HONORING PATRICK RYAN ON HIS RETIREMENT FROM THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON VETERANS' AFFAIRS -- (Extensions of Remarks - November 20, 2004)
Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, as Patrick Ryan, Chief Counsel and Staff Director for the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, retires from government service, I rise today to pay tribute to his extraordinary career and accomplishments. After more than two decades working for the Committee, and a decade before that working for the Veterans Administration, Patrick is ending his public service career to pursue new personal and professional challenges.
Mr. Speaker, one of the first actions I took when I was elected chairman 4 years ago was to name Pat the chief counsel and staff director for the committee. Having been a member of the committee for 20 years, I was already familiar with the expertise, knowledge, judgment, compassion, and devotion that Patrick had displayed throughout his career.
A graduate of the University of Maryland, Pat went to work for the Veterans Administration in 1974 as a benefits counselor at the D.C. regional office. In this job, Pat learned firsthand about the challenges facing our Nation's veterans, especially those returning from the conflict in Vietnam. He also learned in detail about the programs and services that VA provided to help improve their lives. Among those Pat worked with at that time was a DAV benefits representative named Jesse Brown, who later became Secretary of Veterans Affairs in the 1990s.
Shortly after Pat went to work for VA, he also enrolled in the evening program at Georgetown University Law School. Over the next 4 years, he continued to work at VA, moving up to the position of budget analyst, while attending law school at night, earning his law degree in 1978. He then moved to a new position in VA's Office of General Counsel, where he worked for the next 5 years.
In 1983, Pat Ryan began working for the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, serving as counsel for the Subcommittee on Hospitals and Health Care. He later served as counsel for the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, as well as for the full committee. Over the years, Pat was promoted to serve as both deputy chief counsel and finally, as chief counsel and staff director.
For the past 22 years, Pat Ryan has made tremendous contributions to many of the most important new veterans laws approved by Congress. He worked on numerous bills to expand services for aging veterans and those in need of long-term care. He was instrumental in helping to establish domiciliaries for homeless veterans and was the principal drafter of legislation to authorize VA's transitional housing guarantee program to benefit homeless veterans. Pat played a central role in helping to establish the Department of Veterans Affairs and in creating the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
Pat has been deeply involved in numerous successful committee initiatives that have expanded and strengthened the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, DIC, program, survivor health care services, and educational assistance benefits available to surviving spouses and children of servicemembers killed in action or who later die of a service-related cause. And over the past 20 years, Pat has played a role in increasing the Montgomery GI bill benefit for qualified veterans from $300 when he joined the committee to over $1,000 today.
Using his budget expertise, Pat has been invaluable in helping Congress ensure that VA's budget has been both appropriate and sufficient. His extensive knowledge of the law and the inner workings of VA has also greatly aided the committee in its work to provide exemplary oversight of veterans programs.
From managing the committee's professional staff, to drafting legislation, to overseeing VA's programs and services, Patrick Ryan is the consummate professional. During the four years I have served as chairman, he has helped draft and guide to enactment more than a dozen new laws to benefit veterans, including legislation to modernize the GI bill, expand veterans' health care programs, strengthen benefits for disabled veterans, and aid homeless veterans. I consider him to have been a partner in all that this committee has accomplished during our time together and it has been an honor to work side-by-side with him.
Throughout his tenure in the House, Patrick has earned and retained both the respect and the trust of Members and staff on both sides of the aisle. Pat was hired by Chairman Sonny Montgomery when the Democrats controlled the committee, and he went on to serve both the late Chairman Bob Stump and me while Republicans have controlled Congress. Pat is equally respected inside the Department of Veterans Affairs and by outside leaders of veterans service organizations.
Mr. Speaker, all of us who know Pat Ryan understand that he is driven to succeed, not for his own benefit, but to benefit his fellow man. What has made Patrick Ryan such a valuable public servant are his personal qualities of faith, hope, and charity. A leader in both his community and his church, Pat is well-known for his singing in the choir and for his love of music, especially his eclectic musical tastes.
On a personal level, Pat Ryan has lived his life in a way that has truly made a difference. He has walked to the beat of our Lord's drummer when He said "whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, you do likewise to me." For Pat, that means always looking out for the little guy. I have such respect and admiration for that character trait, and it is very strong in Patrick Ryan. What motivates Patrick first and foremost is devotion and love for his wife Kathie and their three children-Kerry, Dan, and Julia. For Pat Ryan, family comes first.
Pat is ever proud of his father who has passed, William Everest Ryan, a proud Marine who saw combat action during World War II in the South Pacific, where he was wounded and won the Purple Heart award. He later joined the Justice Department while continuing in the Marine reserves as an Officer in the JAG Corps, retiring with the rank of Colonel in 1964. After a distinguished career of government service, Pat's father retired from government service in 1977. In 1999, William Ryan died in the VA nursing home in Baltimore, 3 years after his wife, Pat's mother, Rosemary Ann Kelly Ryan, had passed away.
Pat Ryan has spent his entire career in Congress defending the same values his father defended on the battlefield and in the courtroom. These are the same values that Pat and his wife Kathie have taught their children through their words and their example.
Mr. Speaker, on behalf of his colleagues in the House, members of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs and other Members who have known and worked with him, on behalf of veterans organizations and leaders across the country, and on behalf of millions of veterans who have benefited from his work, but have never known his name, I want to thank Patrick Ryan for a distinguished career of faithful public service. It has been an honor to work with him.
I call on all of my colleagues to join with me in honoring Patrick Ryan on his retirement and to wish him good luck and Godspeed in whatever lies ahead of him.