TopVet: Jim McDermott, Congressman

Jim McDermott

Representative Jim McDermott, who as a Navy psychiatrist treated Vietnam veterans, is in his seventh term representing the 7th District in the state of Washington.

McDermott, who was born in Chicago in 1936, was the first member of his family to attend college and medical school. After completing his medical residency and military service, he made his first run for public office in 1970, winning a seat as a state representative. Four years later, he ran for the state Senate, won this election, and was re-elected three times. In 1980, he received the Democratic nomination for governor, defeating the incumbent in the primary.

In 1987, after 15 years of legislative service, McDermott decided to leave politics and continue in public service as a Foreign Service medical officer based in Zaire, providing psychiatric services to Foreign Service, Agency for International Development, and Peace Corps personnel in sub-Saharan Africa. When the seat in the 7th Congressional District became open in 1988, he returned from Africa to run, and won.

A physician, McDermott is especially interested in health care issues. While serving in the state legislature, he developed the Washington Basic Health Plan, the first state program in the country to provide low-cost health insurance to the unemployed and working poor. In Congress, he is active in health care reform issues. He founded and chairs the Congressional Task Force on International HIV/AIDS and introduced the AIDS Housing Opportunities Act, a new program enacted into law in 1990 authorizing special housing assistance for people with AIDS. The co-author of single payer health care legislation, McDermott is a leader in the effort to guarantee all Americans comprehensive health care coverage.

Rep. McDermott is married and has two adult children.

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