the Minority Veterans of America (MVA), which works to advance equity and foster community for women, LGBTQ, and religious minority veterans as well as veterans of color. Hearing from these underrepresented veterans and identifying solutions to their unique challenges is crucial in our work towards ensuring a more open and inclusive military. This summer, King County awarded MVA a five-year grant to establish their operations in Seattle. I am proud that my office has worked closely with this group since their founding and look forward to continuing to support their efforts on behalf of underrepresented veterans. 

Hearing From You 

It is critical that I continue to hear from my constituents about the issues most important to them. In order to best represent my district, please keep me updated on your priorities by contacting either my Renton or Washington, D.C. office or by visiting my website.

I am honored to represent thousands of veterans who call Washington’s Ninth Congressional District home. I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress, and particularly on the Armed Services Committee, to ensure that we fulfill our commitments to our service members, their families, and our veterans. Thank you to all of our nation’s veterans for your service.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today issued the following statement denouncing U.S. lack of support for the Kurds in Northeastern Syria.

“What happened to the Kurds in Northeastern Syria is an abomination. The United States’ failure to do everything that we reasonably could to prevent the current fate of the Kurds is a betrayal of a key partner and a major foreign policy blunder.

“Literally adding insult to injury, it is also totally unacceptable that the President has been relentless in hurling a barrage of insults at the Kurds over the course of the last two weeks. This is a difficult set of circumstances, and it would be naïve to blame only the President for this tragic situation. A series of factors contributed to how this played out. But for the President to disparage the Kurds as ‘worse terrorists than ISIS’ and remarking, ‘what do we care, they never really helped us anyway,’ is unbelievably offensive and unnecessary. The Kurds have fought alongside us, and if nothing else, they deserve our gratitude and respect.

“The President has stated that he ‘defeated ISIS in a month.’ That is simply untrue. The effort to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria began in 2015, with our agreement with the Kurds and other free democratic forces in Syria who agreed fight ISIS in support of our common goal.

“The Kurds have been shoved off their land, the strength of the Syrian Democratic Forces is severely weakened, and an obvious question remains: Who is going to help us fight ISIS in the region now? The President has given a range of answers, but the one he seems to have settled on is Russia. That is not reassuring. I urge the White House to work on a plan for how we’re going to confront ISIS in the region, and which partners and allies we’re going to work with. Our own national security depends on it.

“Finally, the President declaring victory in Syria is a gross misunderstanding of the situation. Once the Kurds realized they had no ability to fight Turkey and no one to help them, they surrendered instead of fighting. There is no victory here. Turkey invaded a foreign country and forced the Kurds off their land. This is a loss for U.S. interests in the region. Now, Russia and the Assad regime are stronger in the region. Most problematic, Iran is stronger in the region. The President has repeatedly talked about how bad Iran is and how we need to contain them. Now Iran finds a Syria that is completely amenable to their interests, which are contrary to U.S. interests. These recent developments highlight the necessity for a new comprehensive strategy for containing Iran. It is critical that we work with partners and allies in our continued fight against terror. Not doing so sends the wrong signal to our partners and allies everywhere.

“I personally thank the Kurdish people for all they have done and sacrificed for us in the fight against terrorism. I respect and honor our alliance with them and will do everything I can to try and help them rebuild.”

###

Letter also raises ongoing investigation into 2018 death of Russian asylum seeker held at NWDC

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and U.S. Representative Adam Smith (D, WA-09) sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General calling for a review of the use of solitary confinement at the Northwest Detention Center.

"We write to express our deep concerns regarding the use of solitary confinement at the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma, Washington,” Cantwell and Smith wrote to DHS Inspector General Dr. Joseph V. Cuffari. “According to news reports, several hundred individuals have been held in solitary confinement at the NWDC between 2013 and 2017.”

“We understand that your office conducted an inspection of the NWDC in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 and is currently conducting a review and preparing a report on its findings. As part of this review, we urge you to take a close look at the policies and practices related to solitary confinement and other reported abuses at the NWDC that have impacted the health, safety and legal rights of individuals held in the facility. A thorough review by your office is critical to holding ICE and the GEO Group, the private contractor operating the NWDC, accountable for the treatment of individuals at the NWDC,” Cantwell and Smith continued.

In their letter, Cantwell and Smith also raised the ongoing investigation into the 2018 death of Mergensana Amar, a Russian asylum seeker detained in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the Northwest Detention Center.

“Separately, we urge you to complete the report on the tragic death of Mergensana Amar. It has been almost a year since this investigation began. It is imperative that the investigation is completed in a timely manner and if possible for the results to be made public.”

The full text of the letter can be found HERE and below.

October 23, 2019

Dear Inspector General Cuffari:

We write to express our deep concerns regarding the use of solitary confinement at the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma, Washington. According to news reports, several hundred individuals have been held in solitary confinement at the NWDC between 2013 and 2017. Local activists also have indicated that detainees have been placed in solitary confinement in retaliation for complaining about poor conditions at the NWDC. These reports are deeply troubling especially considering the known negative impacts that solitary confinement can have on the physical and mental health of individuals regardless of the duration of time they are held in isolation.

The misuse of solitary confinement at immigration detention centers was highlighted in a report issued by your office on June 3, 2019. Following inspections at four detention facilities, the report found overly restrictive and inappropriate segregation practices at three of the detention facilities, violating U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention standards and infringing on individual rights.

The tragic death of Mergensana Amar, a Russian asylum seeker who was held at the NWDC last year, once again raised concerns about the use of solitary confinement. Before his death on November 24, 2018, Mr. Amar had been on a hunger strike for three months and placed in an isolated cell that reportedly lacked adequate provisions and monitoring. Days after being placed in solitary confinement, Mr. Amar tragically took his own life. While we welcome the decision by your predecessor, John Kelly, to open an investigation surrounding Mr. Amar’s death, it is clear a broader atmosphere of abuse and mistreatment exists at the NWDC. 

We understand that your office conducted an inspection of the NWDC in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 and is currently conducting a review and preparing a report on its findings. As part of this review, we urge you to take a close look at the policies and practices related to solitary confinement and other reported abuses at the NWDC that have impacted the health, safety and legal rights of individuals held in the facility. A thorough review by your office is critical to holding ICE and the GEO Group, the private contractor operating the NWDC, accountable for the treatment of individuals at the NWDC.

Separately, we urge you to complete the report on the tragic death of Mergensana Amar. It has been almost a year since this investigation began. It is imperative that the investigation is completed in a timely manner and if possible for the results to be made public.

We appreciate your prompt attention regarding the pattern of abuses and dangerous conditions that have been reported within the NWDC and look forward to discussing the results of your investigations with you.

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) today issued the following statement after the death of Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

“The passing of Chairman Elijah Cummings is a profound loss for the nation, Maryland, and those who, like me, were lucky enough to call him both a colleague and friend. 

“Chairman Cummings devoted his life to service, starting as a teen on the front lines of the civil rights movement. Since then, his lifetime of dedication to justice made him an icon in the fight for equality in his local community and nationwide. A passionate advocate, he leaves the legacy of a generation who showed us that we can be better. In his unyielding way, he sought and rallied for the truth that the American people deserve. For that, we are grateful.

“Chairman Cummings was a tremendous leader, but more importantly he was a great human being. I served beside him in Congress for decades, and I had the privilege to work closely with him on the Benghazi Committee. While we served together for years, it didn’t take long for me to realize he was an incredible human being with acute moral clarity. As Chairman of the Committee on Oversight, he wielded immense power, but he did so with grace. The entire Congress will deeply miss his voice, perspective, and grace.

“I extend my deepest condolences to his family, friends, and all those whose lives have been affected by his service to our nation.”

###

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) today issued the following statement after the House passed a number of bills regarding the recent developments in Hong Kong:

“The critical bills passed by the House of Representatives today will hold leaders in Beijing accountable at a time when Hong Kong’s freedom is under threat. These bills are more important than ever as actions to undermine the freedom of the people of Hong Kong become increasingly violent.

“The United States is committed to supporting the people of Hong Kong, working to ensure their autonomy, and protecting their fundamental rights. Protesters by the tens of thousands in Hong Kong are increasingly being met with expanded police powers and additional restrictions to curb their ability to voice their democratic aspirations. This suppression of basic freedoms and human rights is deeply concerning, and we must remain committed to democratic principles both at home and abroad.

“Leaders in Beijing and Hong Kong must address the legitimate concerns of these protestors and understand the consequences for diminishing the autonomy, human rights, and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong.”  

###